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2021 Kelly Cup Playoffs

Are the 2021 ECHL Playoffs Already Set?

Are the 2021 ECHL Playoffs Already Set?

WICHITA, Kan. – History has proven that at the time of Thanksgiving, the teams currently in playoff spots are typically the ones who participate in the playoffs five months later. In this strange 2020-21 season, we don’t have the usual Thanksgiving break timetable to look at the current standings.

As of today, every team but the Fort Wayne Komets have played between 20-30% of their games – the same amount that have usually been played by Thanksgiving of regular years. So the question needs to be asked – Do we know the teams who will participate in the ECHL playoffs in June? Let’s break it all down.

Current Standings (Top 4 in each conference make playoffs):

Western Conference: 
1. Allen Americans — 14-5-1-0 (29 points), 0.725 PCT
2. Wichita Thunder — 11-4-1-0 (23 points), 0.719 PCT
3. Utah Grizzlies — 9-4-3-3 (24 points), 0.632 PCT
4. Tulsa Oilers — 9-10-2-1 (21 points), 0.452 PCT
5. Kansas City Mavericks — 7-9-2-1 (17 points), 0.447 PCT
6. Rapid City Rush — 8-14-0-0 (16 points), 0.381 PCT
7. Fort Wayne Komets — Have not played a game (begin season on Feb. 12)

Eastern Conference: 
1. Indy Fuel — 14-3-1-0 (29 points), 0.806 PCT
2. Florida Everblades — 14-5-0-1 (29 points), 0.725 PCT
3. South Carolina Stingrays — 9-5-4-0 (22 points), 0.611 PCT
4. Greenville Swamp Rabbits — 8-4-5-2 (23 points), 0.605 PCT
5. Orlando Solar Bears — 9-7-1-0 (19 points), 0.559 PCT
6. Jacksonville Icemen — 6-9-1-1 (14 points), 0.412 PCT
7. Wheeling Nailers — 3-8-4-0 (10 points), 0.333 PCT

The West:

1. Allen Americans — 14-5-1-0 (29 points), 0.725 PCT

The Good: Allen has outscored their opponents 70-50 and are 10-0-0-0 when leading after two periods. The powerplay is above average, scoring on 14 of 79 (17.9% efficiency) opportunities.

The Bad: The Americans take tons of penalties. They are the second-most penalized team in terms of minor penalties and average 13.10 penalty minutes per game. Their penalty kill, however, does a pretty good job of keeping opponents off the scoresheet, killing 56 of 68 (82.4% efficiency) penalties faced.

Will they make it?: If Allen can keep themselves out of the penalty box, yes, the Allen Americans will be in the 2021 ECHL playoffs.

2. Wichita Thunder — 11-4-1-0 (23 points), 0.719 PCT

The Good: The Thunder are by far the best goaltending team in the ECHL. Mitch GillamEvan Weninger and Hayden Lavigne have combined for a 2.33 goals against average and 0.932 save percentage. Weninger has led Wichita in recent weeks as Gillam has remained on the Commissioner’s Exempt List.

The Bad: Wichita has only scored seven powerplay goals all season. The Thunder need to find more ways to score on the man advantage – especially when battling Allen and Utah for playoff spots in the West.

Will they make it?: If Wichita’s goaltenders can continue to dominate, yes, the Wichita Thunder will be in the 2021 ECHL playoffs.

3. Utah Grizzlies — 9-4-3-3 (24 points), 0.632 PCT

The Good: Utah’s powerplay is exceptional. Their 16 goals on 73 man advantage opportunities equate to a 21.9% efficiency, led by Pat Cannone‘s three powerplay goals and five powerplay assists.

The Bad: The Grizzlies have been a team of runs all season, starting off the year with four straight wins following a season-opening loss to Rapid City. They went on to lose eight of their next 10 games, stunting their strong opening weeks.

Will they make it?: If Utah can get decent points in games against Wichita and Allen as well as win their games against Rapid City and Kansas City, yes, the Utah Grizzles will be in the 2021 ECHL playoffs.

4. Tulsa Oilers — 9-10-2-1 (21 points), 0.452 PCT

The Good: Tulsa’s penalty kill is strong, killing 60 of 70 penalties – good for fourth in the league. In addition, Tulsa puts scoring chances up in bunches, outshooting opponents by 117.

The Bad: The Oilers’ goaltending has struggled thus far. Olle Eriksson Ek and Devin Williams have combined for just four wins in their 11 games combined with goals against averages about 2.80.

Will they make it?: If Fort Wayne comes into the league and succeeds early and often, no, the Tulsa Oilers will not be in the 2021 ECHL playoffs.

5. Kansas City Mavericks — 7-9-2-1 (17 points), 0.447 PCT

The Good: Kansas City only has a winning record against one team – the Tulsa Oilers. The games against Tulsa will prove vital in potential playoff spots.

The Bad:  The Mavericks are a combined 3-8-2-1 against all other foes. Their 2-3-0-0 record against Utah provides a bit of encouragement but there are still more questions than answers for the Mavericks as of today.

Will they make it?: If Kansas City continues to struggle against consistent foes like Allen, Rapid City, and Wichita, no, the Kansas City Mavericks will not make the 2021 ECHL playoffs.

