Portland Pirates update: the burning questions

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Chris Roy of the Maine Hockey Journal joins us for a six-pack of questions about the Coyotes' AHL affiliate, the Portland Pirates

Q: How do AHL teams manage their rosters that are in a state of constant flux due to call-ups and demotions?

Chris Roy: It's part of the game of the game at the AHL level. Every team has to deal with it throughout the season. It starts with the NHL clubs ability to keep the farm stocked with quality players. That can be done either through the draft or by free agency. The really good teams can do both and are able to get quality players through the draft and sign those handful of free agents that can help both the NHL team when recalled and provide the AHL team with stability, leadership and scoring during their time in the minors.

Q: How much fun are Cumberland County trustee meetings? Is there an end in sight for their arena issues?

Chris: There is light at the end of the tunnel. The Pirates have dropped its lawsuit against the Civic Center trustees and both sides have resumed negotiations. That's was certainly a positive step in the right direction. Now, there is an emergency bill before the Maine State Legislature that will allow arenas with 3,000-plus capacity to share alcohol revenue with a sports tenant. Currently, in Maine it's illegal for anyone but the entity listed on the liquor license to collect revenue from the sale of alcohol. That proved to be one of the major sticking points in the lease negotiations over the summer so this bill, which will take effect immediately will resolve that issue. I suspect we'll hear something more official from both sides at some point in early February.

Q: Brandon Gormley has played a lot of games in the QMJHL and AHL over the last few years, but is yet to play an NHL game. Is he developing at a reasonable pace or is his play thus far not up to par for a top prospect?

Chris: I would say Brandon Gormley's development is right on schedule. He's been one of the Pirates top defensemen this season, playing incredible minutes in all situations. He's seeing time on the power play, penalty kill and five-on-five and has, at times, really excelled. Gormley is currently third on the Pirates in scoring, and although his plus-minus (-16) is less than desirable. That's mainly due to the amount of time he's playing versus any deficiency he might have. That doesn't mean there haven't been bumps along the way, but for the most part Gormley is really close becoming a full-time NHL player.

Q: Which Pirates goalie (Visentin, Lee, Domingue) has impressed you the most?

Chris: Louis Domingue has really stood out this season. At the start of the season it was expected that Visentin and Lee would be the goalie tandem in Portland and Domingue would be top goalie in Gwinnett, the Coyotes' ECHL affiliate. However, Lee has only seen five games this season, mainly due to injury and that opened the door for Domingue, who has taken full advantage of his opportunity. He's the only Pirates goaltender with a winning record (6-2-2) on the season. He has a team-best 2.61 GAA with a .921 save percentage. Mark Visentin is still the blue chip prospect and the goaltender that the Coyotes have highest hopes on making that transition to the NHL, but people should keep an eye Domingue in the second half of the season.

Q: Andy Miele is shooting up the Pirates' record books, is he destined for NHL success or will his on-ice fate be similar to former Coyotes' prospect, health issues aside, Brett MacLean (great AHL player, unable to make successful jump to NHL)?

Chris: Frankly, I think many of us who follow the Pirates on a regular basis are shocked - at least I am - that Andy Miele is still with the team. He's been absolutely the best player on the Pirates roster this season, without question. He's on pace to shatter his previous point totals for a season with the Pirates. He's improved defensively and has become a really complete player at the AHL level. Why hasn't he been recalled to the Coyotes more than once this season? The only logical reason is he needs to play in a top-6 forward role on the team to be successful and right now that doesn't seem exist in the current structure of the Coyotes. I suspect once we get through the NHL trade deadline we'll see that change and Miele should find an opportunity with the Coyotes in the 2nd half of the season.

Q: Is there another player that has impressed you this season that Coyotes fans should be paying closer attention to?

Chris: Most fans are already aware of rookie Lucas Lessio, but I think fans should be on the lookout for rookie Tobias Rieder as well. He's been outstanding this season. In 31 games, he has 12 goals, eight assists for 20 points and is currently fourth in team scoring. Rieder was acquired in a trade last March from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for Kale Kessy and it's easy to see who won that trade. Rieder was an assistant captain for his junior team, the Kitchener Rangers, and was an assistant captain for the German U20 Junior National team in his two tournament appearances. He's solid on character, and is offensively gifted. Fans should watch for Rieder to climb depth chart over the next several months.

A special thanks to Chris Roy for giving us an AHL update. You can follow Roy's work here and on Twitter here.

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