All AHL clubs will be competing for the Calder Cup.

AHL Western Conference notebook

A brief look at what's happening on the league's west side

It’s almost time to start a new season of AHL hockey. Teams have moved and/or changed affiliations, including last year’s Calder Cup champions (the Manchester Monarchs are now the Ontario Reign), but here are some things of note:

Keep tabs on Hellebuyck

The Manitoba Moose, formerly the St. John’s IceCaps, have opened their training camp, and goaltender Connor Hellebuyck is the one to keep an eye on. Hellebuyck, the 130th overall pick of the Winnipeg Jets in the 2012 NHL draft, will be entering his second full season as a pro coming out of the University of Massachusetts Lowell. He played in 58 games with the IceCaps last season, posting a .921 save percentage and a 2.58 goals-against average. He was then selected to play for the U.S. world championship team, where he went 7-1 with a 1.37 goals-against average and a .948 save percentage. He’s a big part of why the Americans won bronze. And he’s only 22.

Check out this save he made with the Jets in the pre-season.

New jerseys for Admirals

The Milwaukee Admirals will have new jerseys this season. Nice stuff, especially considering their parent club, the Nashville Predators, have a long history of unflattering apparel.

Milwaukee Admirals new jerseys for the 2015-2016 AHL season.
Milwaukee Admirals new jerseys for the 2015-16 AHL season. (Photo courtesy of @ZoZoMa63)

The Predators have always struggled to attain top-end forward talent, but they might have found something in centre Vladislav Kamenev. Nashville’s second-round pick in 2014 had only nine points in 41 games with Magnitogorsk of the KHL last season, and this will be his first year playing in North America. Kamenev should challenge for a spot on Russia’s world junior team, and Predators fans will hope he can develop chemistry with their 2014 first-round pick Kevin Fiala, whio is a left winger from Switzerland and played 33 games with Milwaukee last season.

Unbalanced schedule

Due to the relocations of various franchises, the AHL will have an unbalanced schedule for the coming season. The San Jose Barracuda, Stockton Heat, Bakersfield Condors, Ontario Reign, and San Diego Gulld will all play 68 games, while the other 25 teams will play 76. This includes the San Antonio Rampage and the Texas Stars, who play in the Pacific Division with the aforementioned five California-based teams. As such, teams will be ranked based on points percentage, the amount of points won divided by how many were possible to win for playoff seeding.

Wolves an interesting team

The Chicago Wolves have long been an interesting team ever since the relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg. They are currently the AHL affiliate of the St. Louis Blues, who are of course, divisional opponents of the Chicago Blackhawks. Last season, the Wolves averaged 7,958 fans, good enough for sixth in the AHL, while all teams ahead of them have no NHL franchise to compete with. Getting fans to come out and cheer for a team affiliated with an NHL rival seems like it would be a tough task, but the Wolves have experience in this area. For the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons, the team’s parent club was the Vancouver Canucks.

IceHogs add NHL veteran

The Chicago Blackhawks actual farm team, the Rockford IceHogs, have just added NHL veteran Daniel Paille to their roster. Paille, a mainstay on the Boston Bruins’ fourth line the past few years, is a great skater who is known for is defensive abilities. It’ll be interesting to see how much offence he can contribute at this level, though if the Blackhawks can move a player there might be space for Paille on the big club. Hawks fans might be most familiar with Paille from his overtime goal in Game 2 of the 2013 Stanley Cup final.