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Cale Makar, Goalies Headline 2020 Rookie Draft

In Transactions on September 13, 2020 at 6:46 pm

Defenseman Cale Makar made the first wave of the 2020 GWMHL Rookie Draft when he was selected in the top spot by the Baltimore Crab. Jack Hughes went second overall, to West Virginia, while Kaapo Kakko will join the South Side after being picked third.

But the real story of the first round was in goal. After months of trying to solidify its goaltending, the San Jose Hosers made Igor Shesterkin the 5th overall pick. Winnipeg picked up Elvis Merzlikins at 6th and Farmington selected Ilya Samsonov at 9th for an unprecedented three goalies in the top 10.

Eight draft day trades were completed, albeit with few blockbusters. The biggest moves were likely El Dorado shipping Max Pacioretty and Darren Helm to Winnipeg for a pair of 2021 picks and Charleston swapping its 2021 first rounder for Ice Harbor‘s 2020 first, with which the Chiefs chose impact defenseman Adam Fox. In other moves, Boston sent Ryan Getzlaf and a pick to Hamilton for Travis Zajac, Ice Harbor acquired Boone Jenner from the Banshees, and Vancouver sent Nick Foligno and Nikita Zadorov to Delta and South Side respectively.

The day also saw the first ever picks for the two expansion teams set to begin play in 2021. The Hershey Bears got a head start on their roster with eight picks, led in the first round by Jesper Boqvist, and while the Clarington Coyotes dealt away its first-ever 1st rounder, it would select Jack Studnicka with a second rounder a few picks later.

Teams will now set their sites on the pre-season Free Agent Draft before finalizing their rosters.

See the complete results of the 2020 Rookie Draft.

Offseason Trading Opens; Domi, Goligoski on the Move

In BOS, DEL, DEN, HAM, HSY, News, Transactions on June 16, 2020 at 3:59 pm

Trading is now open in the GMWHL, and the newly crowned Boston Banshees got things started, dealing forward Max Domi to the Denver Spurs for forward Colton Sissons and netminder Anton Khudobin. Domi began his career with the Spurs and was traded to Boston in 2017 in an eight-player blockbuster that brought now-departed Braden Holtby to Denver. He registered 13 goals and 31 points in 51 games this season with the Banshees. Boston hopes Khudobin can provide some high-quality support for starter Ben Bishop.

It was the first of three deals on the day. Later, Boston welcomed new expansion club Hershey to the league by dealing three 4th round picks (its own, Parry Sound’s and Pittsburgh’s) along with rookie forward Eric Robinson for Hershey’s 2nd rounder.

Finally, the Delta Sturgeon said goodbye to forward Dylan Strome and long-time defenseman Alex Goligoski, sending them to the Hamilton Ti-Cats for a pair of 2nd round picks. Strome has disappointed so far in his career, but Goligoski has been a big part of the Sturgeon blueline for 11 seasons and is 15th in franchise history for points. Still, the 10 points he had in 2019-20 was a career low.

The GWMHL Is Expanding

In News on June 16, 2020 at 3:36 pm

It’s with great pleasure that we announce that, for the first time in two decades, the Gump Worsley Memorial Hockey League is expanding.

Beginning in the 2021-2022 season, the GWMHL will welcome two new franchises into the fold: Bruce Carricker’s Hershey Bears and Matthew Irwin’s Clarington Coyotes.

The Bears and Coyotes become the first expansion teams to join the league since Vancouver and Great Lakes (originally South Park) joined the league in 1999. The expansion teams will be eligible to take part in the 2020 rookie draft, and the league will run a full expansion draft following the 2020-2021 regular season and playoffs.

The Boston Banshees Are Your 2020 Gump Cup Champion!

In BOS, News on May 3, 2020 at 7:31 pm

The Boston Banshees have put an exclamation point at the end of their miraculous season, beating the El Dorado Lynx in five games to win the 2020 Gump Cup.

