TOLEDO, OH – By this time next week, ECHL hockey will be in full swing across the country, so before we dive into the new season let’s take a look back on what has changed since the last time the Walleye took the ice in 2017, social media style!
The Toledo Walleye enter their ninth season in the ECHL as the defending Central Division and Brabham Cup Champions. Toledo is affiliated with the Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL) and the Detroit Red Wings (NHL).
Head Coach: Dan Watson enters his second full year as a head coach and has an overall record of 56-30-7
Captain: Alden Hirschfeld will begin his first full season as the captain after taking over midway through last season.
Last Season: Finished first in the ECHL with a 51-17-2-2 regular season record, made it to the Western Conference Finals where they were eliminated by the Colorado Eagles in five games.
Walleye fans witnessed their team’s best performance as a franchise last season with multiple records being set at the individual, team, and league level. Shane Berschbach became the single-season and career franchise leader in assists and points with a 68 assist, 86 point performance. Watson won Coach of the Year, Tyson Spink won Rookie of the Year, and the club earned their second Brabham Cup. After being moved to the Central Division for the 2016-17 campaign, Toledo won their third straight Division Title as well. The Walleye entered the playoffs as the overall number-1 seed and eliminated Kalamazoo and Fort Wayne in seven and five games respectively. Their run came to an end in the Western Conference Finals, when the eventual Kelly Cup Champion Colorado Eagles bounced the Walleye.
Toledo’s offense took a big hit losing Tyson and Tylor Spink, but they came back strong adding good offensive players like Connor Crisp, Austen Brassard, and Tyler Barnes. Toledo will also have two new goalies after adding ECHL veteran Pat Nagle and Czech Republic native Matěj Machovský.
- Toledo has made the playoffs for three straight seasons, the longest streak in team history.
- First team in ECHL history to finish a regular season ranked first in goals scored (302), goals against (191), power play percentage (25.1%), and penalty kill percentage (86.8%) in the same year.
- Set an ECHL record last season for fewest goals allowed while on the penalty kill (29).
Note: In the sections below, an (*) indicates goal, game and assist stats include regular season and playoffs from last season.
- Tyler Barnes – 14 goals in 37 ECHL games along with four goals in 25 AHL games and a combined 22 assists between the leagues, played with Indy and Allen of the ECHL and the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL last season.
- Kevin Tansey – 13 goals and 18 assists in 44 games last year, comes to Toledo from the Kansas City Mavericks
- Connor Crisp – 17 goals and 21 assists in 55 games, played for the Brampton Beast last season
- Austen Brassard – 11 goals and 22 assists in 44 games, acquired from the Utah Grizzlies for future considerations
Blocked and Reported*
- Tyson and Tylor Spink – Tylor Spink had 33 goals and 56 assists in 82 games, while Tyson Spink had 40 goals and 53 assists in 86 games. Both left Toledo to sign in Sweden.
- Nolan Zajac – 11 goals and 52 assists in 77 games and represented Toledo at the All-Star Classic last season. Rights were traded to Wichita and then to the Reading Royals.
- Evan Rankin – 36 goals and 33 assists in 83 games, decided to retire this off-season.
- Jordan Hill – Three goals and 12 assists in 58 games, also retired.
Toledo’s offense took a big hit when they lost the Spinks to Europe, but did manage to add some balancing pieces as replacements. Along with that, the two new netminders will have to settle into the Walleye’s system, so there may be some growing pains in the crease. Altogether, Toledo has another strong team for the 2017-18 season, but it seems that last’s year team had more depth. Expect another postseason appearance for Toledo, with their sights set solely on the Kelly Cup.
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Alex Noah and Michael Scott collaborated on this preview.