Season Preview: Plante (part 2)

In Uncategorized on November 8, 2022 at 1:19 pm

Our preview of the 2022-23 season continues with the second half of the Plante Conference.

Parry Sound Orrsmen

Last season: 29-42-11 (missed playoffs)
Draft picks: F Matt Boldy (6), D Sean Durzi (28), D Nils Lundkvist (59), G Nico Daws (71)
Notable additions: F Matt Boldy, F Gabriel Vilardi, F Vinnie Hinostroza, D Sean Durzi, D Jan Rutta, G Nico Daws, G Stuart Skinner
Notable subtractions: F Patric Hornqvist, F Alexander Radulov, D Brian Dumoulin, D Ilya Lyubushkin, D Haydn Fleury, D Nick Holden, G Martin Jones
Analysis: The slow-moving roller coaster continues for the Orrsmen, who seemed so close to contending before crashing back to earth in recent seasons. But the team’s fortunes may be improving once more, helped along by a strong 2022 rookie crop as both Matt Boldy and Sean Durzi figure to step right into the lineup. The Orrsmen’s strengths remain haven’t changed much over the years, especially down the middle where McDavid and Matthews are joined by Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tim Stutzle, and a good group of wingers led by David Pastrnak. The defense is a little better now, too, especially if one of Justin Faulk or Nate Schmidt can step up with good powerplay numbers. Goaltending is once again going to be this team’s Achilles’ heel, though, as it seems they’ll be entering the season with the sketchy platoon of Thomas Greiss, Dan Vladar, and Nico Daws, along with a few games from newly acquired Stuart Skinner. They can outscore some of their problems, no doubt, but without better netminding, this team isn’t likely playoff-bound. It’s probably not far from it, though.
Outlook: Bubble

Pittsburgh Hornets

Last season: 38-35-9 (lost in first round)
Draft picks: F Marco Rossi (13), G Lukas Dostal (35), D Jordan Spence (54), F Pavel Dorofeyev (59), D Reilly Walsh (78)
Notable additions: F Charlie Coyle, F Matt Nieto, D Nicolas Beaudin
Notable subtractions: F Reilly Smith, F Ryan Dzingel, F Sam Gagner, F Alex Galchenyuk, F Daniel Sprong, G Anton Khudobin, G Petr Mrazek
Analysis: The Hornets’ fortunes have risen and fallen quite a bit in recent seasons, partly due to shaky goaltending, but the Khudobin/Mrazek era is officially over and Pittsburgh finally has a promising if inexperienced duo in Jeremy Swayman and Ville Husso to feel good about. Some of its younger wingers — first the more established Timo Meier, and now Jason Robertson and Troy Terry — are also showing signs of becoming true impact players, and suddenly the future is looking brighter than ever. Sure, Swayman has zero GWMHL experience and they’ll have to play Victor Hedman on his weak side to ice a full defense corps. (But what a corps!) And yeah, the age-old problem of what to do when Evgeni Malkin inevitably misses a bunch of games to injury is still a major concern, with the team only having acquired Charlie Coyle to help out Strome. But despite that, this is a team with a ton of potential on the cusp of being realized, and is poised to not only make the postseason but potentially win a round or two.
Outlook: Playoffs

Salem Sabercats

Last season: 40-31-11 (lost in second round)
Draft picks: F Jack Quinn (15), D Justin Barron (37), G Pyotr Kochetkov (58), F Jacob Peterson (80)
Notable additions: F Jacob Peterson
Notable subtractions: F Paul Byron, F Adam Gaudette, F Kristian Vesalainen, F Jaret Anderson-Dolan
Analysis: The Sabercats are coming off a pretty good season, even if they aren’t an unbeatable dynasty anymore, as they finished third in the conference and won a playoff round before being eliminated by Charleston in its surge to the Atkinson Cup final. Salem’s most important skaters — Patrick Kane, Anze Kopitar, and Alex Pietrangelo — can still perform at a high level, and their secondary depth, led by Logan Couture and Bo Horvat, is excellent. Gustav Nyquist’s return from a long-term injury won’t hurt, either, although they do lack a true sniper up front and Nyquist isn’t it. The Sabercats’ goaltending duo of Frederik Andersen and Marc-Andre Fleury has long been one of the league’s best, with one guy ready to step in with top-flight play if the other falters, and that should be no different this year. Despite age turning Duncan Keith and Anton Stralman into roleplayers and the fact that Salem hasn’t made an impact addition in a while, there’s no real reason to expect this team to regress much. It will be in the mix.
Outlook: Playoffs

South Side Renegades

Last season: 23-52-7 (missed playoffs)
Draft picks: F Mason McTavish (4), F Noah Cates (24), F Fabian Zetterlund (46), F Jack McBain (68), F Brandon Duhaime (70)
Notable additions: F Brandon Duhaime, F Luke Kunin, D Marc Staal, D Brett Kulak
Notable subtractions: F Noel Acciari, F Zemgus Girgensons, F Tyler Pitlick, F Michael Raffl, F Austin Watson, D Dylan DeMelo, D Ville Heinola, D Victor Soderstrom
Analysis: The league’s second worst team last season might finally be ready to turn a corner. Its young forward core of Dylan Larkin, Trevor Zegras, Brady Tkachuk, and Nico Hischier has been developing nicely, and they’re complemented by Anthony Cirelli, Joel Farabee, a healthy Teuvo Teravainen, and an Andrew Copp who may yet have an unexplored offensive dimension to his game. Even with 4th overall pick Mason McTavish a year away, that’s a solid group with potential to turn some heads. The duo of Connor Hellebuyck and Scott Wedgewood is probably good enough in goal to win some games, and the team has some strong defensive d-men to help them out. The Renegades lack offensive pop on the blueline after Seth Jones, however, and much will be asked of Vladislav Gavrikov as the team’s top left-handed defenseman. Despite that, it seems impossible that this is still a bottom-three team. Playoffs? Not so likely, but stranger things have happened.

Outlook: Bubble

Winnipeg Falcons

Last season: 30-47-5 (missed playoffs)
Draft picks: D Owen Power (2), D Dylan Samberg (27), F Jack Drury (50), F Brett Leason (88)
Notable additions: F Brett Leason, F Marcus Johansson, F Pat Maroon, D Chris Wideman
Notable subtractions: F Sammy Blais, F Morgan Geekie, F Zack Kassian, F Martin Frk, D Will Butcher, D Victor Mete, D Tucker Poolman
Analysis: The Falcons were the big draft lottery winners, climbing to second overall where they were able to select defenseman Owen Power. He’s a year away, but it answered a major organizational need that’s dogged this team for years — Ryan Suter’s star is fading fast and Jamie Drysdale isn’t quite there yet, although he may see top-pairing ice time this year out of necessity. Until Power can join the team, it will likely be a rocky go of it for Winnipeg fans, however. The Falcons have had terrible injury luck in recent years, and this time it’s top winger Max Pacioretty who’s looking to miss a good chunk of the season. After him, Elias Pettersson is a fine centerpiece, although Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and Mike Hoffman are all in various stages of decline. The Falcons are looking strongest in goal, where the trio of Darcy Kuemper, Elvis Merzlikins, and Jake Allen should be just fine. But a lack of (healthy) scoring depth both up front and on the blueline will likely sink the team’s playoff chances this year.
Outlook: Rebuilding


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