With the 2017-18 season underway, Dakota Johnson and I are going to roll out a new weekly feature, giving you our three takeaways from the last week in the ECHL.

3. Defense Optional in the East?

This is starting to take the form we saw during the 2016-17 campaign, where the Eastern Conference was more “free-flowing,” while the Western Conference played a heavier and more constricted game.

The stats bear this out, too.

Of the 13 teams in the conference, just four — Florida, Reading, South Carolina and Worcester– have team goals against averages below 3.00.  The overall goals against average in the conference is 3.84. By comparison, eight of the 14 Western Conference teams have goals against averages below 3.00, and the overall goals against average is three-quarters of a goal lower, at 3.11 allowed per game.

Unless this changes itself, the west will continue to remain the dominant conference in the ECHL.

2. Cameron Brown Off to a Hot Start

Part of the success to the Wheeling Nailers’ 4-1-1-0 start has been rookie forward Cameron Brown, who is tied with Nick Sorkin for the team lead in points.

Brown has nine points (1G, 8A) in six games with the Nailers. A large majority of Brown’s nine points, six to be exact, have come off the power play. The total power play points (6) leads the ECHL, and he also leads the entire league in power-play assists (5). Additionally, Brown is second in the league in assists, behind Casey Pierro-Zabotel, with eight.

1. Wings Flying Under the Radar

While all of the focus in the Western Conference has been focused on Colorado and Wichita’s hot starts, plus Toledo & Allen’s slow starts, the Kalamazoo Wings are just there…leading the Central Division.

Nick Bootland‘s squad is getting balanced scoring, 14 players have gotten on the scoresheet so far this year and four have point-per-game efforts out of the gate. Joel Martin has picked up where he left off, again, sporting a 2.23 goals against average in his three appearances so far this year.

More importantly, they are 2-0-0-1 against their Central Division opponents (Cincinnati & KC) so far this season. If the Wings can keep up their balanced scoring attack and solid goaltending, they could be very solid team in the Western Conference.

Harding’s Awards:

If we were given award ballots, here are our choices for the league’s major weekly and monthly awards:

Goalie of the Month – October: Devin Williams (TUL) — The rookie went 4-0-0 during the month of October, with a 1.83 goals against average, a shutout and a .949 save percentage. Last season, Williams saw action in 17 games at Acadia University where he went 8-4-0 with a 2.80 goals-against average and a save percentage of .896.

Player of the Month – October: Casey Pierro-Zabotel (ALN) — The veteran forward is picking up where he left off last season in Colorado, collecting 12 points (3G, 9A) in seven games for the Allen Americans. More impressive, is Pierro-Zabotel’s five points coming in special teams situations — three on the power play (1G, 2A) and two shorthanded (2A).

Goalie of the Week: Ivan Kubalkov (QC) — Anytime you stop over 100 shots in a weekend (regardless of OT,) you deserve to be the Goalie of the Week. More to the point, what does the volume of shots Kubalkov saw say about the Mallards’ defense? Whuff.

Player of the Week: Ryan Penny (REA) — The Royals’ forward put up a hat trick and added an assist for good measure in a 9-4 throttling of the Adirondack Thunder Sunday afternoon at Santander Arena.

Johnson’s Awards:

Goalie of the Month – October: Devin Williams (TUL) — See above for stats.

Player of the Month – October: Kyle Platzer (WIC) — The Thunder forward seems to have found his scoring touch since being assigned by Bakersfield during training camp. Platzer is on a six-game point streak, during which time he has piled up 11 points (5G, 6A). The line of Zach O’Brien – Platzer – Matt DeBlouw has combined for 23 points (10G, 13A) during the opening six games of the campaign.

Goalie of the Week: Ivan Kubalkov (QC) — See above.

Player of the Week: Michael Kirkpatrick (FLA) — Not to be outdone by Platzer, Kirkpatrick is on a seven-game point-streak to start the season. The third-year forward has collected 66 points in 70 games in an Everblades uniform.

Halloween Hot Take:

Since the debut article just happens to fall on All Hallows Eve (Halloween,) we decided to be a tad festive and include a Skip Bayless-like hot take with this week’s piece.

Candy corn is neither candy nor corn and it tastes like you are eating a candle.

Of all the Halloween candy out there, candy corn is the most disgusting thing you will put in your mouth. Given all the options out there for candy, it’s time for candy corn to become extinct.

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