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Recapping the Midseason Trades

In Uncategorized on January 22, 2023 at 11:47 am

The annual midseason trade deadline has come and gone, and although it was relatively quiet, a few teams making adjustments ahead of the season’s second half.

The Boston Banshees accounted for four of five transactions. First, the Banshees sent winger Jakub Voracek, defenseman Brian Dumoulin, and a third round pick to the Denver Spurs for forward Michael McLeod, defenseman Niko Mikkola and a second round pick. Next, the Banshees sent blueliner Jordan Harris to Parry Sound for defenseman Nate Schmidt and a fourth. Then Boston flipped newly acquired to Mikkola to the Delta Sturgeon for a fourth, only to send that pick right back to Delta in another deal, along with the Denver second and winger Kyle Palmieri, for wingers Yakov Trenin and Jakub Vrana.

Finally, in the one deal to not involve the Banshees at all, Great Lakes added winger Evgenii Dadonov from Parry Sound for a first round free agent pick in 2023.

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Storm Warning as Season Hits Midway Mark

In Uncategorized on January 9, 2023 at 2:27 pm

As the GWMHL season hits its middle, the Ice Harbor Storm (28-7-5) have taken sole possession of the league’s top spot, but the surging San Jose Hosers (29-10-1) are just two points back. The defending champion Adirondack Aces (26-11-3) have fallen to third place in an ultra-competitive Sawchuk Conference. In fact, the Plante’s top team, El Dorado (24-11-5), would barely be in fifth place if they switched conferences. Behind the Lynx are two surprise stories — the Denver Spurs (22-14-4) and the South Side Renegades (22-16-2).

As the first team to score over 200 goals on the year, San Jose is dominating the offensive categories — Hosers Steven Stamkos, Mitch Marner, and Nazem Kadri are 1-2-3 in the scoring race with 76, 72, and 71 points respectively, and teammate Charlie McAvoy leads all defensemen with 57 points. South Side freshman Trevor Zegras leads the rookie scoring race with 16 goals and 37 points, but Hershey’s Anton Lundell is also putting together a stunning rookie season with 19 goals in just 32 games thus far.

San Jose’s Igor Shesterkin is turning in one of the season’s best goaltending performances — despite facing over 40 shots per game, he’s managed a .920 save percentage, two shutouts, and 28 wins.

Defending Champs Start Season Strong

In Uncategorized on November 29, 2022 at 10:12 am

The Adirondack Aces, fresh off their Atkinson Cup win, started the season with an astonishing 17-3-0 record, the league’s best at the quarter pole, but they won’t be able to rest on their laurels. Sawchuk Conference rival Ice Harbor is just a point behind (16-3-1) and West Virginia‘s 15-5-0 record puts them within striking distance too.

The El Dorado Lynx‘s goalie shakeup is paying early dividends in the Plante Conference, as they lead with a 15-5-0 record, but it’s the next two spots — Denver at 13-6-1 and South Side at 10-8-2 — that are perhaps the most surprising, as perennial playoff teams like Salem and Baltimore had tough starts.

No team has scored more after 20 games than the new-look San Jose Hosers, who have managed 109 goals already in the young season. It’s no surprise, then, that Hosers occupy the top three scoring spots: Steven Stamkos (18 goals, 22 assists), Mitch Marner (14 goals, 22 assists), and Nazem Kadri (11 goals, 24 assists). Teammate Charlie McAvoy also leads all defensemen with a whopping 29 points in 20 games.

South Side’s Trevor Zegras leads all rookies so far with 9 goals and 8 assists. Fellow Renegade Connor Hellebuyck already has 3 shutouts — a big reason his team is in the early playoff hunt.

Season Preview: Sawchuk (part 2)

In Uncategorized on November 10, 2022 at 10:48 am

Here’s the fourth and final part of our GWMHL 2022-23 season preview. Check the rest out here: Plante (part 1), Plante (part 2), and Sawchuk (part 1).

Ice Harbor Storm

Last season: 45-30-7 (lost in first round)
Draft picks: D Scott Perunovich (18), F Bobby Brink (40), F Nicholas Abruzzese (62), D Kyle Capobianco (83)
Notable additions: D Caleb Jones
Notable subtractions: F Victor Rask, F Sam Carrick, D Kyle Capobianco, G Jonathan Bernier
Analysis: The Storm had a very good year in a stacked conference, making the playoffs and taking a strong Farmington squad to seven games before being eliminated. They were maybe the league’s most entertaining team, too, scoring the most goals by a comfortable margin while also allowing a ton of goals against. But even if young netminders Carter Hart and Spencer Knight remain enigmas, the team will likely give a lot of starts to Linus Ullmark, and he should be capable of stopping more rubber this year. Management made few offseason changes and seems confident that Ullmark will be the X factor that can take them to the next level. The Storm have an incredibly deep forward group, with plenty of big scorers — Jonathan Huberdeau, Matthew Tkachuk, Alex DeBrincat, and on and on — held together by strong two-way performers like Aleksander Barkov and Mikael Backlund. The team lacks high-end left-handed defensemen and likely too much will be asked of Nick Leddy and Mike Matheson, but that’s nothing new. If the team can get better goaltending, another playoff appearance is likely.
Outlook: Playoffs

