The AHL season officially kicks off tonight.
Here is how I see the divisions playing out over the 2015-16 season, and I picked the four teams from each division to reach the Calder Cup playoffs.
Pacific Division: Texas Stars (division champ), San Antonio Rampage, Bakersfield Condors, Ontario Reign
If not for key losses, the reigning Calder Cup champions (as the Manchester Monarchs) would be favored to win this division.
Since Manchester lost the likes of J.F. Berube, Brian O’Neil, Jordan Weal, and Colin Miller I’m giving the edge to Texas.
Central Division: Grand Rapids Griffins (division champ), Chicago Wolves, Rockford IceHogs, Lake Erie Monsters
Jeff Blashil left a good team in Grand Rapids, and he was replaced by former Oklahoma City Barons coach Todd Nelson — who knows how to get the best out of his players.
Atlantic Division: Hershey Bears (division champ), Portland Pirates, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, Hartford Wolfpack
Eastern conference predictions are more of hunch for me — haven’t seen an Eastern team play live in two seasons. But, can’t go wrong with Hershey and the old San Antonio Rampage team should make noise in Portland after an affiliation change.
North Division: Utica Comets (division champ), Toronto Marlies, Syracuse Crunch, Springfield Falcons (cross-over from Atlantic)
Once again, haven’t seen all these teams play. But, can’t go wrong with Utica after reaching Calder Cup Finals last season.
Springfield’s players made playoffs as the Portland Pirates last season, I think the cross-over comes into play with strength in the Atlantic Division.
Calder Cup prediction: Grand Rapids over Hershey in 6