TOLEDO, Ohio – There has been a thunderous changing of the guard in the Central Division this year. It appears the Toledo Walleye’s run of four straight division titles is over, thanks to the Cincinnati Cyclones, who have lost 17 times in 57 games this season.
At the bottom of the division, four teams are separated by six points and will likely be locked in the race for the final two playoff spots all the way to the end of the regular season.
With all that in mind, The Sin Bin’s Alex Wolff, John Hafer, C.C. Hawkley and Matthew Harding break down each team’s needs ahead of the ECHL Trade Deadline comes around on Thursday at 3 pm ET!
Cincinnati Cyclones Info: 40-10-4-3, 87 Points
Home Record: 23-1-2-2 Road Record: 17-9-2-1 Last 10 Games: 8-1-1-0
Goal Differential: +91 Power Play Rank: 11th Penalty Kill Rank: 6th
Greatest Need: The Cyclones have been humming along all season and are on the verge of clinching a playoff berth (magic number of 2) before mid-March. With a hoard of players assigned by Buffalo and Rochester, the greatest need for Cincinnati lies above them. For the magical season to continue, the Cyclones should hope there is not a significant rash of injuries above them, which would necessitate the need for players in Cincinnati to move up.
Prediction for the Deadline: Head Coach Matt Thomas addressed the need in net after Jonas Johansson went down with a season-ending injury, by signing rookie netminder Devin Buffalo. Our prediction is that the Cyclones will be very quiet at the deadline.
Toledo Walleye Info: 33-15-5-3, 74 Points
Home Record: 19-6-2-1 Road Record: 14-9-3-2 Last 10 Games: 5-4-1-0
Goal Differential: +25 Power Play Rank: 7th Penalty Kill Rank: 14th
Greatest Need: After losing leading scorer T.J. Hensick to the American Hockey League, Toledo has lost its scoring touch to end the year. Without Hensick, other main scorers like Shane Berschbach and A.J. Jenks haven’t been the same. The Walleye are missing a top scorer and veteran leadership (the team still doesn’t have a captain). On top of scoring, Toledo’s defense is hit-or-miss on most nights. The Walleye have been missing a Cody Lampl type of defenseman who will be gritty but can still defend the blue line.
Prediction for the Deadline: With Toledo’s inconsistency responsible for stalling them in the Central Division standings, the Walleye making a move at the deadline is needed. That said, not many pieces are around. If Toledo is to make a move, they will have to move a major piece if they want something great back.
Kalamazoo Wings Info: 30-24-1-2, 63 Points
Home Record: 17-12-0-2 Road Record: 13-12-1-0 Last 10 Games: 6-4-0-0
Goal Differential: -13 Power Play Rank: 6th Penalty Kill Rank: 25th
Greatest Need: After years of Joel Martin as their primary goalie, the Wings now have Jake Hildebrand assuming the role of lead netminder in Kalamazoo. While Hildebrand has had moments, the Wings’ goaltending situation still shouldn’t be what it is. Their defense has not been strong up front, either, as Kalamazoo has given up goals in bunches multiple times this year.
Prediction for the Deadline: Like last year, don’t expect any major moves at the deadline for the Wings.
Fort Wayne Komets Info: 26-20-3-6, 61 Points
Home Record: 13-9-1-4 Road Record: 13-11-2-2 Last 10 Games: 3-3-2-2
Goal Differential: -25 Power Play Rank: 26th Penalty Kill Rank: 16th
Greatest Need: The 11-0 whitewashing at the hands of the Toledo Walleye last Saturday night was a microcosm of the larger problem that has plagued the Komets all season long, a lack of defense. With Jason Binkley now out for the rest of the season, the need for tighter defense is greater for the Komets. General Manager David Franke and head coach Gary Graham are in the market for a shutdown defenseman, but will need to give up some assets to get such a player.
Prediction for the Deadline: Graham and company have had success with the college route in recent years, and will likely look there for a defenseman or two, especially if the price is too high for one on the ECHL market.
Wheeling Nailers Info: 27-24-6-1, 61 Points
Home Record: 13-12-4-1 Road Record: 14-12-2-0 Last 10 Games: 6-3-1-0
Goal Differential: +10 Power Play Rank: 4th Penalty Kill Rank: 22nd
Greatest Need: Coming up to the trade deadline, the Nailers have been playing well having earned points in seven of the last 10 games including seven of a possible eight points the past week. In terms of need, the Nailers could use a veteran presence in the room to help calm some of the rookies on this roster. Another veteran leader to join Dan Fick and Winston Day Chief could go a long way in helping this team going forward.
Prediction for the Deadline: The Nailers may stand pat. There is a possibility that the team could make a move or two but wouldn’t expect any ground shaking moves. There seems to be good chemistry in the room currently and all the players seem to be “on board” to continue this push to make a return to the postseason for the first time since the run to the Kelly Cup Finals in 2016.
Indy Fuel Info: 27-27-2-1, 57 Points
Home Record: 18-8-1-1 Road Record: 9-19-1-0 Last 10 Games: 4-6-0-0
Goal Differential: -18 Power Play Rank: 9th Penalty Kill Rank: 13th
Greatest Need: Goaltender Matt Tomkins (22-16-1, 3.25 GAA, .900 SV%) has backstopped a whopping 42 of Indy’s 57 games this season. The search for Tomkins’ adequate relief has been unfruitful, with netminders Gordy Defiel (1-4-0, 3.32 GAA, .901 SV%) and Jason Pawloski (0-5-0, 4.65 GAA, 0.840 SV%) underwhelming and Kevin Lankinen (4-2-0, 3.18 GAA, .893 SV%) currently with AHL Rockford. All mentioned goalies’ listed goals against average indicate a lacking defensive corps, as well.
Prediction for the Deadline: What else can Indy do? They acquired Defiel from South Carolina on January 21, defenseman Samuel Thibault from Atlanta on January 28, d-man Eric Schurhamer from Manchester on February 22, and the ECHL rights to blueliners Travis Brown and Reggie Traccitto on February 26 from Wichita and Brampton, respectively (Traccitto, unfortunately, did not report to Indy). It would be wiser for the Fuel to sign a d-man or goalie straight out of college than wager more future considerations on a deadline deal.
John Hafer and C.C. Hawkley assisted with this preview.