Portland WinterHawks

Last season: 33-41-8 (missed playoffs)
Draft picks: F Dawson Mercer (8), D JJ Moser (30), F Jonathan Dahlen (52), Jacob Middleton (73)
Notable additions: F Jackson Cates, F Dawson Mercer, F Jonathan Dahlen, D JJ Moser, D Jacob Middleton
Notable subtractions: F Carl Hagelin, F Steven Lorentz, D Robert Hagg, D Michal Kempny, D Brendan Guhle
Analysis: They haven’t made any splashy trades so the WinterHawks have flown under the radar, but while you weren’t paying attention they assembled a mighty intriguing group of forwards to complement its two bonafide stars, Artemi Panarin and Brad Marchand. Jesper Bratt and Andrei Svechnikov are ready for the next level, Nick Suzuki and Pierre-Luc Duboic look good up the middle, and Ryan Hartman may have some untapped offense up his sleeve. Cam Talbot and Vitek Vanecek in goal? Neither is a world-beater, but they should be good enough. Now that the rest of the pieces are in place, though, it shines a light on Portland’s most glaring weakness, one the team has stubbornly resisted addressing: a blueline full of defensively responsible defenders but utterly lacking in offensive-minded puck-movers. Who’s running the powerplay? Justin Schultz? Brenden Dillon? Mario Ferraro? Rookie JJ Moser? Someone’s going to need to step up in a big way or the offense will die every time the puck lands on a defenseman’s stick. Apart from that, this looks like a playoff-calibre team on paper.
Outlook: Bubble

San Jose Hosers

Last season: 36-38-8 (missed playoffs)
Draft picks: D Thomas Harley (33), F Adam Beckman (55), D Artemi Kniazev (60), F Riley Damiani (76)
Notable additions: F Nazem Kadri, F Jeff Skinner, F Mats Zuccarello, F Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Notable subtractions: F Kevin Labanc, F Janne Kuokkanen, F Chris Tierney, F Tyler Bozak, D Gustav Lindstrom, G Laurent Brossoit, G Jaroslav Halak
Analysis: After looking playoff-ready for a couple of seasons but underperforming when it counts, the Hosers finally broke through, squeezing into the final berth in an expanded playoff field. They made it 7 games against Vancouver before being sent home, but it was a positive first step and enough motivation for management to take a big offseason swing for the fences: a monster trade that saw the Hosers part ways with two first rounders to acquire veteran forwards Nazem Kadri, Mats Zuccarello, and Jeff Skinner. All three will be key to the Hosers’ fortunes in the absence of Jack Eichel, who’s expected to miss more than half the season to injury. Along with Mitch Marner, Steven Stamkos, John Tavares, and Gabriel Landeskog, they form a wonderful core up front. The defense, led by Charlie McAvoy and Cam Fowler, is certainly deep enough for the postseason too. But the biggest factor, the one that would make anything less than a playoff berth a supreme disappointment, is goalie Igor Shesterkin, now unquestionably the team’s starter and clearly capable of putting the team on his back. The pieces are in place now. Failure is not an option. If this San Jose team had a longer playoff pedigree, they might even be considered Atkinson Cup contenders.
Outlook: Playoffs

Vancouver Night Train

Last season: 53-23-6 (lost in third round)
Draft picks: F Lukas Reichel (20), D Philip Broberg (34), F Samuel Fagemo (53), G Justus Annunen (64), F Egor Sokolov (85)
Notable additions: F Andreas Athanasiou, D Philip Broberg, G Spencer Martin
Notable subtractions: F Ryan Poehling, F Luke Kunin, F Kyle Palmieri, F Klim Kostin, D Shea Weber, G Michael Hutchinson
Analysis: The Night Train got career seasons from Connor Brown (with a mind-boggling 70 goals) and Mark Stone (whose 80 assists topped the league), who formed a dominant first line with Elias Lindholm and led the team to a 53-win season. It was still only good enough for third in the highly competitive Sawchuk, but Vancouver also had a strong postseason, bouncing San Jose and West Virginia before falling to Adirondack in a tight game 7 in the conference final. Now, a major correction is looming. Stone is hurt. Brown will inevitably fall back to earth. Even if Lindholm and Mat Barzal can maintain a high level of play, and Jordan Kyrou and Andrew Mangiapane pick up some offensive slack, there’s no replacement for that Stone/Brown magic, no more hotshot rookies in the pipeline, and the team just isn’t as deep as it was last season. That said, the defense — featuring by Thomas Chabot, Shea Theodore, two-way Mackenzie Weegar, and defensive specialist Adam Pelech — stacks up well against the rest of the conference, even with the retirement of career Night Train Shea Weber, and Tristan Jarry has the ability to turn in a strong season under the right circumstances. But in the Sawchuk meat grinder, that’s probably not enough unless a couple of teams fall on their faces.
Outlook: Bubble

