If you're a music fan at all, these guys should be highly recognizable after their run of hits throughout the late-1990s and into 2000. Smash Mouth started their band in San Jose, California, has penned a pile of hits including "Walking On The Sun", "Then The Morning Comes", and a remake of The Monkees "I'm A Believer". However, they penned a monsterous hit in "All-Star". Which is appropriate for tonight since the AHL named its First and Second Team All-Stars today. Let's take a look at who stood out this season for in the AHL.
Goaltender: Cory Schneider, Manitoba Moose. Schneider has been lights-out for the Moose this season, compiling a record of 28-7-1 with a 1.89 GAA, a .932 save percentage, and five shutouts. Schneider can set the Moose franchise record for wins in a season if he continues his remarkable play. The key in this whole thing? He was missing for five weeks while he was with the Vancouver Canucks, and then came back to split the netminding duties with both Karl Goehring and Curtis Sanford. And he's still the best goaltender in the AHL with his reduced workload.
Defence: Johnny Boychuk, Manitoba Moose. Boychuk has had a solid season with the P-Bruins. 20 goals and 43 assists have him at the top of the heap for scoring by a defenceman, and his +21 rating in 73 games is pretty impressive. His 10 powerplay goals are a definite highlight on his season, and he is the only defenceman leading his team in scoring. He has played one game with the Boston Bruins this season, but he appears to be the next defenceman in the mold of Washington's Mike Green.
Defence: Danny Syvret, Philadelphia Phantoms. Syvret has 12 goals and 39 assists thus far this season, eclipsing his former AHL highs by November, and placing him second in scoring by rearguards. While Syvret is enjoying newly-found success this season, his two games with the Flyers are only the start. Syvret looks ready to make the next step after spending the last four years in the AHL.
Forward: Alexandre Giroux, Hershey Bears. Giroux leads the AHL in goals with 55, breaking the franchise record for the Bears in the process. His 23-game scoring streak from November 15 to January 30 was one of the highlights of the AHL this season, and Giroux has even added a goal and an assist in 12 games with the Washington Capitals this season.
Forward: Keith Aucoin, Hershey Bears. Aucoin has led the AHL's scoring race from wire-to-wire with his 94 points. His 25 goals and 69 assists place him slightly ahead of teammate Giroux, and the 30 year-old broke the 500-point mark in the AHL on February 14. In seven games with the Capitals this season, Aucoin has one goal and two assists.
Forward: Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau, Hartford Wolf Pack: Parenteau has 29 goals and 49 assists this season to place him fourth overall in AHL scoring. He can hit the 30-goal mark for the third season in a row with one more tally. The 26 year-old hasn't been up with the Rangers yet, but he's shown to be a solid scoring threat in the AHL with streaks of six, seven, and eight game runs this season.
Goaltender: Drew MacIntyre, Milwaukee Admirals. DrewMac has played a career-high 51 games this season, putting together a record of 31-14-4, a 2.35 GAA, a .919 save percentage, and four shutouts. The 25 year-old seems as though he has been playing in the AHL forever, making stops in Grand Rapids and Manitoba before setting up camp in Milwaukee, but his GAA has never been higher than 2.95, prompting me to ask why he has never cracked an NHL roster yet.
Defence: Cody Franson, Milwaukee Admirals. Franson sits third in scoring for defencemen with 50 points this season, the majority of those points coming off his 41 assists. The former All-Rookie Team member last season has shown the Predators great potential after being named to the AHL All-Star Team this season, and has not gone without a point for more than five games. His defensive play has steadily improved this season, making him a go-to player on the Admirals' roster.
Defence: Ben Lovejoy, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. The second-year pro has shown his worth by posting an impressive +43 this season in 72 games thus far. If he finishes the season with that plus/minus total, it will be the highest total in seven years, showing the Penguins his defensive reliability on the ice. He made his NHL debut in December, and played in the AHL All-Star Game in Worcester a month later.
Forward: Janne Pesonen, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Pesonen was thought to be the replacement in Pittsburgh for Marian Hossa after he left for greener pastures, but the Finnish superstar simply stepped into WBS and has notched 29 goals and 45 assists in his first season of pro North American hockey. The speedster has averaged a point-per-game over his 65 AHL games, and has appeared in seven games with the Pittsburgh Penguins this season.
Forward: Jason Krog, Manitoba Moose. The defending scoring champion and Calder Cup MVP currently sits in third place in the scoring race this season with 29 goals and 54 assists. Krog has 24 multiple-point games this season, and scored his first goal for the Vancouver Canucks on October 25, 2008. He has spent four games with the NHL club this season, and has really pushed the Moose to the top of the AHL standings with his play this season.
Forward: Darren Haydar, Grand Rapids Griffins. Haydar's résumé is already extensive: two-time Calder Cup winner, Calder Cup MVP, former AHL scoring champion, rookie of the year, all-time leading scorer in Calder Cup action. He is fifth in AHL scoring this season with 75 points in 74 games, and has captained the Griffins to the top of the AHL standings as well. Haydar is the second player this season to crack the 500-point barrier in the AHL after achieving that mark on February 7, 2009. Haydar has truly been an all-star this season for the Griffins.
These are the men who fans of the AHL turn up to see. These men are the guys who the Calder Cup Playoffs will revolve around. And without a doubt, the majority of these men will be the next wave of NHL stars that teams look to when they are looking for help in the coming seasons to build their teams. Good luck to these men!
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!