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Wolves set official roster for Friday’s opener

The Chicago Wolves on Thursday set their 32-man roster for the 2021 American Hockey League regular season that begins at 7 p.m. Friday when the Grand Rapids Griffins travel to the Chicago Wolves Training Facility at the Triphahn Center in Hoffman Estates.

New head coach Ryan Warsofsky’s team features 15 Carolina Hurricanes prospects, 13 Nashville Predators prospects, three players signed to Wolves contracts, and rookie defenseman D.J. King, who accepted an amateur tryout contract (ATO) on Thursday.

Why the mix of Hurricanes and Predators? The Wolves forged their primary NHL partnership with Carolina when the teams signed a three-year deal in September, but Nashville came aboard in January for one year after the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals — Nashville’s long-time affiliate — could not field a team for this pandemic-affected season.

“There have been a lot of meetings, a lot of communication throughout both organizations on how we want to make this thing work,” Warsofsky said. “But at the end of the day, we are the Chicago Wolves. We’re not the Carolina Hurricanes. We’re not the Nashville Predators. We’re here, obviously, to get better individually, but we’re here to win hockey games and represent the Chicago Wolves. That’s been the message since we started (practicing) last week.”

The Wolves boast a dynamic combination of high-profile prospects and talented veterans as they chase their fourth Central Division title in the last five years. The 20-man forward group features four recent NHL first-round picks in Dominik Bokk (2018/St. Louis), Seth Jarvis (2020/Carolina), Ryan Suzuki (2019/Carolina) and Philip Tomasino (2019/Nashville) along with six skaters with NHL experience: Sean Malone, Rem Pitlick, Sheldon Rempal, Anthony Richard, Drew Shore and Cole Smith.

Chicago’s nine-man set of defensemen includes three players with NHL experience — Alexandre Carrier, Max Lajoie and Tyler Lewington — along with 2020 AHL All-Rookie Team honoree Joey Keane. The 21-year-old Homer Glen native posted nine goals and 28 assists in 58 games last season. Antoine Bibeau, reassigned on loan Thursday after spending time on Carolina’s taxi squad, boasts the most experience among the Wolves’ three goalies.

“We are going to rely on our leaders to help our young players along and show them the way,” Warsofsky said. “Whether you’ve been playing in the OHL or NCAA, it’s another level here. Hopefully our leaders can have those conversations with the Suzukis and the Jarvises and the Cottons (rookie brothers Jason and David). To understand come Friday night, if you think the pace in practice has been high, you watch how quick this game on Friday night’s going to be. Guys are going to be excited to play after 10 months off.”

Fans cannot attend home games in accordance with the Illinois Department of Public Health’s COVID-19 safety protocols, but all Wolves games will be streamed on AHLTV. Friday’s game is free to everyone who signs up for a free account at AHLTV.com.