West Virginia River Rats

Last season: 54-23-5 (lost in second round)
Draft picks: F Gabriel Fortier (72), F Jake Leschyshyn (86)
Notable additions: F Jonathan Toews, F Sean Couturier, D Morgan Rielly, D Ryan Ellis, G Cayden Primeau
Notable subtractions: F Jason Spezza, F Travis Zajac, F Gabriel Vilardi, F Alexandre Texier, F Jansen Harkins, D Pierre-Olivier Joseph, G Brian Elliott
Analysis: The River Rats seemed destined for a finals appearance after a great regular season but couldn’t make it past Vancouver in the second round. They responded by loading up their stacked roster even more, and on paper they’re clearly one of the league’s best teams. Jonathan Toews, acquired from Delta, isn’t the force he once was, but he’ll be a boon to the Rats’ bottom six, and the surprise pickup of Morgan Rielly late in the offseason gives them an offensive weapon on a blueline that already boasted Dougie Hamilton and Jakob Chychrun, allowing workhorse Jaccob Slavin to forcus on defense. Pavel Francouz has returned from injury to back up Juuse Saros, and that’s a big improvement over Brian Elliott. But this team lives or dies on the strength of its forwards, and what a group that is: Leon Draisaitl, Jake Guentzel, Sebastian Aho, the ageless Joe Pavelski, Patrik Laine, Brock Nelson, Nikolaj Ehlers… and now Jack Hughes poised to take a big step forward? Look out. This is the kind of roster that should strike fear in the heart of any opponent, even fellow contenders.
Outlook: Contender

Season Preview: Sawchuk (part 1)

In Uncategorized on November 9, 2022 at 12:05 pm

The third of our four-part series previewing the 2022-23 GWMHL season turns to the Sawchuk Conference, home of the defending champs — and another of contenders for the throne.

Adirondack Aces

Last season: 57-20-5 (won Atkinson Cup)
Draft picks: G Daniil Tarasov (22), D Vladislav Kolyachonok (44), F Alexei Toropchenko (66)
Notable additions: G Casey DeSmith, G Jaroslav Halak
Notable subtractions: F James Neal, F Drew O’Connor, D Sean Walker, D Ethan Bear, G Jaroslav Halak
Analysis: The Aces cruised to first overall with a commanding 57 wins, but their postseason opponents made them work for the championship as Adirondack went to seven games in all three of its series, culminating in a storybook Atkinson Cup just one year after they finished dead last in the league. The rise to dominance came faster than anyone expected, but when you look at the team’s construction it isn’t really that surprising. Patrice Bergeron is still probably the league’s best defensive forward, Semyon Varlamov turned in a very good performance all season long, and then you’ve got the X factor of Kirill Kaprizov, whose 89 points was best of the rookie class. He was a big boost to a potent offense that already featured Johnny Gaudreau, Chris Kreider, and Roope Hintz. This is a lineup with very few weaknesses — forward depth to burn, a defense that will benefit from the emergence of Noah Dobson and Gustav Forsling (now there was a shrewd acquisition!) in the absence of injured Drew Doughty, and Varlamov is joined by Kaapo Kahkonen and Casey DeSmith for a solid trio in goal. A repeat is far from a sure thing, but last year was no fluke. The Aces will contend.
Outlook: Contender

Boston Banshees

Last season: 29-42-11 (missed playoffs)
Draft picks: F Matty Beniers (7), Philip Tomasino (21), D Alex Vlasic (47), D Jordan Harris (51), D Alexander Alexeyev (69), F Brayden Tracey (75)
Notable additions: F Jakub Voracek, F Zach Hyman, F Reilly Smith, F Scott Laughton, F Kyle Palmieri, F Erik Haula, F Philip Tomasino, F Alexandre Texier, D Ryan Pulock, D Brian Dumoulin, D Pierre-Olivier Joseph, D Alec Regula, D Alex Vlasic
Notable subtractions: F Brock Boeser, F Sean Couturier, F Filip Chytil, F Charlie Coyle, F Andreas Athanasiou, F Andreas Johnsson, F Danton Heinen, F Julien Gauthier, D Dante Fabbro, D Ryan Ellis, D Logan Stanley, D Nicolas Beaudin, D Alec Martinez, D Niko Mikkola, G Cayden Primeau, G Stuart Skinner, G Matt Murray
Analysis: Ah, the Banshees. Always in the middle of all the offseason action. Last season, Boston embraced a retool and came away with the 7th overall pick. Matty Beniers won’t be ready to join the big club yet, but a dozen or so other new faces, mostly acquired through a flurry of trades, will. That list includes wingers Jakub Voracek, Zach Hyman, and Reilly Smith, who will all be key parts of a lineup that’s now built upon its top three centres, Mika Zibanejad, Robert Thomas, and Tage Thompson, the latter two of whom seem especially poised for a big breakout year. The Banshee’s blueline is as strong as ever, especially with the additions of veterans Ryan Pulock and Brian Dumoulin, and Ilya Sorokin should be able to hold things down in goal. It’s always possible the lineup won’t gel when it counts, but on paper, Boston fans will find their team right back in the playoff mix, with an outside shot of going deep.
Outlook: Playoffs

