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Season Preview: Sawchuk West

In DEL, HAM, IHS, PWH, Special Features, VAN on October 11, 2018 at 8:48 am

In our fourth and final season preview, it’s time to look at the Sawchuk West, where big changes are afoot.

Check out the other previews:
Plante East
Plante West
Sawchuk East


Delta Sturgeon
Last Season’s Finish: 38-34-10 (6th in conference); missed playoffs
Notable Arrivals: F Jonathan Toews, D Jake Muzzin, D Zdeno Chara
Notable Departures: F Scott Hartnell, F Kris Versteeg, F J.T. Compher, D Cody Ceci

Wow! Sensing that its core — Nathan MacKinnon, Nikita Kucherov, Taylor Hall, and veteran Eric Staal — was on the cusp of becoming something truly special, the Sturgeon threw caution to the wind, dealing draft picks for the second straight season and acquiring the pieces it needed most: a faceoff guy (Toews), a puck-mover (Muzzin), and a stay-at-home beast (Chara). Mission accomplished. With a deep, if a bit workmanlike, blueline and the makings of a truly great goalie tandem in John Gibson and Antti Raanta, Delta has found itself in long-forgotten territory: contending not just for a playoff berth but for a championship. This is a roster with very few weaknesses. After missing the playoffs last year, the Sturgeon is about to become the league’s most improved team.

Verdict: Contender


Hamilton Ti-Cats
Last Season’s Finish: 42-35-5 (4th in conference); lost in 1st round
Notable Arrivals: F Mark Jankowski, F Blake Coleman, F Alex Iafallo
Notable Departures: D Mark Streit, D Toby Enstrom

The sign on the front door says ‘Under New Management’ and that may be the biggest difference for a team that’s contended for years without ever quite having enough for a championship. The team has stagnated badly over recent seasons as stars like Daniel Sedin and Henrik Zetterberg have aged. With those two nearing retirement, the Ti-Cats have two big factors keeping them in the playoff mix: a trio of star scorers in Claude Giroux, Patrick Kane, and Jakub Voracek, and one of the finest and most dangerous top-fours in the league in P.K. Subban, Roman Josi, Tyson Barrie, and T.J. Brodie. They weren’t able to add much besides bottom-sixers over the offseason, though, and if one of Corey Schneider or Keith Kinkaid can’t come through big, they may struggle. But a playoff spot is a safe bet for now.

Verdict: Playoffs


Ice Harbor Storm
Last Season’s Finish: 30-47-5 (8th in conference); missed playoffs
Notable Arrivals: F Alex DeBrincat, D Nick Leddy
Notable Departures: none

One of last season’s biggest mysteries was why the Storm were underperforming. On paper, they should have been vying for a playoff spot. In practice, they limped along to a terrible record, scored the second fewest goals in the league, and came up with another high draft pick. So is this the year they turn it all around? Once again, on paper, it’s hard to find glaring weaknesses in Ice Harbor’s lineup. And with just-drafted Alex DeBrincat, they addressed one of them: the need for a scorer who’d be hungry for goals. The Storm have, bar none, some of the best forward depth in the league, especially up the middle, where Kyle Turris and Mikael Backlund will be competing just for 4th line minutes. Blake Wheeler, Aleksander Barkov, Kris Letang, Rasmus Ristolainen… This team should be scoring plenty to support a still-solid Henrik Lundqvist. But that’s just on paper.

Verdict: Playoffs


Portland Winterhawks
Last Season’s Finish: 22-50-10 (9th in conference); missed playoffs
Notable Arrivals: F Pierre-Luc Dubois, F Jesper Bratt, F Riley Nash, F Mattias Janmark, G Michal Neuvirth
Notable Departures: F Luke Glendening, F Mark Letestu, F Dale Weise, D Radko Gudas, D Brandon Montour

The very definition of a bubble team, the Winterhawks followed up a surprisingly good ’16-’17 campaign with a disappointing one in ’17-’18 but have yet to throw in the towel and call rebuild. Last year’s acquisition of Phil Kessel, combined with the emergence of Brad Marchand and Artemi Panarin as top left-wingers, is a good base to build around. They parlayed the second overall pick into Pierre-Luc Dubois, who has a good shot at some top six time this season, and also drafted Jesper Bratt who will also be seeing GWMHL action. Still, the Hawks aren’t an especially deep team — David Krejci will be asked to do an awful lot as their top centre, and beyond Matt Niskanen the defense is a huge question mark, especially after the team flipped Brandon Montour for more forward help just prior to the season. They could sneak in, but will most likely find themselves out of the playoffs.

