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2020 ECHL ASC: Revisiting Preseason Picks

WICHITA, Kan. – Ah, the ECHL preseason picks. With predictions for both individual awards and playoff-bound squads, it’s easy to look back at the end of the season and either marvel or chuckle at the educated guesses compared with the actual results. But, what about evaluating the picks when the league takes its breather for All-Star Weekend? 
On October 11, 2019, seven members of The Sin Bin’s staff put in their votes and made their “way too early” predictions for 2019-20. Let’s take a look at how the players selected at the start of the year are fairing a little over halfway through the season.

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER

Players that got the preseason nod for ECHL MVP were Dan DeSalvo (South Carolina), David Pacan (Brampton), two votes for Adam Pleskach (Tulsa), two votes for Jesse Schultz (Cincinnati), and Josh Kestner (Toledo). 
The only two nominees currently in the top ten in league scoring are Schultz (tied for sixth with 44 points) and Kester (seventh with 42 points). DeSalvo registered 12 goals and 20 assists in 29 games played for South Carolina before earning a call-up to the AHL’s Cleveland Monsters on December 29 (he returned to the Stingrays on January 16). Pacan is third in points for the Beast (11G + 23A = 34 PTS), while Pleskach also sits third in scoring for the Oilers (11G +16A = 27 PTS).
Here are the current league leaders in scoring (as of January 19):

PLAYER TEAM GAMES PLAYED GOALS ASSISTS TOTAL POINTS
Tim McGauly UTA 35 17 33 50
Tyler Sheehy ALN 34 18 31 49
David Vallorani BRM 40 21 26 47
Giorgio Estephan NFL 37 18 28 46
Daniel Leavens BRM 39 18 28 46

MOST OUTSTANDING GOALIE

The list of goaltenders initially projected to win most outstanding goalie is short: Sean Bonar (Atlanta), Pat Nagle (Toledo), and Tomas Sholl (Idaho). After an astounding 2018-19 season, it’s no surprise that Sholl received five of the seven Sin Bin staff votes from all four divisions. “Sholly The Goalie” hasn’t disappointed in this season either, tied for a league-leading 17 wins, a 17-6-4 overall record, and a top-five goals against average (2.29) and top-six save percentage (.919). Sholl also earned his first AHL call-up with the Texas Stars on January 15.
Bonar is having an extremely down year (6-8-0, league worst 4.21 GAA, second-to-worst .873 SV%), while Nagle continues as the veteran that keeps chugging along (9-4-2, 2.77 GAA, .910 SV%) and has also appeared in eight AHL games with the Grand Rapids Griffins this year (2-4-1, 2.15 GAA, .918).
Here are the current goaltending leaders by GAA (as of January 19):

GOALTENDER TEAM GAMES PLAYED RECORD GAA SV% SHUTOUTS
Logan Thompson SC 20 16-3-1 1.86 .938 2
Parker Milner SC 19 13-2-3 1.95 .928 6
Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen CIN 20 12-5-3 2.12 .917 3
Tomas Sholl IDH 27 17-6-4 2.29 .919 3
Zach Sawchenko ALN 13 8-2-3 2.35 .930 2

MOST OUTSTANDING DEFENSEMAN

Out of the five individual award categories, Most Outstanding Defenseman stands alone with no multi-vote picks from The Sin Bin’s seven-person preseason panel. Names thrown into the ring were Alex Breton (Allen), Cody Donaghey (Orlando), Tom Parisi (South Carolina), Matt Register (Allen), Kyle Rhodes (Cincinnati), Logan Roe (Florida), and Keoni Texeira (Indy).
Roe is first among league defensemen in both scoring & plus-minus (10G + 23A = 33 PTS, plus-28); kudos to Indy Fuel correspondent Evan Miller for his picking Roe for DOTY back in October. Breton is tied for fourth in defenseman points (4G + 25A = 29 PTS) with Parisi tied for seventh (9G + 15A = 24 PTS). Texeira has two goals and 16 assists for 18 points through 38 games, Donaghey has one goal and 12 assists for 13 points through 36 games, and Rhodes was released by Cincy on October 17. Register has not played in a game for the Americans this year, instead scoring one goal in 21 games for Allen’s AHL affiliate, the Iowa Wild.
Here are the current leading defensemen (as of January 19):

PLAYER TEAM GAMES PLAYED GOALS ASSISTS TOTAL POINTS
Logan Roe FLA 40 10 23 33
Miles Liberati TUL 36 6 25 31
Matt Petgrave BRM 36 6 24 30
Alex Breton ALN 42 4 25 29
Patrick Parkkonen WIC 41 3 26 29

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

The Rookie of the Year preseason predictions have to be the hardest, since it can be difficult to discern which debuting skaters’ skills will translate at the pro level. The Sin Bin’s staff picks in October were Justin Brazeau (Newfoundland), Karl El-Mir (Indy), three votes for Brandon Hawkins (Wheeling), and Logan Thompson (South Carolina).
Thompson has overwhelmingly impressed in net for the league-leading South Carolina Stingrays, sitting atop the league in GAA (1.86) and SV% (.938), posting a 16-3-1 record with two shutouts in 20 games played. He signed an AHL deal with Hershey on May 21, 2019 and was assigned to South Carolina on October 4 before the start of the season. Credit to The Sin Bin’s Stingrays beat reporter Travis Rogers for accurately choosing this ROY frontrunner.
Brazeau is tied for third in rookie scoring (14G +19A = 33 PTS) while Hawkins is currently tied for tenth (13G + 10A = 23 PTS). Bouncing on and off reserve a number of times already this year, El-Mir has five goals and four assists for nine points in just 16 games played.
Here’s the standout rookie skaters and goaltenders (as of January 19):