Clarington Coyotes

Last season: 13-60-9 (missed playoffs)
Draft picks: D Moritz Seider (1), F Seth Jarvis (3), F Alexander Holtz (11), F Cole Perfetti (17), G Mads Sogaard (67)
Notable additions: F Filip Chytil, F Denis Gurianov, F Ryan Poehling, F Janne Kuokkanen, F Chris Tierney, D Gustav Lindstrom, G Eric Comrie
Notable subtractions: F Nazem Kadri, F Vladimir Tarasenko, F Jeff Skinner, F Mats Zuccarello, F Scott Laughton, F Tanner Pearson, F Vitaly Abramov, F Tyler Benson, F Mitchell Stephens, F Jake Virtanen, D Sebastian Aho, D Cale Fleury, D Gustav Lindstrom, D Brendan Smith, G Sergei Bobrovsky
Analysis: Next to Denver, the Clarington Coyotes might have had the most daring offseason. They looked at a roster that could actually have had a shot, if a distant one, at a playoff spot, and decided to blow it all up instead. That meant trading away most of a solid top six — Kadri, Tarasenko, Zuccarello, Skinner — and a good starter in Bobrovsky to set the team up for the future with three additional first rounders to go along with the number one pick overall. The huge draft haul that followed included defenseman Moritz Seider and forwards Seth Jarvis, Cole Perfetti, and Alexander Holtz. Seider and Jarvis will join the team right away, and remaining veteran netminded Jacob Markstrom has the ability to steal them a few games, but otherwise Clarington is going to be spending at least another year in the basement as they rely on the offensive wizardry of Jeff Carter and Artturi Lehkonen. It won’t be pretty but it’s probably the best move.
Outlook: Rebuilding

Delta Sturgeon

Last season: 34-42-6 (missed playoffs)
Draft picks: F Hendrix Lapierre (23), F JJ Peterka (25), D Braden Schneider (29), F Alex Turcotte (31), F Yegor Chinakhov (32), F Aliaksei Protas (43), F Logan Brown (65), F Joe Snively (74)
Notable additions: F Sam Steel, F Eric Robinson, F Dustin Brown, D Dante Fabbro, D Logan Stanley
Notable subtractions: F Evander Kane, F Taylor Hall, F Zach Hyman, F Jonathan Toews, F Erik Haula, F Liam Foudy, F Tyler Johnson, F Joe Snively, F Blake Comeau, D Ryan Pulock, D Colin Miller, D Erik Gustafsson
Analysis: Following a rough 2021-22 season that saw them miss the playoffs, and looking at an aging and injury-riddled lineup, Delta management said ‘nope’. The Sturgeon purge meant parting ways with Kane, Hall, Hyman, Toews, and Pulock for a heap of second round picks, and they’ll have to hope that they hit a few bullseyes as they try to rebuild the roster while its remaining core — Nathan MacKinnon, Aaron Ekblad, Nikita Kucherov — are still playing good hockey. MacKinnon, especially, is the bedrock on which the team will be built, alongside goalie Jake Oettinger, who cost them their 2022 first but already seems ready to take over from John Gibson. The team still has Colton Parayko and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, too — but after that it’s thin gruel. Delta fans can expect to see a lot of Corey Perry, Yakov Trenin, and Pius Suter in what promises to be a very long year.
Outlook: Rebuilding

Farmington Fighting Saints

Last season: 50-23-9 (lost in second round)
Draft picks: F William Eklund (19), D Ryan Merkley (41), D Robin Salo (63), F Cole Schwindt (84)
Notable additions: D Mark Giordano, D Trevor Van Riemsdyk, G Charlie Lindgren
Notable subtractions: F Cody Eakin, F Henrik Borgstrom, D Niklas Hjalmarsson, D Oscar Klefbom, D Nikolai Knyzhov, D Nikita Zaitsev, G Pekka Rinne
Analysis: The Fighting Saints got eliminated by the eventual champs in the second round, but this is a team with the potential to make an even stronger run this year. The team had a fairly quiet offseason until the acquisition of veteran defenseman Mark Giordano just ahead of the preseason trade freeze, a move that sneakily addressed a big need on the blueline. Up front, the Saints have one of the league’s deepest forward groups, led by Mikko Rantanen, JT Miller, Kevin Fiala, and young Josh Norris, and Giordano joins John Carlson, Devon Toews, and Vince Dunn on an above-average blueline. This team will be able to generate scoring opportunities whichever line or pairing is on the ice — a must for any true GWMHL contender. Where they’re weakest is in goal. Robin Lehner will likely see the most starts, but can Ilya Samsonov hold down the fort as backup? Even if third-stringer Logan Thompson plays well, it’s a long 82 games and the Saints may find themselves having to outscore their flaws. The team is equipped to do exactly that, but for now that’s the only thing keeping this team from being a clear contender.
Outlook: Playoffs

