WICHITA, Kan. – A year after missing the Kelly Cup Playoffs, the Allen Americans became the first western conference team to punch their ticket Tuesday night in Tulsa. Elsewhere, perennial contenders, Utah and Idaho, are battling for the final home-ice spot, their spots in the playoffs all but ensured. A little lower, the Tulsa Oilers and Rapid City Rush are vying for the fourth and final spot, while at the bottom of the division, the Mavericks and Thunder are battling to stay out of the basement. Suffice it to say, the ECHL’s Mountain Division never lacks for storylines.
The Sin Bin’s Matthew Harding previews the seven-team Mountain Division ahead of #ECHLDeadlineDay on Thursday, March 5 at 3:00 pm EST. He’ll break down the greatest need for each club, as well as their predictions on who will be active come deadline day!
Allen Americans Info: 39-13-6-2, 86 points
Home Record: 22-6-2-0
Road Record: 17-7-4-2
Last 10 Games: 6-4-0-0
Goal Differential: +53
Power Play Rank: 10th – 18.0% success rate (46-256)
Penalty Kill Rank: 16th – 81.2% kill rate (25 PPG allowed in 218 times shorthanded)
Greatest Need: Depth on both offense and defense. Currently, the Americans are battling their share of injuries and callups and with the amateur signing window open, Americans head coach Steve Martinson has already signed a pair of players, but there is no doubt that he’s scrounging around to find a seasoned player to help the team down the stretch.
Prediction for the Deadline: With a likely of another deep playoff run in the offing and knowing that Iowa will be in the AHL’s playoffs, look for Martinson and Allen to be active.
Utah Grizzlies Info: 33-17-6-4, 76 points
Home Record: 18-7-2-2
Road Record: 15-10-4-2
Last 10 Games: 5-2-1-2
Goal Differential: +41
Power Play Rank: 8th – 19.0% success rate (47-247)
Penalty Kill Rank: 6th – 84.0% kill rate (35 PPG allowed in 219 times shorthanded)
Greatest Need: Offensive depth. There’s very little secret that as the McGauley/Molino/Lewis triumvirate goes, so go the Utah Grizzlies. Looking deeper into the lineup, there are just five forwards who have more than 30 points. Their AHL brethren, the Colorado Eagles, are likely to be a playoff team again this season, so head coach Tim Branham could be shopping for an added player or two to help upfront.
Prediction for the Deadline: For the most part, Branham and company have been relatively quiet on deadline days of the past. I would expect to see that trend continue again this season.
Idaho Steelheads Info: 34-17-3-4, 75 points
Home Record: 19-10-1-0
Road Record: 15-7-2-4
Last 10 Games: 9-1-0-0
Goal Differential: +50
Power Play Rank: 16th – 16.7% success rate (33-198)
Penalty Kill Rank: 3rd – 87.6% kill rate (26 PPG allowed in 209 times shorthanded)
Greatest Need: A Tomas Sholl statue outside Centurylink Arena…seriously. The three-time ECHL Goaltender of the Month was red-hot in February, going 7-1-0 with a 1.74 goals against average and a .939 save percentage. He leads the league with 26 wins, is tied for second with four shutouts, ranks fourth with 1,016 saves and is sixth with a .921 save percentage.
Prediction for the Deadline: It’s likely that Texas will miss the Calder Cup playoffs. If that happens, the Stars will undoubtedly load up Idaho. With the run that the Steelies have been on recently, it’s hard to see Everett Sheen making a move before Thursday.
Tulsa Oilers Info: 28-26-7-1, 64 points
Home Record: 17-13-3-0
Road Record: 11-13-4-1
Last 10 Games: 6-2-2-0
Goal Differential: +1
Power Play Rank: 21st – 15.5% success rate (34-229)
Penalty Kill Rank: 8th – 83.6% kill rate (39 PPG allowed in 238 times shorthanded)
Greatest Need: Consistency. While the offense has been there for most of the season, the Oilers have struggled to string together good performances on defense and in between the pipes.
Prediction for the Deadline: Veteran forward Ryan Tesink recently returned to the Oilers lineup after missing several months with a lower-body injury. At this time of year, having a veteran player like him come back is almost as good as an acquisition. Having said that, I would expect head coach Rob Murray to stand pat at the deadline.
Rapid City Rush Info: 28-24-5-1, 62 points
Home Record: 18-10-0-0
Road Record: 10-14-5-1
Last 10 Games: 3-5-1-1
Goal Differential: -17
Power Play Rank: 17th – 16.3% success rate (46-283)
Penalty Kill Rank: 5th – 84.1% kill rate (40 PPG allowed in 251 times shorthanded)
Greatest Need: Playoff-seasoned player. This Rush team is extremely young and has a real shot of bringing playoff hockey back to the Black Hills for the first time in four seasons. A playoff-seasoned player, regardless of position, could be a key asset for head coach Daniel Tetrault, since they can be someone rookie and second-year players can lean on to learn more about the rigors of playoff hockey.
Prediction for the Deadline: I don’t anticipate another sell-off of players, like what happened last season, but it’s possible you see Tetrault bring in some added depth to the roster for the playoff push.
Kansas City Mavericks Info: 24-30-3-1, 52 points
Home Record: 14-14-0-1
Road Record: 10-16-3-0
Last 10 Games: 4-6-0-0
Goal Differential: -45
Power Play Rank: 18th – 15.7% success rate (30-191)
Penalty Kill Rank: 13th – 82.2% kill rate (40 PPG allowed in 225 times shorthanded)
Greatest Need: A new culture. This crop of Mavericks’ players cost a well-respected coach, John-Scott Dickson, his job earlier in the season. Since Dickson’s departure, there has been little movement in the standings, and it’s become painfully obvious that an overhaul of the roster is needed in Independence. With a new coaching staff likely in the offseason, it would be nice to have the dead weight on the roster gone, and have some assets to play with.
Prediction for the Deadline: Until it was blatantly obvious a change needed to be made, Mavs management didn’t pull the trigger, and it may have cost them a shot at the playoffs. It is going to be very hard to see them signing off on a sorely needed roster overhaul, because if they had, the firesale would have already started. In a move that will make Mavs faithful disenchanted, I expect the Mavs to be relatively quiet on deadline day.
Wichita Thunder Info: 22-29-8-0, 52 points
Home Record: 17-9-3-0
Road Record: 5-20-5-0
Last 10 Games: 3-7-0-0
Goal Differential: -51
Power Play Rank: 14th – 17.5% success rate (35-200)
Penalty Kill Rank: 25th – 77.3% kill rate (55 PPG allowed in 242 times shorthanded)
Greatest Need: Defensive help. Thunder fans have seen the numbers 5, 6, 7, and 8 too much on the visiting side of the scoreboard this season. While the addition of Jacob Graves was a remedy to the defensive problems earlier in the season, the corps has been gutted with the absences of Vincent Desharnais and Patrik Parkkonen to callups, plus Riley Weselowski and Dylan Olsen, who have been out with injuries. Without mortgaging the future, Ramsey could stand to find another sound defenseman on the back end.
Prediction for the Deadline: There have been inquiries on some players, but Ramsay seems inclined to hang on to them, in an effort to build the base of returning players for next season. Unless there’s an offer that blows his socks off, I expect the Thunder to be quiet at the deadline.
Don’t forget to catch The Sin Bin’s ECHL Trade Deadline Show from 7:30 to 9:30 pm ET on Thursday, March 5 via The Sin Bin app, Facebook Live, and YouTube for a breakdown of all the day’s deals.
Also, keep tabs on your team’s transactions with The Sin Bin’s Trade Tracker!