2019-20 WHL Season Review: East Division


This is the primary in a five-part collection that may run over the course of the week as we recap the shortened 2019-20 Western Hockey League marketing campaign.

In addition to trying over every workforce within the division, Daily Herald sports activities reporter Lucas Punkari will focus on how proper or how incorrect he was in his pre-season assessments and what the longer term holds for all 22 golf equipment.

Ryder Korczak (Robert Murray/WHL)

Moose Jaw Warriors (14-44-Four-Zero – Sixth Place in East Division – Missed Playoffs for the primary time since 2015)

What I Predicted:

Best Case Scenario

Brayden Tracey and Daemon Hunt put the workforce on their again with spectacular sophomore campaigns and the workforce will get an added enhance when a wholesome Adam Evanoff arrives after Christmas. Thanks to these three gamers, and a few shock breakout performances, the Warriors sneak their approach into the playoffs as a wild card.

Worst Case Scenario

Evanoff misses your entire marketing campaign on account of his hip harm and the backend is a whole mess aside from Hunt. Tracey is dealt in January within the hopes of including property that had been misplaced within the 2018 run and the Warriors miss the playoffs for the primary time since 2015, which ends up in a training change. There is one constructive, nevertheless, because the Warriors nonetheless have their 2020 first spherical decide and find yourself successful the Connor Bedard sweepstakes.

What Actually Happened:

The Warriors had a strong begin to the marketing campaign however every part went pear-shaped after a 7-Three street loss to the Swift Current Broncos in the midst of November. Hunt missed virtually three months of motion after getting his arm lower by a skate, Hunter was let go in early January and the workforce made a number of trades, with the most important being a deadline deal that noticed Tracey and Evanoff go to the Victoria Royals.

As a consequence, the Warriors fell to the underside of the division standings as their younger roster seemed to achieve helpful expertise within the closing two months of the marketing campaign, regardless of a number of lopsided outings.

What Lies Ahead:

Although they didn’t win the Bantam Draft lottery, the Warriors nonetheless have some attention-grabbing items on their roster. Ryder Korczak will look to have a giant marketing campaign forward of his NHL Draft 12 months, Hunt and rookie Denton Mateychuk are the 2 huge items on the blueline and the membership has a few secondary items on offence in Martin Lang and Eric Allaire.

In addition to a pair of veteran netminders in Boston Bilous and Brock Gould, the Warriors may also add to their lineup with two open overage slots. Marc O’Leary’s first full season behind the bench will nonetheless have some lengthy nights, however the workforce may very well be a enjoyable one to observe.

Austin Pratt (Keith Hershmiller Photography)

Regina Pats (21-34-6-2 – fifth in East Division – Missed Playoffs for the Second Straight Season)

What I Predicted:

Best Case Scenario

A robust overage trio, a bounce-back marketing campaign by Max Paddock and the shock arrival of both Daniil Gushchin and Ty Smilanic assist the Pats earn a wild card spot. Plus, additionally they find yourself with the highest total decide within the Bantam Draft as they bought Swift Current’s first spherical decide (which was dealt to Lethbridge throughout the insanity that was the 2018 commerce deadline) from the Hurricanes final season.

Worst Case Scenario

The backside falls out fully for the Pats and so they find yourself on the backside of the league desk. To make issues worse, the Saskatoon Blades find yourself having the possibility to take Connor Bedard on draft day as they bought Regina’s first spherical decide on the 2018 commerce deadline for Ryan Kubic and Cameron Hebig.

What Actually Happened:

Although they didn’t get Gushchin or Smilanic and so they dealt away Paddock to the Prince Albert Raiders on the commerce deadline, the Pats’ older gamers had been the important thing to the success as they made the workforce a troublesome one to face all 12 months lengthy.

Their largest win, nevertheless, got here final Wednesday as they retained the primary total decide within the draft lottery and can welcome Bedard to their roster this fall.

What Lies Ahead:

The arrival of Bedard, who’s the primary participant to be granted distinctive standing and enter the WHL a 12 months early, will assist to speed up the Pats’ rebuild, although a return to the playoffs may not come subsequent season.

