Last week’s poll featured a lopsided result. IceGator Nation is expecting that the big high-scoring forward Jake Hauswirth (who played for seven ECHL teams) will begin the 2015-16 season just as he ended the last one – anchoring Drew Omicioli’s top scoring line.
There’s no doubt that playing Hauswirth at center again would be a good idea. Jake’s one of the best players in the SPHL, a huge presence up the middle, and he generates a ton of offense. Jake should easily score a point per game, and a 70-point season is easily within reach.
Today, I will buck the conventional wisdom and give an argument for moving Jake Hauswirth to the wing. It will not only be best for the team, but the best move for him as well.
Reason #1: The IceGators are loaded at center
With Hauswirth, Jeremy Boyer, Alex Hudson, and Luke Kasteel already signed, one look at the IceGators preseason roster makes it abundantly clear that this team is already four-deep at the center position – include the signings of Ryan Patsch & Jon Puskar, there will be unprecedented depth in the middle when training camp opens. We project that the third-line center position will be one of the most hotly contested slots once the IceGators strap on the pads next month. As the incumbent, Luke Kasteel has the inside shot to anchor the 3rd line once the season begins and Jeremy Boyer has been the 2nd line center for the past two seasons – which leads me to point #2…
Reason #2: Alex Hudson will anchor the top line
IceGators coach Drew Omicioli did not trade Adam Stuart to Peoria if he didn’t have big plans for Alex Hudson. Omicioli already regards Hudson as “One of the most versatile and complete hockey players in the SPHL.” Hudson is a beast up the middle – a physical playmaker that wins face-offs, draws plenty of attention to himself, and extremely difficult to knock off the puck. In other words, Hudson is exactly what Omicioli wants to anchor a top scoring line.
Reason #3: Hauswirth is a natural left shot and high scoring left wings are a premium.
Looking at the league scoring leaders over the past couple of seasons, you will notice a trend. Left wingers are consistently among the top scorers in the SPHL and this season will likely be no different. Snipers like Peoria’s Steve Morra & Pensacola’s Corey Banfield are set to pace their teams in scoring this season. Benji Rubin would have been the IceGators guy on the left side this season, but he was traded to Mississippi to bring in goalie Adam Courchaine.
Jake Hauswirth is a left-shooting forward, and when he broke into professional hockey with the South Carolina Stingrays, he did so on the left wing – and he was effective. Hauswirth still has a great shot, and if Omicioli puts him on the left side of Alex Hudson, he could put up even more points as he would if he was playing center.
Reason #4: Ryan Salvis
Ryan Salvis – late of the President’s Cup Champion Knoxville Ice Bears – can be used as an analog for Omicioli’s vision for Hauswirth. Salvis, like Hauswirth, is a left shot who broke into the pros as a left winger. During his time in Pensacola, Salvis played substantial time at center where he was successful playing on the Ice Flyers championship teams. When Salvis was signed by Knoxville, he joined another team that had good depth at the center position (Berkley Scott, Eric Satim, and Ben Power). Mike Craigen moved Salvis back to left wing, and Salvis increased his production from the previous season – and won another championship.
Reason #5: A big scoring line
Given the signings that Coach Omicioli has made over the offseason, he is looking to re-build the IceGators’ top scoring line that has the capability to put up points, play physically on both ends, and eat up tons of ice time. The second line anchored by Jeremy Boyer and Chris Wilson is already established, and their roles will remain the same this season. Playing Hudson or Hauswirth on that line may not be the best way to utilize their talents. Make no mistake: Omicioli wants Hauswirth and Hudson playing together on the kind of big, physically imposing scoring line that can put up big minutes and big scoring numbers.
Right Side Options
If the IceGators feature Hauswirth and Hudson on their top scoring line, who will play on the right side? We project that the right wing position on the top line will be one of the most contested positions in training camp. There are several options available to Omicioli, including the following:
- Matt Viola, a natural left shot, but capable of playing on either wing effectively. At 6’0″ 183#, he’s big and durable enough to fit in well on this line.
- Ryan Patsch is another left shooting forward, and possibly fits more in the Adam Stuart mold with his scoring ability.
- Stephen Buco, at 5″8, would seem to go against the type. However, if Omicioli is looking for the “Johnny Hockey” type of player like the Flames’ Gaudreau – Buco may just wind up being called “Stevie Hockey” in Lafayette.
- Rumored signee Vlad Gavrik is the archetype of a big (6’4″, 220 pound) scoring forward – and he’s a right-shot. If he does sign with the IceGators – he will be someone to look at in training camp.
The Louisiana IceGators will open their training camp in about two weeks, and we will be paying close attention to how coach Omicioli will be building his forward lines. Jake Hauswirth was absolutely stellar last season anchoring the top scoring line, but he may be even more productive as a left side sniper with Alex Hudson feeding him pucks and giving him room to operate with Hudson’s physical play. Follow us on Twitter at@SinBinIceGators and on Facebook at Five For Chomping.