Cincinnati Cyclones 2014-15 Primer:

(ECHL Affiliate of the NHL’s Florida Panthers and Nashville Predators; ECHL Affiliate of the AHL’s San Antonio Rampage and Milwaukee Admirals)

Last season as Eastern Conference Champions, the Cyclones enjoyed a rather surprising run to the Kelly Cup Finals before losing to the Alaska Aces in 6 games. The playoff run could not have happened without the stellar play of goaltender Rob Madore, who was on a Panthers minor league contract last year. While Madore has returned to the Cyclones, he is now a prospect of the Nashville Predators.

Florida Panthers fans should be much more interested in Madore’s direct competition this season. Back-up goalie Sam Brittain signed an entry-level deal with the Panthers in the offseason and will be competing for playing time after having an impressive four-year career at the University of Denver. Brittain was drafted in the 4th round of the 2010 draft, the same draft year that brought in the likes of Panthers mainstays Erik Gudbranson and Nick Bjugstad. Madore could get called up to the AHL this season, allowing Brittain the chance to refine his chops as the starter in Cincinnati and then move up to the San Antonio Rampage next season.

The Panthers have a handful of other minor league contracts on the Cyclones that fans can keep an eye on. Defenseman Josh McFadden and centers Byron Froese and Wade Megan should remain with the Cyclones most of this season. Megan, who already has 2 points in the first 2 games, has the most upside and has shown to be a rather productive scorer in the minors. The two other names that could pop-up down the line are defenseman Shayne Taker out of Notre Dame and big center Andrew Yogan. Both players are on 2-way deals and are likely to see some AHL action as well. Yogan is a South Florida “hometown” prospect that just came over from the New York Rangers organization in exchange for forward Joey Crabb.

The Nashville Predators are also storing 3 prospects in Cincinnati this year. Josh Shalla is returning for his 3rd season with the Cyclones and will likely build on his 30 points in 29 games effort last season on the LW. Defensemen Mikko Vainonen and Jaynen Rissling will be playing their first season out of the OHL and WHL respectively. Look for Rissling to make some solid points and defensive contributions.

As for the season so far, the Cyclones are off to a mediocre start. After beating the Toledo Walleye 4-1 to open the season, they were utterly annihilated by the Kalamazoo Wings on Saturday by a score of 8-2. Rob Madore was left in for every single one of the 8 goals, so we should see Sam Brittain get his first start soon. Overall, the Cyclones will find it difficult to repeat last year’s success unless players can step up and replace the scoring that was lost in the offseason. Goals such as these from Megan and Yogan should help: