A few days ago, it was announced that Syracuse Crunch/Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Nikita Nesterov would not be participating in the American Hockey League All-Star game due to his current call up with Tampa Bay. Nesterov was supposed to playing alongside forward Vladislav Namestnikov, who also got a nod for the Crunch. It wasn’t known at the time who the league was going to pick to replace Nesterov, especially since roster replacements don’t have to come from the same team.
Even though Nesterov is a defenseman, news broke this afternoon that the Crunch would be sending a forward instead as their second player at the league’s All-Star event: Jonathan Marchessault. From the team’s official release:
Marchessault, 24, leads the Crunch with 36 points (10g, 26a) in 39 games, tied for fifth in the league. This is the third time in his four-year career that Marchessault has been honored with an AHL All-Star selection. Marchessault has seven multi-point games on the campaign and has points in 27 of his 39 games. He recorded a point in eight straight games, Nov. 1-19, capped by a three-game goal streak.
Through 266 AHL games, the Quebec native has 233 points (78g, 145a) with Connecticut, Springfield and Syracuse. In Calder Cup play, Marchessault has seven points (4g, 3a) in 17 games. Marchessault, undrafted, was acquired by the Tampa Bay Lightning in a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets March 5, 2014.
Marchessault is arguably one of the most deserved players on the roster to get a replacement spot. He’s been a steady rock for Syracuse’s top line all season, and hasn’t once been ruffled by the coming and goings of the players around him. Many were surprised he wasn’t nominated the first time around.
It was also announced that Namestnikov has been voted by the fans of the league as a starter for the Eastern Conference’s All-Star team. The starting lines for both conferences are as follows:
G – Anton Forsberg, Springfield
D – Austin Madaisky, Springfield
D – Derrick Pouliot, W-B/Scranton
F – Chris Bourque, Hartford
F – Tom Kostopoulos, W-B/Scranton
F – Vladislav Namestnikov, Syracuse
G – Jacob Markstrom, Utica
D – T.J. Brennan, Rockford
D – Bobby Sanguinetti, Utica
F – Connor Brown, Toronto
F – Cal O’Reilly, Utica
F – Teemu Pulkkinen, Grand Rapids
The 2015 AHL All-Star Classic is taking place in Utica, N.Y. next week. The All-Star Skills Competition is at 8 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 25 and the All-Star Game is at 7 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 26.
A few weeks ago, it was reported that two Syracuse Crunch players had been selected as AHL All-Stars for the event at the end of this month. The media was notified today that the league has been informed that defenseman Nikita Nesterov will not be participating due to his current call up with the Tampa Bay Lightning. As much as it was an honor to be selected, I’d imagine that it’s safe to say that Nesterov isn’t too upset about all of this.
Nesterov has been on recall with the Lightning since December 31st and has earned quite a bit of praise along the way. He was selected as an AHL All-Star while on recall, and it was noted that he might not be able to participate if he hadn’t been returned to Syracuse in time for the game. With Lightning defenseman Radko Gudas out for the next few months and Matt Carle seeing a specialist today, it’s very safe to say that Nesterov probably won’t be returning to the Crunch any time soon.
This leaves Syracuse forward Vladislav Namestnikov as the only Crunch representative at the game, for now, anyway. The AHL will probably select another player to replace Nesterov, but the player doesn’t necessarily have to come from the Crunch. Syracuse is currently 2nd in the AHL’s Northeast Division and 4th in the AHL’s Eastern Conference.
All in all, it wasn’t a good weekend for the Syracuse Crunch.
Friday night, Syracuse lost in rather stunning fashion to the Binghamton Senators. The final 5-0 score only really hinted at the damage that could have happened. Short on true AHL blue line help with defenseman Luke Witkowski recalled–a move that happened right before the game–the Crunch floundered in the first, allowing the B-Sens to score four unanswered goals. Starting goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy was pulled not long into the second period after allowing a fifth goal. He faced 19 shots. Mercifully, Kristers Gudlevskis then saved all 21 shots he faced, keeping the damage to just five goals against. The Crunch’s offensive squad was held scoreless and was also held to just 18 shots on goal.
Saturday night, the Crunch seemed to rebound with an energized game against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers that got off to a great start thanks to a couple of Syracuse’s defensemen. Joey Mormina scored nine minutes into the first and then Slater Koekkoek added his own tally eleven seconds later. Mike Blunden, Tanner Richard, Vladislav Namestnikov, and Mike Angelidis would also add their own goals to the volley. The 6-2 final helped starting goalie Gudlevskis improve to 13-6-0. He stoped 24 of 26 Bridgeport shots. The Crunch had 35 shots on goal, and four Crunch players had multi-point games: Dylan Blujus (2a), Angelidis (1g,1a), Jonathan Marchessault (3a) and Blunden (1g, 2a).
