BOISE, Idaho – The 2018-19 ECHL regular season has borne witness to a tight race in spots one through three for the Mountain Division. Tulsa, Idaho, and Utah (seeds one, two, and three as of March 5) are all jockeying for position and home-ice advantage during the first two rounds of the Kelly Cup Playoffs. With Kansas City rounding out the fourth spot (boasting a nine-point lead on fifth-place Wichita), the approaching trade deadline will be a curious one for all Mountain teams, playoff bound or not. We break down the possibilities for each team 24 hours ahead of #ECHLDeadlineDay!
Tulsa Oilers Info: 34-20-4-2, 74 points
Home Record: 18-9-2-2 Road Record: 16-11-2-0 Last 10 Games: 7-3-0-0
Goal Differential: +20 Power Play Rank: 25th Penalty Kill Rank: 11th
Greatest Need: The only grey area for Tulsa is that of goaltending, and even then, it’s not all that grey. The Oilers have called on a name from the past to carry them forward toward the postseason in the personage of Ian Keserich. Tulsa’s primary goalies Devin Williams and Evan Fitzpatrick have been two of the most mobile netminders this season, both seeing time in the Oilers parent AHL club San Antonio and with Fitzpatrick seeing time in St. Louis with the Blues.
Prediction for the Deadline: Tulsa is arguably playing their best hockey since their first season in the league with a team that’s hitting on all cylinders. As the trade deadline comes and goes, no major moves are expected out of the Oilers’ Crystal Palace.
Idaho Steelheads Info: 34-20-2-2, 72 points
Home Record: 20-6-2-1 Road Record: 14-14-0-1 Last 10 Games: 5-4-1-0
Goal Differential: +33 Power Play Rank: 10th Penalty Kill Rank: 9th
Greatest Need: Just a tad more scoring and forward depth. The Steelheads have been streaky without AHL-contracted forwards Brad McClure and Spencer Naas shoring up lines one and two. After losing three straight to Utah in early February, Idaho proceeded to win four of five and earn a point in an overtime loss, then dropped three of four in late February / early March.
Prediction for the Deadline: Standing pat. Returning forwards Henrik Samuelsson (loan from Rockford – Feb. 12), Connor Chatham (activated from IR – Feb. 27), Naas (reassigned from AHL Texas – March 4), and Will Merchant (acquired via trade from Greenville – March 4) will bolster Idaho on the offensive front for their push towards the number one seed in the Mountain.
Utah Grizzlies Info: 32-18-4-3, 71 points
Home Record: 19-10-1-1 Road Record: 13-8-3-2 Last 10 Games: 3-5-0-2
Goal Differential: +24 Power Play Rank: 3rd Penalty Kill Rank: 3rd
Greatest Need: Toughness. Aside from defenseman Teigan Zahn, there really hasn’t been another player on the Grizzlies that can drop the gloves and mix it up for Utah. Anyone who knows the Wild West mentality of the Mountain Division is also aware that grit and physicality are needed to make a significant push into the latter rounds of the playoffs.
Prediction for the Deadline: No major deals for the Grizz. Utah brought in a familiar face to their AHL affiliate Colorado Eagles, acquiring rough and ready d-man Gabriel Verpaelst from Wichita for Nolan De Jong on March 2. The Grizzlies also dealt goaltender Christian Frey to Jacksonville on March 5 for future considerations, nailing down the Kevin Carr–Joe Cannata netminding duo for the final stretch of the regular season.
Kansas City Mavericks Info: 29-23-3-1, 62 points
Home Record: 22-9-1-0 Road Record: 7-14-2-1 Last 10 Games: 5-4-1-0
Goal Differential: 0 Power Play Rank: 12th Penalty Kill Rank: 24th
Greatest Need: An offensive-minded or balanced defensemen. When bodies get through the KC blue line, the Mavericks d-men do not seem to have the speed or physical presence to catch up with their opponents. Kansas City’s penalty kill is also severely anemic (see rank above), and with only one defender who has broken 20 points (Willie Raskob, 6G+32A), the Mavs would benefit greatly from another scoring defender.
Prediction for the Deadline: Adding a veteran defenseman that is either quick or physical, a goal-scorer, and can spark up the blue line. Also, a forward that is an outstanding playmaker and can set up the producers already on the squad.
Wichita Thunder Info: 22-27-6-3, 53 points
Home Record: 14-12-2-1 Road Record: 8-15-4-2 Last 10 Games: 3-6-1-0
Goal Differential: -31 Power Play Rank: 1st Penalty Kill Rank: 20th
Greatest Need: Defensive consistency. With the roster changing so much due to call-ups and trades, Wichita needs some steadiness on the back end. The defensive core was affected when Travis Brown was traded. Keoni Texiera has tried the AHL world, as well, and could potentially leave again.
Prediction for the Deadline: Expect one more transaction for Wichita, likely a defenseman. Jeremy Beaudry was traded for a short while before being returned due to a failed physical on one side. We might see him moved at the deadline.
Rapid City Rush Info: 22-29-5-3, 52 points
Home Record: 11-15-1-2 Road Record: 11-14-4-1 Last 10 Games: 4-5-1-0
Goal Differential: -55 Power Play Rank: 17th Penalty Kill Rank: 21st
Greatest Need: Right now, the greatest need the Rush have can’t be filled with any acquisition in particular. What Rapid City needs is heart and grit to finish the season on a high note. The bulk of their remaining schedule has them facing off against the Steelheads and Grizzlies, who are both still jockeying for a top spot in the division. So, their best game plan at this point is to come out “guns-a-blazin” every game, secure a clean two-points every time, and see how everything looks when the dust settles at the end of the season.
Prediction for the Deadline: No major moves at this point, as the playoffs are moving farther out of reach with each loss. The Rush have 13 games left in the season and still sit 10 points out of the final spot currently held by Kansas City (who also have three games in hand on Rapid City). If anything, they will trade for veteran players who see the Rush as a “diamond in the rough” team that has the potential to make noise next season.
Allen Americans Info: 21-34-4-2, 48 points
Home Record: 11-15-1-0 Road Record: 10-19-3-2 Last 10 Games: 5-5-0-0
Goal Differential: -44 Power Play Rank: 19th Penalty Kill Rank: 10th
Greatest Need: Good health. The fight against the injury bug is something that has dogged Allen all season. When they’ve been full strength, Allen has shown flashes of playing like we’ve come to expect. Let’s hope the M*A*S*H* unit gives them a break down the stretch.
Prediction for the Deadline: With the Americans looking to next year, look for them to possibly be a player at the deadline, securing assets for the 2019-20 season.
Rich Lohman, Paige Siewert, Matthew Will, Matthew Harding, and Mike Crook assisted with this preview.