Verdict: Bubble


Vancouver Night Train
Last Season’s Finish: 42-30-10 (2nd in conference); lost in 2nd round
Notable Arrivals: F Denis Malgin, D Matt Grzelcyk, G David Rittich
Notable Departures: F Jonathan Toews, F Tomas Plekanec, F Johan Larsson, F Zack Kassian, D Alex Edler, D Kevan Miller, G Pekka Rinne

After making the postseason and taking the Boston Banshees to seven games in the Sawchuk Final, the Night Train made the surprising decision to commit to a rebuild. But did they go far enough? Vancouver brass has seemed reluctant to part ways with Mark Stone, Anders Lee, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and with Sergei Bobrovsky in goal, they’ll probably win a few. But with big gains coming from division rivals Delta and Ice Harbor, the Night Train chose to part ways with Rinne, Toews, Plekanec, and Edler. It’s a huge burden to put on the shoulders of young players Mathew BarzalThomas Chabot, and Shea Theodore, and the majority of the Train’s 2018 draftees are a season or three away. The loss of glue guys Shea Weber (to injury) and Toews will make them a lot easier to play against than in years past.

Verdict: Rebuilding

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Hischier, Dubois, McAvoy Headline 2018 Rookie Draft

In GLP, IHS, PWH, SJH, SSR, Transactions on September 16, 2018 at 2:30 pm

The 2018 GWMHL Rookie Draft is over, and 20 Gump franchises are returning to headquarters to count their winnings.

The draft got off to a stunning start with the announcement of several big trades (more on that to come), and then teams got down to business. South Side, owners of 4 first round picks after a dramatic sell-off extending through last season, picked Swiss phenom Nico Hischier first overall, while Portland also went for a future impact forward in Pierre-Luc Dubois. Charlie McAvoy was the first defenseman taken, by San Jose at #3, while Nolan Patrick (Great Lakes) and Alex DeBrincat (Ice Harbor) rounded out the top 5.

A goalie wouldn’t be taken until 24th overall, when the Pilots nabbed Thatcher Demko.

Along with Hischier, the Renegades scooped up forwards Anthony Cirelli at #9, Filip Chytil at #16, and Alex Formenton at #20.

Here are the full round-by-round results:

Round  1
 #     Overall #  Orig. Team  Curr. Team   Pick
 1             1         SSR         SSR   F Nico Hischier
 2             2         PWH         PWH   F Pierre-Luc Dubois
 3             3         SJH         SJH   D Charlie McAvoy
 4             4         GLP         GLP   F Nolan Patrick
 5             5         IHS         IHS   F Alex DeBrincat
 6             6         CHA         CHA   F Casey Mittelstadt
 7             7         PIT         PIT   F Eeli Tolvanen
 8             8         FFS         FFS   F Henrik Borgstrom
 9             9         EDH         SSR   F Anthony Cirelli
 10           10         DEL         WVR   F Owen Tippett
 11           11         WVR         SJH   F Kailer Yamamoto
 12           12         WPG         WPG   D Will Butcher
 13           13         ADI         ADI   F Jake DeBrusk
 14           14         HAM         HAM   F Lias Andersson
 15           15         VAN         VAN   F Martin Necas
 16           16         DEN         SSR   F Filip Chytil
 17           17         BAL         GLP   F Ryan Donato
 18           18         SAL         SAL   D Samuel Girard
 19           19         BOS         BOS   F Jordan Greenway
 20           20         PAR         SSR   F Alex Formenton

Check out rounds 2 through 4 after the jump!

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Playoff Preview: Conference Semis

In EDH, NAS, News, PWH, SAL, SCA, Special Features, STE, VAN, WVR on May 5, 2012 at 11:18 pm

Plante Conference Semifinals

#1 Salem Wannabees (54-16-12) vs. #4 South Carolina Fire Ants (34-40-8)

Another year, another Salem powerhouse. Once again, no team was better in the regular season – or even really very close. The Wannabees have it all: scoring, defense, goaltending. That’ll make for a tough slog for a plucky, often-undermanned South Carolina, whose sub-.500 record was still enough to snag the last playoff spot.

Season Series: Salem won 4-1-1

#2 Sterling Eagles (44-24-14) vs. #3 El Dorado Lynx (43-27-12)

This is the Eagles’ first playoff appearance since 2006-2007 and they have goaltending to thank for it. Tim Thomas will lead the way for a team that allowed just 157 goals during the regular season (no other team had fewer than 200). The Lynx, meanwhile, finished just four points back of Sterling, so it’ll be tight — especially if the ageless Teemu Selanne plays the way he did all year. Of note: both teams averaged under 2 goals per game against each other during the regular season, and they even played to a 0-0 tie.

