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Season Preview: Sawchuk East

In ADI, BOS, FFS, SJH, Special Features, WVR on October 9, 2018 at 3:13 pm

Welcome to part 3 of our season previews, featuring what’s maybe the toughest division to predict: the Sawchuk East.

Missed the Plante Conference previews? Check it here: East and West.


Adirondack Aces
Last Season’s Finish: 43-35-4 (3rd in conference); lost in 1st round
Notable Arrivals: F Jake DeBrusk, F Alexander Kerfoot, F Justin Williams, D Ethan Bear
Notable Departures: G Cam Ward

The Aces’ slow ascendance culminated in a playoff berth last year before the team was dumped in the first round.  They’re also a big reason why this division is tough to call. Even as Henrik Sedin enters his final season, the team has a ton of talent in the forward ranks, starting with Patrice Bergeron and Johnny Gaudreau. On top of that, there are whispers that management foresees a huge breakout year for William Karlsson, and the Aces managed to grab a couple of GWMHL-ready draftees in Jake DeBrusk and Alexander Kerfoot. The team’s goaltending duo of Devan Dubnyk and Semyon Varlamov is the most solid it’s been in years, too. The acquisition of Justin Williams for third-stringer Cam Ward gives the team options for the middle six. But the team’s Achilles’ heel may be on defense, which is overflowing with journeymen after the top-flight pairing of Drew Doughty and Zach Werenski and stay-at-homer Brett Pesce.

Verdict: Playoffs


Boston Banshees
Last Season’s Finish: 50-27-5 (1st in conference); lost in Gump Cup final
Notable Arrivals: F Ryan Getzlaf, F Cody Eakin, F J.T. Compher, F Micheal Ferland, F Tage Thompson
Notable Departures: F Artem Anisimov, F Justin Williams, F Brandon Dubinsky, D Mike Green, D Zdeno Chara, D Nick Leddy, D Jake Dotchin

Are they rebuilding, or what’s going on here? After the Banshees pushed the Cup Final all the way to a seventh game, there were surprising rumbles of a total rebuild. It seemed to be going that way when they shipped out Nick Leddy and, later, Zdeno Chara. But as the offseason wore on, the team took a flyer on 33-year-old centre Ryan Getzlaf after the draft, not to mention a pair of veteran goalies (Jimmy Howard and Cam Ward), only to release them both. Anyway, the team seems poised to at least make the playoffs, with Getzlaf joining a competitive group led by Sean CouturierJoe Pavelski, and highly touted rookie Brock Boeser up front. It seems Mike Smith will see the lion’s share of starts, and the team will have to lean hard on young defensemen Darnell NurseJosh Morrissey, and Brandon Carlo after the Banshees ditched Leddy, Chara, and Mike Green. The team may find itself at a crossroads come mid-season. Will they load up or throw in the towel?

Verdict: Bubble


Farmington Fighting Saints
Last Season’s Finish: 37-35-10 (7th in conference); missed playoffs
Notable Arrivals: F Matt Nieto, D Greg Pateryn, D Vince Dunn, D Christian Djoos
Notable Departures: F Mike Cammalleri, F Matt Cullen, F Dmitrij Jaskin, D Niklas Kronwall, D Trevor Van Riemsdyk

Historically, Farmington management has taken a patient approach to team-building and it’s paid off. Without sacrificing wins in the present, the Saints have managed to keep the cupboard stocked with good talent, most notably Mikko Rantanen, who’ll quite possibly the team’s top scorer of this coming season, alongside a truly great group of centres headlined by Vincent Trocheck and Ryan Johansen. Still, the team made some big changes on D, dumping declining veteran Niklas Kronwall and bringing in rookies Vince Dunn and Christian Djoos, that add an air of uncertainty despite the overall consistency of John Carlson and Dustin Byfuglien. The winger talent on the club is good if not great. But by far the biggest concern is the health of starting goalie Corey Crawford. If Crawford misses significant time, the team won’t be going anywhere without a career performance by Robin Lehner.

Verdict: Bubble


San Jose Hosers
Last Season’s Finish: 23-52-7 (10th in conference); missed playoffs
Notable Arrivals: D Charlie McAvoy, D Joakim Ryan
Notable Departures: F Brock Nelson, F Antoine Roussel, D David Schlemko

The Great San Jose Rebuild continues! When defender Charlie McAvoy fell to the Hosers at #3 in this year’s draft, management couldn’t say no, and the team now has unquestionably one of the most promising groups of young defensemen in the league with John Klingberg, Shayne Gostisbehere, and Mikhail Sergachev. That alone could be deadly, especially on the powerplay. And at a certain point, this team has to turn the corner, right? Up front, the team has some nice weapons in John Tavares and Jack Eichel, with Gabriel Landeskog and Mitch Marner on the wings, but after that quartet the Hosers have a lot of rising talent that hasn’t quite, well… risen yet. A big season from Martin Jones would be start, and it definitely seems unlikely that this will be a bottom-three team again, but San Jose probably needs one more season before making a run at the playoffs.

Verdict: Rebuilding


West Virginia River Rats
Last Season’s Finish: 40-34-8 (5th in conference); missed playoffs
Notable Arrivals: F T.J. Oshie, F Brock Nelson, D Travis Sanheim, D Jan Rutta
Notable Departures: F Andrew Shaw, F Antoine Vermette, D Marc Methot, D John Moore

Here’s where San Jose hopes to be a year from now. After a bold selloff over the course of two seasons and missing the playoffs by one measly point in 2017-18, the River Rats are finally poised to push for a top-four finish and a postseason berth. Newly acquired winger T.J. Oshie may well debut on a top line with Sebastian Aho and Leon Draisatl, allowing the team to roll out a deadly combo of Patrick Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers on the second. The defense is also maturing at the right time: reports are that Matt Dumba may be ready for top-pairing minutes alongside ever-dependable rearguard Jaccob Slavin. By far the biggest unknown for this exciting young group is in net. Will Jacob Markstrom be asked to shoulder the starter’s burden? Or will the team rely on Ryan Miller and Juuse Saros? At least they have options.

Verdict: Playoffs

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