Hi folks! I wanted to get a quick 2019-20 season preview up ahead of tonight’s Amerks season opener at home vs their thruway rivals the Syracuse Crunch - our own Ryan Wolfe will be writing at the game and recapping the events.
Where’s the offense?
The biggest question heading into this season is: how will the Amerks handle the loss of four key forwards? This includes Danny O’Regan and Wayne Simpson - both of whom scored 20+ goals last year.
Also gone is Kyle Criscuolo and Alex Nylander, who was a contributor on offense, in spite of his noted inconsistency.
Additionally, Taylor Leier will be out until late 2019 recovering from offseason surgery.
The most likely source for new offense should come from newcomers Curtis Lazar and Jean-Sebastien Dea, who have both demonstrated the ability to rack up points in the AHL.
The Amerks will also start the season with Tage Thompson, who scored 8 goals in his 11 games in Rochester at the end of last season. After a summer of bulking up and a strong NHL training camp, he’ll certainly be looking to make an impression early to earn a recall to Buffalo.
We can also hope to see increased output from Andrew Oglevie, who has frequently demonstrated a scoring touch but unfortunately lost most of last season to multiple concussions. With a healthy season ahead of him and the motivation to prove he deserves a long-term role with the organization, I fully expect him to turn some heads in the coming months.
What about the defense?
While he won’t start the season in Rochester, newcomer John Gilmour - despite being a defenseman - will likely be another source of offense. Much like Zach Redmond, Gilmour has an impressive offensive skillset, finishing last season second among AHL defensemen in both points and goals (trailing only Redmond in that category).
Lawrence Pilut, who suffered a shoulder injury in the Amerks final playoff game last year - yet still returned to finish the game, I might add) - will be out for several more weeks as well. It’s expected that he’ll return to the Amerks lineup for some conditioning before ultimately ending up in Buffalo later in the calendar year, but nothing there is certain.
We’ll also see the professional debut of the young defenseman Jacob Bryson. You could also throw Casey Fitzgerald into that category, as he only played in four games at the end of last season.
Both will likely slot into a regular role on the blueline, among other returning vets such as Casey Nelson, Andrew MacWilliam, Brandon Hickey, and Nathan Paetsch.
Battle between the pipes
The Amerks said goodbye to both Scott Wedgewood and Adam Wilcox, with Wedgewood joining the rivals in Syracuse.
In their place the team brought in Andrew Hammond and they’ll have Jonas Johansson back to take starts, while the team waits for Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen to fully recover from his offseason hip surgeries.
Once UPL arrives, the battle will begin to see who carries the team through the rest of the regular season.
Let’s also take a moment to appreciate the Hamburglar’s fantastic goalie mask for this season... this is a thing of beauty.
Behind the bench
Chris Taylor will return for his third season as head coach... but not until his time in Buffalo as a Sabres assistant coach is over; Taylor was promoted to fill in while the Sabres’ assistant coach Don Granato takes a medical leave.
In his stead in Rochester, Gord Dineen will step in as head coach, a role he has plenty of experience with - including a full year in Toronto with the Marlies in 2014-15 in which he helped guide the team to the playoffs.
This is fully expected to be a temporary shuffling of personnel.
All the coaches are familiar with the new system being implemented by Ralph Krueger in Buffalo, so nothing much should change with a new coach calling the shots in Rochester.
Another thing that should help keep the atmosphere consistent in Rochester is the large number of returning veterans including C.J. Smith, Kevin Porter, Sean Malone, Eric Cornel, Scott Wilson, and Remi Elie, as well as younger players such as Rasmus Asplund and Will Borgen, both of whom are on the cusp of full-time NHL careers.
Here’s a brief summary of the major roster changes:
|Andrew Hammond (G)||Adam Wilcox (G)||Lawrence Pilut* (D)|
|Brett Murray (F)||Alex Nylander (F)||Victor Olofsson (F)|
|Casey Fitzgerald (D)||Danny O'Regan (F)|
|Curtis Lazar (F)||Jack Dougherty (D)|
|Jacob Bryson (D)||Kyle Criscuolo (F)|
|Jarrett Burton (F)||Matt Tennyson (D)|
|Jean-Sebastien Dea (F)||Scott Wedgewood (G)|
|John Gilmour* (D)||Wayne Simpson (F)|
|Yannick Veilleux (F)|
*Probably where they’ll end up
Again for 2019-2020, the Amerks will play a 76-game AHL schedule with all games against other Eastern Conference teams, the bulk of which (56) will be against teams in their own North Division.
Syracuse (12) is the most common opponent, followed by Binghamton and Utica (10 each), Cleveland (8), Toronto and Belleville (6 each), and Laval (4).
One piece of good news is that the team will only play two 3-in-3 game sets compared to five last season.
The full schedule can be found over at Amerks.com.
Watch tonight for free!
The Sabres are off tonight so you have no excuse to not take advantage of the AHL’s “freeview” weekend and catch the Amerks game on AHLTV.