GLENS FALLS -- The Phantoms are facing off against the Syracuse Crunch tonight, but in terms of personnel, they are facing off against the AHL's defending Calder Cup Champion Norfolk Admirals.
Over the summer, the Tampa Bay Lightning changed AHL affiliates, leaving Norfolk after they won 43 of their final 46 games. Yes, the Admirals won 43 of their final 46 games en route to winning the Calder Cup. These Syracuse Crunch have 14 members from last year's Calder Cup winning team, plus three full-time NHLers. Here is a brief look at the Crunch.
Any conversation about the Lightning's AHL team begins with Cory Conacher. Last year, Conacher finished second in the AHL scoring race with 80 points in 75 games, including a league-leading 39 goals. The undrafted forward would have been a lock to make the Lightning out of camp, so the Phantoms will need to find a way to shut him down. It won't be easy, as he already has 5 goals in 7 games this year.
Next up for the Crunch is a name many of you may remember from last spring: J.T. Brown. The undrafted forward from the University of Minnesota-Duluth was one of the most highly sought after college free agents. The Daily News first reported the Flyers' interest in the forward, and SBNation's Bruce Ciskie raved about the young forward. Ciskie went as far as to say he would have been in the NHL this yea rif there wasn't a lockout. He's off to a slow start this year, with 1 goal in only 4 games, but he clearly has talent.
The diminutive forward had a fantastic rookie campaign, scoring 31 goals and 68 points in 75 games for the Admirals. This after a four year WHL career that saw him 53 goals and 115 points as a 20 year old. He's already off to a fast start this year, with 5 goals in 7 games.
The sixth overall pick in 2010 spent all of last year in the NHL, playing in 68 games and scoring 4 goals. He's at a point per game pace in the AHL so far this year, including scoring two goals in last Sunday's 4-3 overtime loss to the Phantoms. He was a consensus top-10 pick in pre-draft rankings, even though he only played 16 games the year before the draft due to injuries. If that doesn't convince you he has talent, perhaps this scouting report from Hockey Wilderness will.
Keith Aulie spent 36 games in the NHL last year, probably because he's so tall. It certainly wasn't because he was good at hockey.