Hamilton Ti-Cats

Last season: 34-38-10 (missed playoffs)
Draft picks: F Jake Neighbours (10)
Notable additions: F Taylor Hall, F Andreas Johnsson, F Danton Heinen, G Matt Murray, G Sam Montembeault
Notable subtractions: F Sam Steel, F Jakub Voracek, F Nick Cousins, D PK Subban, G Joonas Korpisalo
Analysis: The Ti-Cats turned heads early in the offseason when they acquired Taylor Hall, then again late in the offseason when they sent longtime winger Jakub Voracek packing — perhaps a lateral move. In any case, what the team lacks in sheer goal-scoring star power it makes up in depth, with the ability to roll four lines that can hurt you, led by Claude Giroux, Bryan Rust, Joel Eriksson Ek, young Cole Caufield, and now Hall. Its blueline was once one of the league’s most feared, and while it isn’t quite the same powerhouse it once was, it has one of the deadliest weapons in the GWMHL in Roman Josi fronting a deep group. James Reimer is the nominal starter and a good one at that, but his main backup, Sam Montembeault, is a lot shakier. Ultimately, as the balance of power in the Sawchuk begins to shift, Hamilton may be the toughest team to pin down. It feels like a playoff team, but can it keep up with possible big risers like San Jose, let alone powerhouses like West Virginia and Adirondack?
Outlook: Bubble

Season Preview: Plante (part 2)

In Uncategorized on November 8, 2022 at 1:19 pm

Our preview of the 2022-23 season continues with the second half of the Plante Conference.

Parry Sound Orrsmen

Last season: 29-42-11 (missed playoffs)
Draft picks: F Matt Boldy (6), D Sean Durzi (28), D Nils Lundkvist (59), G Nico Daws (71)
Notable additions: F Matt Boldy, F Gabriel Vilardi, F Vinnie Hinostroza, D Sean Durzi, D Jan Rutta, G Nico Daws, G Stuart Skinner
Notable subtractions: F Patric Hornqvist, F Alexander Radulov, D Brian Dumoulin, D Ilya Lyubushkin, D Haydn Fleury, D Nick Holden, G Martin Jones
Analysis: The slow-moving roller coaster continues for the Orrsmen, who seemed so close to contending before crashing back to earth in recent seasons. But the team’s fortunes may be improving once more, helped along by a strong 2022 rookie crop as both Matt Boldy and Sean Durzi figure to step right into the lineup. The Orrsmen’s strengths remain haven’t changed much over the years, especially down the middle where McDavid and Matthews are joined by Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tim Stutzle, and a good group of wingers led by David Pastrnak. The defense is a little better now, too, especially if one of Justin Faulk or Nate Schmidt can step up with good powerplay numbers. Goaltending is once again going to be this team’s Achilles’ heel, though, as it seems they’ll be entering the season with the sketchy platoon of Thomas Greiss, Dan Vladar, and Nico Daws, along with a few games from newly acquired Stuart Skinner. They can outscore some of their problems, no doubt, but without better netminding, this team isn’t likely playoff-bound. It’s probably not far from it, though.
Outlook: Bubble

Pittsburgh Hornets

Last season: 38-35-9 (lost in first round)
Draft picks: F Marco Rossi (13), G Lukas Dostal (35), D Jordan Spence (54), F Pavel Dorofeyev (59), D Reilly Walsh (78)
Notable additions: F Charlie Coyle, F Matt Nieto, D Nicolas Beaudin
Notable subtractions: F Reilly Smith, F Ryan Dzingel, F Sam Gagner, F Alex Galchenyuk, F Daniel Sprong, G Anton Khudobin, G Petr Mrazek
Analysis: The Hornets’ fortunes have risen and fallen quite a bit in recent seasons, partly due to shaky goaltending, but the Khudobin/Mrazek era is officially over and Pittsburgh finally has a promising if inexperienced duo in Jeremy Swayman and Ville Husso to feel good about. Some of its younger wingers — first the more established Timo Meier, and now Jason Robertson and Troy Terry — are also showing signs of becoming true impact players, and suddenly the future is looking brighter than ever. Sure, Swayman has zero GWMHL experience and they’ll have to play Victor Hedman on his weak side to ice a full defense corps. (But what a corps!) And yeah, the age-old problem of what to do when Evgeni Malkin inevitably misses a bunch of games to injury is still a major concern, with the team only having acquired Charlie Coyle to help out Strome. But despite that, this is a team with a ton of potential on the cusp of being realized, and is poised to not only make the postseason but potentially win a round or two.
Outlook: Playoffs