The Banshees swept both Vancouver and Delta, and took the first three against the Lynx, too. El Dorado finally handed Boston its first postseason loss with a 2-1 squeaker in game 4, but the Banshees bounced back, overcoming a 2-0 deficit in game 5 to win 3-2.

It’s the first win for the Banshees franchise since moving to Boston, and makes up for the Banshees’ back-to-back finals losses in 2017 and 2018.

Congratulations to Ted Geoffrion and the Banshees on the incredible finish!

Boston and El Dorado Will Vie for the Gump Cup

In BOS, EDH, News on April 27, 2020 at 8:04 pm

The matchup is set for the 2020 Gump Cup: the El Dorado Lynx and Boston Banshees will face off in a best-of-seven series to determine this year’s top team.

The league will crown a champ other than the Salem Sabercats for the first time since 2016. El Dorado last won it all in 2012, while Boston is looking for its first championship since 1998, back when it was the Kansas City Copperheads and under different ownership.

Despite the long drought, the Banshees have an air of destiny about them heading into the series. They swept both Vancouver (no real surprise) and Delta (a much bigger one) on the road to the finals, following a magnificent 57-17-8 regular season that saw them lose just five games on the road. Still, the team is no doubt haunted by its two straight finals losses in 2017 and 2018.

The Lynx, meanwhile, came into the playoffs as the third seed in their conference, and gutted out wins against the higher seed in two straight seven-game series. And they’re doing it on the backs of unlikely heroes like Derek Ryan (who leads the team with 15 points) and Jeff Petry. As the underdogs, they may be able to take the Banshees by surprise.

The series begins this week in Boston.

Playoff races take shape heading into final quarter

In News on February 23, 2020 at 7:50 pm

With three-quarters of a season behind us and just 18 games left to play, the playoff races are heating up in both GWMHL conferences. A quiet mid-season trade deadline saw few moves, mostly from teams out of the playoff picture, but some contenders might wish they’d swung a deal or two now that the playoff picture is looking tight.

In the Plante Conference

With Parry Sound, El Dorado, and Salem all but inked in for the postseason in some order or another — El Dorado seized 1st this quarter — Baltimore was just two points back of Pittsburgh heading into Q3. And while the Crab’s record was mediocre (13-10-1), Pittsburgh’s was worse (11-12-1), giving Baltimore the fourth playoff berth for now. The Hornets are just two points back, though. Should be a nailbiter.

In the Sawchuk Conference

Boston’s road dominance continued in Q3 (8-2-2) and they kept their stranglehold on 1st. The big riser was Vancouver — the Night Train had a very strong quarter, going 9-1-2 on the road and leapfrogging not just Ice Harbor but Delta as well for 3rd place behind Adirondack. Delta only trails by a point and will likely make up that ground in Q4, but it leaves the Storm 7 points back and in need of a stellar Q4 to steal the final playoff spot.

San Jose’s stars leading the way

Although they’re all but out of the playoff picture, San Jose’s top forwards are dominating the individual categories. John Tavares and Steven Stamkos are 1st and 2nd in scoring with 93 and 92 points respectively, just ahead of Ice Harbor’s Sasha Barkov (91), fellow Hoser Gabriel Landeskog (90), and Parry Sound’s Connor McDavid (90). Tavares (46), Denver’s Cam Atkinson (45), El Dorado’s Alex Ovechkin (44) all seem poised to join the 50-goal club. Boston’s Mark Giordano (65) has a 9-point lead over Denver’s Keith Yandle (56) for the defenseman scoring crown, while South Side’s Brady Tkachuk still leads the rookie race with 49 points. Boston’s Ben Bishop leads all netminders in wins with 27, and is 1st in GAA (2.50) and 2nd in save percentage (.919).

Mid-Season Claims Headlined by… Ryan Graves?!

