The Western Conference champion Chicago Wolves set their 22-man roster that will be ready for the 2019-20 American Hockey League opener at 7 p.m. Saturday against the Grand Rapids Griffins at Allstate Arena.
Third-year head coach Rocky Thompson’s roster boasts 11 players who helped the Wolves reach the 2019 Calder Cup Finals — a group that features goaltender Oscar Dansk, forwards Curtis McKenzie (20 goals), Keegan Kolesar (20 goals), Gage Quinney (19 goals), Tye McGinn and Reid Duke along with standout defensemen Dylan Coghlan and Jake Bischoff.
The Wolves’ 22-man unit also welcomes five newcomers with NHL experience in goaltender Garret Sparks, defensemen Jaycob Megna and Brett Lernout and forwards Patrick Brown and Tyrell Goulbourne. Sparks, an Elmhurst native, spent all of last season with the Toronto Maple Leafs while Brown captained the 2019 Calder Cup champion Charlotte Checkers and Megna served as captain for the Western Conference finalist San Diego Gulls.
“I think our team’s coming together very nicely,” Thompson said. “I like our physicality and our compete level. We have good leadership up and down the line. I think we have the league’s three best captains (McKenzie, Brown, Megna) from last year. That’s a very positive thing. They’ve been working extremely hard. They’re jelling on and off the ice.”
The Opening Night roster also includes six Vegas Golden Knights prospects entering their first full year of professional hockey: Forwards Paul Cotter, Lucas Elvenes, Ben Jones, Jake Leschyshyn, Jermaine Loewen and Jonas Røndbjerg and defenseman Brayden Pachal. Cotter, who doesn’t turn 20 until Nov. 16, will be one of the AHL’s youngest players while five of the other rookies are 20 years old.
“Every year, you have to create a new foundation,” Thompson said. “That’s something we’re doing right now because there are so many new faces. I like where we’ve started with our foundation coming out of training camp. It’s a process of learning how we want to play.”
The Wolves also announced Thursday that defensemen Brycen Martin and Cliff Watson have signed Player Tryout Contracts (PTOs). The Wolves also released center Brett McKenzie, who joined the team during training camp.
The first 5,000 fans to enter Allstate Arena for Saturday’s opener receive a 2019 Western Conference championship banner, courtesy of Jewel-Osco.