ROOKIE SKATERS
PLAYER TEAM GAMES PLAYED GOALS ASSISTS TOTAL POINTS
Tyler Sheehy ALN 34 18 31 49
Alan Lyszczarczyk FW 36 12 22 34
Liam Pecararo GRN 27 18 15 33
Justin Brazeau NFL 36 14 19 33
Samuel Asselin ATL 30 15 14 29
ROOKIE GOALTENDERS
GOALTENDER TEAM GAMES PLAYED RECORD GAA SV% SHUTOUTS
Logan Thompson SC 20 16-3-1 1.86 .938 2
Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen CIN 20 12-5-3 2.12 .917 3
Zach Sawchenko ALN 13 8-2-3 2.35 .930 2
Clint Windsor ORL 18 8-7-2 2.57 .921 3
Billy Christopoulos TOL 16 12-2-2 2.58 .924 0

COACH OF THE YEAR

Another difficult category to predict before the season begins, Coach of the Year nominees covered all four divisions. Doug Christiansen (Indy), Kevin Kerr (Greenville), Rob Murray (Tulsa), Jeff Pyle (Atlanta), Brad Ralph (Florida), and two votes for John Snowden (Newfoundland) round out The Sin Bin’s preseason predictions for COTY.
Snowden has the Growlers atop the North Division, second in the Eastern Conference, and third in the league standings after 39 games (29-10-0, 58 points). Newfoundland is also undefeated in overtime and shootouts thus far this season, and the Growlers have carried an 11-game winning streak into the All-Star break. 
Ralph isn’t far behind with the Everblades — second in the South Division, third in the Eastern Conference, and fourth overall in the league (25-11-4, 54 points). Also in the South, Kerr has turned around the once-woeful Swamp Rabbits and have them vying for a playoff spot this season (21-19-2, 44 points) after finishing dead last in the division last year. Christiansen has the Indy Fuel in fourth place (20-18-1, 41 points) out of six teams in the meat grinder that is the Central Division.
Both Murray and Pyle have struggled to get their squads in postseason contention. Murray’s Oilers are near the bottom of both the Mountain Division and Western Conference (17-21-4, 38 points), while Pyle’s Gladiators (17-21-0, 34 points) are vying with Orlando for the fourth and final playoff spot in the South Division standings. Atlanta is the only other team in the league (aside from previously mentioned Newfoundland) that has gone undefeated in OT and shootouts.
First-year South Carolina Head Coach Steve Bergin is the frontrunner for COTY, taking the Stingrays to 30 wins faster than any team this season (30-5-4, 64 points). Allen’s longtime bench boss Steve Martinson is also a viable candidate. After finishing dead last in the ECHL for 2018-19, Martinson flipped a once sad Americans team around to second in the league (27-8-7, 61 points) through 42 games.

PLAYOFF TEAMS

Offseason signings and re-signings can oftentimes be a solid indicator as to whether a team will make the Kelly Cup Playoffs in the ECHL. How did The Sin Bin’s staff do on their playoff team predictions? Let’s take a look…

NORTH DIVISION
Preseason Predictions Standings (as of January 19)
Newfoundland  (seven of seven votes) *Newfoundland (58 pts., 39 GP)
Adirondack (six votes) *Brampton (50 pts., 40 GP)
Brampton (four votes) *Reading (46 pts., 39 GP)
Maine (four votes) *Maine (40 pts., 39 GP)
Reading (four votes) Adirondack (40 pts., 43 GP)
Worcester (two votes) Worcester (32 pts., 39 GP)
SOUTH DIVISION
Preseason Predictions Standings (as of January 19)
Florida (seven of seven votes) *South Carolina (64 pts., 39 GP)
South Carolina (six votes) *Florida (54 pts., 40 GP)
Orlando (six votes) *Greenville (44 pts., 42 GP)
Greenville (three votes) *Orlando (36 pts., 37 GP)
Jacksonville (three votes) Atlanta (34 pts., 38 GP)
Atlanta (two votes) Jacksonville (30 pts., 37 GP)
Norfolk (one vote) Norfolk (27 pts., 41 GP)
CENTRAL DIVISION
Preseason Predictions Standings (as of January 19)
Cincinnati (seven of seven votes) *Cincinnati (54 pts., 40 GP)
Toledo (seven votes) *Toledo (46 pts., 37 GP)
Fort Wayne (six votes) *Fort Wayne (44 pts., 39 GP)
Indy (five votes) *Indy (41 pts., 39 GP)
Kalamazoo (two votes) Wheeling (38 pts., 39 GP)
Wheeling (one vote) Kalamazoo (30 pts., 37 GP)
MOUNTAIN DIVISION
Preseason Predictions Standings (as of January 19)
Idaho (seven of seven votes) *Allen (61 pts., 42 GP)
Tulsa (seven votes) *Idaho (51 pts., 41 GP)
Allen (four votes) *Utah (49 pts., 39 GP)
Kansas City (four votes) *Rapid City (47 pts., 40 GP)
Utah (three votes) Wichita (43 pts., 43 GP)
Wichita (two votes) Tulsa (38 pts., 42 GP)
Rapid City (one vote) Kansas City (36 pts., 38 GP)

Follow The Sin Bin all this week for in-depth 2020 ECHL All-Star Classic coverage
Matthew HardingMatt ThomasMatthew WillEd Bailey, and Cat Gonzales will be reporting LIVE from Wichita while providing an introduction to the city, major storylines from the first half of the season, following the Stanley Cup for a day, a recap of the All-Star Game and individual events, photo galleries, a chat with ECHL Commission Ryan Crelin, and a look forward to intriguing stories for the second half of the season. Harding and Zach Courter will also be broadcasting the game and subsequent events LIVE on The Sin Bin App!
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