BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – In an extremely competitive Pacific Division and the only playoffs to be held in the AHL last season, the Bakersfield Condors emerged victorious, claiming the John D. Chick title in overtime of game three against the Henderson Silver Knights. Since that night in Vegas in late May, the division has grown by one, and the Condors have bolstered their lineup as they look to defend their division title.
Will this be the year the Condors fly high and raise the Calder Cup?
Last Season in Review
Record & Playoff Appearance: 24-14-0-1 (49 pts) – 2nd in Pacific Division/Won Pacific Division two games to one over Henderson Silver Knights
Season Summary: Last season, the Condors returned to the brand of hockey that earned them a division title in 2018-19; uptempo, physical, with scoring depth, solid defense, and good goaltending. Five of the Condors’ mainstay forwards each collected more than 20 points in the shortened season, and there were some bright spots from rookies Raphael Lavoie and James Hamblin, who also posted productive inaugural campaigns. On the blueline, the Condors were huge and very sound, with just two players dipping below an even plus/minus rating. In net, the Condors were anchored by Stuart Skinner, who put together a 20-9-1 mark and posted a pair of shutouts. Second-round pick, Olivier Rodrigue, put together a solid rookie campaign, with a 4-5-1 mark and a 2.99 goals against average.
Leading Scorer: Cooper Marody – 36 points (21G, 15A)
Goals For/Against & League Rank: 129 goals for (3.31/game) – 4th best in AHL; 104 goals against (2.67/game) – 15th best in AHL
Power Play Conversion Pct. and League Rank: 22-123, 17.9% efficiency – 17th best in AHL
Penalty Kill Conversion Pct. and League Rank: 100-117, 85.5% kill rate – Best in AHL
- Tim Schaller – The veteran forward signed with the Condors after spending last season with the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins, and will be called upon to added depth scoring and a physical presence to the Condors lineup. In 211 AHL games, he has racked up 106 points (49G, 57A) and 220 penalty minutes.
- Adam Cracknell & Seth Griffith – While not new players to the Condors lineup this season, the two wiley vets have managed to become anchors for a relatively young club, while still producing solid offensive numbers. Last season, the duo combined for 58 points (21G, 37A). In a full 68-game season, the duo could produce over 50 points each, which would be a huge boost to the Condors front-end.
- Joe Gambardella – Gambardella ended a four-season run in Condorstown, signing with the New Jersey Devils this offseason. His game was a gritty one; going to the dirty area for goals, not afraid to throw his body around. He has scored some clutch goals for this hockey club and his presence in the roster will be missed.
- Ryan Stanton – The veteran defenseman returned to the Rockford IceHogs in the offseason, where he is expected to anchor a young defensive group. Last season, he chipped in with 13 points from the blueline for the Condors and helped solidify a defense that found its footing as the season went along.
2021-22 Schedule Breakdown
For the final time, the Condors (and the rest of the Pacific Division) will play just 68 games this season and only four games are outside of the division, against the Grand Rapids Griffins at Van Andel Arena in February, with a return date in March at Mechanics Bank Arena.
The Condors will play nine opponents with eight games against new divisional foe Abbotsford. Bakersfield will play Stockton and San Jose a total of 10 times each, the most of any opponents this season.
Highlights of the schedule include Home Opening Weekend on Saturday, October 16, and Sunday, October 17 featuring a Pacific Division Championship banner raising. Teddy Bear Toss returns the first Saturday after Thanksgiving on November 27 against San Diego. Field Trip Day is set for Tuesday, December 7 at 10:30 a.m. against Ontario.
Top Storylines for 2021-22 Season
- Weathering the Pacific: It hardly rains out west anymore, but the Pacific Division could go down as one of the most physical this coming season. Last season, three of the most penalized teams in the AHL; San Diego Gulls, Henderson Silver Knights, and the San Jose Barracuda, hailed from the Pacific Division. Look for hits to rain down with considerable intensity this season, and if the Condors are able to match that physicality and stay healthy, they’ve got a real shot at another date with the Chick.
- Do the Younguns Step Forward? There’s very little secret the big club has designs on incorporating Lavoie, Marody, and others into their club at some point very soon. This leaves the window open for other players like Kirill Maksimov, Ostap Safin, and others to show off their skills and play larger roles with the club.
- The Skinner Vacuum: While there was certainly nothing wrong with Stuart Skinner’s performance last season, he too will be up with the NHL club sooner than later. In an organization where that has a surplus in goaltending, who becomes the next anchor between the pipes for Bakersfield? We’re likely to get a sense of that as the season goes along, whether it’s Ilya Konovalov or Olivier Rodrigue.
Prediction Sure to Go Right
The Condors bring back a good nucleus from last season’s division championship-winning team. I think they answer the question about offensive depth upfront and have enough good goaltending to make the Calder Cup Playoffs. Once they get in, they could be a scary team.
Prediction Sure to Go Wrong
Cooper Marody will post 70-plus points and leads the AHL in scoring. If he posts gaudy numbers he’ll surely be in the NHL at some point this season, but if that callup fails to happen, this would be a helluva story.
How do you think the Condors will do this season? Will they miss the playoffs in shocking fashion, cruise their way to an early playoff exit or maybe storm their way to a Calder Cup? Let us know below!
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