Season Preview: Plante (part 2)

In Uncategorized on November 26, 2021 at 12:56 pm

For the second of our four season previews, we take a look at the second half of the Plante Conference as we get ready to begin our 2021-22 season. Read part 1 here.

Parry Sound Orrsmen

Last season: 24-52-6 (missed playoffs)

Draft picks: F Tim Stützle (4), Vitali Kravtsov (24), D Cal Foote (46), F Alexander Chmelevski (68), G Dan Vladar (79)

Notable additions: F Ivan Barbashev, F Kyle Okposo, F Rem Pitlick, D Brian Dumoulin, D Haydn Fleury

Notable subtractions: F Miles Wood, F Nick Paul, F Brendan Lemieux, F Nicholas Merkley, D Kevin Shattenkirk, D Patrik Nemeth, D Christian Djoos

Analysis: The fall and rise and fall of the Parry Sound Orrsmen is unlike anything else in GWMHL history, from the bad years that yielded Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews in consecutive drafts, to the contending years as Matthews and McDavid became dominant superstars, and now here we are again. The wheels fell off the Parry Sound wagon last season, as they finished with the conference’s worst record and allowed 382 goals, by far the most in the league. With a goaltending tandem of Thomas Greiss and Martin Jones, things might not get that much better this season. The addition of fourth overall pick Tim Stützle should add a nice dimension to the forward core of McDavid, Matthews and David Pastrnak, yet the team will also be without Alexander Radulov for the majority of the season. Expect another rough year.

Player to watch: The slow decline of Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s play of late has also hurt the Orrsmen’s chances. The team will need someone else to step up if he can’t play like a #1 — can it be Justin Faulk?

Outlook: Rebuilding

Pittsburgh Hornets

Last season: 40-33-9 (lost in 2nd round)

Draft picks: G Jeremy Swayman (16), F Ty Dellandrea (38), D Zac Jones (60)

Notable additions: F Sam Gagner, G Anton Khudobin, G Ville Husso

Notable subtractions: F Nick Bonino, F Vinnie Hinostroza, F Brett Connolly, D Brady Skjei, D Travis Hamonic, G Matt Murray

Analysis: The Hornets have quietly assembled a deep roster, despite having few stars aside from the oft-injured Evgeni Malkin. They can roll four lines and win tough battles, which is one reason they got into the second round of the playoffs this past season. The even bigger reason? One of the best defense corps in the GWMHL, led by Victor Hedman, Quinn Hughes, Ivan Provorov, and Neal Pionk. They can get so much offense from the back end that they can generate goals even if (read: when) Malkin is sidelined. Goaltending, however, is still a weakness. They acquired Anton Khudobin, drafted Jeremy Swayman, and signed Ville Husso–but Swayman is a season away and the others are far from elite. A top-flight netminder might have them contending for a championship, but as things stand, they should be happy with a playoff run like last year’s.

Player to watch: Rookie Jason Robertson is slated to join the top six. If he can play to his potential, he may be one of the Hornets’ best weapons.

Outlook: Playoffs

Salem Sabercats

Last season: 38-38-6 (missed playoffs)

Draft picks: F Nils Hoglander (11), D Jack Rathbone (32), F Philipp Kurashev (54), G Josef Korenar (76)

Notable additions: F Adam Erne

Notable subtractions: F Jeff Carter, F Mitchell Stephens, F Noel Acciari, D Jason Demers

Analysis: After missing out on a playoff spot in 2020-21 — their first time since 2007 — the Sabercats are looking to get back in the mix. They may well do just that, because the things that have made them a success in the past — Patrick Kane, Anze Kopitar, nice forward depth, puck-moving defensemen, and award-caliber goaltending from Marc-Andre Fleury — are all still in place. Even as the once-mighty Duncan Keith-Alex Pietrangelo pairing begins to show its age, youngsters like Samuel Girard are poised to step in and lead. Recent draft pick Nils Hoglander is also expected to step in and bolster the ranks on the wing. Another playoff miss would be a surprise.

Player to watch: Kane is obviously the team’s most talented player, and Kopitar perhaps its most important. But the unheralded David Perron is key to providing a balanced attack in the top 6.

Outlook: Playoffs

South Side Renegades

Last season: 24-46-12 (missed playoffs)

Draft picks: F Trevor Zegras (6), D Victor Soderstrom (27)

Notable additions: F Conor Sheary, F Garnet Hathaway, D Brandon Carlo, G Scott Wedgewood

Notable subtractions: F Filip Chytil, F Valeri Nichushkin, F Brandon Sutter, F Artem Anisimov, D Caleb Jones, G Mike Smith

Analysis: The Renegades have slowly and steadily amassed a solid stable of young players — Brady Tkachuk, Joel Farabee, Dylan Larkin, Anthony Cirelli, Kaapo Kakko — although they have yet to coalesce into a winning roster. But even if they all take steps forward in 2021-22, the team has been dealt a major injury blow with news that Nico Hischier and Teuvo Teravainen are likely to miss extended time. Connor Hellebuyck and a defense-minded blueline will keep them in games, but the losses of Hischier and Teravainen will likely prevent South Side from taking much of a step forward this year.

Player to watch: Seth Jones. The Renegades have no shortage of defense-first guys (Chris Tanev, Erik Cernak) and need Jones to be a dynamic playmaker.

Outlook: Rebuilding

Winnipeg Falcons

Last season: 37-35-10 (lost in 1st round)

Draft picks: D Jamie Drysdale (15), F Keegan Kolesar (81)

Notable additions: F Nic Dowd, D Robert Bortuzzo, D Victor Mete

Notable subtractions: F Chandler Stephenson, F Lars Eller, F Joel Armia, D Mark Borowiecki

Analysis: The Winnipeg Falcons barely squeaked into the 2021 playoffs, only to face eventual champ El Dorado in the first round. Bad luck there, especially since a playoff berth could be tougher for the Falcons to come by this year. One of the team’s biggest strengths — a well-constructed forward group — has taken a major hit with the loss of Tyler Seguin for the year and Elias Pettersson for a good chunk of it. Combined with the losses of Chandler Stephenson and Lars Eller in the expansion draft, that’s created a void that few teams would be able to fill. The Falcons’ thin blueline isn’t much better either, at least until Jamie Drysdale is ready to contribute big minutes. The teams’ trio of goaltenders — Jake Allen, Elvis Merzlikins and Darcy Kuemper — is solid, but none of them are the kind of guy who’s likely to steal a lot of games. But then, this team has surprised before.

Player to watch: With the injuries to its best two centres, the team will need an excellent year from Jordan Staal if they want to compete.

Outlook: Bubble


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