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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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Season Preview: Sawchuk

In BOS, DEL, FFS, IHS, NAS, PWH, SFS, STL, VAN, WVR on November 24, 2011 at 10:40 am

The last five Gump Cups have gone to Sawchuk Conference teams. The five years before that went to the Plante. Are we due for a sea change? With two flat-out powerhouses, a few perennial contenders, and several rebuilding teams poised to take the next step, there’s no shortage of intrigue in the Sawchuk this season. Here’s a look at what’s changed.

In – G Michal Neuvirth, F Marcus Johansson, G Devan Dubnyk, F Jordan Caron, D John Moore, F Nate Thompson, F Adam Hall
Out – F Mike Knuble, F Paul Kariya, D Niclas Wallin, F Jason Blake, D Jaroslav Spacek, G Jason LaBarbera, F James Wright

The Banshees, under new ownership eager to make a stamp on the team, made some significant moves this off-season, shipping out vets Mike Knuble, Jason Blake, and Jaroslav Spacek and bringing in two promising young netminders in Michal Neuvirth and Devan Dubnyk. But how much will they really play behind workhorse Henrik Lundqvist? A rested Lundqvist should terrify the rest of the conference come playoff time, though, and if Boston gets good performances from some of its younger players – notably Sam Gagner and Erik Karlsson – they should be in the running for a spot.

In – F Derek Stepan, G Kevin Poulin, F Linus Omark, F Mats Zuccarello, F Anthony Stewart, D Shane O’Brien, G Peter Budaj
Out – F Cristobal Huet, F Slava Kozlov, F Michael Nylander, D Wade Redden, F Mike Brown, F Tomas Kopecky, F Jay Pandolfo

There’s no question the Sturgeon are in full-on rebuild mode, and one that’s going quite well… up front. As players like Evander Kane continue emerging and newcomers like Derek Stepan get a chance to shine, they’ll improve. But there’s still major upheaval to come as its once mighty core retires or otherwise moves on, and there are big question marks on defense and in goal, meaning a young player like Alex Goligoski is going to have to be a number one defenseman this year, because Delta has no one else to fill those skates. And, seriously, Peter Budaj?

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5 Draft Day Near-Rejects Who Made It Big

In DEN, FFS, PIT, Special Features, STE, WIN, WVR on May 21, 2011 at 11:48 am

There’s no art to the late-round draft steal. You take a deep breath and pray… and probably release your pick before he ever plays a game. While quite a few serviceable players have squeaked into the high seventies in the GWMHL Rookie Draft over the years – especially goaltenders – rare is the player taken in the last few picks who makes a real impact.

But here are five taken in the final 10 slots of their respective drafts who defied the odds and made an impact.

5. LW Kyle Calder, 77th overall in 2000 by Staten Island

Winger Calder never lived up to his potential, more or less settling into a 10-15 goal groove for the Staten Island Gems and San Diego Gulls early in his career. But he makes our list for one reason alone: possibly the most surprising single campaign in league history. In 2006-2007, Calder went on a sudden tear, scoring 60 goals and amassing 110 points with the Gulls.

He disappeared just as quickly, chasing his breakthrough with 8 goals total over his next three seasons, then obscurity.

Year   Name                       GP    G    A  PTS  +/-  PIM
01-02  Staten Island Gems         24    0    2    2  -13   10
02-03  Staten Isle Gems           81   14   35   49    0   79
03-04  Staten Island Gems         82   12   13   25   -6   36
04-06  San Diego Gulls            40   13   12   25    4   15
06-07  San Diego Gulls            79   60   50  110   23   52
07-08  San Diego Gulls            69    5   10   15  -12   30
08-09  San Diego Gulls            64    2    5    7  -21   20
09-10  San Diego Gulls            61    1    9   10  -11   18
                  Totals         439  106  127  233  -25  242

4. G Olaf Kolzig, 76th overall in 1994 by Tidewater

Kolzig was taken last overall by Portland in ’94, and he’d be much further up the list if his career numbers – a career goals against average way on the wrong side of 3.00 – weren’t so shaky. But Kolzig was a solid starter in the GWMHL for many seasons, despite playing for some struggling teams. He gets major points for longevity.

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