Season Series: Tied 2-2-2

Sawchuk Conference Semifinals

#1 Vancouver Night Train (49-26-7) vs. #4 Nashville Knights (39-32-11)

After finishing with just 72 points last season, the Night Train bounced back and captured the conference crown, narrowly avoiding a first-round series against Portland. The Night Train weren’t exactly dominant all year but found a way to win, largely thanks to Jonathan Toews and a cast of clutch scorers. The question is, can Pekka Rinne get his act together? And will Nashville be able to overcome their paper-thin D, as they did for much of the season?

Season Series: Vancouver won 6-1-1

#2 West Virginia River Rats (46-27-9) vs. #3 Portland Winterhawks (45-29-8)

The two highest-scoring teams of the regular season [check Salem] go head-to-head in the opening round. Can the Winterhawks get their dynasty back on track against the reigning Gump Cup champs? Crosby, Thornton. Staal, Spezza. Perry, Iginla. Vanek, Kovalchuk. This should be fun for everyone but the goaltenders.

Season Series: West Virginia won 4-1-1

Playoff Picture Sharpens as Q3 Ends

In EDH, News, PWH, SAL, STE, VAN, WVR on March 26, 2012 at 1:40 pm

The third quarter is the books. Just 18 games remain in the regular season. The once-blurry playoff picture is starting to come into focus — and the big races have emerged.

Wannabees or the Real Thing?

The Salem Wannabees — last year’s Gump Cup also-rans — continued their ass-kicking play, going 16-2-6 for a healthy lead atop the standings. It’s a good thing, too, because they’re playing in what might be the GWMHL’s toughest divisions. The Sterling Eagles, for example, allowed just 43 goals this quarter, or 1.79 per game.

Lynx Vault into Contention

The El Dorado Lynx’s stellar 16-3-5 quarter separated them from the Pilots and Chiefs in the Plante West for second overall in the entire league.

Crosby Makes a Splash

Sidney Crosby finally saw his season debut for the defending champ West Virginia, and made a huge impression. With 46 points in 24 games, he led all scorers league-wide and propelled the River Rats to a great 15-5-4 record on the quarter.

Can Portland Get Its Groove Back?

Portland struggled on the quarter (10-12-2), giving the Vancouver Night Train an opening to pull away atop the Sawchuk West. In fact, if the playoffs started today, the Winterhawks would be on the outside looking in — they’re a point back of Saint Louis and just two ahead of Nashville.

Surprises Abound After Q1

In BOS, DEL, DEN, News, PWH, SAL, STE, WVR on December 23, 2011 at 2:12 pm

The first quarter of 2011-2012 is in the books, and what a wild one it was. Consensus contenders Salem and Portland had strong starts (13-5-2 and 10-7-3 respectively) but they’ve both been overshadowed in the early-going by some surprising competition.

Banshees, Eagles Fly

The Sterling Eagles and Boston Banshees, neither of whom managed to top .500 last season, share the lead in the standings with 14-5-1 records. The secret? Goaltending. Boston’s tandem of Henrik Lundqvist and newly-acquired Michal Neuvirth and Sterling’s Tim Thomas and Johan Hedberg are simply getting the job done.

Wannabees Can Still Score at Will

The Wannabees (13-5-2) are just a point off the pace and, incredibly, are averaging a whopping 4.5 goals per game and outshooting their opponents by 15. Last year’s Gump Cup runners-up might be ready to take another shot.

River Rats Tread Water

But maybe the biggest surprise is the poor record of Crosby-less defending champs West Virginia (9-8-3), putting them fourth in the Sawchuk East. With the offensive depth on this team, it’s a dismal start. Will Crosby’s eventual return get the Rats back in the running?

Power Outage in Denver

The Denver Spurs wrapped a disastrous 7-12-1 quarter, and it’s easy to see why: Matt Duchene leads the team in scoring with just 13 points in 20 games. Vincent Lecavalier has just 3 points in 10 and Mike Richards just 11 in 20.

Advantage… Sturgeon?

The Delta Sturgeon are off to a league-worst start (5-15-0), but would anyone have guessed this team would start the season with the league’s second-best powerplay? The unit, featuring the likes of Jarret Stoll and Andrew Ladd, is clicking at 27.1%, just .2% behind first-place Portland.

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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6 Most Surprising Pre-Season Cuts of 2011

In BAL, BOS, PWH, SAL, SFS, Special Features on November 22, 2011 at 2:29 pm

If you’re a GWMHL general manager bent on taking your team anyplace other than the golf course, you’ve got to make some hard choices as you try to shoehorn yourself in the league’s strict 28-man roster limit. Drop that draft choice before he’s ever sniffed the pro game? Let go of the fading vet?

This year, GMs have been particularly ruthless, jettisoning some good (well, mostly once-good) players in favor of the latest toys.