Unfortunately, Sunday afternoon, the Crunch allowed the Sound Tigers to get the best of them, losing 2-1. Syracuse gave up a season-high 10 power plays to Bridgeport over the course of the contest, who was able to capitalize on two of them. The Crunch itself was unable to score on any of their five power plays. Crunch goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy turned aside 21 shots, while Syracuse ended the game with 33 shots on goal. Forward Dalton Smith scored the Crunch’s only goal. Former Syracuse Crunch and Tampa Bay Lightning forward Cory Conacher assisted on both Bridgeport tallies.
After playing eight of nine games on the road, Syracuse plays at home Friday against Lehigh Valley and Saturday vs. Hartford.
Latest Stats for the Syracuse Crunch:
Regular season record (wins-losses-OT losses-SO losses): 24-11-5-0
Place in Eastern Conference (top 8 make the playoffs): 4th
Place in Northeast Division: 2nd
- Top scorer: Jonathan Marchessault (10-26-36)
Top scoring defenseman: Nikita Nesterov (3-11-14)
Top scoring defenseman still on roster: Slater Koekkoek (3-8-11)
Top defenseman, +/-: Jean-Philippe Cote, +9
- Top rookie: Joel Vermin (7-8-15)
Other transactions and player news:
-Defenseman Dan Milan was recalled to the Crunch from ECHL Wichita on Friday
-Defenseman Charlie Dodero was signed to a professional tryout contract on Friday and made his Crunch debut Friday night at Binghamton.
Syracuse Crunch media highlights:
The Crunch’s SoundCloud has been updated with broadcasts and player interviews from the past week.
According to multiple reports, Norfolk is the second current AHL city that will fall to the whims of change, news that is coming just weeks after the announcement that the Oklahoma City Barons are closing their doors at the end of this season. NHL teams on the West coast have desired their farm teams to be closer for years now, and it looks like steps are now being taken towards making those desires a reality. Will these changes affect Syracuse?
This is what I wrote about this week on Raw Charge. It was a project that got a little bigger than I anticipated, but as someone who has been actively ignoring the changes in my beloved league–mostly out of fear of such a major change–I soon came to the realization that I really can’t ignore this anymore:
The thing with all of this is that it’s now too much to ignore, which is what it was easy to do when it was just a team or two involved in the rumors. Logic dictates that If the AHL was really looking to create a true western division, they’d certainly need more than just one team out there. The AHL is a primarily a bus league, with teams generally renting sleeper buses to get to longer destinations instead of flying. One could bet that even current westerly teams like Grand Rapids or the Texas Stars wouldn’t be willing to shell out plane fare for their teams to get to one or two clubs out in California on a regular basis. Those clubs out there wouldn’t have been able to survive if they had to fly everywhere; it just would have been too cost prohibitive.
But, put four or five clubs way out west and suddenly there’s a division there. Sure, something will have to be done so those teams somehow see more of the Western Conference, but it’s certainly easier to spread the cost around when those teams can bus to get to each other.
Now, with all of this happening, there’s probably one big question on the mind of both Crunch and Lightning fans: what does this mean for Syracuse?
Find out more over at Raw Charge!
ICYMI, I’ve been a busy little worker bee over at Raw Charge.
First, I had my usual update. Week 12 of the team’s AHL campaign had me discussing how well the Crunch plays when everyone on the team shows up to play:
This season, the Crunch’s success has been mostly marked by one single thing: contributions from almost everyone on the roster. Although the team’s top line of Marchessault, Gourde, and Vladislav Namestnikov has been tearing up the AHL as of late, Syracuse has also needed everyone on the roster to participate in order to generate wins. When this happens, the team finds success. When this doesn’t happen, the team fails dismally.
No where was this more evident than during this past week.
Then, in the wake of the news that Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Radko Gudas will be out for 4 months while recovering from knee surgery, I posted a player profile of Crunch defenseman JP Cote:
It was just about this time last season that Cote’s hard work since 2011 with theLightning’s farm clubs was rewarded. On December 18th, 2013, Cote was signed to a two-way AHL/NHL contract by the Lightning and was immediately recalled. Cote had previously been on an AHL-only contract, but Lightning head coach Jon Cooper had worked with Cote in both Norfolk and Syracuse and was obviously very familiar with the kind of game Cote could bring to the Lightning.
Cote’s career in the AHL has spanned more than a decade and included winning the Calder Cup with Norfolk in 2012. Before his signing and call up to the Lightning last season, Cote had only played in 8 NHL games in his career, all with the Montreal Canadiens in 2005-2006. However, Cooper knew that Cote’s gritty style on the ice and good nature off the ice would fit in well with his dressing room, many of whom had already played with Cote in both Norfolk and Syracuse. Cote ended up netting his first NHL point in his first game with the Lightning. That point resulted in one of the most adorable things to ever be recorded: a giddy on-air hug with Lightning broadcaster Paul Kennedy.
