Beyond The Benches

Star Studded Roster At AHL All-Star Classic

the East Division teams represented at the AHL All-Star Classic. (Annie Erling Gofus)

This week the National Hockey League hits pause as its focus shifts from the Stanley Cup to Olympic Gold. While some NHLers head to Sochi—and others hit the beach—the American Hockey League gets fired up for a different international contest.

February 11-12, the AHL All-Star Classic will be held in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada. A combined team of players from across the AHL will compete against Färjestad BK of the Swedish Hockey League. Hockey dexterity will be put to the test on Tuesday during the Skills Competition. And on Wednesday—the same day the puck drops in Sochi—the AHL All-Star team will face off against the one of the most successful franchises in Europe. Färjestad BK has played in 18 Swedish Championship finals and has won nine Swedish league championships since its founding in 1932.

Syracuse Crunch Captain Mike Angelidis at the GIANT Center in Hershey, PA. (Annie Erling Gofus)

Syracuse Crunch Captain Mike Angelidis at the GIANT Center in Hershey, PA. (Annie Erling Gofus)

The All-Star team is led by Jeff Blashill, head coach of the 2013 Calder Cup champion Grand Rapids Griffins, and Rob Zettler of the runner-up Syracuse Crunch. The All-Star roster is stacked with 22 of the best AHL players, including 21 who have NHL experience.

“These guys are all elite players who have not just great skill sets, but really great hockey minds and know how to win as a team,” Blashill told TheAHL.com.

All-Star Classic Roster Selection

In the past, each of the league’s 30 teams were represented in the All-Star Classic. This year a committee of AHL coaches and general managers chose 22 players from 18 teams, snubbing 12 of the American Hockey League’s teams. Among the teams left off the All-Star roster are the Hershey Bears and Norfolk Admirals—both part of the AHL’s East Division.

Since the All-Star Classic was reinstated in 1995—after a 35-year hiatus—approximately 93% of the 630 AHL All-Stars have gone on to compete in the NHL. These players include Zdeno Chara, US Olympic Team Captain Zach Parise, and Tuukka Rask. Eight current NHL coaches have also previously coached in the AHL All-Star Classic, including the Anaheim Ducks’ Bruce Boudreau and the Vancouver Canucks’ John Tortorella.

Färjestad’s roster has a couple names that if you don’t recognize now, you’ll most likely know in several seasons. Ludwig Bystrom was a second-round draft pick by the Dallas Stars in 2012, and Pontus Aberg was a second-rounder for the Nashville Predators that same NHL draft.

The AHL’s East Division and the All-Star Classic

Of the five teams in the East Division, three are represented in the AHL Classic. Brett Connolly of the Syracuse Crunch, Brian Gibbons of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, and Mike Hoffman of the Binghamton Senators were among the 22 players selected to compete in St. John’s. While the Senators and the Penguins sit first and second, respectively, in their division, the Crunch brings up the rear–a full 14 points behind Hershey and Norfolk (with 58 points each) who were both left off the All-Star roster.

Binghamton Senators Cody Ceci and Jim O'Brien

Binghamton Senators’ Cody Ceci and Jim O’Brien playing at the GIANT Center in Hershey, PA. (Annie Erling Gofus)

The AHL gets back to work this weekend, while the NHL’s Olympic break stretches until at least February 23rd, when the Men’s Gold Medal Game is held in Sochi, Russia.

For more information on the All-Star Classic check out http://theahl.com/, and to learn more about Olympic Ice Hockey visit http://www.sochi2014.com/en/ice-hockey.

 

2014 AHL All-Star Team

Forwards

Brett Connolly, Syracuse Crunch (Tampa Bay)

Brian Gibbons, W-B/Scranton Penguins (Pittsburgh)

Mike Hoffman, Binghamton Senators (Ottawa)

Jason Jaffray, St. John’s IceCaps (Winnipeg)

Travis Morin, Texas Stars (Dallas)

Brandon Pirri, Rockford IceHogs (Chicago)

Colton Sceviour, Texas Stars (Dallas)

Colton Sissons, Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville)

Ryan Spooner, Providence Bruins (Boston)

Ben Street, Abbotsford Heat (Calgary)

Ryan Strome, Bridgeport Sound Tigers (N.Y. Islanders)

Linden Vey, Manchester Monarchs (Los Angeles)

Joe Whitney, Albany Devils (New Jersey)

Defensemen

Chad Billins, Abbotsford Heat (Calgary)

T.J. Brennan, Toronto Marlies (Toronto)

Cody Goloubef, Springfield Falcons (Columbus)

Brenden Kichton, St. John’s IceCaps (Winnipeg)

Alexey Marchenko, Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit)

Brayden McNabb, Rochester Americans (Buffalo)

Frederic St. Denis, Springfield Falcons (Columbus)

Goaltenders

Jake Allen, Chicago Wolves (St. Louis)

Dustin Tokarski, Hamilton Bulldogs (Montreal)

 

Annie Erling Gofus writes for Olympus Athletics (http://www.summitolympus.com/). Follow Annie on Twitter (@AnnieErGo) or email her at annie.erling@gmail.com.