2020 SHL Preseason Statistics

Team Totals

Team              GP    SH    G    A  Pts   PP%  +/-
Hamilton          10   379   41   77  118  20.5   10
Hershey           10   343   32   62   94  25.6   -7
New York          10   325   32   60   92  28.1    3
Saskatchewan      10   302   31   57   88  15.6    8
Portland          10   298   29   57   86  15.4    7
Anchorage         10   267   28   51   79  17.4   -1
Kansas City       10   301   27   47   74  23.8   -8
Quebec            10   303   25   47   72  17.9   14
Washington        10   270   26   46   72  14.3  -10
Michigan          10   269   25   45   70  15.6   -4
Dakota            10   292   24   43   67  15.9   -2
Boston            10   268   19   32   51  12.9  -10

Team              GP   W   L   T   GAA   SH   SV    SV%   PK%  Blk  PIM
Quebec            10   6   2   2  1.56  273  257  0.941  72.2  159  112
Portland          10   7   3   0  2.20  253  231  0.913  83.8  146   93
Dakota            10   4   5   1  2.57  294  268  0.912  85.4  152  109
Saskatchewan      10   5   4   1  2.67  304  277  0.911  75.0  142  102
Anchorage         10   6   4   0  2.70  275  248  0.902  85.0  140   92
Hamilton          10   6   2   2  2.83  320  291  0.909  84.2  134  101
Boston            10   2   7   1  2.84  293  264  0.901  87.9  155   88
Michigan          10   3   7   0  2.98  295  265  0.898  83.8  135   85
New York          10   4   6   0  3.09  348  317  0.911  68.6  136   86
Kansas City       10   4   6   0  3.18  308  276  0.896  81.1  139   97
Hershey           10   5   4   1  3.23  310  277  0.894  85.7  142   99
Washington        10   4   6   0  3.68  344  307  0.892  80.6  140   72

Continue reading “2020 SHL Preseason Statistics”

2020 SHL Preseason Standings

East W L T Pts GF GA Home Away
Hamilton Pistols 6 2 2 14 41 29 2-2-1 4-0-1
Quebec Tigres 6 2 2 14 25 16 3-1-1 3-1-1
Hershey Bliss 5 4 1 11 32 33 2-3-0 3-1-1
New York Night 4 6 0 8 32 31 2-3-0 2-3-0
Washington Galaxy 4 6 0 8 26 37 2-3-0 2-3-0
Boston Badgers 2 7 1 5 19 29 1-3-1 1-4-0
West W L T Pts GF GA Home Away
Portland Bluebacks 7 3 0 14 29 22 4-1-0 3-2-0
Anchorage Igloos 6 4 0 12 28 27 4-1-0 2-3-0
Saskatchewan Shockers 5 4 1 11 31 27 3-2-0 2-2-1
Dakota Jackalopes 4 5 1 9 24 26 1-3-1 3-2-0
Kansas City Smoke 4 6 0 8 27 32 3-2-0 1-4-0
Michigan Gray Wolves 3 7 0 6 25 30 2-3-0 1-4-0

2020 SHL Season Preview – East

Hershey Bliss

The last several seasons have been a strange odyssey for the boys from Chocolate City.  The Bliss went from winning the Vandy in 2017 to a fifth-place nightmare season in 2018 to a division title in 2019.  So what will 2020 hold?  The Bliss are largely returning the same roster as last year, adding a couple of depth pieces in D Wayne Snelling and F Mason Kilborn.  This means that their above-average offensive and defensive numbers should remain intact.  The one major change they made is in net, where they got younger and (arguably) better, replacing thirty-somethings Brandon Colt and Ollie Richardson with Christien Adamsson and rookie Nash Gould.  Goaltending has long been a sore point in Hershey, and Adamsson’s presence should provide a definite upgrade.  (Whether rookie nerves will get the better of Gould remains to be seen, but minor-leaguer Hobie Sanford provides a solid alternative if Gould falters.)  Assuming Adamsson performs as expected, the Bliss‘s success will likely rest on their ability to improve their shot quality.  Hershey has always been a volume shooting team, but their shooting percentage frequently ranks among the league’s worst.  Last season, only Michigan’s was lower.  If the Bliss can learn to wait for the right shot instead of the first shot, they could be serious Vandy contenders.