With three of their key faces (Robbie Holmes, Austin Pratt and Zach Wytnick) set to graduate, the workforce will want their youthful expertise to take the subsequent step in order that they aren’t as reliant on veterans like their main returning scorer Carson Denomie. If Bedard’s arrival permits the Pats to usher in extra high-end expertise, a post-season berth may not be out of the realm of risk.

Tristen Robins (Steve Hiscock/Saskatoon Blades)

Saskatoon Blades (34-24-2-Three – 4th in East Division – Made Playoffs for the Second Straight Season)

What I Predicted:

Best Case Scenario

A dynamic offence, an excellent season from Nolan Maier and a defence that solely will get stronger because the 12 months goes on propels the Blades to their greatest season in a technology. Not solely are they within the combine for a league title, however they’re able to land the subsequent nice piece for the franchise by taking Bedard first total on the Bantam Draft with a decide they bought from the Pats.

Worst Case Scenario

Kirby Dach makes the soar to the NHL and every part adjustments for the Blades a consequence. They nonetheless make the playoffs, however the query of what-if hangs over the aspect all 12 months as they miss out on the possibility to make their first journey to the convention closing since 1994.

What Actually Happened:

Dach by no means got here again from Chicago, which left a giant gap within the Blades’ offence all through the marketing campaign. Despite an up-and-down season, Saskatoon had sufficient items to be a troublesome opponent for whoever they confronted of their first spherical matchup earlier than the season got here to an finish.

What Lies Ahead:

As has been the case over the last couple of seasons, the Blades will greater than probably have so as to add a veteran on defence as they are going to be shedding Nolan Kneen and Scott Walford to commencement. Both blueliners discovered the again of the web 12 occasions every this season, which was the whole the remainder of the backend had mixed.

Chase Wouters ought to be again for his overage marketing campaign, whereas the offence has another sturdy expertise in Tristen Robins, Kyle Crnkovic and Colton Dach. If Nolan Maier or Koen MacInnes have a wonderful season in purpose, the Blades may once more be within the combine for a house playoff seed if the defensive questions are answered.

Luka Burzan (Tim Smith/Brandon Sun)

Brandon Wheat Kings (35-22-Four-2 – third in WHL East Division – Made Playoffs for the primary time since 2018)

What I Predicted:

Best Case Scenario

The new adjustments within the Wheat Kings regime repay in spades because the workforce has a balanced offensive assault below Dave Lowry’s new programs. The defence will get its footing beneath itself early as Jiri Patera has a strong marketing campaign in purpose, which turns the Wheat Kings into one of many prime sides within the East.

Worst Case Scenario

Although they enhance sufficient to make the post-season, the steps ahead aren’t dramatic sufficient to make the Wheat Kings a real convention menace as the true development arrives subsequent 12 months when a bevy of younger gamers come to city.

What Actually Happened:

It took a bit of bit for every part to click on, however the Wheat Kings became a strong aspect throughout the second half. Quite a lot of that needed to do with Patera, who put collectively a wonderful overage marketing campaign and may earn a professional contract with the Vegas Golden Knights consequently.

What Lies Ahead:

Patera’s commencement does depart a query mark in purpose, however backup Ethan Kruger seems to have the within monitor for the beginning job in the intervening time. He ought to be helped by a blueline that may return everybody besides overager Dom Schmiemann and might be anchored by Prince Albert product Braden Schneider, who is predicted to be a primary spherical decide on the 2020 NHL Draft.

Luka Burzan may doubtlessly flip professional if he indicators with the Colorado Avalanche, however the offence nonetheless seems fairly strong with Cole Reinhardt, Ben McCartney and Ridly Grieg all returning. The Wheat Kings can even welcome three first spherical picks from final 12 months’s WHL Bantam Draft, with the important thing arrival being fifth total decide Nate Danielson.

