The AHL has released their schedule so it's time to dig in and figure out what the Marlies are doing this year.
The season kicks off on October 14, and the Marlies have their home and season opener on the first Saturday in an afternoon game hosting the Utica Comets.
Utica is a team in flux this season. They have a new second assistant coach in Jason King, and that might be important since head coach Travis Green is in the running for the Colorado Avalanche coaching job.
The Comets are still finalizing their roster, like most AHL teams, but as the Vancouver Canucks affiliate, they can't count on prospects in quantity from the parent club. Utica always finds a way to compete, though, and one prospect they do have is Thatcher Demko making his pro debut in goal. Marlies fans may be lucky, or unlucky depending on how it goes, and get a chance to see him first.
The Comets stick around for a late afternoon Sunday start the next day as well.
The Marlies immediately hit the road for a one-day road trip to Rochester for a game against the Amerks on Friday night, the 21st of October. They come right back for a late afternoon home game at Ricoh on Saturday. There's nothing like AHL schedules!
The Amerks are a team struggling to compete, even though Buffalo has a host of prospects in their system. They will be getting an injection of scoring skill of a familiar sort to Marlies fans as Alex Nylander is expected to play in the AHL this season. He'll miss out on playing against his brother for now, but the sibling rivalry will come soon enough. His goal, surely, is to beat his brother's scoring stats, so the Marlies will need to work to contain him.
For all things Marlies, your best bet is to always go to the expert, so here is Todd Crocker, Marlies play by play man, to tell you about some other quirks of this year's schedule including a heavy emphasis on in-conference play:
A feast of the East begins with the usual dozen match-ups against the Habs AHL affiliate in St. John’s. Montreal will be there for one more year until they move onto the bus circuit in 2018. Let’s hope those last two games of the year for the Marlies at St. John’s aren’t a goodbye to the city as an AHL stop. They are one of the most professionally run teams with a fun and friendly fan base. The familiar Rochester (Buffalo) Americans will cross the border often with 10 games on the slate. After that the division is all in the eight game category, Syracuse (Tampa), Albany (NJ) and Utica (Vancouver) with Binghamton (Ottawa) down for six games.
As Crocker details in his post, there are no games against old rival Grand Rapids, and eight games against Manitoba are the entire out of conference portion of their schedule. The travel is as easy as it gets for Toronto, but it seems like the price is high in missing out on playing any of the western teams, including the Calder Cup champion Cleveland Monsters. We can hope Patrik Laine gets sent down to the minors to spice up those trips to Manitoba, but it's not very likely.
You need to get some games in early if you want to watch the Marlies at Ricoh, as they go on the road quickly to make way for the Royal Winter Fair.
Royal Roadie starts Oct 28th -Albany for two, St. John's for two, Wilkes-Barre and Lehigh Valley #marlies— Todd Crocker (@HockeyCrock) 22 August 2016
November 19th is the first home game back in Ricoh.
After their home game on January 14, the boat show moves into Ricoh and the Marlies go on a wander through America.
Boat Show Roadie in Jan. 20th Hartford, Bridgeport, Springfield, Rochester, St. John's for two #marlies— Todd Crocker (@HockeyCrock) 22 August 2016
They return on February 4.
The Marlies finish the season with two games in St. John's beginning on April 14, the last they'll play against the IceCaps there, as they will move to Laval next year.