Hamilton Pistols

After rocketing to the top of the standings in 2018, the Pistols showed they were no fluke in 2019, earning a return trip to the playoffs and marching all the way to their first SHL title.  Facing a cap squeeze, they were unable to bring back deadline rental Eddie Costello, but GM Marcel LaClaire made a couple of bold moves to bolster the second line, adding veteran C Marco Venezio and RW Ben Summers on surprisingly affordable deals.  They also called up D Elvis Bodett, a dynamic offensive defenseman, from their affiliate in Oshawa.  It all should add up to a high-octane attack; no one should be surprised if the Pistols lead the league in scoring this year.  None of their new additions are particularly strong in their own end, though; Hamilton’s defense should still be solid, but probably a step down from last year.  Goalie Lasse Koskinen, who posted the best season of his career in 2019 (26-11-2, 2.25 GAA, .925 save percentage), will need to be sharp again for the Pistols to defend their title.  One player to watch: star LW Steven Alexander.  Last season, after a lackluster first half, Alexander got married and wound up lighting the league on fire in the second half, willing his team to a title and garnering MVP honors.  How will he react to reaching the mountaintop?  Will a taste of success dull the edge of his competitive drive, or will it make him hungry for more?  The answer to that question will likely determine Hamilton’s fate this season.

Quebec Tigres

After the Tigres made a surprising run in 2018 that fell one win shy of the Vandy, we warned that their success was driven in part by luck: they had a surprisingly high shooting percentage and managed to stay out of the penalty box more than you’d expect from such a physical team.  Our warning proved prescient.  The Tigres didn’t collapse in any particular area of their game last season, but they declined just a little in every way… and that proved to be the difference between making the playoffs and staying home.  The roster looks pretty much identical to last season; their big deadline acquisition, D Matt Cherner, departed in free agency, but the Tigres acquired Kevin Buchanan from Washington to replace him.  GM Pete Gondret is clearly betting that a couple more puck will bounce Quebec’s way and get them back into the postseason.  He might be right about that.  The Tigres’ defense will once again be ferocious; in particular, top pairing Laurie Workman and Richard McKinley continue to improve with experience.  The team lacks top-notch scorers, but they do have decent offensive depth; seven players recorded double-digit goals in 2019.  And their goaltending remains a strength; Riki Tiktuunen (25-19-4, 2.19, .923) remains one of the league’s top non-Lundquist netminders, and Riley Lattimore is a more-than-adequate backup.  All of this should keep Quebec in the mix.  But while their competitors in Hamilton and Hershey made clear upgrades in the offseason, the Tigres didn’t.  Will standing pat be enough in this division?

New York Night

It feels like Nick Foster’s bunch might have missed their window.  In 2018, with traditional powers Hershey and Washington declining, the Night surged into third place and looked like they were ready to contend.  But they stagnated last season; with Hamilton and Quebec rising and Hershey rebounding, New York seemed a step behind.  New GM Jay McKay made some significant changes this season, but it’s not clear if they’ve made the team better.  The most obvious upgrades were on the blueline, as the Night added Rusty Anderson and Dave Frederick on sizable deals.  On offense, they picked up reliable veteran LW Charlie Brooks from DC, but lost Misha Petronov in free agency; at best, that’s a wash.  The move that will likely do the most to determine the Night’s fate came in the crease.  McKay decided that youngster Sherman Carter was ready to become the starter, and so he let incumbent starter Jesse Clarkson depart and signed fan favorite “Jersey Mike” Ross to be Carter’s backup.  Carter posted solid numbers in 2019, but he has yet to establish a record of consistent success in the SHL.  Clarkson rarely received the spotlight, but he has been a quietly effective goalie throughout his career.  And given that the Night play an up-tempo firewagon brand of hockey, their netminders tend to take a beating.  Their chances of contention (and possibly Foster’s chances of continued employment) rest on Carter’s ability to withstand that beating.