Salem Sabercats

Last season: 40-31-11 (lost in second round)
Draft picks: F Jack Quinn (15), D Justin Barron (37), G Pyotr Kochetkov (58), F Jacob Peterson (80)
Notable additions: F Jacob Peterson
Notable subtractions: F Paul Byron, F Adam Gaudette, F Kristian Vesalainen, F Jaret Anderson-Dolan
Analysis: The Sabercats are coming off a pretty good season, even if they aren’t an unbeatable dynasty anymore, as they finished third in the conference and won a playoff round before being eliminated by Charleston in its surge to the Atkinson Cup final. Salem’s most important skaters — Patrick Kane, Anze Kopitar, and Alex Pietrangelo — can still perform at a high level, and their secondary depth, led by Logan Couture and Bo Horvat, is excellent. Gustav Nyquist’s return from a long-term injury won’t hurt, either, although they do lack a true sniper up front and Nyquist isn’t it. The Sabercats’ goaltending duo of Frederik Andersen and Marc-Andre Fleury has long been one of the league’s best, with one guy ready to step in with top-flight play if the other falters, and that should be no different this year. Despite age turning Duncan Keith and Anton Stralman into roleplayers and the fact that Salem hasn’t made an impact addition in a while, there’s no real reason to expect this team to regress much. It will be in the mix.
Outlook: Playoffs

South Side Renegades

Last season: 23-52-7 (missed playoffs)
Draft picks: F Mason McTavish (4), F Noah Cates (24), F Fabian Zetterlund (46), F Jack McBain (68), F Brandon Duhaime (70)
Notable additions: F Brandon Duhaime, F Luke Kunin, D Marc Staal, D Brett Kulak
Notable subtractions: F Noel Acciari, F Zemgus Girgensons, F Tyler Pitlick, F Michael Raffl, F Austin Watson, D Dylan DeMelo, D Ville Heinola, D Victor Soderstrom
Analysis: The league’s second worst team last season might finally be ready to turn a corner. Its young forward core of Dylan Larkin, Trevor Zegras, Brady Tkachuk, and Nico Hischier has been developing nicely, and they’re complemented by Anthony Cirelli, Joel Farabee, a healthy Teuvo Teravainen, and an Andrew Copp who may yet have an unexplored offensive dimension to his game. Even with 4th overall pick Mason McTavish a year away, that’s a solid group with potential to turn some heads. The duo of Connor Hellebuyck and Scott Wedgewood is probably good enough in goal to win some games, and the team has some strong defensive d-men to help them out. The Renegades lack offensive pop on the blueline after Seth Jones, however, and much will be asked of Vladislav Gavrikov as the team’s top left-handed defenseman. Despite that, it seems impossible that this is still a bottom-three team. Playoffs? Not so likely, but stranger things have happened.

Outlook: Bubble

Winnipeg Falcons

Last season: 30-47-5 (missed playoffs)
Draft picks: D Owen Power (2), D Dylan Samberg (27), F Jack Drury (50), F Brett Leason (88)
Notable additions: F Brett Leason, F Marcus Johansson, F Pat Maroon, D Chris Wideman
Notable subtractions: F Sammy Blais, F Morgan Geekie, F Zack Kassian, F Martin Frk, D Will Butcher, D Victor Mete, D Tucker Poolman
Analysis: The Falcons were the big draft lottery winners, climbing to second overall where they were able to select defenseman Owen Power. He’s a year away, but it answered a major organizational need that’s dogged this team for years — Ryan Suter’s star is fading fast and Jamie Drysdale isn’t quite there yet, although he may see top-pairing ice time this year out of necessity. Until Power can join the team, it will likely be a rocky go of it for Winnipeg fans, however. The Falcons have had terrible injury luck in recent years, and this time it’s top winger Max Pacioretty who’s looking to miss a good chunk of the season. After him, Elias Pettersson is a fine centerpiece, although Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and Mike Hoffman are all in various stages of decline. The Falcons are looking strongest in goal, where the trio of Darcy Kuemper, Elvis Merzlikins, and Jake Allen should be just fine. But a lack of (healthy) scoring depth both up front and on the blueline will likely sink the team’s playoff chances this year.
Outlook: Rebuilding

Season Preview: Plante (part 1)

In Uncategorized on November 7, 2022 at 2:21 pm

As 22 teams get ready to begin the 2022-23 GWMHL season, here’s part one of our look at what’s changed — and what hasn’t — around the league, starting with the first half of the Plante Conference.

