The Anaheim Ducks and the Portland Pirates are well into their second year of their affiliation agreement and things couldn’t be
going better. Not only are the Ducks statistically the best team in the NHL, with key contributions from a number of former Pirates, but the Pirates are currently reigning supreme atop the Atlantic Division. Their 36 points and record of 16-8-1-3 places them fourth in the Eastern Conference and tied for seventh in the entire AHL.
There has been plenty of changes with the Pirates, with a number of players moving on as well as plenty of new faces. There’s also a ‘healthy’
number of players who missed significant time last season with injury and are looking to not only stay in the lineup all year, but also
reestablish themselves as viable prospects.
The three key Portland forwards who are bouncing back from injury shortened seasons are Pierre Parenteau, Tim Brent and Curtis Glencross, all profiled in a recent
Hockey’s Future article on their journey back to the game. Both Parenteau and Brent are among the leaders in team scoring with 24 and 16 points respectively, meanwhile Glencross clocks in with a solid 12 points, at a 0.5 point-per-game pace.
Colby Genoway and Ryan Carter were two big free-agent additions to the team over the offseason and have had very different seasons so far with the Pirates. Genoway is in his second full season in the AHL and has continued the scoring ways that saw him finish
eighth in rookie scoring a year ago. Playing mostly on the top line, Genoway’s five goals and 21 points are third most on the team, meanwhile his +14 is tops amongst all Portland players. Carter on the other hand has struggled slightly in his first professional season, after playing in the NCAA last year. He had a strong rookie camp, but after a strong start (six points in the first seven games), he has only six goals and nine points in 25 games.
That inconsistency has been something that has plagued the other rookie forwards on the Pirates this year. Drew Miller, a former Michigan State captain had eight points in his first nine games, but now has 14, including three goals in 28.
Two of his goals have come while shorthanded, harkening back to a specialty during his college days when he was always a threat when his team was a man short. Bjorn Melin and Petteri Wirtanen are playing in their first season in North America and naturally encountering some bumps along the way. Melin, a Swede drafted way back in 1999 by the New York Islanders, has seven goals and 13 points in 25 games, with a relatively impressive +11 and a scant six penalty minutes. Meanwhile, Wirtanen, a Finnish draft selection of the Ducks in 2006, has tallied four goals and ten points in 26 games.
Rounding out the forwards are veteran players like Zenon Konopka, who rejoined the team after briefly flirting with the idea of spending the year in Russia. Konopka leads the team in scoring with 27 points in 27 games. Shawn Thornton was signed for leadership and veteran depth, but has worked his way
onto the NHL roster for the time being. In his 15 games with the team, he had eight points. Garrett Bembridge has split time between the Pirates and the Ducks ECHL affiliate in Augusta. Meanwhile, hard-nosed Trevor Gillies has been held without a point in 20 games, although he has 58 penalty minutes. Geoff Peters has missed all but two games this season with injury and Simon Ferguson provides depth.
On the blue line is where most of the changes happened for the Pirates. Aaron Rome is the sole returning defenseman who is considered a prospect. After a bit of a slow start with just two assists in his first 15 games, Rome has
11 points in 27 games, placing him tied for second amongst Pirate defensemen in scoring. Two of his three goals have come on the
power play and he’s a +10 on the season, tops amongst Portland blueliners. Like always, his hard-nosed style has led to some penalties, 49 minutes worth in this case.
The leading defensive scorer for the Pirates is Clay Wilson who was signed by the Ducks after spending most of last season with the Grand Rapids Griffins. In 27 games, he has scored four goals, and has 15 points, as well as a +4 and 16 penalty minutes. A strong-skating, puck-moving player, Wilson has also seen some time as forward with the Pirates this year, due mostly to the number of defensemen on the team.
Next up on the defensive end are two former college players in Brett Skinner and Brian Salcido. Skinner was acquired in the Keith Carney trade last season and has been able to display some of the offensive flair that he was touted for, including four points in the first five games this season, but his play has dropped off since then. He has just recently returned from a five-game stint in the ECHL, where he scored a goal and had four points. Unfortunately, that scoring confidence has yet to translate over to the AHL again, with the Manitoba native held without a point in his last eight AHL games. Overall, he has four goals and eight points in 21 games on the season. Salcido was a bit of a surprise addition to the club, signing a contract after his third year at Colorado College. He’s been slowly adjusting to the pro game and in 25 games, he has three goals and six points. His scoring prowess that he displayed in the NCAA has definitely not been shown consistently so far, however, there is no need to rush his development.
Rounding out the defense are veterans Bruno St. Jacques, Ian Moran and Kent Huskins, who was recently called up to Anaheim. St. Jacques is in his second year with the Pirates and has eight points in 23 games. Moran started the season with Anaheim, but has since cleared waivers and has seen action in 13 games with a goal and three points to his name. Although Huskins is primarily known as a defensive defenseman, his 11 points in 27 games
are tied for second amongst Pirates blueliners.
It is between the pipes where the real shuffle begins for the Pirates. The current goaltending tandem for Portland is Nathan Marsters, who spent part of last season as the starting netminder for the team but toiled in the CHL for a chunk of this season and Dov Grumet-Morris, a former Philadelphia Flyers prospect who was previously playing for Cincinnati in the ECHL.
With Anaheim goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov currently injured, the Ducks are relying on prospect Mike Wall to provide backup duty. Wall started the season backing up veteran Michael Leighton in Portland, and in eight games, he had a record of 6-1-1 with a 2.92 goals against average and a save percentage of
.886. Leighton was lost through waivers to Nashville while the Ducks tried to shuffle goaltenders to fill in for a nightmare situation in Anaheim, when both NHL goalies were unable to play in a game.
Although Anaheim prospects did play in Augusta last season, this is the first year that an official ECHL affiliation has existed between the Ducks, the Pirates and the Augusta Lynx. The Lynx currently find themselves sixth in the South Division and 10th in the American Conference with a record of 12-16-0-0. A telling stat is that they have allowed a league-high 114 goals against. The Lynx have seen a number of Ducks organization players pass through Augusta so far this season, ranging from Garrett Bembridge to Brett Skinner to Marsters. There have also been three Anaheim prospects in particular who have played almost all season with the Lynx.
Shane Hynes and Nathan Saunders are playing in the ECHL after playing at the AHL level last season. Both players suffered long-term injuries last season and are trying to bounce back after such a difficult year. In 26 games, Hynes is fifth among ECHL rookies with 20 points, nine of them goals; meanwhile Saunders has one goal and six points in 24 games. Hynes was recently selected to play in the ECHL All Star
Game. Meanwhile, Saunders had a brief call-up to Portland that lasted three games.
The third member of the trio is goaltender David McKee. A former teammate of Hynes at Cornell University, McKee turned pro after his third year and signed a free-agent contract with Anaheim. McKee had a four-game call-up to the NHL in which he dressed but did not play. In 21 games in Augusta, McKee has a 3.87 GAA and a
.887 save percentage. Although those numbers are well off the record setting stats he posted at
Cornell (his save percentage is in the bottom 10 in the league), he is tied for fifth in the league with wins and has a record of 10-8-0-0.
Brendan Mikkelson and Jean-Philippe Levasseur have both come to terms with the Ducks on entry-level contracts. Mikkelson, a defenseman for the Vancouver Giants in the WHL, agreed to a three-year deal at the end of November, while Levasseur, a goaltender for the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in the QMJHL signed his own three-year deal this week. Both players were drafted in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, in the second and seventh round respectively.
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