I’ve seen some pretty good magicians in my day. Many that left me shaking my head when somehow they pull off guessing a card I picked out “randomly” from the center of a deck. Not even David Copperfield could work his magic to decide a playoff opponent for the Toronto Marlies right now, however. Much like your uncle’s card tricks, you could take several guesses as to what team Toronto would face in the first round of the 2012 Calder Cup playoffs and still not get it correct. With the entire league off for the day, it seems like a great time to breakdown some potential first round opponents and what the Marlies may get in round one.
A) San Antonio Rampage > Currently 5th in Western Conference with 83 pts
The Rampage are a farm affiliate for the Florida Panthers. This means they will not have players return from the NHL level to aid in the post season run because their NHL parent team is in the playoffs. San Antonio are coached by Chuck Weber. They won both games vs the Marlies this season, in 6-1 and 5-4OT finals. In those two games Evgeny Dadonov and Bill Thomas led the way with 2g each vs Toronto. Although the club have used numerous goaltenders this season, 2nd rounder’ Jacob Markstrom has started the last 6 games.
Name to remember: Jon Matsumoto – Acquired from Carolina organization, he has 25 pts in 32 games since trade and 22 goals to this point in year
Players not on clear day list: Hazen, Luciani, Wilson, Devin, Shore, Petrovic, Foster
GTA connections: Michael Caruso of Mississauga/Scott Timmins of Hamilton/Justin Vaive – son of former Leaf Rick Vaive
Opponents in final weekend: vs Texas Fri/ @ Houston Sat/ vs Oklahoma City Sun
B) Milwaukee Admirals > Currently 6th in Western Conference with 82 pts
The Admirals are a farm affiliate for the Nashville Predators. With the Pred’s in the NHL playoffs, they will also not receive any players from the NHL level to aid in their post season run. The Admirals are coached by Ian Herbers. The season series was split with Milwaukee winning at home 2-0, but Toronto also recording a victory at home 3-2. Mark Van Guilder had a pair of goals in the Admirals win. Leading scorer Chris Mueller is on a tare with a 4 game point streak producing 3 goals and 2 assists over that time. Number one netminder Jeremy Smith was recalled on emergency basis to the Nashville Predators and may not be available for the final set of regular season games.
Name to remember: Taylor Beck – Leading rookie scorer will be counted on heavily to support offensive push in what will be his first taste of AHL playoffs
Players not on clear day list: Ryan, Foss, Leaderer, Pickard
GTA connections: Kevin Henderson of Toronto/Mathieu Aubin – son of former Leaf Normand Aubin
Opponents in final weekend: @Rockford Fri/@Chic Sat/vs Charlotte Sun
C) Houston Aeros > Currently 7th in Western Conference with 82 pts.
The Aeros are the farm team for the Minnesota Wild. The Wild will not play post season hockey this year, so the Aeros do have some players available for their attempt to seal a playoff position. The Aeros are coached by John Torchetti. The Marlies took both meetings this year 6-2 and 4-0. The two Houston goals were scored by Warren Peters and Jon DiSalvatore in the first meeting of the season. Dennis Endras was in goal for the opening game, followed by Darcy Kuemper in the second. The Aeros are in desperate need of wins to finish the season. Having just a single victory recorded in their last nine games, they are in danger of moving in the wrong direction quickly in the conference.
Name to remember: Matt Hackett – the nephew of former NHL goaltender Jeff Hackett has made a name for himself through his first two pro seasons. He has not faced the Marlies this year, but much like Ben Scrivens, has spent time at the NHL level with Minnesota. Hackett helped lead the Aeros to the Calder Cup final just last year, and although they lost, the rookie put up 14 wins over 24 post season games. If they have a hope of a deep post season run, it may rest largely on his shoulders.
Players not on clear day list: Mignardi, Bulmer, Fritsch, Lorenz, Jobke, Montgomery, Caron, Brodeur
GTA connections: Robert Mignardi of Richmond Hill, Tyler Cuma of Bowmanville, former Leaf Mike Van Ryn is an assistant coach
Opponents in final weekend: @ Oklahoma City Fri/ vs San Antonio Sat/ vs Texas Sun
D) Peoria Rivermen > Currently 8th in the Western Conference with 82 pts
The Rivermen are the farm team of the NHL’s St. Louis Blues and will not be expecting an players to return to the AHL roster, as the Blues take on the San Jose Sharks in the post season. The Rivermen are coached by Jared Bednar. Toronto got off on the right skate with a 4-3 win in first meeting of the season, but Peoria would shut them out 2-0 in the second clash of the year. Jonathan Cheechoo led the way in the season series with 2 goals and 1 assist through the two games total. Peoria went through a few major roster changes this season and it remains to be seen if those moves will affect them should they make the playoffs. One of the league’s leaders in goal Ben Bishop was moved to the Ottawa Senators franchise and savy veteran Brett Sterling sent to Portland. Additions were Patrick O’Sullivan and Shaun Heshka. Goaltender Jake Allen was expected to carry the load after the trade of Bishop, however, he has been recalled on emergency basis by the Blues to back up Halak with an injury to Elliott. This leave the Rivermen with Alex Stalock to tend twine.
