Archive for the ‘PIT’ Category

Season Preview: Plante East

In DEN, PIT, SAL, Special Features, SSR, WIN on October 7, 2018 at 11:08 am

Welcome to the first of our 2018-19 season previews: brief overviews of what’s new, what’s old, and what’s expected as 20 GWMHL clubs prepare for a new year.

We start our tour of the league in the Plante East, home of the defending Gump Cup Champs.

Denver Spurs
Last Season’s Finish: 45-29-8 (4th in conference); lost in 1st round
Notable Arrivals: F Martin Frk, F Carl Soderberg, F Stefan Noesen, F Brian Gibbons, F Noel Acciari, G Anton Khudobin.
Notable Departures: F Riley Nash, F Marian Hossa, F Jaromir Jagr, F Lance Bouma, F Derek MacKenzie, D Thomas Hickey

The Spurs headed into last season having acquired Brayden Holtby, Marian Hossa, Mike Fisher, Erik Karlsson, and Jaromir Jagr, and the spending spree paid immediate dividends, vaulting Denver into playoff position and helping them take a high-powered Parry Sound to 6 games. Now, with Jagr and Hossa out, Fisher unlikely to play much, a quiet offseason, and no 2018 draft picks until the fourth round, expectations are lower — a lot lower. The Spurs still have Karlsson to lead a solid defense alongside Keith Yandle, but the forward ranks are paper-thin after Matt Duchene, Cam Atkinson, and Derick Brassard, even after the signing of Carl Soderberg. Spurs fans will likely need to be patient until the 2019 draft when they can start replenishing with top-end talent.

Verdict: Rebuilding

Pittsburgh Hornets
Last Season’s Finish: 32-39-11 (7th in conference); missed playoffs
Notable Arrivals: F Evan Rodrigues
Notable Departures: F Joel Ward, F Matt Martin, D Dmitry Kulikov

After limping along to a 7th place finish in ’17-’18, the Hornets might seem to be stuck in neutral — they didn’t make a single trade during or after the season and most of its top prospects need another year. What the Pittsburgh front office seems to be banking on is the continued growth of a fine core to finally give stars Evgeni Malkin and Victor Hedman the supporting cast they deserve. Bigger contributions from Ivan Provorov and Noah Hanifin on the back end, plus Timo Meier, Anthony Beauvillier, and unheralded Danton Heinen up front should put the Hornets firmly in the playoff race if they can get a strong performance in goal from Ben Bishop.

Verdict: Playoffs

Salem Sabercats
Last Season’s Finish: 42-27-8 (2nd in conference); won Gump Cup
Notable Arrivals: F Anze Kopitar, F Vladimir Sobotka, D Brandon Montour, D Samuel Girard, G Marc-Andre Fleury
Notable Departures: F Mattias Janmark, F Patrick Sharp, F Sonny Milano, F Ondrej Kase, F Brendan Perlini, G Craig Anderson, G Steve Darling

It shocked many observers that Salem, widely seen as a team on the decline, managed to capture yet another championship. But smart drafting has kept the Sabercats competitive even as key vets have retired. A drop-off seemed inevitable, despite the emergence of young forwards Yanni Gourde, Bo Horvat, and Travis Konecny, plus the addition of Brandon MontourSamuel Girard, and Travis Dermott to a very deep blueline, keeping them in the mix. Above all, the acquisition of Marc-Andre Fleury from South Side will have the biggest impact, allowing the Cats to trim some fat in goal. At the end of the day, Salem’s best veterans — Alex Pietrangelo, Nicklas Backstrom — can still produce with the best of them, and the late-preseason pickup of Anze Kopitar will be crucial in keeping up with other contenders’ top-line talent.

Verdict: Contender

South Side Renegades
Last Season’s Finish: 17-60-5 (10th in conference); missed playoffs
Notable Arrivals: F Nico Hischier, F Teuvo Teravainen, F Artem Anisimov, F Sonny Milano, D Cody Ceci, D Deryk Engelland, D Jake Dotchin, D Dylan DeMelo, G Tristan Jarry
Notable Departures: F Ryan O’Reilly, F Micheal Ferland, F Nikolai Kulemin, F Lee Stempniak, D Jake Muzzin, D Jonas Brodin, D Cody Franson

Renegades fans survived a terrible season with the best kind of silver lining: the first overall pick. With it, South Side gained centre Nico Hischier and a fresh new outlook. With four first round picks in 2018, plus the acquisition of young forward Teuvo Teravainen, the rebuild is off to a good start — but it’s not over yet. Although Hischier joins a nice group up the middle, alongside Dylan Larkin and Mika Zibanejad, there isn’t much talent on the wings yet. And the once-strong South Side defense corps is looking pretty shaky after Seth Jones, Colin Miller, and Cody Ceci. Connor Hellebuyck will probably steal them some games and it would be surprising if they plumbed the same depths as last season, but it’s looking like another rebuilding year for the Renegades.

