BRENNAN, MARTEL NAMED AHL ALL-STARS

January 04, 2018
By: Kristi Fulkerson
The 2018 AHL All-Star Classic is set for January 28-29 and returns to Utica, N.Y. for the second time in four years. Today the league announced the playing rosters for each division including a pair of Phantoms, defenseman T.J. Brennan and forward Danick Martel. Neither are surprises and both deserving! 

Brennan will make an impressive fifth consecutive appearance at the All-Star Classic and is coming off a weekend where he secured his 400th AHL point (a nifty goal with 10.5 seconds left in the 2nd period to give the Phantoms a 3-0 lead over Charlotte). The 9th-year veteran and NJ native is just the 10th defenseman in AHL history to achieve the feat. And really, what would an All-Star Classic be without T.J. Brennan? Ever since I’ve had the pleasure of covering the event  — starting in 2015 following the Lehigh Valley Phantoms inaugural season — he’s been on the roster, 3 times with Toronto. 

A third-year pro, Danick Martel has been selected as an AHL All-Star fo the first-time in his career. Currently tied for the team lead in goals scored with 17, the Quebec native opened the season on a tear scoring a hat trick on opening night and 14 goals in his first 13 games. The undrafted 23-year old also made his NHL debut earlier this season and is a heavy fan favorite for PPL Center regulars! (And a guy that spends nearly as much time in the community as he does on the ice). 

D T.J. Brennan    27 GP: 4 goals, 17 assists - 21 points 
                21 points is T7th among AHL defensemen

F Danick Martel   32 GP: 17 goals, 9 assists - 26 points
                17 goals is T4th in AHL

Here’s a link to the Eastern and Western Conference rosters: https://theahl.com/rosters-2018-ahl-all-star-classic 

I am a little shocked the team’s leading scorer Phil Varone did not make the cut — the veteran center has 37 points (10 goals, 28 assists) in 35 games this season. Now there were plenty of viable candidates on the Phantoms roster but I thought he was the obvious no-brainer. I mean, he’s tied for second in the league in scoring. SECOND. A case could also be made for Greg Carey (tied for team lead with 17 goals) but his offensive production probably came on a little stronger after voting took place.

Anyway, kudos to T.J. and Danick! I’m looking forward to covering another AHL All-Star Classic later this month and hope to see lots of Phantoms fans in attendance. Utica was a great host in 2015, can’t wait to see the renovated Aud this time around!

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HEAD COACHES
On Monday, the league announced the head coaches for the AHL All-Star Classic. In the East, Providence’s Jay Leach will coach the Atlantic Division and Sheldon Keefe will head up the North. For the Western Conference, Pascal Vincent of the Manitoba Moose clinches the honor for the Central Division and Tuscon Roadrunners skipper Mike Van Ryn will be on the bench for the Pacific Division. Coaches were selected based on their teams owning the best division record as of Dec. 31. For the second year in a row, Phantoms head coach, Scott Gordon, finishes as runner-up (last year to Wilkes-Barre’s Clark Donatelli) - so he’ll get a few days off instead. 

CAPTAINS
In December, the AHL announced the Binghamton Devils forward Bracken Kearns and Ontario Reign forward Brett Sutter would be named playing captains for the 2018 Classic. The honorary captains for the event are Scott Pellerin, current director of player development for the Toronto Maple Leafs, and Craig Cunningham who is in his first season as a scout with the Arizona Coyotes.  

HOW THE ALL-STAR SELECTION PROCESS WORKS
All 30 head coaches submit recommendations for up to five players from their own team (close to six weeks prior to the announcement) and then vote on players within their own division. Once coaches are determined, the league holds phone calls with them to set their rosters.