Name to remember: Alex Stalock – started the season with the Worcester Sharks before coming to Peoria. He has played only five games total this season. Even though he has two wins in three games for Peoria, he has only played more than 30 minutes in one of those three games. With limited playing time this year and a new team to finish the year, he will have to adapt quickly because he could be the Rivermen’s starter in the first round.
Players not on clear day list: Polacek, Barriball, Gannon, Somerfield, Binnington
GTA connections: Patrick O’Sullivan of Toronto, Stefan Della Rovere of Richmond Hill, Anthony Peluso of North York, Anthony Nigro of Woodbridge, Keith Hagel of Hamilton, Mark Cundari of Woodbridge, Dany Syvret of Milgrove, Jordan Binnington of Richmond Hill and former Leaf Drake Berehowsky is an assistant coach
Opponents in final weekend: vs Charlotte Fri/ @ Chicago Sun
E) Lake Erie Monsters > Currently 9th in Western Conference with 82 pts
Lake Erie is based out of Cleveland, Ohio and are the farm team of the NHL Colorado Avalanche. Even with the Av’s out of the playoff picture, the Monsters roster will be largely unchanged as many of the players have already dressed in the AHL to end the season. They are coached by David Quinn. In Toronto’s division the Monsters and Marlies tangled ten times. Toronto had the edge in the season series with 6 wins, including the last four straight. In those ten games David van der Gulik, Justin Mercier and Brad Malone have done most of the damage offensively for the Monsters, however, the real story has come in goal. The Marlies have faced four different goaltenders in the season series vs Lake Erie and the Monsters have carried five spread out through the year. Cedric Desjardins and Trevor Cann, each of whom were hurt at different times of the year, will now be required to be the pair down the stretch. The Monsters have won four of their last five games.
Name to remember: Evan Brophey - on a young team that was challenged offensively at times in the season, Brophey is not only the team’s leading scorer but also a player with prior calder cup experience. He will be required to provide consistent offence, but also become a clutch player.
Players not on clear day list: Harrison, Carey, MacQueen, Stollery, Siemens, Goers, Pickard
GTA connections: Dean Strong of Mississauga, Cameron Gaunce of Markham, Trevor Cann of Oakville, former Marlies Danny Richmond and Mike Brennan
Opponents in final weekend: vs Hamilton Fri/ vs Rochester Sat
F) Rochester Americans > Currently 10th in the Western Conference with 82 pts
The Americans are once again the farm affiliate of the Buffalo Sabres. With Buffalo out of the NHL playoff picture, the Americans stand to gain some impact players for their stretch drive. They are coached by Ron Rolston. Also a division rival to the Marlies, it was perhaps Toronto’s closest competition standings wise all year. The two teams faced one another ten times. The Marlies took the last two straight en route to the overall series edge with seven wins. Derek Whitmore, Brayden McNabb and Marcus Foligno have been factors throughout the season series. Foligno, who excelled with the Sabres to end their regular season, will be back in the Rochester lineup to do the same in the AHL. All of the games between Toronto and Rochester have finished by a one goal margin. The Americans have only two wins over their last nine games.
Name to remember: David Leggio – Goaltender played the entire series vs Toronto and many times held his team in games they would end up losing. With Drew MacIntyre’s last appearance taking place in February, it has been all Leggio, all the time in Rochester. If the Americans have not burned out their starter, he could be a game stealer if the playoffs appear in their future.
Players not on clear day list: Bailey, Flynn, Ryan, Szydlowski, Parker, Catenacci, Grimshaw, Knapp
GTA connections: Phil Varone of Vaughan, Dan Catenacci of Richmond Hill, Nick Crawford of Caledon
Opponents in final weekend: vs Syracuse Fri/@ Lake Erie Sat
G) Charlotte Checkers > Currently 11th in the Western Conference with 81 pts
Charlotte is the farm club for the Carolina Hurricanes. The Cane’s will miss the NHL playoffs and that likely has an impact on the Checkers lineup. Charlotte are coached by Jeff Daniels. Toronto will not play the Checkers this regular season and have never played them in their history. Charlotte has just one win in their last five games. They have the same number of regulation wins at home and on the road this season with 18.
Name to remember: Mike Murphy – goaltender in his second season has established himself as the number one goaltender at the AHL level, despite Justin Peters having spent time in the NHL. Murphy played 14 playoff games, winning 7 last season. He was pulled in his last start and will likely be looked upon to lead his team to a playoff spot and into the first round.
Players not on clear day list: Shugg, Dumoulin, Sova
GTA connection: Chris Durno of Scarborough, Justin Soryal of Newmarket, Chris Terry of Brampton,
Opponents in final weekend: @ Peoria Fri/ @ Rockford Sat/ @ Milwaukee Sun