In News, Transactions on December 29, 2019 at 4:35 pm

The Mid-Season Free Agent Draft, that annual extravaganza where Gump GMs, belts already straining against holiday overindulgence, get to gorge on the league’s castaways and also-rans. This year’s draft saw the Charleston Chiefs take a flyer on defenseman Ryan Graves with the top pick. Also selected in the top five: winger Valeri Nichushkin to South Side (who had released him at preseason), Zack Kassian to Winnipeg, and defensemen Matt Roy and Brad Hunt to Denver and Hamilton, respectively.

Denver was, in fact, the only team to draft in more than two rounds, making four claims in all. Likely spurred by the acquisition of Jordan Binnington at the expense of its first round rookie pick in 2020, the Spurs loaded up on vets with the hope of climbing a few spots in the standings. Joining Denver for the remainder of the season are winger Tyler Ennis, centre Frans Nielsen, and winger Thomas Vanek.

You can find the complete list of 2019 mid-season claims here.

Denver Acquires Binnington, Ships Out Holtby

In DEN, SJH, SSR, Transactions on December 26, 2019 at 9:49 pm

They’re tied for third fewest goals for, and if you can’t put pucks in nets, you’ve gotta keep them out. That seems to be the theory behind the Denver Spurs‘ splashy Christmas Eve trade, which saw them acquire young goaltender Jordan Binnington, along with versatile forward Colton Sissons, from the South Park Renegades. In return, Denver shipped out wingers Mathieu Joseph and Auston Watson, along with its first round rookie pick in 2020.

In a separate deal, and with four goalies on the active roster, the Spurs sent one-time starter Braden Holtby to the San Jose Hosers for a 2nd rounder.

Around the League: Midseason Arrives

In News on December 18, 2019 at 9:42 am

It’s midseason, and with 40 games in the books, the GWMHL takes its annual pause for the free agent claim period and a little R&R. Here’s an overview of what’s happened this season so far.

In the Plante Conference, the top three teams (Parry SoundEl Dorado, and Salem) are no surprise, but PIttsburgh is still right in the mix despite slumping to an 8-10-2 record in the second quarter. Parry Sound had a great quarter, going 13-3-4 and was undefeated on the road (7-0-3). Denver was a big riser on the quarter, going 10-7-3 (including a very nice 6-2-2 road record) but still has a tough road ahead of it if it wants to make the playoffs — it rose from 9th in the conference to 7th.

In the Sawchuk, Boston was the big story, with a 7-1-2 home record and running the table (10-0-0) away. That vaulted the Banshees to first in the conference and the league, just ahead of Adirondack. Speaking of the Aces, their emergence continued nicely in Q2 (12-5-3) and they finally seem poised to make some postseason waves. Finally, Vancouver recovered a bit (10-8-2) to climb out of the Sawchuk basement and pull to within five points of 4th place Ice Harbor. There’s more parity in this conference, though, so basically every team is still in the hunt.

Leading the league in points is Parry Sound’s Connor McDavid — no surprise there — with 64, ahead of San Jose‘s John Tavares (58) and Ice Harbor’s Sasha Barkov (56). Denver’s Cam Atkinson continues his torrid goal-scoring pace and now leads the league with 32, one ahead of Farmington winger Mikko Rantanen. Could we see a 60-goal season in Gump this year? It’s possible. Atkinson’s teammate Keith Yandle is tied with Boston’s Mark Giordano for most points among defensemen with 38, while South Side‘s Brady Tkachuk leads all rookies with 34 points. Of note, a profoundly disappointing start for much-hyped Winnipeg freshman Elias Pettersson, who has just 5 goals and 18 points so far. Boston’s off-season acquisition of Ben Bishop has proved shrewd, as the netminder is tied for second in wins with 16 and tops the league in GAA (1.99) and save percentage (.936).

2019-20 Season Preview: Sawchuk West

In News, Special Features on October 10, 2019 at 10:34 am

At last we come to our fourth and final season preview, now that the Plante East and West and Sawchuk East are out of the way. There’s real intrigue to be found in the Sawchuk West, with a couple of very strong teams and three others in various states of transition.