Isaac Johnson (Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald)

Winnipeg Ice (38-24-1-Zero – 2nd in East Division – Made Playoffs for the primary time since 2015 when the membership was primarily based in Cranbrook, B.C.)

Best Case Scenario

With an offence that advantages from the early arrival of Matthew Savoie forward of Peyton Krebs’ return from harm and a much-improved backend, the Ice find yourself making the playoffs and construct some buzz of their first 12 months in Winnipeg earlier than they unleash Savoie and Conor Geekie on a full-time foundation subsequent season.

Worst Case Scenario

Krebs misses extra time than anticipated, Savoie solely performs in a handful of video games and the backend stays a multitude because the Ice miss the playoffs as soon as once more. Their younger expertise makes them a workforce to observe in 2020-21, however it is going to be with a brand new coach behind the bench.

What Actually Happened:

The Ice confirmed a fast enchancment this season and so they had been within the combine for the division title all through the second half. Despite a collarbone harm to Connor McClennon, there have been nonetheless a number of strong weapons on an offence that was made even higher with the mid-season return of Krebs. The defence bought stronger on the deadline with the arrival of Dawson Barteaux from Red Deer and Liam Hughes solidified the workforce’s netminding along with his stunning arrival partway by the marketing campaign.

As for Savoie, he solely had seven assists in 22 video games and wasn’t in a prime six function like his related hyped 2004-born counterpart Shane Wright was this 12 months for the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs. However, he did have 52 factors in 22 video games for the CSSHL’s Rink Hockey Academy and was spectacular for Canada on the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge and the Youth Olympic Games.

What Lies Ahead:

Even if Krebs strikes on to the Golden Knights subsequent 12 months, the Ice nonetheless have glorious gamers up entrance with McClennon, Michal Teply and Owen Pederson all set to return, whereas Savoie and Conor Geekie might be coming into the league on a full-time foundation.

However, there are some query marks on the backend. While Ben Zloty and Carson Lambos ought to solely get higher, the Ice will lose two key veterans as Reece Harsch ages out and Barteaux will greater than probably transfer on to the professional ranks.

Their most urgent problem although is in purpose, as Hughes will graduate from the junior ranks. Backup Gage Alexander performed in simply seven video games this season and the one different signed netminder is 2019 sixth spherical decide Daniel Hauser. That want must be addressed if the Ice need to be a legit contender throughout their second season in Winnipeg.

Aliaksei Protas (Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald)

Prince Albert Raiders (36-18-6-Four – 1st in East Division – Made Playoffs for the Third Straight Season)

What I Predicted:

Best Case Scenario

With a strong defence and good weapons on offence straight away, the Raiders are capable of get off to a powerful begin as Boston Bilous discover his legs as a starter and so they as soon as once more discover themselves as a contender within the East Division.

Worst Case Scenario

The substitute for Ian Scott isn’t discovered and the offence takes a step again. The Raiders make their third straight journey to the playoffs, however their season ends in fast trend.

What Actually Happened:

Bilous did get off to a strong begin however had some struggles as soon as December hit. That led to a short run with Keegan Karki because the starter, earlier than Max Paddock arrived from Regina had a wonderful run in purpose.

The Raiders would once more prepared the ground within the East Division with a blueline that stymied many groups within the WHL. Although the offence wasn’t what it was final 12 months, they nonetheless had sufficient weapons to maintain groups trustworthy and seemed set to place up a powerful title defence within the playoffs.

What Lies Ahead:

Barring a professional deal, Paddock ought to be again for his overage marketing campaign and might be one of many prime starters within the league. Although Zack Hayes and Jeremy Masella are each graduating from the blueline, the likes of Kaiden Guhle, Landon Kosior and Nolan Allan ought to greater than make up for these losses.

Overager Brayden Watts is the one participant presently slated to go away the Raiders on offence, which ought to assist them fairly a bit because the season will get underway. Aliaksei Protas and Ozzy Wiesblatt will kind a wonderful one-two punch, whereas Spencer Moe and Ilya Usau can even hold opposing defences on their toes.



Source link Christmas 2019

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