The ECHL’s Eastern Division has been dominated by two expansion teams so far this season. While a pair of perennial playoff contenders, Reading and Elmira, lurk in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference playoff race. Who will make the moves to get their team over the hump and into the playoffs?
Overall Record: 36-16-2-5, 79 pts (1st in East Division, 2nd in Eastern Conference)
Home Record: 17-7-2-4
Road Record: 19-9-0-1
Last 10 Games: 6-2-1-1
Greatest Need: With Maxim Kitsyn, Yann Sauve and Matt Leitner out of the line-up (callups,) the Monarchs need to replace 123 points of offense missing from the lineup.
Prediction for the Deadline: Manchester has made a pair of minor moves so far this deadline season, but, it appears Sauve is gone for a while which leaves a huge hole on the back end. Further, its unclear how long Kitsyn and Leitner will be with Ontario Reign. I think we could see Head Coach Rich Seeley make a move or two to replace some of the offense missing from the lineup, especially on the back end.
Overall Record: 33-18-2-4, 72 pts (2nd in East Division, 5th in Eastern Conference)
Home Record: 15-9-1-2
Road Record: 18-9-1-2
Last 10 Games: 5-3-0-2
Greatest Need: We all know how huge specialty teams, especially the power play, can be in the playoffs. Heading into Tuesday, Adirondack ranks 15th on the man-advantage (25th at home, 3rd on the road). The Thunder could use one more defenseman to help distribute the puck on the back end, along with Patch Alber (ranks 2nd in ECHL defenseman with 15 PP assists.)
Prediction for the Deadline: I really do not see the Thunder making many moves at the deadline, outside of looking at acquiring a defenseman. The Thunder’s AHL affiliate, the Stockton Heat, have done a good job of keeping the core group, assembled by head coach Cail MacLean, largely undisturbed so far. With Stockton on the outside looking in on the Calder Cup Playoffs, I would expect to see some of those players, namely Mitchell Heard, to come back down in time for the playoffs.
Overall Record: 28-23-5-3, 64 pts (3rd in East Division, 7th in Eastern Conference)
Home Record: 13-13-3-1
Road Record: 15-10-2-2
Last 10 Games: 4-5-1-0
Greatest Need: Stability. It’s not flashy, but the Royals and Lehigh Valley Phantoms (AHL) have worn out the Highway 222 with players coming to and from. That said, the Royals have a veteran core with Nakita Kashirsky, Joey Sides, Kevin Young and Yannick Tifu. If they can get some stability in that lineup, Reading could make a run.
Prediction for the Deadline: Reading has not been very active in the trade market-to-date and I would expect that to remain the case moving forward. As mentioned above, head coach Larry Courville has assembled a veteran core that has proven they can get it done at playoff time.
Overall Record: 30-25-3-1, 64 pts (4th in East Division, 8th in Eastern Conference)
Home Record: 12-16-1-0
Road Record: 18-9-2-1
Last 10 Games: 5-3-2-0
Greatest Need: Tighter defense. The Jackals have allowed 177 goals in 59 games this season (3.0 goals/game). For the Jackals to make a push and qualify for the playoffs, tightening up on defense is almost a must.
Prediction for the Deadline: The Jackals made a huge splash by trading for Indy Fuel goaltender Shane Owen and so far, it looks like the move has paid off. In three appearances, Owen is 2-0-0 with a 1.5 goals against average and .927 save percentage. Owen will help with the goals allowed issue, but I could see head coach Jamie Russell working to land a shut-down defenseman.
Overall Record: 24-30-3-1, 49 pts (5th in East Division, 13th in Eastern Conference)
Home Record: 15-12-1-1
Road Record: 9-18-2-0
Last 10 Games: 4-4-2-0
Greatest Need: There really isn’t a greatest need for the Admirals to fill at the deadline, since they are a young team in a building mode for next year and beyond. Head Coach Eric Veilleux has done a good job of identifying pieces that do and do not fit in his system and moving them accordingly. This is a lot like the blueprint Scott Hillman had in Indy last season. With a solid offseason of signings and players coming down from AHL Bakersfield, Norfolk could be in contention for a playoff position next season.
Prediction for the Deadline: So far this deadline season, the Admirals have been busy. Though not a sure thing, I think we could see them make one or two more deals on or before the deadline.