Verdict: Rebuilding

Winnipeg Falcons
Last Season’s Finish: 44-32-6 (5th in conference); missed playoffs
Notable Arrivals: F Chandler Stephenson, F Vinnie Hinostroza, F Kyle Brodziak, D Will Butcher, D Trevor Daley, D Carl Gunnarsson, G Darcy Kuemper
Notable Departures: D Andrei Markov, D Fedor Tyutin

The Falcons missed the playoffs by a mere four points last season, and they remain a bubble team this year. Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Mike Hoffman will still lead things up front, and the addition of rookie Will Butcher will be a boon to Winnipeg’s defense. But there are many question marks: Can Ryan Suter lead a blueline comprised of mostly 4-5-6th defensemen? (His partner may well be someone like Trevor Daley, a late free agent pick.) Can netminder Jake Allen rise to the challenge as starter? Will the real Corey Perry please stand up? The Falcons are a team that can surprise opponents, especially if they get favourable line matchups, but they’ll need some luck to break into the conference’s top four for a playoff berth.

Verdict: Bubble


Trade Action Continues, Fire Ants Load Up

In News, PIT, SCA, Transactions on April 29, 2013 at 6:48 pm

Not to be left out of the white-hot trade market, the South Carolina Fire Ants have made a move, picking up veterans Brad Richards and Sergei Gonchar from the Pittsburgh Hornets. That experienced scoring came at a price, as the Ants surrender their first and second round picks in 2013, along with young blueliner Travis Hamonic.

But South Carolina badly needed a player like Richards, who likely slots into the first line, in the absence of Travis Zajac. The Hornets, meanwhile, continue amassing a young defense corps also highlighted by Victor Hedman, Dmitry Kulikov, and Slava Voynov.

Kulikov Headed to Pittsburgh

In News, PIT, Transactions, VAN on April 26, 2013 at 8:28 am

As the trade deadline approaches, the Pittsburgh Hornets have swung a deal for young defenseman Dmitry Kulikov. In return, the Hornets send veteran forward Johan Franzen and a 4th round pick to the Vancouver Night Train.

Kulikov, a Night Train worst -11 in limited action so far this year following a 41-point 2011-12 campaign, joins Slava Voynov and Victor Hedman on an up-and-coming Pittsburgh blueline, long a team weakness. Franzen, who’s played his entire career with the Pittsburgh/San Diego franchise, has 12 goals and 22 points in 30 contests this season and will be expected to boost the Night Train’s second line alongside Tomas Plekanec.

Season Preview: Plante

In BAL, CHA, DEN, EDH, GLP, PIT, SAL, SCA, STE, Uncategorized, WIN on November 26, 2011 at 10:00 pm

The Sawchuk Conference has its powerhouses – and the last five cups. But the Plante is where all the intrigue is.

Apart from a strong Salem squad fresh off a trip to the Gump Cup Finals, the entire conference is full of dark horses – young teams, growing teams, sure, but few that are in flat-out rebuilding mode. That kind of parity makes the conference incredibly tough to call.

In – D Ryan McDonagh, F Nino Niederreiter, G Jacob Markstrom, D Michael Sauer, F Blake Geoffrion, F Teemu Hartikainen, F Brandon Prust
Out – F Evgeni Malkin, F Cal O’Reilly, D Bryan McCabe, F Darroll Powe, D Anton Stralman, F Rob Schremp, F Jamie Langenbrunner

Baltimore made the boldest move of the off-season, unloading Evgeni Malkin for all of Pittsburgh’s draft picks. That meant a pretty big personnel turnover – 7 guys in and 7 out, not counting poor Steven Kampfer, released before he even got a sniff. It’s hard to look as this as anything but a small step backwards in the short term, but any team with Anze Kopitar is poised to compensate for the loss of a player of Malkin’s calibre, and the team still has a strong core in its prime.

In – F Luke Adam, F Matt Halischuk, F Matt Calvert, D Jason Garrison, F BJ Crombeen, F Mike Knuble
Out –  G Michal Neuvirth, F Alexander Frolov, F Benoit Pouliot, F M-A Pouliot, D Kurtis Foster, D Oskars Bartulis

Charleston should be a playoff team, there should be little doubt of that. After a surprising trip to the finals led to two straight years of mediocrity, the Chiefs started rounding back into form when Steven Stamkos hit the scene. Now that they have a marquee scorer, they have a roster with few glaring weaknesses, and with Miikka Kiprusoff and Jonathan Quick splitting duties in goal, they should be one of the Plante’s better teams.

