Familiar faces in new places as 2023-24 season nears

Patrick Williams, TheAHL.com Features Writer

Each summer brings a parade of moves across the hockey world as National Hockey League front offices go about reconstructing their rosters and depth charts.

At the AHL level, prospects also need the help that veterans can provide, and that experience is at a premium once the offseason arrives. NHL and AHL rosters are still being tweaked this week, but several top names – prospects and veterans alike – were on the move this summer.

Below is a look at some of the familiar AHL faces who are expected to have new homes this season:

The parent Edmonton Oilers added to the Bakersfield blue line, bringing in veteran Ben Gleason and giving Noel Hoefenmayer his first NHL two-way contract. Hoefenmayer had a standout season with Toronto in 2022-23, producing 38 points (11 goals, 27 assists) in 65 games and earning a trip to the AHL All-Star Classic. Forward Drake Caggiula also returned to the organization after finishing second in scoring for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton with 53 points (22 goals, 31 assists) last season.
With David Bell sticking behind the Belleville bench after wrapping up last season in an interim role, Ottawa got busy this summer fortifying the organization’s forward depth. With four AHL seasons with 20-plus goals, Josh Currie is back in North America following two seasons in Russia. Proven forwards Matthew Highmore, an AHL All-Star last season, and 2023 Calder Cup winner Garrett Pilon joined the organization, and the B-Sens can also expect hard-nosed forward Boko Imama in their lineup.
What isn’t new with the Chicago Wolves? Without an NHL affiliate, the Wolves had to construct a completely overhauled roster highlighted by forward Chris Terry, who finished fourth in AHL scoring last season with 78 points (27 goals, 51 assists) in 67 games for Bridgeport. Playmaker Cory Conacher, a former Calder Cup champion and AHL MVP, is in the fold, as is Cole Schneider with his 550 career AHL points. Rocco Grimaldi is on a tryout deal, and goaltender Keith Kinkaid begins the season on NHL injured reserve with New Jersey.
After a short offseason thanks to their run to the Calder Cup Finals, Coachella Valley is reloaded for year two. The Seattle Kraken brought standout defenseman Connor Carrick back to the organization after he set career highs with 38 assists and 44 points with Providence last season. He could be joined on the Firebirds blue line by Mitch Reinke, while Marian Studenic signed with Seattle after a 21-goal performance with Texas last season.
Aaron Schneekloth takes over for Greg Cronin as head coach in Colorado and will have some new assets to deploy. Forwards Tanner Kero and Riley Tufte, familiar faces from the Eagles’ battles with the Texas Stars, join the Avalanche organization, while experience in Caleb Jones, Corey Schueneman and Jack Ahcan will give the blue line a new look.
Forward Tim Gettinger joins the Detroit/Grand Rapids organization after five seasons with the New York Rangers, where he is joined by Nolan Stevens and Zach Aston-Reese, who signed a two-way deal with Detroit last week. Brogan Rafferty solidifies the Red Wings’ blue-line depth after helping Coachella Valley reach the Finals last spring.
Former Laval captain Alex Belzile is with the Hartford Wolf Pack now after finishing last season in the NHL with Montreal. The extremely versatile Nikolas Brouillard had a 39-point season with San Diego. Connor Mackey spent all of last season in the NHL with Calgary and Arizona, and Riley Nash has 627 games of NHL experience.
Forward Tyler Benson signed with the Golden Knights after parts of six seasons with Bakersfield; he has shown that he can be a point-per-game player in the past. Mason Morelli headed west after winning the Calder Cup in Hershey. Size in Mason Geertsen has been added to the Henderson roster for new head coach Ryan Craig. Entering his 18th pro season, Adam Cracknell can still produce, coming off back-to-back 21-goal campaigns.
Could the Bears repeat? The club is certainly positioned well after a busy offseason. Up front are new faces Alex Limoges (20 goals last season with Manitoba), Nicolas Aube-Kubel and Jimmy Huntington. Now a fifth-year pro, Chase Priskie will play heavy minutes on the back end.
New Iowa head coach Brett McLean has been provided with ample offensive punch, with Vinni Lettieri (23 goals with Providence), Jake Lucchini (19 goals for Belleville) and Joel Teasdale (23 goals in Laval) all joining the organization. Jujhar Khaira, signed to a two-way deal by Minnesota before camp, has spent the last six seasons exclusively in the NHL.
Lias Andersson gets a fresh start in the Canadiens organization after scoring 31 goals for Ontario last season. bounced back with 31 goals for Ontario last season, tying him for fifth in the league. Montreal native Nathan Legare was acquired from Pittsburgh in August will get a fresh start in the Canadiens organization, and Brady Keeper is a proven AHL defenseman.
As the Philadelphia Flyers go about rebuilding, they will be counting on the Phantoms heavily. Forwards Rhett Gardner (Texas) and Evan Polei (Manitoba) come east this season. Defenseman Helge Grans was a crucial piece in an offseason deal with Los Angeles.
Forward C.J. Suess returns to Manitoba after a stint with San Jose. Jeffrey Viel and Artemi Kniazev also came in from the Sharks, and Collin Delia offers established help between the pipes.
Forward Cal O’Reilly is back in Milwaukee, where he began his standout AHL career in 2006 season. So is Wisconsin native Troy Grosenick, who returns for another turn in net. After clearing waivers over the weekend, Denis Gurianov could provide additional offensive punch for the Admirals.
The Ontario Reign have added high-end forward talent from the Colorado organization in Charles Hudon and Mikhail Maltsev. On the blue line the Reign could see newcomers Joe Hicketts (Iowa), Steven Santini (Springfield) and Kevin Connauton (Lehigh Valley).
The Providence Bruins will have a dramatically made-over defense corps this season, with Alec Regula (Rockford), Reilly Walsh (Utica), and Parker Wotherspoon (Bridgeport) all new faces. Up front, Anthony Richard is fresh off a 30-goal performance with Laval, and Vincent Arseneau came over from Abbotsford.
Handy forward Justin Richards brings some experience to a young Rochester front line. Devin Cooley and two-time Calder Cup winner Dustin Tokarski are lined up to be the Amerks’ new goaltending tandem.
Head coach Matt McIlvane is new in San Diego, but two other faces are not: forward Andrew Agozzino (San Jose) and defenseman Trevor Carrick (Syracuse) return for second stints with the Gulls.
Leon Gawanke comes to San Jose via an offseason trade after his 20 goals with Manitoba tied him for the AHL lead among blueliners in 2022-23. Forwards Ryan Carpenter, Oskar Lindblom, Cole Cassels and Nathan Todd are additional fortifications up front.
Max Lajoie, William Lagesson and Simon Benoit are all possible new faces on the Toronto Marlies blue line for new head coach John Gruden. Dylan Gambrell could be an option up to slot in up front.
With Kyle Dubas taking over the Pittsburgh front office, it was not surprising that he went about building organizational depth. Forwards Marc Johnstone and Radim Zohorna are new, and Garret Sparks and Andreas Johnsson helped Dubas win a Calder Cup with the Marlies in 2018.

The AHL’s regular season begins on Friday night.