The last time the NHL locked out its players (2004-2005) Jason Spezza, a player with 114 NHL games already under his belt ran away with the American Hockey scoring title. At 21, Spezza was skating for the Sens affiliate in Binghamton when he carded 32 goals and 117 points in 80 games.
Manchester winger Mike Cammalleri, a player with 59 NHL games with LA already to his credit ripped home 46 goals and finished second in the scoring race.
Leafs’ prospect Kyle Wellwood, in his second full season in the AHL finished fourth. The league’s best goalie that season was 24-year-old Ryan Miller.
And all the while Mike Zigomanis was turning in a career-high 29-goal season playing with Eric Staal, Matthew Lombardi and Cam Ward for the Lowell Loch Monsters.
A farm team of the Carolina Hurricanes, the Monsters won 47 of 80 games but even with that cast they fell in the second round of the playoffs to Providence four games to one.
Now, Zigomanis is a 31-year-old Toronto Marlies veteran heading into another lockout season where the league is swimming with mature talent.
“Man, the competition was tough that season,” said Zigomanis. We had 11 or 12 players who had played in the NHL or who would go on to play in the NHL.”
The Leafs have-shipped NHL-worthy players Jake Gardiner, Korbinian Holzer, Nazem Kadri and Leo Komarov to the American League but if you think the Marlies are stacked, look around.
The Charlotte Checkers, the Carolina Hurricanes AHL outfit has already sent down gifted forward Jeff Skinner, a player with 51 NHL goals already in his pocket. Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog, the NHL’s reigning rookie of the year, is expected to play for the Avs Lake Erie franchise.
The Albany Devils will deploy Calder Trophy finalist Adam Henrique.
The Oklahoma City Barons might have one of the best rosters in AHL history thanks to Oilers Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Justin Schultz.
The Rochester Americans, the Buffalo Sabres farm team will boast centreman Cody Hodgson. Hodgson has recorded 43 points in 91 NHL games. The Hershey Bears should start the season with last year’s Washington playoff hero Braden Holtby.
Here’s a listing of Key players, their position and age.
Paul Ranger, D, 28: Ranger was a top four defenceman with the Tampa Bay Lightning before abruptly retiring two and half seasons ago. Ranger is six-foot-two and an excellent skater who scored 10 goals and recorded 31 points in 2007-2008.
Nicolas Deschamps, F, 22: Deschamps, a mid-season acquisition recorded 30 points in 40 games with the Marlies and added 12 points in 17 playoff games.
Jake Gardiner, D, 22: Last season Gardiner led all rookie NHL defencemen with 30 points. He recorded 11 points in 17 AHL playoff games but playing 89 games, five more than in his previous two years with the University of Wisconsin, left him tired at season’s end.
Leo Komarov, F, 25: Komarov holds dual citizenship between Finland and Russia and is a veteran of the KHL where he scored 30 goals and banked 66 points over 145 games with Moscow Dynamo. A chippy, determined player, Komarov is expected to make a bid for a spot on the Leafs third or fourth line.
Korbinian Holzer, D, 24: Holzer is described by many as NHL ready. He is the club’s number one defenceman and paired with Mark Fraser to create a shutdown defensive pair.
Mike Kostka, D, 26 : Kostka’s fluke goal gave the Norfolk Admirals an overtime win in Game 3 of the Calder Cup final and proved the pivotal moment as the Admirals swept the Marlies. The Leafs signed the 26-year-old in the off-season.
Nazem Kadri, F, 21: After an off-season conditioning program with Gary Roberts, all eyes will be on Kadri. The London native has recorded 81 points in 93 AHL games.
Greg McKegg, F, 20: McKegg is coming off a prolific junior career. The six-foot centre posted 270 points in 263 OHL games and then added 11 points in 15 games in the playoffs with the London Knights.
Brad Ross, F, 20: Ross averaged 186 penalty minutes over his four full years of junior. Over the last three seasons he has pushed his goal total from 27 to 31 and then 42. Ross delivered a 12-goal, point a game playoff performance for the Portland Winterhawks.
Ben Scrivens, G, 26: The Marlies led the league in goals against thanks to Scrivens 2.04, goals against average and .926 save percentage.
Mark Owuya, G, 23: The 23-year-old Owuya, born of Nigerian and Russian parents and raised in Sweden, enjoyed a tremendous season. He posted a .930, 2.63 goals against average with Reading in the ECHL. Owuya graduated to the Marlies where he posted stellar numbers, 1.94 goals against, .929 save percentage in 19 games .
Joe Colborne, F, 22: By now Colborne’s roller coaster season with the Marlies is well documented. The 22-year-old scored eight goals in the first eight games of the AHL season but a wrist injury limited him to eight more in the team’s next 57. The six-foot-five centreman scored twice and added six assists in 15 playoff games. Colborne had off-season surgery to repair the damage.
Other roster players:
Forwards: Spencer Abbott, Will Acton, Carter Ashton, Keith Aucoin, Tyler Brenner, Sam Carrick, Andrew Crescenzi, Jerry D’Amigo, Jamie Devane, Ryan Hamilton, Adam Hughesman, Kenny Ryan, Greg Scott.
Defencemen: Jesse Blacker, Mark Fraser, Ryan Grimshaw, Simon Gysbers, Corey Syvret, Dylan Yeo.
Goalies: Ben Scrivens, Andrew Engelage, Jussi Rynnas.
The Marlies open the season October 13 when they host the Rochester Americans at Ricoh Coliseum. Their first pre-season game is October 6 in Cobourg when they play the Hamilton Bulldogs.