Washington Galaxy

If there’s any silver lining to Washington’s dismal performance in 2019, it left no doubt as to whether the team needed to rebuild.  After a reported reluctance to commit to a teardown, GM Ace Adams was shown the door.  New front-office boss Wilson Shuster has been more willing to start over, moving blueliners Buchanan and Leonard Wright and winger Brooks during the offseason.  There’s a decent chance that some of the other big names – LW Casey Thurman, C Harvey Bellmore, even RW Jefferson McNeely – might also be headed out the door.  Suffice it to say that the Galaxy won’t be contending this season.  But does this roster have long-term potential?  It’s a very young group; half the roster has less than a season’s worth of SHL experience.  Unsurprisingly, this means a team full of question marks.  LW Alan Youngman and C Tucker Barnhill showed great scoring promise in the minors; will that translate in the SHL?  Can Ambroz Melicar be the strong two-way defenseman in DC that he was in Baltimore?  Can Buzz Carson and Darrell Bondurant (whose combined 3.73 GAA and .894 save percentage were second-worst in the league) develop into a quality goaltending tandem?  Is coach Peter James the right fit to help this young squad grow and mature, or will the Galaxy regret letting Rodney Reagle go?  The results this season will tell a lot about the long-term direction of this franchise.

Boston Badgers

Last season, the Badgers made a big splash by signing several prominent free agents, led by G Roger Orion and LW Pascal Royal.  But after a mildly promising start, the Badgers quickly sank back into the basement, handcuffed by an abysmal offense.  This offseason, Boston landed another big-name free agent, signing Cherner away from Quebec.  He makes the team stronger on both ends; he’s one of the league’s best offensive defensemen, while also providing rugged and reliable defense.  With Cherner on board, as well as promising youngsters Brody “Bruiser” McCallan and Kermit Kaufman, the Badgers may have the league’s best defense.  Their top draft pick, RW Levi Rudyard, shows promise.  And another year of experience should help their top scorers, LW Lix Darnholm and C Alain Beauchesne, become even more dangerous.  But in the end, this team’s lack of scoring punch will be too great a hurdle to overcome.  Even with their excellent defense and Roger Orion in net, the Badgers won’t be able to win every game 1-0.  The Badgers are continuing to build in Quebec’s mold, and new coach Kyle Barrow should be able to impart the important lessons he learned as Sam Castor’s assistant in Anchorage.  The Badgers are on a path to contend, perhaps as soon as next season.  If they can add another secondary scorer – and if they can keep their pugnacity directed at their opponents – they could become a threat in a hurry.


Projected Finish:

  1. Hamilton
  2. Hershey
  3. Quebec
  4. New York
  5. Boston
  6. Washington

Division Finals:

Hamilton def. Hershey

Portland def. Anchorage


Hamiton def. Portland

2020 SHL Season Preview – West

Anchorage Igloos

After suffering a stunning upset loss in the SHL Finals, the Igloos were headed for an offseason of turnover, as salary-cap constraints forced them to make some difficult roster choices.  GM Will Thorndike opted for youth over experience, re-signing LW Les Collins and D Tony Citrone while parting with popular veterans C Nile Bernard, D Dave Frederick, and RW Ben Summers.  To replace the departed players, Thorndike acquired some solid but lower-profile journeymen – C Jens Bunyakin, LW Tadeusz Adamczyk, and D Vitaly Dyomin – while acquiring buy-low candidate C Tom Hoffman from New York.  The moves were not popular with fans, but they arguably increased the Igloos’ window of contention.  With all their big-name stars still in the fold, Anchorage will maintain its high-powered offense (featuring the fearsome top line of LW Jerry Koons, C Jake Frost, and RW Nicklas Ericsson) and its excellent goaltending (longtime star Ty Worthington backed up by Wendall Cantillon), and will surely be a title contender again.  But the free-agent losses struck at the team’s depth, especially on the second line, and the team’s defense will likely take a hit as well.  In an improving division, will that hit be enough to cost the Igloos a postseason spot?  If the team gets off to its by-now-patented slow start, this might be the year it comes back to bite them.

