Eleven games into the season and the Hartford Wolf Pack have hit the ground running. With a winning record of 7-3-1 the baby Rangers hold on to a coveted top two spot as they only trail the Springfield Thunderbirds in the Atlantic Division. This year the AHL has decided 23 teams will qualify for the playoffs, with the top two teams in most divisions getting a bye into the second round.
The Wolf Pack so far have fared better at home, winning five of their six games at the XL Center in Hartford. Last year in the pandemic altered season, Hartford may have had home and away games, but they were without a crowd, and they only faced off against the Providence Bruins and Bridgeport Soundtigers over and over again. This year the team will play games against their full division, which has them traveling outside of New England for the first time since the AHL canceled their 2019-2020 season in the spring. Although the team has a winning record, Hartford has only scored first in three games this year, all three ending in victory with two of them being against their rival, the Bridgeport Islanders.
Less than a full month into the season, Hartford has already had three weekends filled with three games, playing a game on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Their special teams have been hot and cold with their Powerplay struggling along with a 13.9% success rate, while their Penalty Kill currently leads the division with a percentage of 87.5. Three of their games have needed extra time, with one OT loss and two shoot out wins due to the heroics of Tim Gettinger, who has gone two for two in shootouts thus far.
Jonny Brodzinski, Hartford’s newly appointed captain, currently leads the team in points, scoring three goals and eight assists in eleven games. Fellow AHL journeyman, Anthony Greco is right behind him with ten points and Tim Gettinger is also on his heels with nine points of his own as he leads the team with five goals. Morgan Barron started off the year strong scoring two goals in their first two games until he was called to the NHL by the Rangers. Since returning he scored again in his first game back but has since cooled off a bit and is tied for fifth on the team with five points, however Barron does lead the team with two PPG.
Tarmo Reunanen and Zac Jones lead the Wolf Pack defenseman with five points apiece. Jones has yet to pot a goal while outshooting Reunanen twenty-two to eleven and playing in two more games, but he has assumed a major role on the Wolfpack Powerplay, already finding success as he’s tied for the team lead in Powerplay points.
This is the first season in three years fan favorite Mason Geertsen hasn’t been with the team. He was claimed off of waivers when the Rangers sent him down before the start of the season. Geertsen has led the team in PIM previously as he built a reputation for his physical play. His absence theoretically creates a void on the back end that could allow for a prospect such as Braden Schneider to take on a bigger role. The Rangers moved up to draft Schneider 19th overall in the 2020 draft, citing his physical play as a key reason they had their eye on him. This year could be a huge opportunity for the young defenseman.
The team is being held down in net by veteran Keith Kinkaid. He’s played a majority of their games with a record of 5-1-1. Kinkaid has a GAA of 2.23 and SV% of .927 good for 16th in the league with no goalies ahead of him playing in as many games. Adam Huska and Tyler Wall round out the rest of the Wolf Pack’s crease coverage.
While having only played in three games so far, Huska has outperformed Kinkaid, achieving a 2.02 GAA and .932 SV%. It will be interesting to see who the Rangers call upon if they need a goaltender for any reason. With Kinkaid getting the lion’s share of games, if Huska can just maintain his positive performance it’s possible he gets the call up due to being exempt from waivers. The twenty-four year old could fit right in as he’s no stranger to stealing games for his team, just look at his performance for Slovakia in the World Juniors.
There’s a lot of season left but there have been many positives for the Wolf Pack in their first month. We’ll check in again later in the year as we hope to see continued success and growth for the Ranger’s prospects.
Stats via Elite Prospects