Head Coach: Malcolm Cameron — Ninth season as ECHL head coach, first with the Wichita Thunder. His career coaching record is 317-172-66, but 34-34 in the Kelly Cup Playoffs. Cameron returns to the ECHL looking to improve on his outstanding numbers all-time. He is tied for eighth in wins (317), 10th in games coached in league history (555), 12th in playoff wins (34), and ninth in playoff games coached (68).
Captain: This has not yet been released, but Ian Lowe is likely to remain the captain of the team. If that happens, it would be Lowe’s third season wearing the captain’s “C”.
Last Season: In short, last season was a dumpster fire. The team finished dead last in the ECHL with an 18-41-13 record, allowing 3.33 goals per game, while only scoring an anemic 2.08 per game. Key spots in the Thunder lineup were taken by players who were clearly on the backside of their careers. Despite all that, there were some bright spots on the team. Goaltender David Shantz finished with a 2.88 goals against average and a .902 save percentage in his first full ECHL season since 2010-11. Kale Kerbashian was almost a point-per-game player (34 pts in 37 games) with the Thunder after he was acquired on January 4 and Miles Koules quickly added punch to the offensive corps, tallying 13 points (4g, 9a) in 15 games for Wichita after being acquired in March.
Hot or Not?
With the record Wichita had last year and the players who have been assembled on the Thunder roster at the time of this writing, it is clear that there has been a fundamental shift in the direction of this franchise. Gone are the veterans who have not adapted to the new way the game is played, now in the lineup are kids who work within the confines of a system, want to be coached and have a desire to move on to higher leagues. It will be intriguing to see how this manifests itself out on the ice.
- As mentioned above, Lowe is back for his fifth season in a Thunder uniform. In 264 regular-season games, Lowe has 75 goals and 111 assists (186 points) and 251 penalty minutes. He sits in ninth place all-time in franchise history for points (186) and seventh place in games played (263).
- Landon Oslanski is back on the Thunder blueline for another season. Last season, he scored 10 goals on the power play, most of any ECHL defensemen. Twenty of his 35 points came on the man-advantage, which was tied with Allen’s Matthew Register for third most among defenseman.
- Former fan-favorite Erick Lizon has signed with Saint Georges COOL-FM in the very rugged LNAH. In two games, Lizon has 15 penalty minutes.
- Kerbashian has signed with the Allen Americans for the coming season. He won two CHL titles with the Americans in 2013 & 2014.
- Kenton Miller was traded to the Wheeling Nailers on August 19th. Miller has played in 255 games in the CHL, ECHL & AHL, scoring 69 goals and tallying 79 assists (148 points) over the course of his career.
- Theo Peckham played in 16 games with Wichita last season before his season was ended with an upper-body injury. Peckham had signed in Rapid City but was quickly released.
- One of the biggest additions to the Wichita Thunder roster this offseason was Vincent Arseneau, who won two straight Kelly Cups with the Allen Americans. Arseneau is known for having an edge to his game, but also has some scoring capability, too, scoring 50 points in 85 regular-season games. He has also played in 46 playoff games, all with the Allen Americans, where he has tallied 26 points (15G, 11A) and 104 penalty minutes. Look for him to be paired with fellow French-Canadiens Alexis Loiseau and Louick Marcotte quite a bit this season.
- Marcotte joins the Thunder after a decent rookie campaign with the Adirondack Thunder. Last season, Marcotte played in 57 regular-season games, collecting 29 points (16G, 13A). Those familiar with Marcotte’s game say he can be a 30-goal scorer as early as this season.
- James Melindy signed with the Thunder on August 16. The 22-year-old defenseman is a 2012 third round draft pick of the Arizona Coyotes and is coming off an appearance in the Kelly Cup Finals with the Wheeling Nailers.
- Another crown jewel of the Thunder’s offseason came Monday night when we broke the story of Alex Krushelnyski being sent down to Wichita by the Binghamton Senators. Krushelnyski was an all-star the last time the ECHL had such a game in 2015 and racked up 117 points in two seasons in Salt Lake City.
Movin’ On Up
- Blake Tatchell is a player to keep an eye on as the season gets going. He racked up 103 points during his four-year career at Alaska-Anchorage and did play in four games for the Cleveland (formerly Lake Erie) Monsters last season. Tatchell is a play-making forward who has leadership abilities.
- Mitch Holmberg is another player who could move up to AHL Binghamton this season. The former WHL scoring champ seems to have found his offensive game again after having a pair of down years. Last season with Szekesfehervar II of the MOL Liga in Hungary, Holmberg recorded 68 points (37g, 31a) in 48 games as well as 17 points (6g, 11a) in nine playoff games. Head Coach Malcolm Cameron describes Holmberg as having “elite level hands,” and he put several nifty moves on Allen Americans players during the exhibition game this past Saturday night.
Sin Bin Swami Says…The magic number for Thunder fans to watch for is 21. With Wichita playing Allen, Missouri, and Tulsa 42 times this season, if they win half those games or better, Wichita should make the playoffs. The added benefit for this team is that they only have to play new “division rivals” Toledo, Fort Wayne, and Indy a combined five times and will not play Kalamazoo during the regular season.
A good number win-wise for this team lies somewhere in the 35-40 range. Interestingly, Cameron has won more than 40 games in four of his eight seasons behind an ECHL bench, so it would not be overly surprising to see Wichita have over 40 wins this season.
That said, I believe this team makes the playoffs, somewhere between a 5 and 8 seed, and gives the franchise a good springboard for the 2017-18 season.
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