This past off season, Cote was considered as depth for the organization, but Raw Charge writer John Fontana also mentioned that NHL time certainly wasn’t out of the question for the defenseman.
Finally, with news that just broke today, I posted an update about the Syracuse Crunch’s 2015 All-Stars, Nikita Nesterov and Vladislav Namestnikov:
Tyler Johnson, Richard Panik, Mark Barberio, Radko Gudas, Brett Connolly.
Yes, I’d say Nikita Nesterov and Vladislav Namestnikov are now in pretty good company.
The American Hockey League released their rosters for the Eastern Conference and Western Conference All-Star teams today, and the Syracuse Crunch was proud to announce that both Nesterov and Namestnikov will be representing their team at the event in Utica, N.Y at the end of January. Out of the five teams in the Crunch’s Northeast Division, only one other–the Springfield Falcons–has two representatives.
I assume that this is a waiver move that players are placed on when they want to be released. I don’t think Samson has to be put on waivers just to return to the Crunch from the Spengler Cup.
Anyway, I’ve talked a lot of Samson over at RC, and actually said that one of the bigger questions that needed to be answered for the Crunch’s success to continue was what was going on with him. Samson has been a top producer in the AHL for years. However, so far this year with the Crunch, Samson only has 8 points and one goal.
The last game he played in a Crunch jersey before the Spengler Cup loan was 12/20. By 12/15 last season, Samson had 17 points with the St. John’s IceCaps. Two seasons ago he had 15 points with the Chicago Wolves by 12/21. Samson is used to being on the top two lines. He’s also used to some consistent power play time, at least going by his stats last season, when he had 11 power play goals. With guys like Yanni Gourde and Jonathan Marchessault ahead of him to start the season, Mike Blunden playing some of the best hockey of his AHL career, and younger guys like Joel Vermin and Henri Ikonen needing playing time, the cards just didn’t fall in Samson’s favor in Syracuse. But, to be fair, even when the coaching staff tried to give him more playing responsibility a few weeks ago, Samson was still just utterly invisible out there.
Samson was supposed to be the big signing for the Crunch over the summer originally, but now it looks like that title goes to Blunden. Which, honestly, is totally fine with me. I don’t hate Samson or anything; I think he tried, but he hasn’t been happy with his usage here. In truth, maybe he just hasn’t been happy here period. I don’t know, but I wish him well.
It will be interesting to see what’ll happen with his roster spot. Kevin Lynch scored the winning shootout goal this past Friday night at Albany, after going 10 rounds where no other Crunch player could manage to score. Danick Gauthier has also been excelling in the ECHL, and put together some strong games with the Crunch last season.
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The American Hockey League announced today thatAndrei Vasilevskiy of the Syracuse Crunch has been selected as the CCM/AHL Goaltender of the Month for December.
Vasilevskiy was 4-0-1 with a 1.17 goals-against average, a .962 save percentage and two shutouts for the Crunch in December, while also shining in his debut National Hockey League stint with Tampa Bay.
Vasilevskiy recorded his first career AHL shutout on Dec. 6, making 34 saves in a 2-0 win over Rochester, and followed that up with a 26-save whitewash at Springfield on Dec. 10. Vasilevskiy stopped 29 of 30 shots as the Crunch defeated Hershey, 4-1, on Dec. 12, and was then recalled by Tampa Bay, where he earned the win in his NHL debut on Dec. 16 at Philadelphia. Vasilevskiy returned to the Crunch and won his fifth consecutive AHL decision on Dec. 26, stopping 31 shots in a 3-2 overtime win vs. Albany, and then made 30 saves in a 4-3 overtime loss at Springfield on Dec. 28. In addition to allowing just six goals on 156 shots in the AHL, Vasilevskiy went 3-1-0 in four appearances with the Lightning during December, posting a 1.76 GAA and a .937 save percentage in the NHL.
Tampa Bay’s first-round pick (19th overall) in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, Vasilevskiy has compiled a record of 9-3-4 in 16 appearances with Syracuse this season, with a 2.34 goals-against average, a .919 save percentage and two shutouts. The 20-year-old rookie from Tyumen, Russia, spent last season with Salavat Yulaev Ufa in the KHL and helped Russia to medals at the 2012 (silver), 2013 (bronze) and 2014 (bronze) World Junior Championships as well as gold at the 2014 World Championships.
In recognition of his achievement, Vasilevskiy will be presented with an etched crystal award prior to an upcoming Crunch home game.
Also see: Past winners, AHL Goaltender of the Month
Also see: Highlights courtesy SendtoNews
According to the Syracuse Crunch, the last Syracuse goalie to be named the AHL Goalie of the Month was none other than Karl Goehring, who was given the monthly award in March of 2008 for his work in getting the Crunch started with that 15-game winning streak we all remember so fondly.
Many warm congratulations to Vasilevskiy!