Next week, the 2021 AHL season will finally get underway with 28 teams separated into five new divisions to account for COVID protocols. Three teams—the Springfield Thunderbirds (St. Louis Blues), Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville Predators), and Charlotte Checkers (Florida Panthers)—have opted out of the season.
As On The Forecheck first reported, the Nashville Predators will primarily be using the Chicago Wolves (Carolina Hurricanes) to house prospects for this season, but due to roster constraints and other contract formalities, not every AHL-level prospect in the organization will suit up for the Wolves.
Before Chicago plays Game One on February 5, I wanted to run through some brief preseason notes and catch everyone up to speed:
- Schedule length varies for each club, with some playing as few as 24 games this season and as many as 40 games. Regardless, the regular season will conclude on May 16.
- The Wolves will play 30 games starting February 5: ten games against Grand Rapids, eight games against Iowa, four games against Cleveland, and eight games against Rockford.
- All Wolves home games are being played at their practice facility, the Triphahn Ice Arena.
- The Wolves will dress a maximum of one goalie, three defenders, and six forwards from Nashville’s pipeline each game.
- Currently, Nashville has assigned one goalie (Kaskisuo), three defenders (Carrier, Lewington, Davies), and nine forwards (Richard, Malone, Harper, Wilkins, Novak, Jeannot, Pitlick, Smith, Craggs) to the Wolves. That means, pending roster movements, three forwards will be scratched each night.
- With Connor Ingram voluntarily entering the league’s player assistance program, expect Kasimir Kaskisuo to be called up to the taxi squad.
- Nashville’s taxi squad is full at the moment. I don’t expect Eeli Tolvanen or Mathieu Olivier to move down at all, but Ben Harpur, Michael McCarron, and Philip Tomasino could be rotated down to get playing time. In those cases, I could see Carrier, Davies, Richard, and Pitlick rotated up to the taxi squad.
- Nashville also has the luxury of an active ECHL affiliation. There are no NHL-contracted players currently assigned to Florida except for Devin Cooley; I expect that to change once the AHL season gets underway.
- Defender Brandon Fortunato—in the last year of his entry-level contract—has been assigned to the Cleveland Monsters for the 2021 season.
- Michael Carcone is still without an assignment for this season.
- The NHL/CHL Agreement has been amended to allow U20 CHL players to play in the AHL until their league resumes play. The WHL recently committed to a 2021 season (without a start date), so Luke Prokop should be set. But the OHL season looks very much in doubt. Other organizations have been assigning OHL prospects to their American League teams for training camp (or signing them to amateur tryout contracts), but I don’t see there being enough room for Luke Evangelista at the AHL level.
- Defender Frédéric Allard cleared waivers last month in order to extend his loan to EC VSV in the Austrian ICEHL through the remainder of the season.
- Milwaukee is having to deal with a number of AHL contracts for the 2021 season, including Matt Donovan, Cole Schneider, Hugo Roy, Josh Healey, and Spenser Young.
- Prior to the start of the ECHL season, Milwaukee assigned Michael Huntebrinker and Arvin Atwal to Florida. Spenser Young and Hugo Roy were also eligible as they are signed to two-way AHL/ECHL deals but were not assigned. Roy will be attending training camp with the Hartford Wolfpack (New York Rangers); This is the final year of his contract signed in 2019.
- Last March, Matt Donovan signed a two-year AHL deal with Milwaukee through the 2021-22 season. With the Admirals opting out this year, that contract was voided and Donovan signed a one-year deal with HV71 in the Swedish SHL. He’ll return to Milwaukee on a one-year AHL deal in 2021-22.
- Also last March, Cole Schneider re-signed with Milwaukee on a one-year AHL deal for this season. Nothing has been confirmed by the league yet, but after doing some digging, my understanding is that deal was voided when Schneider signed a 2021 deal with the Texas Stars. I heard some whispers about a potential move to Sweden, but he’ll stick in the AHL this year.
- Those playing in the AHL this season will have their contracts prorated at 42%. That’s just $29,400 for a player making a (somewhat) standard $70,000 in a normal season. Lexi Brown, wife of former AHL (and NHL) player J.T. Brown, detailed the financial strains of AHL players in this fantastic thread.
- The league has not come to a conclusion about the playoffs for the 2021 season. If they happen, it could be in-division only until absolutely necessary, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t happen at all.
Before next week, we’ll detail a complete preview on the Chicago Wolves for what’s sure to be a bumpy and abnormal 2021 season.