Baltimore Crab

Last season: 42-35-5 (lost in third round)
Draft picks: F Vasily Podkolzin (14), D Lassi Thomson (36), G Karel Vejmelka (57), D Egor Zamula (79)
Notable additions: F Vasily Podkolzin, G Karel Vejmelka
Notable subtractions: F Rocco Grimaldi, D Sami Vatanen, D Lawrence Pilut
Analysis: There have been bumps in the road for the Crab since they were crowned league champs in 2016, but they remain a team that can do some damage. That was especially apparent in this spring’s playoffs, in which Pavel Buchnevich and Sidney Crosby led all playoff scorers with 35 and 33 points respectively, despite the team being eliminated in the conference final. They also got an elite performance from Cale Makar, who may already be the team’s best player and is joined by two more lethal right defensemen in Brent Burns and Tony DeAngelo. Looking ahead, the biggest question marks surround Philipp Grubauer and his ability to repeat last year’s solid numbers. Baltimore drafted goalie Karel Vejmelka and also have Mikko Koskinen ready to go, but that trio doesn’t inspire all that much confidence. The team is committed to last year’s roster and will be in the playoff mix.
Outlook: Playoffs

Charleston Chiefs

Last season: 43-30-9 (lost in Atkinson Cup final)
Draft picks: F Cole Sillinger (16), F Nathan Smith (38), F Sampo Ranta (61), G Ivan Prosvetov (81)
Notable additions: F Brock Boeser, F Cole Sillinger, F Jansen Harkins, D Josh Brown
Notable subtractions: F Tomas Nosek, F Arttu Ruotsalainen, D Morgan Rielly, D Alec Regula, G Jonathan Quick
Analysis: The 2021-22 season was a miracle for the Charleston Chiefs, who — against all the odds — finished second in the conference, then stormed through Salem and Baltimore en route to the Atkinson Cup final, where they pushed the eventual champ Adirondack to seven games. That’s going to be a tough act to follow. Many of the things that made the Chiefs successful are still in place — Adam Fox finished tied for 3rd in the league with 76 assists, and William Nylander and Brayden Point are a good foundation up front, but there are two wild cards. One, winger Dominik Kubalik turned in a 91-point season and any regression will hurt Charleston up front. Maybe newly acquired winger Brock Boeser can fill that gap, but to what degree? Two, after the Chiefs shipped longtime starter Jonathan Quick off to El Dorado, it left their goal in the hands of Kevin Lankinen, Alexandar Georgiev, and Anthony Stolarz. Lankinen had 25 wins and 4 shutouts last season, but actually didn’t play all that well, finishing with a .900 save percentage. The Chiefs were able to outscore their problems, but that will be hard to do for a second year running. When the Chiefs dealt Morgan Rielly away for futures, it signalled that management probably thinks the same way.
Outlook: Bubble

Denver Spurs

Last season: 24-50-8 (missed playoffs)
Draft picks: none
Notable additions: F Vladimir Tarasenko, F Evander Kane, F Tanner Pearson, D Alec Martinez, D Nikko Mikkola, D Erik Johnson, D Marc-Edouard Vlasic, D Simon Benoit, G Erik Kallgren
Notable subtractions: F Cal Clutterbuck, F Matt Calvert, F Nathan Bastian, F Dominik Kahun, F Joakim Nordstrom, D Andrej Sekera, D Michael Del Zotto
Analysis: The team with the league’s third worst record went into the rookie draft with zero picks — a risky proposition, but also familiar territory for the Spurs, who have taken similar big swings in the past to land star players. This time the additions were wingers Vladimir Tarasenko, Evander Kane and change. There’s zero question that the roster looks miles better than it has in several seasons, but will it be enough to lift Denver out of the basement? With Kane expected to miss a good chunk of the season, the team is thin on the left wing, and at centre their top guy might be JG Pageau. On defense, despite the free agent additions of vets Erik Johnson and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, there’s a lack of minute-eating left-handed blueliners.  Even with the solid tandem of Jack Campbell and Binnington in goal, this may prove to be another season in limbo for the Spurs, but they’ll likely improve on last year.
Outlook: Bubble

El Dorado Lynx

Last season: 44-29-9 (lost in second round)
Draft picks: F Kent Johnson (9), D Dysin Mayo (39), F Jacob Perreault (45), G Hugo Alnefelt (82)
Notable additions: F Derek Stepan, D Dysin Mayo, D Luke Schenn, D Dylan DeMelo, G Jonathan Quick, G Sergei Bobrovsky
Notable subtractions: F Denis Gurianov, F Johan Larsson, F Riley Sheahan, D Marc Staal, D Olli Juolevi, D Jacob Larsson, G Carey Price, G Tuukka Rask, G Dustin Tokarski
Analysis: The 2021 champs finished atop the Plante once again but failed to win another title as they were bounced by Baltimore in the conference semifinals. It maked the end of an era, as the Lynx moved on from one of the league’s all-time greatest goaltending tandems in Carey Price and Tuukka Rask and acquired Sergei Bobrovsky and Jonathan Quick in separate deals. They also snagged a bluechip prospect in Kent Johnson thanks to a 2021 draft day trade with Delta that left them with the 9th overall pick. Johnson isn’t going to make an impact this season, but it doesn’t matter — the Lynx have excellent depth up front, led by shooters Alex Ovechkin and Kyle Connor, and a strong supporting cast. Mason Marchment looks poised to break out, which will give them even more options. The Bobrovsky/Quick tandem is intriguing and should be able to hold it down, and while it seems inevitable that Jeff Petry won’t repeat his miraculous 95-point season, which would leave the Lynx without a big-scoring defender, their blueline corps is pretty solid top to bottom now. This team will once again compete for the Plante title.
Outlook: Contender

