The Bridgeport Sound Tigers are entering their 18th season in the American Hockey League, all of which as the AHL Affiliate of the New York Islanders. The Sound Tigers have made the playoffs eight times, while missing the playoffs the other nine. This season, there is a lot of hope coming into this season. Lots of new faces, lots of old faces. Let’s dive into the Sound Tigers roster, starting with the goalies.
Returning in goal for the Sound Tigers will be Christopher Gibson, who will be entering his fourth season in the Islanders organization after coming over from the Leafs in the Michael Grabner trade. Gibson has been solid over the years, putting up good numbers, but has been plagued by injuries. Gibson played in 37 games last season, and had a solid 2.42 Goals Against Average, and a Win-Loss record of 19-14-1. Joining Gibson is another vet. Like, Kristers Gudlevskis who was splitting time with Gibson, expect the same with Jeremy Smith. Smith, a journeyman goalie, has found recent success in the AHL, and playing in 8 NHL Games for the Avalanche in the 2016-17 season. Smith played in 30 games for Charlotte last season, compiling a 2.71 GAA, and a 13-13-1 W-L record. Overall the goal-tending situation looks good for the Sound Tigers. Mitch Gillam, who lead Worcester to the playoffs in their first season of existence, will most likely serve as this year’s third goalie while manning the pipes in Worcester, and Linus Söderström, who is coming stateside for his first season in North American hockey, has been dealing with nagging injuries and may not get much time in Bridgeport this season.
The youth on the Sound Tigers’ defense leads to the question regarding leadership on the blueline. With Devon Toews signing a one-way deal with the Islanders, he is most likely going to stay up with the team as their seventh defenseman, which means that last year’s seventh defenseman, who also started a handful of games, Sebastian Aho, will be present on the AHL defense. As he was present in the NHL locker room this past season, Brent Thompson and staff will be expecting him to take a leadership role alongside Alternate Captain Seth Helgeson, 27, who is the second-oldest defenseman on Bridgeport, only trailing Mike Cornell, 30. Thompson will also look to 2018 AHL All-Star Mitchell Vande Sompel to lead this team on the blue line. Vande Sompel showed a lot of improvement on the offensive side of the game last season and the Islanders expect him to only get better. The defense also includes longtime staple Kyle Burroughs, returnees Parker Wotherspoon and Ryan MacKinnon, and newbies David Quenneville and Yannick Rathgeb.
Going into this season, the forward core consists of mostly the same players as last season, but there were a couple additions. General Manager Chris Lamoriello went out and brought in the AHL’s active leading scorer Chris Bourque to Bridgeport to play with his brother Ryan. Bourque, the 2016 recipient of the Les Cunningham Award (MVP), is a 6-time AHL All-Star. Lamoriello did not stop there, signing Mike Sislo, a 2-time AHL All-Star, and Matt Lorito, who scored 45 goals and put up 105 points in the last two seasons with the Griffins. Also, the Islanders inked potential waiver candidate Tom Kuhnhackl to a one-way deal so he may end up in Bridgeport as well. Don’t let the new acquisitions take away from the fact that the returning core includes Scotty Eansor, Travis St. Denis, Tanner Fritz, Steve Bernier, Ryan Hitchcock, and, of course, the Captain, Ben Holmstrom. Even better, what if Michael Dal Colle and/or Joshua Ho-Sang are added to the list of returnees and could play alongside the Islanders’ 2016 first-round pick, Kieffer Bellows? Coach Thompson has a lot of pieces that all fit together to try and construct the ideal forward core for this season.
Here are my predictions for the opening night lines:
LW C RW
Lorito Fritz St. Denis
C. Bourque Stevens Bernier
Dal Colle/Bellows Eansor Ho-Sang
C. Jones B. Holmstrom Sislo
Vande Sompel Aho
That is your Roster Preview for the 2018-19 Sound Tigers! Stay Tuned for our season preview!