Portland Bluebacks

Last year, the Seattle Sailors shocked many observers – including us – by surging to capture a playoff spot for the first time.  This year, they have a new name and are playing in a new city, the first SHL team to relocate.  Not content with the current roster, GM Taylor Teichman made a couple of bold moves, winning a fierce bidding war for ex-Galaxy and ex-Pistols C Eddie Costello and trading starting goalie Rocky Goldmire – who had a career year last season – to make room in the crease for free-agent signee Jesse Clarkson.  Signing Costello gives Portland an elite passer on the top line, setting up wingers Vince Mango and Rod “Money” Argent.  The Clarkson move was a bit of a surprise, as his numbers last year were comparable to Goldmire’s.  But he has a more established track record, and the Pacific Northwest native was reportedly eager to play in Portland.  The Bluebacks’ uptempo, multi-faceted offense (which produced the second-most goals in the SHL last season) should be even more dangerous than it was in Seattle, and their defense – long the team’s Achilles heel – has slowly improved.  Ultimately, the team’s success or failure will once again hinge on its star, Mango.  The high-scoring winger showed a new level of maturity last season, upgrading his passing game and even playing some defense on occasion.  If Mango can continue to grow and develop as an all-around player, the Bluebacks could be a real title contender, especially if Clarkson provides a steady presence in net.  If Mango reverts to his old one-dimensional shoot-first habits, though, his team will likely fall back to mediocrity.

Saskatchewan Shockers

The good news for the boys from the Canadian prairie: they finally made the leap into contention last season.  Under the tutelage of new coach Morris Thompson, the Shockers strengthened their defense (allowing only 29.5 shots per game, third-lowest in the league), while maintaining a solidly middle-of-the-pack scoring attack and getting strong goaltending from Zeke Zagurski (in spite of his early-season hot dog misadventure).  The bad news is that they still missed the playoffs, finishing 6 points out of a spot.  Their deadline trade for D Rusty Anderson wasn’t enough to get them over the hump and cost them prize prospect Tanner Brooks.  The worse news is that Saskatchewan’s wild new alternates were by far their most interesting offseason addition.  They were unable to re-sign Anderson and added no free agents of consequence.  They’ve called up Fs Yuri Laronov and Chris Quake from their minor-league affiliate in Virginia, and they should see significant minutes on the third line.  But where’s the addition – one more secondary scorer – that’s going to push the Shockers over the hump?  (They have less than $400,000 in space under the salary cap, making big trades challenging.)  Perhaps another year in Thompson’s system will give Saskatchewan the edge they need, or perhaps they’ll see another leap forward from players like LW Troy Chamberlain and C Elliott Rafferty.  Or perhaps one or two of the other Western contenders will stumble or suffer key injuries.  But as presently constituted, this looks like a team that’s going to contend again… but come up tantalizingly short.

Michigan Gray Wolves

In last season’s Western preview, we warned that 2019 might be the year that age caught up with the Wolves.  In spite of that, we still picked the Wolves to win the Vandy.  For much of the year, our prediction appeared on track.  But Ron Wright’s squad faded badly down the stretch, and wound up finishing out of the top two in their division for the first time.  For those inclined to pessimism, there are a number of warning lights flashing on Michigan’s dashboard.  The Wolves have always been built around goaltending and defense, but their offense was worse than ever before; they averaged a paltry 2.1 goals per game, dead last in the league.  They also finished with a negative plus-minus rating for the first time ever.  And several players on the wrong side of 30 – LWs Todd Douglas and Vladimir Beruschko, RWs Gordon Lunsford and Oskar Denison, C Warren Marlow, D Frank Mudrick – saw their numbers dip, in some cases precipitously.  So are the Wolves finished?  Don’t bet on it.  For one thing, a team with Wright behind the bench and Dirk Lundquist between the pipes can never be counted out.  For another thing, the roster is slowly – arguably too slowly – becoming younger.  RW Benoit Poulin and D Brooks Zabielski saw their stats tick up last season, and their ice time went up as well.  C Phoenix Cage finally gets a full-time shot with the big club, and rookie D Shayne “Boo Boo” Margara joins the bottom pairing.  The Wolves also signed free-agent LW Misha Petronov to provide some much-needed scoring.  Granted, this is still an old roster, and one or two major injuries could prove catastrophic.  But knowing Wright, it’s likely that the Wolves will use last year’s embarrassment as fuel – and that could make them very dangerous indeed.