Great Lakes Pilots

Last season: 27-46-9 (missed playoffs)
Draft picks: F Lucas Raymond (5), F Thomas Bordeleau (26), F Matias Maccelli (48)
Notable additions: F Lucas Raymond, F Zach Parise
Notable subtractions: F Nolan Patrick, F Milan Lucic, F Alex Chiasson, D Troy Stecher
Analysis: After watching top picks like Jesse Puljujarvi and now-released Nolan Patrick falter and enduring the rather slow development of Barrett Hayton and Quinton Byfield, the Pilots selected a sure thing in Lucas Raymond with their 5th overall pick, and the winger will likely step right onto the first line with Tomas Hertl and…someone…else? What the Pilots have going for them — maybe to their detriment if it means dropping draft position — is goaltending, with Andrei Vasilevskiy and Thatcher Demko forming an elite duo. And as Evan Bouchard develops, it should mean a pretty strong blueline alongside Rasmus Dahlin and Jacob Trouba. If only a few forward prospects would take big leaps forward, things would be looking rosier. In the meantime, this is a team that will win a few on goaltending alone and otherwise likely won’t sniff the postseason.
Outlook: Rebuilding

Hershey Bears

Last season: 36-37-9 (lost in first round)
Draft picks: F Anton Lundell (12), D Nick Blankenburg (42), F Taylor Raddysh (56), G Arvid Soderblom (77)
Notable additions: F Anton Lundell, F Taylor Raddysh, F Liam Foudy, D Ilya Lyubushkin, D Will Borgen, D Colin Miller, D Jalen Chatfield
Notable subtractions: F Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, F Eric Robinson, F Dustin Brown, F Jesper Boqvist, D Mark Giordano, D Danny DeKeyser, D Patrik Nemeth
Analysis: The expansion Bears made the postseason in their inaugural season. Sure, the expanded playoff format helped, but so did the fact that Hershey finished tied for the lowest goals against in the league. Chris Driedger was excellent all year, finishing with 4 shutouts and a .923 save percentage. Whether the Bears can make another run at the playoffs hinges on goaltending — can deadline acquisition Cal Petersen take the reins if Driedger falters or is injured? What about Antti Raanta? It’s a trio with a lot of question marks. Beyond that, Hershey still has the elements that made it a success last year, with bargain basement finds like Chandler Stephenson, Carter Verhaeghe, Adam Henrique, and Valeri Nichushkin joined by first round draft pick Anton Lundell in a balanced if unspectacular forward group, and Brady Skjei, Dmitry Orlov, and Kevin Shattenkirk able to run things from the blueline. A bubble team that may find itself competing for a second postseason berth or throwing in the towel and trading for futures.
Outlook: Bubble

Denver Acquires Evander Kane from Delta

In Uncategorized on August 2, 2022 at 8:17 am

The Denver Spurs have made another splash, acquiring winger Evander Kane from the rebuilding Delta Sturgeon. In return, the Sturgeon receive a pair of 2nd round rookie picks — Clarington’s (23rd overall) and Denver’s (25th).

Delta drafted Kane 7th overall in 2010 and he’s since played in 783 games over 12 seasons. In fact, last season was his most productive as he lead the team in goals with 31 and finished second in points with 75 in 82 games.

Delta Trades Hall, Haula

In Uncategorized on August 1, 2022 at 11:59 am

In separate deals, the Delta Sturgeon have shipped out too more veterans. First, the Sturgeon sent winger Taylor Hall, who had 61 points in 78 games in his fifth season with the franchise, to conference rival Hamilton in exchange for the Ti-Cats’ second round pick, 32nd overall. The second move saw them trade centre Erik Haula to the Boston Banshees for young defenseman Logan Stanley and a 3rd rounder.

Hall and Haula join Jonathan Toews, Zach Hyman and Ryan Pulock as casualties of the Sturgeon’s offseason housecleaning following a disappointing season and in the face of an injury-riddled 2022-23.

Denver Deals 3rd Overall Pick in Blockbuster

In Uncategorized on August 1, 2022 at 11:55 am

The Denver Spurs shocked the GWMHL this week when they traded the 3rd overall pick in the upcoming rookie draft to the Clarington Coyotes in a win-now move that netted wingers Vladimir Tarasenko and Tanner Pearson plus Clarington’s 2nd round pick, 23rd overall.

An injury-hampered Tarasenko had 20 points in 31 games last year, while Pearson scored 15 goals in 75 games. For Clarington, the benefits are obvious. On paper, the team has the veteran depth to win more games this year, but with the 1st overall pick already, the Coyotes have an opportunity to add two elite talents in September. For Denver, who add Tarasenko to a packed right wing corps that already features Matt Duchene, Tom Wilson, and Cam Atkinson, it seems to signal a desire to shoot for the playoffs while Jordan Binnington and Erik Karlsson have gas in the tank. Unless they make more deals, for the fourth time in six years, the Spurs will go without a first round pick.

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