6. LW Kristian Huselius, cut by Salem – The Wannabees are deep up front and Huselius is battling serious injuries, so this is no huge shocker, but he’s still a one-time 50-goal scorer and a big contributor to Salem’s run to the finals in 2011. He was also a top-3 draft pick once upon a time – and not a very good one.

Year   Name                       GP    G    A  PTS  +/-  PIM
02-03  Vancouver Sea Otters       79   21   14   35  -10   28
03-04  Vancouver Sea Otters       78   28   21   49    7   20
04-06  Vancouver Sea Otters       44    1    2    3   -4   18
04-06  Montreal Smashers           9    1    1    2   -3    0
06-07  Salem Wannbees             78   22   20   42  -12   26
07-08  Salem Wannabees            81   50   51  101   63   24
08-09  Salem Wannabees            80   20   17   37    0   14
09-10  Salem Wannabees            37    8   12   20    7   18
10-11  Salem Wannabees            68   17   33   50   14   38
                  Totals         554  168  171  339   62  186

5. D Cody Franson, cut by San Francisco – Franson might not be a bluechipper anymore, but he’s in his early 20s and managed a whopping 42 points in 52 games last season, his rookie year. The writing was on the wall when the Seals drafted Cam Fowler and Alec Martinez.

Year   Name                       GP    G    A  PTS  +/-  PIM
10-11  Oregon Rugrats             52   12   30   42   12   16
                  Totals          52   12   30   42   12   16

4. LW Jason Blake, cut by Boston – Blake’s bounced around, but he’s got a pedigree that includes a 48-goal year in ’07-’08. He only managed 9 goals last season for the Banshees, who are fairly deep on the wings.

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The GWMHL Wants You!

In BOS, News, PWH, SAL, WIN on August 17, 2011 at 12:55 pm

The Gump Worsley Memorial Hockey League is looking to fill some ownership vacancies as we head into the 2011-2012 regular season! Read on to find out more…

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2010-2011 Milestone Roundup

In GLP, PWH, SFS, Special Features, WVR on June 16, 2011 at 5:34 pm

Today we wrap up our look at some of the individual milestones reached in 2010-2011.

Of course, Portland’s Jarome Iginla hit 500 goals and teammate Martin Brodeur became the all-time leader in career wins. But Iginla was, in fact, one of four players – along with fellow Winterhawk Joe Thornton, South Park’s Nicklas Lidstrom, and Oregon’Mike Modano – to crack 1000 career points this year.

In Lidstrom’s case, it’s especially noteworthy: he’s the all-time points leader for defensemen and is the first blueliner in league history to break 1000. He now sits at 1006 in his career and shows few signs of slowing down.

Meanwhile, it was a watershed moment when Ice Harbor’s Keith Tkachuk, the league’s leader in career goals and points, hung them up. He wasn’t the only retiree of note. The season also saw the swan song of West Virginia defenseman – and one-time Tkachuk teammate – Scott Niedermayer, who is second all-time in points for a defensemen with 885.

Recent Midland release Bill Guerin (446 career goals, 11th all-time), Delta’s Slava Kozlov (830 points, 20th all-time), and free agent Rod Brind’amour (952 points, 15th all-time) also announced their retirement. The Boston Banshees’ Paul Kariya – 10th all-time with 449 goals – is also likely going to hang them up.

Lots more all-time leaders, from the very best to disasters of Kent Mandervillian proportions, can be found here.

2011 Playoffs: Ding, Dong, the Hawks Are Dead

In News, PWH on June 3, 2011 at 8:07 am

One of the biggest questions heading into this post-season was who, if anyone, could do the impossible and unseat the Portland Winterhawks.

Winners of four straight Gump Cups, the ‘Hawks quietly put together another great regular season and looked poised to keep their dynasty going. Their scorers were clicking. Their blueline was about as good as it’s ever been. And they had Martin Brodeur.

That all came crashing down this week as the Winterhawks were ousted in the first round by the Sawchuk Conference’s bottom seed, the Farmington Fighting Saints.

It took six games – but the Saints won twice in Portland and made Brodeur look fallible. The winningest goalie in GWMHL history finished the series with horrible numbers, including a 4.87 GAA and a save percentage of just .835. Farmington’s netminding was no great shakes, either – it was a high-scoring series – but they got it where it counted. Mikael Samuelsson led the way with 9 goals, including a hat trick in the deciding game.

The Fighting Saints now await the winner of the other Sawchuk semifinal, either Saint Louis or West Virginia. And the Winterhawks have a long, long off-season to think about what went wrong. For the first time since 2006, the GWMHL will crown a new champ.

Click here to see all the latest 2011 playoff results!