SAVANNAH, GA – Professional hockey is a tough sport both mentally and physically. This ECHL season, as with all, every team has experienced both highs and lows. However, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I wanted to use today to focus on some of the highlights of every team in the ECHL. This is one thing to love about every ECHL hockey club.
Indy Fuel: Shorthanded Goals
If there is one team in this league that has any reason to be woefully unconcerned with going on the penalty kill, it would have to be the Fuel. Currently Indy has a deadlock on the most shorthanded goals this season with 13 (the next closest is the Jacksonville Icemen at nine). More impressive is that this is done by committee as eight players have at least one shorthanded goal. Seamus Malone leads the team with three.
Cincinnati Cyclones: Jalen Smereck
A name many Cyclones fans should be familiar with, Smereck is having an outstanding year on the blue line. In his 33 games played he leads the defense in point production with 26 points (five goals, 21 assists). He also leads all Cincinnati defensemen in overall +/- at +15. In fact, Smereck has been so noticeable this season that he even garnered further AHL interest, spending 10 games with the San Jose Barracudas. This marked his first AHL experience since he was with the Tucson Roadrunners in 20-21.
Field Pass was able to speak with Smereck during this opportunity on our AHL podcast, “The Holy Grahl”.
Toledo Walleye: Gordie Green’s Shooting Percentage
Twenty goals at essentially the midpoint of a season is nothing to sneeze at. Forty-plus points isn’t either, and Green holds both of those metrics this season. More impressively, the 20 goals have come with him taking only about 100 shots on net. His shooting percentage is a massive 19.2%. If he continues on this pace, Green is looking at a 32-goal and 37-assist season. This would smash his previous best by 20+ points.
Fort Wayne Komets: The Save Of The Year
In a league all about getting eyes on you, Rylan Parenteau made a save that was heard all around the hockey world. In fact, it was the number one play of the week on ESPN’s Sports Center and garnered Parenteau a potential new nickname (“The Scorpion”). Parenteau is currently on loan to the Abbotsford Canucks, and one would have to believe that the impossible save he made is one of the contributing factors to his call ups.
Who was No. 1 on ESPN’s SportsCenter’s Top 10?
Why, it was The Scorpion, Rylan Parenteau, of the @FWKomets.
Pro Bowl, ShmoBowl. pic.twitter.com/HWKJmxr7RF
— Justin A. Cohn (@SportsiCohn) February 6, 2023
Wheeling Nailers: Justin Addamo
If you are not paying attention to Nailers’ hockey this season, you are doing yourself an extreme disservice as you are missing out on one of the league’s most electric rookies in Addamo. The French Native has already amassed 21 goals and nine assists in his rookie season, including a hat trick against Norfolk in their 10-2 victory earlier in the week. He has been called up to the AHL by the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for a stint, and he leads his team in three-star honors, being chosen seven times this season.
Kalamazoo Wings: Hockey Culture
There will always be work to do when it comes to hockey culture, but places like Kalamazoo help remind people that hockey is in fact for everyone. It started in the offseason when they name Joel Martin the new head coach, making him the second African American head coach in professional American hockey. Then it continued as they host their pride nights, and instead of ignoring a small section of online people who are being hateful they call them out. The message from Kalamazoo was simple: hockey is for everyone, and they stand by that. Personally, I cannot provide this club with enough stick taps and am happy to see a club growing the game the proper way.
Iowa Heartlanders: Hunter Jones’ Play Since January
The Minnesota Wild prospect was drafted 59th overall in the second round and had seen some early season struggles this year in Iowa. From October-December Jones had played 13 games, making 308 saves and allowing 42 goals, putting him at a .880 save percentage. It looks like Jones has been able to find his footing recently, however, as January-February has been a complete 180. His play since January has put him at .913 save percentage with 304 saves and only 29 goals in nine games played. This is the progress Iowa was hoping to see and it shines a bright light on what Jones’ future could be.
Idaho Steelheads: Rémi Poirier
The Dallas Stars’ prospect (6th round pick in 2020, #185 overall) is proving why he is one of the best goalies on ECHL ice every game. At this point in the season, he leads all netminders in save percentage at .937 and GAA at 1.80. He also holds the third most wins in the league while playing 14 less games than leading candidate Cam Johnson. Poirier has lost only three games this season, two in regulation.
Allen Americans: Jack Combs & Hank Crone
If you were to look at point production by forwards this season, you would see these two players in the top three. Combs and Crone are tied for second place with 60 points each. Did I mention they play in a division with Idaho, one of the best defensive teams in the league? Having one player in the top would be impressive; having two is a feat of pure offensive dominance.
Kansas City Mavericks: Theo Calvas‘ Defense
The Super Bowl is not the only thing Kansas City should be celebrating this year. It would also be fortuitous to look at the year Calvas is having for the Mavericks and celebrate him as well. Calvas, by his own admission, is a defensive minded skater who loves to play defense. He is having his pro career best in defensive metrics this season and leads his team’s defense in +/- at +10.
Wichita Thunder: Brayden Watts & Michal Stinil
Once again we have not one but two forwards from the same club with amazing point production. Stinil is currently tied at third amongst forwards with 55 points while Watts is tied for fourth with 53.
Rapid City Rush: Brett Gravelle‘s Discipline
Level-headed play is a skill in this game, and I will argue that until the day I croak. Gravelle has played 28 games this season, and he sits at a .64 points per game. His eight goals and ten assists may not jump out at you, but the number that does stick out is 0 penalty minutes. In 28 games he has not taken a single penalty. That in itself takes an extreme degree of discipline and mental fortitude.
Utah Grizzlies: Andrew Nielsen on the Power Play
The majority of defensive player point production from the power play comes from assists, but sometimes blue liners like to show off their shots as well, and Nielsen has done just that this year. He is in a three-way tie for first place in power play goals for defenseman this season with six. He also has 17 power play assists on the year to bring his power play point total to 23.
Tulsa Oilers: Eddie Matsushima
It is one thing to score on a man advantage; it is an entirely different thing to score while shorthanded. Matsushima does the latter skillfully and in bunches. Matsushima is currently tied for the league lead with four shorthanded goals this year. Talk about a confidence builder for a forward.
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