The Chicago Wolves have set the roster for their 2018-19 American Hockey League opener on Friday night at Colorado. Fourteen of the 24 Wolves on head coach Rocky Thompson’s squad helped Chicago capture the 2018 Central Division title and are looking for much more during the franchise’s 25th anniversary season.
“Everyone has improved,” Thompson said. “I’m really happy with the way things are going so far.”
“We’ve got guys who were big pieces to our team last year,” said center T.J. Tynan, an Orland Park native who played in the 2018 AHL All-Star Classic. “We’ve got some rookies coming in who seem really promising. They’re all great kids. And we’ve added some guys who had great years last year and are having great careers, so we should be improved.”
The Wolves’ forward lines feature returning standouts such as Brandon Pirri (29 goals in 53 games), Tynan (60 points in 70 games), Tomas Hyka (48 points in 52 games) and Stefan Matteau (15 goals in 60 games). Chicago ranked sixth with 3.21 goals per game last year, but there’s potential to be even stronger this year with the addition of forwards Curtis McKenzie, Daniel Carr, Brooks Macek and Gage Quinney.
McKenzie captained the Texas Stars to the 2018 Calder Cup Final as he led all postseason scorers with 11 goals in 22 games. He also scored 25 goals in 51 regular-season games. Carr split last season between the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens (6 goals in 38 games) and the AHL’s Laval Rocket (11 goals in 20 games). Quinney posted 15 goals and 19 assists for the AHL’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins while Macek has spent five professional seasons in Germany — highlighted by his 2 goals and 2 assists for Germany’s silver-medal team in the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic Games.
Forwards Reid Duke, Keegan Kolesar, Ryan Wagner and Tyler Wong are expected to carve out larger roles this year after making their professional debuts last season. Sixth-year pro Alex Gallant and rookie Michael Weis are the other newcomers up front.
The team’s youthful defensive corps boasts returnees Zac Leslie, Griffin Reinhart, Nic Hague and Kevin Lough along with incoming veteran Jimmy Oligny and rookies Erik Brännström, Dylan Coghlan and Zach Whitecloud. Brännström, a 2017 NHL Entry Draft first-round pick by the Vegas Golden Knights, will be among the AHL’s youngest players as he turned 19 on Sept. 2. Hague, a 2017 second-round selection, also is just 19.
Chicago’s goaltenders should look familiar as Max Lagace and Oscar Dansk started and finished the season with the Wolves — but combined to make 20 appearances and earn nine wins for Vegas in between.
The Wolves’ games on Friday and Saturday at Colorado can be watched for free on AHLTV’s new, HD-streaming platforms. Simply visit AHLTV to register for a free account.
The Wolves host their 25th home opener at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 13, versus the Grand Rapids Griffins. As part of the season-long anniversary celebration, all fans receive free parking courtesy of your Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana Kia dealers.