Delta Sturgeon

Last season: 51-23-8 (1st in conference; lost in Gump Cup final)

Draft picks: Calle Rosen (46), Max Veronneau (63), Adin Hill (71), Lawrence Pilut (77), C.J. Smith (78)

Additions: D Erik Gustafsson, G Adin Hill

Subtractions: F Rick Nash, F Jay Beagle, F Victor Ejdsell, D Alec Martinez, D Lawrence Pilut, D Dan Hamhuis

Analysis: It was a disappointing result for the emergin’ Sturgeon — a Gump Cup Final loss to Salem in 6. But this team is still just entering its prime, with an extremly deep roster headlined by superstars Nathan MacKinnon and Nikita Kucherov and top-flight goaltending from John Gibson. Last season’s acquisition of Jonathan Toews was shrewd, as the centre was a key defensive and faceoff presence all year and into the postseason, and could find himself contributing more on the scoresheet in ’19-’20. He’ll need to, if rumours of Taylor Hall’s injury problems are true. The team’s big acquisition this summer was Erik Gustafsson, believed by team management to have the potential to run the powerplay — an X factor sorely lacking on an otherwise very good blueline (Ekblad, Muzzin, Pulock, Lindell, Parayko). In any case, Delta remains in the upper echelons of Gump and should vie for a finals berth again.

Player to watch: Gustafsson is the big addition, but Nikita Kucherov‘s gamebreaking ability is the real storyline this season. He has more to give. Can he pull away from the scoring pack and keep Delta in elite company?

Outlook: Contender

Hamilton Ti-Cats

Last season: 33-45-4 (8th in conference; missed playoffs)

Draft picks: Sam Steel (7), Michael Rasmussen (26), Jake Bean (46)

Additions: F Travis Konecny, F Michael Rasmussen, G Joonas Korpisalo

Subtractions: F Patrick Kane, F Henrik Zetterberg, D Gustav Olofsson, D Luke Schenn, D Chris Wideman

Analysis: It looked as though this once-contending team might have started the season in more or less the same position as last year. Then came the shocking news that Patrick Kane had been traded to Salem for Travis Konecny and picks. Is this the moment the Hamilton rebuild begins? The roster still boasts some high-end talent in Claude Giroux, Jeff Skinner, and Jakub Voracek, and the D group, led by Tyson Barrie and Roman Josi, is also quite strong. But much will be asked of Blake Coleman, Bryan Rust, Alex Iafallo, et al, while draftees Steel and Rasmussen develop. Most crucially, the team’s trio of goaltenders — Craig Anderson, Jason Reimer, and Joonas Korpisalo — is not likely strong enough to stop high-powered division mates Delta and Ice Harbor. Hamilton has too much vet talent to truly call “rebuild” at this stage, but it could be a different story come the trade deadline. A playoff berth isn’t impossible, but seems unlikely.

Player to watch: In light of the Kane trade, perhaps the biggest question is how this affects Claude Giroux‘s production. The two have been joined at the hip for years. Can he drive the offense without one of the league’s best point producers on his wing?

Outlook: Bubble

Ice Harbor Storm

Last season: 45-32-5 (3rd in conference; lost in 1st round)

Draft picks: Carter Hart (5), Juuso Valimaki (29), Michael Dipietro (64)

Additions: G Carter Hart

Subtractions: F Tyler Pitlick, D Erik Gudbranson, D Jay Bouwmeester

Analysis: Prior to the draft, the Ice Harbor Storm took their big swing — trading into the top five to draft goaltending phenom Carter Hart. The move addressed the Storm’s biggest need: a goalie to eventually take the starting job from Henrik Lundqvist. (And if he can’t, the team has 5 other goaltenders waiting in the wings!) But it’s doubtful that Hart will see enough action to make a huge impact this season. That said, the Storm have an extremely deep and well-balanced lineup, including three top-flight talents in Aleksander Barkov, Blake Wheeler, and Jonathan Huberdeau, supported by two young triggermen in Matthew Tkachuk and Alex DeBrincat. A healthy year for Kris Letang would give Ice Harbor a dangerous back end, too. On paper, this is a team on the cusp of contender status — and so we come back to goaltending and whether middle-of-the-road numbers will be enough to push the Storm past Delta or Boston and into the second round.

