Season Preview: Plante West

In Uncategorized on October 18, 2020 at 7:03 pm

Our fourth and final division preview covers the Plante West, one of the league’s more intriguing divisions. Can El Dorado match its success from last year (before losing in the cup final, that is)? Will Parry Sound finally get over the hump and turn regular season success into a championship? Can Baltimore turn its big 2020 draft lottery win into a resurgence?

You can read the other three previews here: Plante East, Sawchuk West, Sawchuk East.

Parry Sound Orrsmen

Last season: 45-26-11 (lost in second round)

Draft picks: F Emil Bemstrom (18), F Egor Korshkov (81)

Notable additions: F Emil Bemstrom, F Nick Paul, D Christian Djoos, D Christian Jaros

Notable subtractions: F Micheal Ferland, D Andy Greene, D Andrej Sekera, G Ryan Miller

Analysis: The team that vaulted from the basement to the penthouse in 2017 may be at a bit of a crossroads. Its regular season success hasn’t translated into a championship, and the years of shipping out draft picks is beginning to show on the depth chart. The good: Connor McDavid and David Pastrnak form as lethal a duo as any in the league, and having Auston Matthews and Evgeny Kuznetsov behind McDavid makes the team basically immune to line-matching. The bad: The team’s wingers, particularly Alexander Radulov ad Patric Hornqvist, aren’t getting more productive with age, and Pekka Rinne’s best days might finally be behind him, which could put too much weight on Thomas Greiss’ shoulders. And the blueline is pretty thin, too. Altogether, that probably knocks the Orrsmen just barely out of contender status for now, but they could still surprise and are definitely a team that could win a playoff round or two.

Player to watch: Oliver Ekman-Larsson. The Orrsmen acquired OEL to finally give it a true elite defenseman. If he can play like that, the otherwise thin blueline looks a lot better.

Outlook: Playoffs

El Dorado Lynx

Last season: 42-28-12 (lost in Gump Cup final)

Draft picks: F Cody Glass (15), D Nicolas Hague (37), F Alexander Volkov (58), F Jake Evans (79)

Notable additions: F Cody Glass, F Denis Gurianov, D Nicolas Hague

Notable subtractions: F Max Pacioretty, F Darren Helm, F Derek Ryan

Analysis: It feels like the book on the El Dorado Lynx hasn’t changed in three seasons. Amazing winger depth led by Alex Ovechkin and Kyle Connor — so good, in fact that the Lynx could unload Max Pacioretty and hardly blink? Check. A defense corps without any flashy stars that nonetheless is pretty solid? Check. Great goaltending duo in Carey Price/Tuukka Rask? Yep. Massive holes at centre once you get past Ryan O’Reilly? Plus ca change… El Dorado is looking to take another crack at the cup after losing in five to Boston, and they’re equipped to do it. The only real question mark is down the middle, where Adrian Kempe or Valtteri Filpulla may be asked to play in the top six. That could keep things interesting.

Player to watch: Jeff Petry. The top four of Petry, Mattias Ekholm, Alex Edler, and Jonas Brodin is sneaky-good, but the Lynx hope that Petry can continue to be a second big gun, after Ovi, on the powerplay.

Outlook: Contender

Baltimore Crab

Last season: 36-37-9 (missed playoffs)

Draft picks: D Cale Makar (1), D Ryan Lindgren (33), G Matiss Kivlenieks (80)

Notable additions: F Derek Grant, F Josh Archibald, F Victor Rask, D Cale Makar, D Ryan Lindgren, D Andy Greene

Notable subtractions: F Jay Beagle, F Brian Boyle, F Tomas Nosek, D Johnny Boychuk, D Kevan Miller, D Gustav Forsling, G Phoenix Copley

