Welcome to Wolves Insider: the weekly report that gives you the scoop on the 2019 Western Conference champions as they embark on the journey toward the 2020 Calder Cup.
WELCOME TO THE NEW SEASON
Less than four months after reaching the 2019 Calder Cup Finals, the Chicago Wolves are back on the ice with big dreams for the 2019-20 season that begins Saturday, Oct. 5, when the Wolves host the Grand Rapids Griffins at Allstate Arena.
Head coach Rocky Thompson, assistant coaches Chris Dennis and Bob Nardella and several key players return from the group that captured the 2019 Western Conference championship before falling to the Charlotte Checkers in the Finals.
The Wolves won’t set their official Opening Night roster until Thursday, but the current 23-man group features eight stalwarts who helped capture the Central Division title: forwards Curtis McKenzie (20 goals, 34 assists), Keegan Kolesar (20 goals, 16 assists), Gage Quinney (19 goals, 24 assists), Tye McGinn (10 goals in 36 Wolves games) and Reid Duke (7 goals, 9 assists in 46 games), defensemen Dylan Coghlan (15 goals, 25 assists) and Jake Bischoff (2 goals, 11 assists) and goaltender Oscar Dansk (27-9-4, 2.46 GAA).
ADDING PLAYERS WITH NHL EXPERIENCE
To fill some open roles, the Wolves and NHL partner Vegas Golden Knights acquired several young veterans with NHL chops. Look for goaltender Garret Sparks (Toronto Maple Leafs), forwards Patrick Brown (Carolina Hurricanes) and Tyrell Goulbourne (Philadelphia Flyers) and defenseman Jaycob Megna (Anaheim Ducks) and Brett Lernout (Montreal Canadiens) to play instrumental roles.
Brown and Megna served as captains for the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers and San Diego Gulls, respectively, so they’ll also provide leadership as the Wolves shoot to become the first team in the AHL’s 84-year history to win four consecutive division titles.
The Wolves and the Vegas Golden Knights have built a strong prospects pipeline — and the Wolves expect to have several top rookies in the mix this season. The group of new professionals figures to include forwards Paul Cotter, Lucas Elvenes, Ben Jones, Jake Leschyshyn, Jermaine Loewen and Jonas Røndbjerg and defenseman Brayden Pachal.
OPENING NIGHT PROMOTIONS
The first 5,000 fans to enter Allstate Arena on Saturday night receive a 2019 Western Conference champions banner, courtesy of Jewel-Osco. The first 2,500 fans also receive a Wolves schedule cling, courtesy of Utz. It’s Adopt-A-Dog Night, too, presented by Premier Veterinary Group.
The 25-year-old goaltender from Stockholm, Sweden, is back after leading the Wolves to the 2019 Calder Cup Finals. Dansk earned 10 of the Wolves’ 12 postseason wins on the way to the Western Conference championship. During the regular season, he posted a 27-9-4 record, 2 shutouts, a 2.46 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage.
McKenzie paced the Wolves during last year’s Calder Cup Playoffs with eight goals and 15 points. The 28-year-old from Golden, British Columbia, stands as the only player to reach the last two Calder Cup Finals (one with Chicago, one with the Texas Stars) and also the only player to participate in three of the last six Calder Cup Finals (he won the Cup in 2014 with Texas).
This 24-year-old Las Vegas native returns to the Wolves after ranking fifth on last year’s team in goals (19) and points (43) during the regular season. The center also posted a +36 plus/minus rating, which shared second in the AHL. Quinney came through in the postseason with four goals and five assists, which featured two goals in Game 2 of the Calder Cup Finals.
EXHIBITION REWIND (0-2)
- The Wolves and the Tucson Roadrunners were tied 1-1, 2-2 and 3-3 before Tucson’s Jalen Smereck scored the game-winner with 6:18 to play at UWM Panther Arena in Milwaukee.
- Chicago received goals from forwards Brady Shaw, Ben Jones and Jake Leschyshyn while Shaw and Jones also added assists.
- Goaltender Oscar Dansk posted 35 saves.
- With 15 rookies on the roster, the Wolves opened preseason play with a 4-0 defeat to the Admirals at UWM Panther Arena in Milwaukee.
- Chicago and Milwaukee were scoreless until Admirals forward Mike Huntebrinker scored his first of two goals at 8:04 of the second. The hosts added three goals in the third period.
- Goaltender Garret Sparks stopped 30 shots.
FIRST FIVE GAMES
|Saturday, Oct. 5||vs. Grand Rapids||7 p.m.||Allstate Arena||My50 Chicago|
|Friday, Oct. 11||at San Antonio||7 p.m.||AT&T Center||AHLTV|
|Saturday, Oct. 12||at San Antonio||7 p.m.||AT&T Center||AHLTV|
|Friday, Oct. 18||at Rockford||7 p.m.||MetroCentre||My50 Chicago|
|Saturday, Oct. 19||vs. Rockford||7 p.m.||Allstate Arena||My50 Chicago|