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Draft Day: The Big Winners

In BAL, GLP, PIT, SCA, Special Features on October 23, 2011 at 3:08 pm

It’ll take a few years until there’s really a “win” or a “loss” from today’s GWMHL Rookie Draft (when we promise to mercilessly mock the losers) and really, every team made some smart choices and picked up intriguing young talent. But some teams stand out for us as having made the most of their picks – or lack thereof. Here’s our top four.

4) South Carolina Fire Ants

The Ants dealt away their final two picks, but they shored up an injury-prone defense. Travis Hamonic (15th overall) could well blossom into a key on this injury-prone defense, someone who could play with Zdeno Chara while Sami Salo is on IR. The acquisition of veteran blueline Filip Kuba also helps in the short run.

3) Baltimore Crab

They traded away one of the game’s best in Evgeni Malkin, but they got what they wanted: picks, picks, picks. Never shy about making a splash, the Crab came away with a lot of long-term talent, including potential impact forward Nino Niederreiter (10th overall) and goalie Jacob Markstrom (30th). Ryan McDonagh (8th) and Michael Sauer (48th) give them an instant defense pairing – and they need one.

2) Pittsburgh Hornets

It seems impossible that a team with no picks in a draft could walk away a winner. But the Hornets made a bold move in sacrificing all their selections and came out of it with their deepest roster in years. Malkin is still young, if injury-prone, and may well end up on Brad Richards’ wing, while both Bryan McCabe and Cal O’Reilly should be able to contribute this season.

1) Great Lakes Pilots

The Pilots were the big winners at the draft lottery, moving up from 6th to 2nd, so it’s no big leap to say that they won the draft, too. Defenseman Nick Leddy will help shore up the back end, but the addition of Taylor Hall finally gives them a left-winger to play with Martin St. Louis. The team still has some big holes to fill up front, but the future’s looking a lot brighter than it was yesterday.

2011 Rookie Draft: Skinner Takes Top Spot

In BAL, GLP, NAS, News, PIT, Transactions on October 23, 2011 at 1:50 pm

The biggest question of the 2011 Rookie Draft was answered in mere moments – Skinner or Hall? The Nashville Knights went with Jeff Skinner, adding to an already deep corps of young forwards. The Great Lakes Pilots would make Taylor Hall the latest addition to the list of high-level draft-day bridesmaids.

Forwards Tyler Seguin (Winnipeg), Jordan Eberle (Ice Harbor), and Derek Stepan (Delta) rounded out the top 5. The first defensemen went sixth – Cam Fowler to the San Francisco Seals. Nashville took the first second goaltender at #21, sparking a run that resulted in netminders drafted in 7 of 20 second rounders.

The Baltimore Crab kicked the day off in a big way, dealing Evgeni Malkin (himself acquired on draft day last year), along with Cal O’Reilly and Bryan McCabe, to the Pittsburgh Hornets in exchange for all four of Pittsburgh’s picks in the draft. It meant that the Crab ended up making 7 selections on the day.

Other minor trades included Ice Harbor dealing its 3rd and 4th rounders to Denver for a 3rd rounder in 2012, and the Night Train shipping blueliner Filip Kuba to South Carolina for a 3rd and 4th.

Complete 2011 Rookie Draft Results

Round 1

1. Nashville F Jeff Skinner
2. Great Lakes F Taylor Hall
3. Winnipeg F Tyler Seguin
4. Ice Harbor F Jordan Eberle
5. Delta F Derek Stepan
6. San Francisco D Cam Fowler
7. Vancouver D Oliver Ekman-Larsson
8. Baltimore D Ryan McDonagh
9. Boston F Marcus Johansson
10. Baltimore (from Pittsburgh) F Nino Niederreiter
11. Denver D Kevin Shattenkirk
12. Sterling F Magnus Paajarvi
13. El Dorado F Alexander Burmistrov
14. Farmington F Cody Hodgson
15. South Carolina D Travis Hamonic
16. Charleston F Luke Adam
17. Saint Louis F Jacob Josefson
18. West Virginia F Nick Palmieri
19. Portland G James Reimer
20. Salem D Jonathon Blum

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The 4 Shortest Careers in League History

In CHA, PIT, Special Features, STE, STL on July 5, 2011 at 7:21 am

Blah-blah-blah-thousands. Blah-blah-blah-generational talent. We like to celebrate amazing careers and statistical milestones here. But what about the other end of the spectrum?

Here’s our look at the four shortest careers in Gump Worsley Memorial Hockey League history – careers that came and went in the time it takes for you to brush your teeth. Look at it as a celebration of incredible efficiency! Maybe these guys were all just really, really fast.


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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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