AHL You Need to Know: Poulin One Out of the Fire

The Heat scraped out an ugly win yesterday night, defeating the San Diego Gulls 4-3 in a shootout in Hunter Shinkaruk’s Stockton Heat debut. The line of Kenny Agostino, Freddie Hamilton, and Garnet Hathaway continued their strong play and provided two of the three goals for Stockton. 

As for SHINKWATCH 2016: he was held off the scoresheet, playing on a line with Drew Shore and Emile Poirier. Let’s get into how his debut went after the jump!

Shinkaruk played on a line with centre Drew Shore and Emile Poirier (who played RW last night, which was an interesting decision). It wasn’t exactly an ideal beginning for Shinkaruk, who finished the night a minus-two with two shots on net.

In his post game comments, Heat head coach Ryan Huska had this to say about Shinkaruk’s debut:

I thought he looked ok. His line wasn’t our best line tonight, but it’s tough for a guy coming from the east coast with the time change and all the different things that have gone on in the last day and a half for him. I thought he looked fine tonight for his first game and I see him getting better and better every game he plays here.

I had suspected that Shinkaruk would play with Shore but I had though they would keep Poirier on LW, his natural position, and play Mason Raymond on that line instead. However, Raymond was scratched from last night’s game with an apparent injury so the Heat dressed Hunter Smith and Colton Orr, presumably to counter the Gulls’ Brian McGrattan, who had two points and no fights last night. Goal: …achieved?

I wonder if, given last night’s relative struggles, Huska decides to make an adjustment to Shinkaruk’s line for next game, though the thought of Shinkaruk and Poirier playing together is rather tantalizing. Perhaps Raymond’s absence is what necessitated Poirier’s move to the right side, or maybe Huska is trying to light a fire under Poirier, who has stalled this season. Either way, the experiment didn’t exactly work last night but it was only the first game for Shinkaruk so I wouldn’t read too much into it. 

I will use this picture forever. This will be Agostino’s HHOF plaque.

As for the game that occurred outside of Shinkaruk’s stat line, the Heat’s most consistent line over the past five games or so came through big again for them. The line of Kenny Agostino, Freddie Hamilton, and Garnet Hathaway were dynamic all night for the Heat, combining for five points and eight shots.

With his two helpers last night, Agostino leapfrogged the injured Derek Grant for top spot in team scoring with 39 points in 45 games (though it should be noted that Agostino has played 15 more games than Grant, further underscoring the kind of season Grant was having prior to injury). 

This season has already seen a new career high in goals for Agostino with 17, and he is only four points away from matching last season’s point total in 22 fewer games. Agostino’s consistent production likely makes him the most deserving candidate of the next Flames forward call-up. In a season marked by disappointing counting numbers from a number of the Flames’ high-end prospects, Agostino’s production has to be a pleasant surprise for Flames fans.

Kevin Poulin stole the show last night though, recovering from a shaky start in his last game. The Gulls fired 50 shots at him between regulation and overtime and Poulin stopped 47 of them, and then stopped every Gulls shooter in the shootout. Quite a night for Poulin who, in the absence of Joni Ortio, is the Heat’s unquestioned number one goaltender for the remainder of the season. 

HeatstandingsHeatstandings

With the shootout win, the Heat crawled back out of last spot in the Pacific (which are determined by pts% due to the unbalanced AHL schedule). As you can see, the middle of the division is still entirely up for grabs and if the Heat can string some wins together, the playoffs are still within their grasp. 

Also, I noticed yesterday that there was some talk in the comments section about the Heat’s defence being poor this season. I would have to vehemently disagree with that as the defence has been easily the strongest part of the Heat’s game all season. They have continued to maintain somewhat strong play despite losing their top pair (Nakladal and Wotherspoon) to call-ups and Stevenson and Kylington to injury. There has been a lot to criticize about the Heat’s play this season (lack of production from Poirier, Klimchuk, and Shore, uneven goaltending, etc.) but defence surely has not been a negative factor.

  • everton fc

    Verpaelst is getting a lot of minutes, playing w/Culkin it seems. Other than the mistake that resulted in a 3 on 1, he seemed to be okay last night. Perhaps another “kiss”, off the PTO? We shall see. Did Verpaelst look okay to you, as I only heard the game on the radio (and I must say, the Heat’s radio voice is terrible. Sounded like a high school game. Brutal!)

    Sieloff’s stock continues to drop…

    • Verpaelst looked pretty good in what I’ve seen so far, he skates better than I was expecting and seems to like jumping in from the point. He has also fought already and has a boatload of PIMs throughout his career so I suspect that is what he figures will keep him around with the Heat. Culkin and him have made a good emergency-pair though I hope Culkin can soon get back to where he was at the end of last season.

      I am not sure what Sieloff’s future is to be honest. I am a big proponent of using the ECHL more effectively though as I think sending him there to play everyday is a better option given his already stunted AHL career. The Flames have another year of him but he looks to be running out of rope for sure.

      Oh, and Yeah, the radio/television voice is sure…excitable.

  • KiLLKiND

    I really appreciate these Stockton Heat write ups, and it’s nice to hear that poor defence has not been a factor in the teams performance thus far.

    That being said I see no reason for Huska to scratch Raymond. Tanking in the AHL doesn’t get a high drat pick and playoff experience would be greatly beneficial to the team.

    My ideal Heat forward lineup
    Agastino – Hamilton – Hathaway
    Raymond – Shore – Van Brabant
    Shinkaruk – Elson – Poirier
    Klimchuk – Arnold – Carroll

    Klimchuck has had a really tough go in his 1st year, and while Poirier is better than BVB I would like to see him playing with Shinkaruak. On a side note which we have kinda known for a while we are super thin at RW. It would be nice to convert Hamilton or Arnold to RW as both are natural right handed players, but with Smith as the next best RW it’s not really something that should happen on a regular basis.

    As far as D pairings go I’m not too sure what to do as the top pairing is gone and Stevenson and Kylignton are injured. It doesn’t sound to matter though as in the comments after I voiced concern about the defense I was quickly told defense has been the teams strong spot this year. Along with Taylor backing up that comment today. I hope Vernace and Verpaelst can not disturb the chemistry

  • DestroDertell

    “Also, I noticed yesterday that there was some talk in the comments section about the Heat’s defence being poor this season. I would have to vehemently disagree with that as the defence has been easily the strongest part of the Heat’s game all season. They have continued to maintain somewhat strong play despite losing their top pair (Nakladal and Wotherspoon) to call-ups and Stevenson and Kylington to injury. There has been a lot to criticize about the Heat’s play this season (lack of production from Poirier, Klimchuk, and Shore, uneven goaltending, etc.) but defence surely has not been a negative factor.”

    Thank you for saying this.

  • King Quong

    Poirier himself has said he is a natural Rw. There’s even a video of the interview on the flames website immediately after he was drafted in which he says it.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    Every year Huska coached the Rockets the team was at .500 or better and always in the playoffs. As the coach of the Rockets he groomed countless young men for success as hockey players or whatever else they chose to dedicate themselves to. Not sure Huska is the problem.

    Dare I say it, but maybe the Heaters’ talent is not as good as many had hoped and thought. In that regard the Heaters mirror the parent club in that many Flames fans prior to October thought the Flames were a strong choice to go postseason again.

    Wasn’t it about this time last year when there was a lot of buzz about the great Garnet Hathaway? Seldom have heard anything about him this year. Heck, don’t even see the posters talk about a call-up for the great Garnet Hathaway.

    Heaters could be have a down year or the talent has been over-represented. Don’t have any reason to believe Huska is the problem there.