are now exactly two weeks into the AHL season and four games into the Stockton
Heat’s inaugural year. Small sample, yes, but early on there are some things
that are concerning and some that are exciting.
a 7-0 blowout victory in their first game, the Heat have looked rather pedestrian
in their last three games with a 4-1 loss, a 1-0 win and most recently a 5-1 loss.
So what can we really conclude this
early in the season? Not a whole lot, but there are some things that deserve
Derek Grant &
drink that stirs the straw. No, seriously. It’s early in the season, but they are the Stockton Heat so far. These two players
are the ones who are controlling the pace, setting the tempo and,
unfortunately, the team’s only offense.
surprising part is that these aren’t the guys that you’d normally expect
offense from. Grant and Hamilton lead the team with three goals apiece, which
is probably not what any of us could’ve predicted.
shutouts in four games. Do I need to say anything more? He stopped 55 shots
over those two games and looked poised and in control the entire game, and boy
has he had to be. The Heat’s team defense has been spotty. While the Heat are
only allowing an average of 27 shots against per game, they’re spending a ton
of time in their own zone. I’ll get into this later.
possession stats for the AHL is a nearly impossible task, but it’s not hard to
tell when you watch Stockton’s games that Granlund spends well north of 50% of
his time in the opposing zone. Granlund is so creative in the offensive zone.
It’s hard to defend against him because he’s unpredictable. He never does what
you’d expect him to do and his chemistry with Emile Poirier seems to be working in
the early going. This is an interesting duo to keep your eye on as the season
an amazing North American debut for the Czech defender! I was beginning to
think at one point that the Heat could just play him every shift and they’d be
a reason he was recalled. Nakladal has an unexpectedly powerful shot and was,
dare I say, the Heat’s best power play player? I know, on a team with Oliver Kylington,
Kenney Morrison and Aaron Johnson, you wouldn’t have expected Nakladal to stand
out like he has on special teams. The Flames may have got a very nice NHL
replacement player here.
is hands down the brightest of bright spots in this young season for Stockton.
Heat have not allowed a power play goal yet and have converted on 25% of their
power play opportunities (5 for 20) through four games. If this can continue,
it will be an enormous accomplishment for Ryan Huska who operated some ugly
special teams numbers last season in Adirondack.
the heading says, Poirier has been pretty ‘meh.’ It’s tough to pin point
exactly what’s lacking with him this year. The offense hasn’t come yet, which
is disappointing because his team really
needs him to pick it up. However, being the type of player he is, he adds a lot
to the game even when he’s not scoring.
thing that stands out like a sore thumb early on is his shots on goal. He only
has five shots in four games. That’s extremely unusual for Poirier who tends to
shoot at every given chance. Conversely, Granlund (who centres Poirier) has 12
shots through three games. There seems to be a concern that Poirier is being a
little too generous opting to pass it off to Granlund rather than shoot. Those
of you that focus primarily on the Flames know what that’s like when you want
Gaudreau to shoot, but he tries for the pass instead. Hopefully Poirier becomes
a bit more selfish in the coming weeks.
been curious about how the 18 year old has fared so far. I hate to be the
bearer of obvious news, but he looks like an 18 year old in a men’s league.
has a lot of rough patches in his game and they’re almost exclusively situated
in his own zone. It’s unfortunate because Kylington has shown flashes of
brilliance and creativity when his team’s on the attack, that is, if he can get
into the other team’s zone to work his magic. He tends to spend far too much
time defending, which is why Huska deploys him in the offensive zone quite a
hasn’t been pretty for Kylington, but he’s obviously going to get a longer
leash than most because of his ceiling and age. Let’s talk about him in
December/January when we have a greater sample size. In my experience rookie
defenders tend to “get it” around that time.
I know I just got finished praising Gillies for his two shutouts, but he’s been
spotty. He has his moments where he looks like freaking Carey Price out there,
and other times where you wonder what in the heckfire he’s doing.
probably too much to expect consistency from him considering his experience and
age, but inconsistency doesn’t begin to describe his play through four games.
Shutout, allowed four goals, shutout, allowed five goals. His consistency will
come yet. He needs more help from his defense though.
of their seven goal explosion to open their season, the Heat have scored just
three goals in their last three games. Ouch.
can’t keep relying on Gillies for shutouts in one-goal games. The problem is a
bit of a two-headed monster. Firstly, outside of Granlund and Hamilton’s line,
they spend way too much time in their own zone. Secondly, when they do get into
the offensive zone, their offensively potent players aren’t shooting as much as
they should (I’m looking at your Poirier and Arnold and Shore and Klimchuk).
don’t even know where to start.
of Nakladal, this defense has looked rough, especially in their zone. Kylington
looks like he’s in over his head most of the time. Wotherspoon doesn’t look
like Wotherspoon anymore. Morrison is hard to watch in all three zones. And
Sieloff has looked fairy unnoticeable for the most part.
going to be tough to patch up this defense. There are so many things that need
to be worked on. They’re being muscled off pucks far too easily, some of them
tend to make questionable passes, the younger guys are panicking with the puck
and making hasty decisions, and most of them can’t make a breakout pass to save
is going to take a lot of work.
haven’t been a fan of the handling of Keegan Kanzig so far this season. Why
they don’t send him to the Adirondack Thunder is beyond me. There are enough
replacement defenders to have one or two veterans sitting each game. They don’t
need a 20-year-old sitting in the stands watching. That’s poor roster management.
Kanzig minutes in Adirondack, not minutes in the press box!