What to Expect of the Eagles for the Return of the AHL in 2020-21

"Northern Colorado Eagles" by mark6mauno is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Colorado Eagles 2021 season was cut short much like the rest of the AHL due to the Coronavirus but signs are optimistic a 2021-22 season is possible. The Eagles finished the 2020-21 season with 72 points in 56 games and were 2nd in the Pacific Division. They were on their way to the playoffs. With a new season under new circumstances, both on and off the ice, be ready for a totally different season.

Will there be a 2020-21 AHL season?

Some sources working with the AHL have floated the idea that there will be a 2020-21 AHL season. Details of the proposed new season have yet to be revealed but it is apparently in the works.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said January 1st, 2021 is a potential starting date for the 2020-2021 NHL season. The AHL is unlikely to begin before so this moves the new season’s date to 2021, not the prospective December 4 that was revealed earlier this summer.

Everything is dependent on the state of the country at this point. As of October, the US has gone over eight million total confirmed cases with at least 60,000 new cases in the last 30 days. Colorado has nearly 1,000 new cases during this span.

The NHL is planning the usual 82 games for its 2020-21 season with fan attendance being “phased in”. Of course, the NHL (and at least half of its teams) isn’t as dependent on ticket sales or merchandise and can still keep itself afloat with its network deals and advertising. But the AHL? 

The AHL and its teams don’t nearly have a fraction of what the NHL makes and is more reliant on generating ticket sales, selling merchandise, and any kind of disposable income they can get piggybacking off their NHL affiliates. 

If COVID-19 continues to hamper professional hockey’s capacity to put people in seats, the AHL may be harder-pressed to operate, especially given how many of its teams have begun spending more in recent seasons to attract players against competition overseas.

What will the 2020-21 Colorado Eagles look like?

The Eagles are one of the AHL’s higher end teams and will likely again be in contention for the new season. Although fans shouldn’t be too surprised to see a new team complete with new jerseys. It’s tricky to do a thorough rundown of who to expect on the Eagles roster. But there are a few who would be spending some significant time in Loveland:

Josh Anderson (D)

The 2016 third-round draft pick has spent most of his time with Utah but could finally be a fixture with the Eagles. Anderson is a stay-at-home defenseman who has consistently improved his game going from having a -13 plus-minus in 2018-19 to +6 in 2019-20. However, he plays in a stacked position, which will be led by…

 

Bowen Byram (D)

The prized pick of the 2019 draft, Byram crushed it in the WHL recording 123 points in his last two seasons (117 games). Byram has the makings of a complete defenseman and could even spend most of his time with the Avalanche now that Nikita Zadorov has been shipped out. Otherwise, expect to see Byram in Loveland in 2021.

 

Shane Bowers (C)

Byram came to the franchise as part of the Matt Duchene deal along with Byram. Taken 28th overall in 2017, Bowers is heading into his second full AHL season after scoring 27 points in 48 games last season. Power forwards like Bowers tend to develop a bit more slowly than their speedier counterparts so expect him in Loveland for most of 2021.

“Shane Bowers” by howsmyliving is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

 

Martin Kaut (RW)

The Czech winger has posted 44 points in 97 games with the Eagles starting in the 2018-19 season. Drafted 16th overall in 2018, Kaut is an explosive scorer who has a good shot to make the Avalanche full-time (he played nine games last season). If not, he’ll be lacing up the skates with the Eagles once again.

 

Adam Werner (G)

Werner should once again be the Eagles’ de facto starter after starting 31 games last season. The 2016 draft pick has played professionally for several teams including the Avalanche where he made an emergency start after both Pavel Francouz and Philipp Grubaeur got hurt. Unless either goalie misses considerable time, Werner’s place is with the Eagles.

The future of professional hockey under COVID-19

With the pandemic still at hand, nothing is set in stone for the upcoming hockey season. But the AHL and the Eagles are hopeful for the restart. With online sports betting in Colorado, there is a renewed passion for both the NHL and AHL. 

Signs are optimistic there will be a new AHL season and Loveland fans should expect another fruitful season from their talented team.