6. Rapid City Rush — 8-14-0-0 (16 points), 0.381 PCT

The Good: While the Rush do not have any double-digit goal scorers, Tyler Coulter has led the way offensively with nine goals and 11 assists. His four powerplay goals are tied for second in the league.

The Bad:  Rapid City has struggled to pick up wins with any consistency. They have had two separate two-game win streaks but the rest have been one-off wins.

Will they make it?: If the Rush continues to be inconsistent in the win column, no, the Rapid City Rush will not be in the 2021 ECHL playoffs.

7. Fort Wayne Komets — Have not played a game (begin season on Feb. 12)

The Fort Wayne Komets are set to begin their season tomorrow night against the Wheeling Nailers, the first of two games this weekend between the two.

Fort Wayne only plays 50 games compared to the rest of the league’s 72. With the standings being based on win percentage, it is important for the Komets to start the year strong in order to grab a playoff spot.

The East:

1. Indy Fuel — 13-3-1-0 (29 points), 0.806 PCT

The Good: The Fuel are the masters of the one-goal game. Indy is 12-2-1-0 in games decided by one goal. They are 2-1-0-0 in their other three games.

The Bad: Keeping players in Indy will be the biggest struggle for the Fuel. Only three players have managed to play in all 18 Indy games this season.

Will they make it?: If the Fuel can continue to dominate every category (as they do now), yes, they will be in the 2021 ECHL playoffs.

2. Florida Everblades — 13-5-0-1 (29 points), 0.725 PCT

The Good: The five straight wins Florida started their year off with were no mistake. Their powerplay and penalty kill are both top tier in the ECHL and the goaltending of Cam Johnson at the beginning of the season and now Devin Cooley and Jake Hildebrand have set the tone for the ‘Blades.

The Bad: Florida hasn’t had the opportunity to see lots of other teams. 10 of their 20 games have been against the Orlando Solar Bears. Matched up against an Allen, Wichita, or Indy could show us a vastly different Florida team.

Will they make it?: If the Everblades can continue the success they have now against other teams in the ECHL, yes, the Florida Everblades will be in the 2021 ECHL playoffs.

3. South Carolina Stingrays — 9-5-4-0 (22 points), 0.611 PCT

The Good: South Carolina looks like a complete team. With six players with at least four goals and Max Novak adding 12 assists, the team’s offense is beginning to take form.

The Bad: Goaltending is starting to look sketchy in Carolina. The Rays just had to bring in Sean Bonar, who played in five games with Kansas City. In those five games, he failed to record a win and had a 4.14 goals against average.

Will they make it?: If the Rays can find success against Greenville and Orlando (the other two fighting for the bottom two playoff spots in the east), yes, the South Carolina Stingrays will be in the 2021 ECHL playoffs.

4. Greenville Swamp Rabbits — 8-4-5-2 (23 points), 0.605 PCT

The Good: The Rabbits have appeared in 11 overtime games. Although they only won four of those games, the overtime points they’ve managed have been the key to keeping their playoff spot.

The Bad: Greenville lost eight of the first 12 games. The lack of consistency could easily wreck the Swamp Rabbits’ season as it threatens many other teams.

Will they make it?: If Greenville can’t turn the overtime appearances into overtime wins, no, the Greenville Swamp Rabbits will not be in the 2021 ECHL playoffs.

5. Orlando Solar Bears — 9-7-1-0 (19 points), 0.559 PCT

The Good: Orlando are not as bad as their current record shows. With 10 of their 17 games being against Florida, they’ve been tested early and often this year and have maintained a record over 0.500.

The Bad: The Solar Bears sit near the bottom in both special teams categories. In a conference with Florida, Indy, South Carolina and Greenville, they will have to improve to make the playoffs.

Will they make it?: If Orlando can improve their special teams, yes, the Orlando Solar Bears will be in the 2021 ECHL playoffs.

6. Jacksonville Icemen — 6-9-1-1 (14 points), 0.412 PCT

The Good: The penalty kill is exceptional so far. They are one of two teams in the league with a penalty kill efficiency over 90%.

The Bad: Jacksonville has been killed in the first period. They are being outscored 16-9 in the first and have only scored first six times.

Will they make it?: If the Icemen can’t turn their penalty kill defense into offense, no, the Jacksonville Icemen will not be in the 2021 ECHL playoffs.

7. Wheeling Nailers — 3-8-4-0 (10 points), 0.333 PCT

The Good: Patrick Watling is a bright spot on this Nailers team, scoring 13 points (3G, 10A) in 15 games.

The Bad: Wheeling is only 1-6-1-0 at home, the worst home team in the ECHL. The two games against Fort Wayne this weekend at home are the perfect opportunity to right the ship.

Will they make it?: If Wheeling can’t improve at home, no, the Wheeling Nailers will not be in the 2021 ECHL playoffs.

One thing has remained in these first almost two months of the ECHL season – inconsistency. We’ve seen games postponed and teams playing significantly shorthanded due to players sitting on the Commissioner’s Exempt List. We will continue to analyze and track the current playoff picture as Fort Wayne joins in and the season continues.

Matthew Will is the social and digital media manager and covers the Wichita Thunder with Matthew Harding for The Sin Bin. Follow and interact with them on Twitter @SinBinThunder.

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    Matthew Will covers the Wichita Thunder for The Sin Bin. Follow and interact with him on Twitter @TSBMediaMan.

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