Last week, while we were fully embroiled in the SPHL All-Star madness, the 2016-17 SPHL season hit its halfway mark. Last season, we published our set of SPHL award predictions. Today, we once again give our forecasts for league hardware.
You may recall during our SPHL Season Preview Show Matthew Harding, Mike Finazzo, Dawne Walters and I gave our pre-season predictions for the regular season champion, President’s Cup finalists and the eventual league champion. In this week’s podcast, Matty and I still maintained our picks of the Knoxville Ice Bears (Matty) and Peoria Rivermen (Me) to win the President’s Cup. Our Fayetteville correspondent, Jimmy Gentry, wasn’t on the podcast but he was kind enough to add his predictions. We all agreed that the winner of the William B. Coffey Trophy will be the Huntsville Havoc. I’ll explain why shortly.
Harding and I both agreed on the selection of Huntsville coach Glenn Detulleo as our prediction for this season’s Coach of the Year. Detulleo has taken a franchise from a disastrous 2014-15 campaign and developed the team (and himself) into a league powerhouse. We were amazed by Peoria’s record-setting 2015-16 season, yet the Havoc are currently projected to match Peoria’s 83-point season. Gentry opted to go against the grain and picked Peoria’s Jean-Guy Trudel to win his third straight COY award. Given the results of Trudel’s aggressive roster moves throughout November to rebuild his Rivermen on-the-fly, Trudel makes an interesting selection.
Speaking of projections… A brief sidebar.
I usually have a little methodology to project future performance in an occasionally accurate manner. I remove each team’s longest winning streak and longest winless streak, then take this point percentage and extrapolate to the end of the regular season. Here are the results.
|TEAM||GP||W||L||OTL||PTS||PCT||GR||PCT-F||Proj Pts||Proj Rnk|
A couple of interesting observations: (1) The Fayetteville FireAntz are seriously flying under the radar and (2) Roanoke is projected to be the expansion team which makes the postseason. Regarding matchups, I’m seriously looking forward to a rematch of last season’s first-round series between Knoxville and Fayetteville.
A month ago, I may have given you a bit of side-eye if you would have picked Fayetteville’s Sean Bonar as a Goalie of the Year candidate. Since the all-too-brief Andrew Hare era, Hockey Jesus has racked up an 11-4-0 mark over 15 consecutive starts, two shutouts, a 1.93 GAA, and a .933 SV%. Bones is back, y’all, and he’s a unanimous prediction from Harding, Gentry, and myself.
We have a great race going for the SPHL’s top noob. Macon’s John Siemer (Harding’s pick) led the league in scoring until he took a call-up to South Carolina. Huntsville has a fantastic trio of rookies in Dylan Nowakowski, Jordan Wood, and Tyler Steel (Gentry’s pick). While Harding is partial to Siemer, I’m going with Pensacola’s Riley Spraggs. Spraggs started the season in Columbus, yet despite playing for two teams in the league’s bottom half, he leads SPHL rookies in goals with 15.
The league’s top blueliner happens to be the unanimous selection to our SPHL All-Star Team. Nolan Kaiser from the Havoc leads the league’s defensemen with 25 points & 19 assists, holds a league-high +23 rating, and plays a physical defensive game. Like Peoria’s Brandon Greenside last season, Kaiser is a lock. Gentry decided to buck the conventional wisdom and go with Knoxville’s Jason Price.
The Kevin Swider award goes to the SPHL’s scoring leader at the end of the regular season. Swider, a seven-time All-SPHL first-teamer who last played in 2011, remains the league’s all-time scoring leader and owns 11 other individual regular season league records. Swider won his namesake award seven times. Both Harding and I went with Huntsville’s Johnny Daniels to eventually wind up atop the league’s scoring leaders this season. Daniels has caught fire since his trade to the Havoc from Peoria, scoring 23 points in 16 games with Huntsville. Fayetteville’s Jake Hauswirth was Gentry’s pick and could be a legitimate contender if the FireAntz stay hot on the power play.
Swider was a three-time league MVP in addition to his scoring titles. Gentry makes a solid choice for the most valuable player with Huntsville’s Sy Nutkevitch, the league’s current leader in points and assists. Harding and I are picking a fellow Ice Bear as this season’s MVP. Berkley Scott has returned to Knoxville as one of the league’s dominant forwards. Scott is currently third in scoring with 31 points and leads the league in game-winning goals with six. Scott is also our sentimental favorite for our unofficial comeback player of the year. Twelve months ago, Scott suffered a catastrophic leg injury – a potentially career-ending injury. Instead, Berks was able to endure a long rehab and return to playing at a high level. Congrats to Scott for overcoming the odds.
Another unofficial award we give is the Scrapper of the Year – the award given to the player who drops the gloves for his teammates more than anyone else. Perhaps when Dennis Sicard retires, we’ll name this award for him. However, Sicard is neither Harding’s nor my pick. Matty is going with Mississippi’s Tyler Barr, while I believe Fayetteville’s Brad Drobot will be the league’s reigning heavyweight.
Finally, we’d like to call out Blake Coddington, the Knoxville Ice Bears social media guy, for putting together a clever and engaging social media campaign. The @icebears are our pick for this season’s top social media empire.
There you have it, folks, our mid-season picks for the league’s end of year hardware. Agree? Disagree? Are we totally bonkers? Please, comment away.
By the way, we had hockey tonight! Week 16 of the SPHL season kicked off when the FireAntz visited the Snake Pit. The FireAntz got off to an early start with a Joe Kalisz marker and didn’t look back. Bobby Chaumont scored two insurance goals in the third period, Taylor Thompson picked a pair of apples, and Sean Bonar made 29 saves in a convincing 4-1 Fayetteville victory.
- Knoxville at Columbus – 7:30 ET
- Evansville at Fayetteville – 7:30 ET
- Huntsville at Macon – 7:35 ET
- Mississippi at Peoria – 7:05 CT
- Roanoke at Pensacola – 7:05 CT