Unable to best the Norfolk Admirals in the second round of the AHL playoffs, the Connecticut Whale left Hartford and the XL Center for the rest of the summer on Monday.
The Hartford Courant’s Paul Doyle reports that nine “black aces” will join the New York Rangers, who play game one in the Eastern Conference Finals tonight against the New Jersey Devils.
Among those reinforcements are former first-round draft picks Dylan McIlrath and J.T. Miller, who saw plenty of action in the Whale’s postseason. Joining them will be Cameron Talbot, Chad Kolarik, Jonathan Audy-Marchessault, Casey Wellman, Kris Newbury, Tim Erixon and Marek Hrivik.
Of the nine, I honestly believe Wellman deserves a strong look. If the Rangers are thirsting for offense, he’d be a viable option to saddle onto the third or fourth line in place of a struggling or injured player. On the blueline, Erixon could be a better answer than Eminger. While Eminger holds more experience, at least Erixon has been playing lately. His game hasn’t perfect, but he could give you valuable minutes and add some speed to the defense.
That said, it isn’t likely that any of the nine will actually dress. I wouldn’t say it’d be absurd to think about it though. The recalls are mostly to reward players for a good AHL season or to immerse valued prospects in a professional atmosphere. Barring injury (and the eventual returns of Mats Zuccarello and Brandon Dubinsky) it isn’t likely that we’ll see one of the new additions work their way into the lineup.
SEASON IN REVIEW
The Connecticut Whale could have beaten Norfolk. The six minutes in game three’s second period where the Whale allowed three goals and the lead are what changed everything. But the Whale shouldn’t go into the summer with their heads hung low. They beat Norfolk twice, which for the sake of funny comparison, is more times than the rest of the AHL could in a stretch of more than 30 games. I said all along that the entire AHL was playing for the right to lose to the Admirals and it still appears that way. They play the second seed St. John’s Ice Caps in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Whale lost every game in the month of January. They followed that poor showing with a great February. It was an up and down season for the team and its fans. If in the middle of January you told me that the Whale would sweep the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in the first round of the playoffs and then give the Admirals a run for their money, I would have told you to shut up. At that point, missing the playoffs all together seemed like more of a possibility. But the Whale, led by its veteran presence, leveled the sinking ship and found their way into the AHL playoffs as the sixth seed. I say the future looks bright.
Even more came out of this season than you might think. Cameron Talbot might have cemented himself as a viable goaltending prospect for the organization with his terrific postseason play that he must carry into October. A hot streak in the playoffs is one thing. Consistent regular season play is another. He capitalized on Chad Johnson’s up and down season by playing great when it mattered.
Jonathan Audy-Marchessault and Marek Hrivik, two of the players recalled by the Rangers for the rest of their playoff run, both came out of nowhere and succeeded at very different times in the season. Audy-Marchessault might have began the season in the ECHL if it weren’t for his strong play in camp. Turning into an offensive leader as a rookie, Audy-Marchessault certainly earned himself the contract that will surely come from the Rangers soon. Hrivik joined the team near the tail end of the season. Like Gernander did with almost all of his new arrivals, he gave Hrivik a chance to play with the team’s most talented players. Hrivik utilized his opportunities and transformed from nothing into something – a formidable New York Rangers prospect.
The New York Rangers have done a terrific job of developing its prospects. They are reaping the benefits of that now in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and continue to supply its minor league club with even more youth. Next year will be quite the season for the Connecticut Whale.