Analysis: Every cloud has a silver lining. The Crab missed the playoffs? They win the draft lottery, allowing them to add Cale Makar with the top pick. Team doctors tell them to expect Vladimir Tarasenko to miss most if not all of the season? That’s okay, the team’s strong winger depth should compensate. Drafting Makar puts Baltimore in an intriguing position, as he joins Brent Burns, Anthony DeAngelo, Hampus Lindholm, and Ryan McDonagh on one of the league’s best bluelines. The Mikko Koskinen-Philipp Grubauer tandem in goal isn’t very showy, but they should be able to hold down the fort. One of the big question marks, however, is up the middle. Mark Scheifele is a wonderful first liner, but there are rumblings about Sidney Crosby missing a significant number of games, and the team’s options to fill that gap — Tyler Johnson? Derek Grant? Lucas Wallmark? — are, well, not great. Still, this team should be back in the playoff mix.

Player to watch: Alex Killorn. With all the team’s big guns at LW (Schwartz, Tatar, Marchessault, Forsberg), that quite likely puts Killorn in the top 6 on the right. Can he take on a scoring role?

Outlook: Playoffs

Great Lakes Pilots

Last season: 30-38-14 (missed playoffs)

Draft picks: F Barrett Hayton (10), F Kieffer Bellows (31), F Tyler Benson (52), F Nicolas Aube-Kubel (73)

Notable additions: F Barrett Hayton, F Victor Olofsson, D Troy Stecher, D Brendan Smith

Notable subtractions: F Alexander Wennberg, F Bryan Little, D Danny DeKeyser, D Scott Harrington, G Brian Elliott

Analysis: It’s time to ask the question: are the Great Lakes Pilots cursed? As they slog through a tough rebuild, their injury luck remains atrocious. This season, that list includes Jonathan Drouin, Tomas Hertl, and recent first round draft pick Nolas Patrick, who is expected to miss the year. The injury bug has decimated the blueline, too, as Danny DeKeyser and Brian Dumoulin are expected to miss significant time — and in DeKeyser’s case, it cost him a roster spot completely. There’s some hope on the horizon, as the Pilots think Victor Olofsson is ready to jump into a key scoring role, Rasmus Dahlin is a superstar in the making, and Andrei Vasilevskiy has the ability to steal games, but they won’t have much support. All in all, 2020-21 projects to be a long, tough season for Great Lakes.

Player to watch: Victor Olofsson. His scoring ability could more than makes up for the loss of Drouin, as he’s the closest thing to a natural goal scorer the team has had in what feels like forever.

Outlook: Rebuilding

Charleston Chiefs

Last season: 28-49-5 (missed playoffs)

Draft picks: F Dominik Kubalik (4), D Adam Fox (12), F Oliver Wahlstrom (24), F Otto Koivula (46), G Marcus Hogberg (72)

Notable additions: F Nicklas Backstrom, F Dominik Kubalik, F Nikita Gusev, D Adam Fox

Notable subtractions: F David Perron, F Dylan Sikura, F Trevor Moore, F Jordan Weal, D Markus Nutivaara, G Louis Domingue

Analysis: Hampered by injuries to its most important players and now firmly in rebuild mode, Charleston hasn’t tasted the playoffs in three years. But the Chiefs made some intriguing moves this offseason that may have them back in the mix sooner than anticipated. First, they drafted two players in the first round who should be able to make an impact this season in winger Dominik Kubalik and defenseman Adam Fox. They added forward Nikita Gusev in free agency. Then they addressed their most pressing need up front, swapping winger David Perron for centre Nicklas Backstrom. The defense, led by Miro Heiskanen and Morgan Rielly, looks great. But two big questions remain: who, after Brayden Point, William Nylander, and Kubalik, is going to score the goals? And can Jonathan Quick keep the team in enough games to make a playoff push? The Chiefs don’t have a first rounder next year (dealt for the pick used on Fox) so they’re hoping they can sneak in. It won’t be easy.

Player to watch: Alexandar Georgiev. Should Quick struggle, the Chiefs may find themselves in a 1A/1B situation and the team will need Georgiev to rise to the occasion.

Outlook: Rebuilding


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