Dakota Jackalopes

Mention the Jackalopes to almost any SHL fan, and their immediate response will likely have something to do with the team’s financial problems.  The team has steadily bled talent over the last several seasons, most recently Ds Matt Cherner and Rusty Anderson.  They did apparently stem the bleeding this offseason by extending LW Ryan Airston, although there are persistent whispers that the team is still exploring trade possibilities for him.  In fairness, the Jackalopes aren’t quite as dreadful as the rumors would make them seem.  They have a couple of quality scorers in Airston and RW Arkady Golynin.  C Riley McCrea, acquired from Saskatchewan before last season, had a breakout season.  The team has a passel of promising if unpolished young blueliners.  And top draft choice Lorne Mollenkamp gives the team some hope in net.  But the team’s offensive depth is lacking, especially in the middle, their power play is weak, and their defense as a whole still looks mediocre.  In addition, it’s hard to tell how the constant rumors of bankruptcy or relocation will affect a fairly young squad.  Coach Flim Dahlgren has his work cut out for him keeping the Jackalopes’ attention turned to on-ice matters.  And it feels like the league and owner Roger Scott need to decide whether this market is really capable of supporting an SHL team.  Scott is clearly unable or unwilling to bankroll continuing losses, and the team’s endless fire sale drags down the league’s credibility.  This is the season that Scott and GM Paul Mindegaard need to lay out a plan to return the Jackalopes to respectability… or a plan to relocate them to a city capable of supporting them.

Kansas City Smoke

In 2018, the expansion Smoke took the ice and finished last in the West, as expected.  In their second season, they actually got worse, dropping from 37 points to 31.  Their biggest issue, by far: goaltending.  Kansas City had five different goalies start at least one game, an SHL record, and their collective .882 save percentage was last by a wide margin.  While netminding wasn’t the Smoke’s only problem (their special teams were dismal and their -67 plus-minus rating was by far worst in the league), but the revolving door in net meant that no lead was safe and killed any hope of consistency.  The good news: Kansas City has a couple of big new weapons in its arsenal.  Their #1 draft pick, RW Bengt Fredriksson, gives the team a top-flight scorer it has never had before.  During the preseason, Frederiksson’s wickedly hard slap shot stood out, and KC’s offense had an unaccustomed rhythm and flow when he was on the ice.  As for goaltending, Goldmire – acquired from Portland – should at least give the Smoke a reliable #1 option.  (He’ll be backed up by Dennis Wampler, who posted the best results of last year’s crop.)  They also signed Igloos veteran Nile Bernard, who should center the second line credibly, and strengthened their defense by signing ex-New Yorker Tuomas Nurmi and trading for Washington stalwart Leonard Wright, who should help boost the power play.  Will these additions cause a miraculous leap into contention for the Smoke?  Not likely; there are still plenty of holes to fill.  But the Smoke should now be more credible, and this will give them a chance to evaluate other areas of the team.  Can Zachary Merula handle the shift from right wing to left?  Is D Gary Hermine or sophomore Bastien Chouinard really worthy of top-pairing minutes?  Is coach Randy Bergner the right man to lead the franchise forward?  If nothing else, it should be a fun season watching this club figure itself out.

Projected Finish:

  1. Portland
  2. Anchorage
  3. Michigan
  4. Saskatchewan
  5. Kansas City
  6. Dakota