Player to watch: Even with Hart in the fold, Henrik Lundqvist will be getting the lion’s share of starts, yet his stats have suffered mightily with age. The Storm likely do have the scoring to win plenty of games by sheer force, but will still need Lundqvist to hold it together against top teams.

Outlook: Playoffs

Portland Winterhawks

Last season: 24-49-9 (10th in conference; missed playoffs)

Draft picks: Andrei Svechnikov (6), Mackenzie Blackwood (24), Jonas Siegenthaler (56), Matt Luff (58)

Additions: F Andrei Svechnikov, F Zach Aston-Reese, D Erik Gudbranson, G Mackenzie Blackwood

Subtractions: F Tobias Rieder, F Riley Nash, F Spencer Foo, D Sebastian Aho, D Brandon Manning, G Keith Kinkaid

Analysis: It’s not like anyone thought this team was a contender, but last season was surprisingly ugly for the Winterhawks, as the team finished last in the conference. At least that translated into a couple of nice additions at the rookie draft in winger Andrei Svechnikov and goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood. Svechnikov should step right in and add some scoring from the middle six, bolstering a group that already features Brad Marchand, Phil Kessel, Artemi Panarin, David Krejci, and Pierre-Luc Dubois. The team may also be hoping Jaro Halak and Blackwood can soak up starts from Carter Hutton, who’s a bit of a question mark as a starter. The overall outlook would be much brighter if it wasn’t for the defense. When your top two blueliners are (on paper) Ryan Murray and Matt Niskanen, you’re in deep trouble. Portland will be lucky to get 30 points out of anyone on their blueline — they desperately need an impact defender or two.

Player to watch: No player is more important to this club’s fortunes than Brad Marchand. Without his scoring and two-way play, Portland would be completely sunk. If his supporting cast can help him to a career season, the Winterhawks should steal a few games.

Outlook: Rebuilding

Vancouver Night Train

Last season: 39-37-6 (5th in conference; missed playoffs)

Draft picks: Jesper Kotkaniemi (12), Jordan Kyrou (18), Filip Hronek (19), Ryan Poehling (32), Cal Peterson (52), Joel L’Esperance (72)

Additions: F Jesper Kotkaniemi, D Filip Hronek, G Cal Peterson

Subtractions: F Andrew Cogliano, F David Kampf, F Denis Malgin, F Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, F Joel L’Esperance, D Chris Tanev

Analysis: The Night Train brass were surprised to find themselves in the playoff mix last season, though they didn’t ultimately make it to the show. The team has slowly but steadily parted ways with its veteran core — Toews, Rinne, Ekman-Larsson, Kessel, to name just four — over the last two seasons in the world’s slowest rebuild, but the expected high draft picks haven’t come, leaving the team in a sort of no man’s land. On paper, Vancouver is only average — some excellent veterans remain in Mark Stone and a possibly healthy Shea Weber, but the team is also one of the league’s youngest, and it shows. A monster year from Thomas Chabot or Mat Barzal or Anthony Mantha could net some Ws, as could some stellar play from Sergei Bobrovsky. But the Night Train lacks the top-end firepower or defensive depth to go far, and while 2019 draftees Kotkaniemi and Hronek have made the roster, they’ll likely be used sparingly. Nevertheless, it’s impossible to call Vancouver a rebuilding team when they always seem to be on the bubble.

Player to watch: Barzal’s point-per-game rookie season (tops among freshmen) was one highlight of last season. But to hedge against a sophomore slump, the team seems willing to try Elias Lindholm as the top centre — a role he’s never held before. Can he carry the load?

Outlook: Bubble