GWMHL

Season Preview: Plante West

In BAL, CHA, EDH, GLP, PAR, Special Features on October 8, 2018 at 2:56 pm

Welcome to part 2 of our season previews: a look at the Plante’s West division, which includes not one but two bonafide cup contenders. You can read our preview of the Plante East here.


Baltimore Crab
Last Season’s Finish: 47-29-6 (3rd in conference); lost in 1st round
Notable Arrivals: F Sidney Crosby, D Kevan Miller
Notable Departures: F Jonathan Drouin

After being stunned in the first round, the 2017 champs must have known they needed something to keep up with the Joneses. And they did it in a big way, flipping three draft picks and young forward Jonathan Drouin for Sidney Crosby. Already a powerhouse up front, Crosby instantly becomes the Crab’s best player and will likely centre a first line with Vladimir Tarasenko and one of Filip Forsberg or Jaden Schwartz on his wings. No team scored more in 2017-18, and the goals should flow freely again this season. Add to that a strong top-4 D, headlined by Brent Burns and Ryan McDonagh, and you have a contending recipe. The only wild card is in goal, where Roberto Luongo and Philipp Grubauer will duke it out for the starting role. Can either of them be the go-to guy over a long season and playoffs?

Verdict: Contender


Charleston Chiefs
Last Season’s Finish: 29-45-8 (8th in conference); missed playoffs
Notable Arrivals: D Haydn Fleury, D Andreas Borgman
Notable Departures: F Anze Kopitar, F Cody Eakin, F Chris Kunitz, D Luke Schenn, G Kari Lehtonen

The Chiefs’ promising season was totally undone by injuries to Jonathan Quick and Steven Stamkos. But with both vets back in the saddle, fans’ expectations may have been high — until the team unloaded Anze Kopitar. Talented prospects Casey Mittelstadt and Dylan Sikura aren’t quite ready to make the jump, outside of Viktor Arvidsson there isn’t much to get excited about on the wings, and the blueline is a bit thin after Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Morgan Rielly. Even with Stamkos and Brayden Point still patrolling the middle, the Kopitar deal took the Chiefs from a bubble team to a rebuilder.

Verdict: Rebuilding


El Dorado Lynx
Last Season’s Finish: 37-34-11 (6th in conference); missed playoffs
Notable Arrivals: F Ryan O’Reilly, F Darren Helm, D Jonas Brodin, D Alexander Edler
Notable Departures: F Teuvo Teravainen, F Torrey Mitchell, D Johnny Oduya, D Dennis Seidenberg

The Lynx have been living life on the bubble for what seems like forever now. Shrewd drafting has stocked the forward ranks with a host of exciting talent around Alexander Ovechkin: Clayton Keller, Kyle Connor, Mikael Granlund… the list goes on. It’s one of the most exciting winger groups in the league. And the Lynx can usually count on one of Tuukka Rask or Carey Price to have an “on” year. Most notably, El Dorado went out and addressed its two biggest weaknesses through trades, grabbing a top-line centre to step in for injury-plagued Ryan Kesler (Ryan O’Reilly) and acquiring Alex Edler and Jonas Brodin to fill out a less-than-stellar defense corps. The Lynx still don’t have a star puck-mover on the back end and that may cost them, but now have the pieces to make a serious run. This is squarely a playoff-bound team.

Verdict: Playoffs


Great Lakes Pilots
Last Season’s Finish: 28-49-5 (9th in conference); missed playoffs
Notable Arrivals: F Jonathan Drouin, F Nolan Patrick, F Jason Pominville, D Madison Bowey
Notable Departures: F Sidney Crosby, F Ryan Getzlaf, F Jussi Jokinen, F Brian Gionta, F Nail Yakupov

The writing was on the wall for the Pilots after a very disappointing season: It’s rebuild time. They jettisoned Crosby for Drouin and picks, then parted ways with Ryan Getzlaf too, and grabbed highly touted Nolan Patrick in the first round. It’s a promising, if painful, start. But progress will be slow. While the Pilots’ D, led by Jacob Trouba, Jake Gardiner, and Erik Johnson, is pretty solid, and the team expects Andrei Vasilevskiy to be a high-end starter for years to come, much of the team’s young talent — Patrick, Ryan Donato, Jesse Puljujarvi, Tyson Jost — is at least a season or two away from contributing to a competitive top 6. Led by Tomas Hertl, Vladislav Namestnikov, and Drouin, the Pilots will find goals and wins hard to come by in 2018-19. Especially in this division.

Verdict: Rebuilding


Parry Sound Orrsmen
Last Season’s Finish: 52-24-4 (1st in conference); lost in 2nd round
Notable Arrivals: F Evgeni Dadonov, F Blake Comeau, F Brandon Dubinsky D John Moore, D Thomas Hickey, G Pekka Rinne, G Curtis McElhinney
Notable Departures: F T.J. Oshie, D Braydon Coburn, D Ben Lovejoy, G Jimmy Howard

The league’s best team during the regular season was left reeling after being bumped in the conference finals by Salem. One reason may have been a distracting goalie platoon. The Orrsmen nipped that in the bud early in the offseason when they acquired veteran Pekka Rinne from Vancouver to take sole possession of the starter’s job, and then signed veteran backup Curtis McElhinney. Parry Sound still has the best top 9 in the entire league, led by Connor McDavid, Evgeni Kuznetsov, and Auston Matthews down the middle, and David Pastrnak‘s emergence as a top sniper makes it a truly deadly group. The Orrsmen went big at the Free Agent Draft, picking up several roleplayers who should contribute to a cup run. The defense is still lacking oomph, especially if rumours of health issues for Kevin Shattenkirk are true. But that won’t be enough to stop this powerhouse. This team wants the cup.

Verdict: Contender

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