GRAND RAPIDS (0-1-0-0) at CHICAGO WOLVES (3-0-0-0)
DON’T SLEEP ON PITLICK
During the Chicago Wolves’ fast start, a lot of attention has been paid to the team’s teenagers — which makes sense because there are several of them and they’ve been plenty good through the first three games. But it’s not like the rest of the roster belongs to AARP.
Take center Rem Pitlick, for example. He made his NHL debut with the Nashville Predators on March 25, 2019 — shortly before his 22nd birthday. The Ottawa native then scored 20 goals in 63 games last year for the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals during his first year as a pro.
Nashville’s 2016 third-round pick has served as head coach Ryan Warsofsky’s first-line center for all three games and has been terrific at both ends of the ice. Pitlick shares the American Hockey League lead with three goals and has earned the game-winning goal in each of the last two games — both of them breakaway goals that looked remarkably similar. His game-winner Tuesday against Rockford came on shorthanded when he pounced on a loose puck at the Wolves’ blue line.
“So ‘Pitter,’ he’s got some really good tools as I’m just learning myself,” said Warsofsky, who did not see Pitlick play last year while serving as the Charlotte Checkers’ head coach. “He can fly. His speed is a factor. And as we saw (Tuesday), we’ve got him on the PK, which I think can be another little tool in his toolbox. It’s something that he can do. I think he’s a smart player. He can drive offense. He can delay. He can play with some pace. I’ve really liked his game, especially in Rockford (Saturday) and again (Tuesday), I thought he was really good. He’s dangerous all over the ice.”
FAST STARTS IN WOLVES HISTORY
The Chicago Wolves are one of just two teams in the American Hockey League off to a 3-0-0-0 start — the Pacific Division’s San Diego Gulls being the other. To be fair, only five teams have played three games, but it’s nice to stack wins whenever they happen. This marks the Wolves’ sixth 3-0-0-0 start in the team’s 27-year history. And when Chicago has started well, it has tended to finish well.
|1997-98||3-0-0||Turner Cup champions|
|2001-02||3-0-0-0||Calder Cup champions|
|2007-08||6-0-0-0||Calder Cup champions|
|2012-13||4-0-0-0||Did not qualify for playoffs|
|2018-19||4-0-0-0||Reached Calder Cup Finals|
WE ARE THE WOLVES
The Wolves have received good play up and down the lineup during the first week of the season, but they could be even deeper if not for multiple recalls from loan.
Center Sean Malone posted three points in the Wolves’ exhibition win over Rockford, but he has yet to make his regular-season debut because he has been with the Nashville Predators. He scored his first NHL point Tuesday night when he assisted on Rocco Grimaldi’s goal vs. Tampa Bay. Center Michael McCarron also played in that game.
On Wednesday, Nashville also recalled defenseman Alex Carrier, who has been a steady force on the blue line in all three wins.
- Nineteen-year-old forward Phil Tomasino scored his first two goals as a professional and added an assist as the Wolves never trailed in a Tuesday afternoon clash at Triphahn Center.
- Center Rem Pitlick added two goals — including the game-winner on a shorthanded breakaway — while Seth Jarvis scored his third goal of the year and Joey Keane and Tanner Jeannot posted two assists apiece.
- Goaltender Jeremy Helvig posted 23 saves to best Rockford for the second time in four days.
- Center Rem Pitlick scored on a breakaway late in the second period and his goal held up as the game-winner as the Wolves rallied from a 2-0 deficit to win their road opener.
- Forward Jamieson Rees delivered his first professional goal while forwards Seth Jarvis and Tanner Jeannot and defenseman Cavan Fitzgerald also scored goals.
- Goaltender Jeremy Helvig stopped 28 shots to pick up the win in his Wolves debut.
BY THE NUMBERS
1: Defenseman Max Lajoie will miss today’s game after being issued a one-game suspension Wednesday by the American Hockey League. Lajoie was cited for a second-period incident during Tuesday’s win over Rockford that ended with him being assessed a five-minute major for kneeing, a five-minute major for fighting and a game misconduct.
2: Nineteen-year-old rookie Phil Tomasino scored his first two goals as a professional during Tuesday’s 5-2 home win over Rockford. Tomasino also added an assist as he pulled into a share of the AHL’s points lead with San Diego’s Trevor Zegras (2G, 3A). Tomasino should be playing for the Ontario Hockey League’s Oshawa Generals right now, but he and three other 19-year-olds (Seth Jarvis, Jamieson Rees and Ryan Suzuki) are playing in the AHL while Canadian junior leagues are suspended to the COVID-19 pandemic. “My goal was to play in the NHL,” Tomasino said. “I’ve always wanted to work towards that. Obviously that didn’t happen, but obviously the AHL is a phenomenal league. It’s great competition. I definitely feel comfortable, but I definitely feel like I’ve got a lot more to go. My overall game — I still think I can be quicker on pucks and I can make more plays off the rush and with the puck on my stick.”
3: Center Seth Jarvis has scored one goal in each of his first three professional games. Second-year center Rem Pitlick produced three goals in the last two games against Rockford. Jarvis and Pitlick share the AHL goal-scoring lead with Iowa’s Gabriel Dumont.
4: Second-year defenseman Joey Keane, who wears No. 4 for the Wolves, already has established himself as big-time blue-liner in the AHL. Keane, who was born in Chicago and raised in far south suburban Homer Glen, earned AHL All-Rookie Team honors last year after posting 9 goals and 28 assists in 57 games split between Hartford and Charlotte. He’s off to a fast start this year with three assists in three games. “I think the way he plays really suits the style we want to play,” said Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky. “We want to play fast; uptempo. Get up in the rush with our defensemen. He’s an offensive d-man who can break out pucks. He’s had a really good year-and-a-half of pro experience. The ceiling is really high for this young man.”
5: In Tuesday’s win over Rockford, forward David Cotton became the fifth player to make his professional debut with the Wolves this season — joining forwards Seth Jarvis, Jamieson Rees, Cole Smith, Ryan Suzuki and Phil Tomasino. They are among the 13 rookies on the Wolves’ 29-man roster. There are three rookies who are still waiting to make their professional debut: forward Jason Cotton (David’s older brother), defenseman D.J. King and goaltender Beck Warm.
386: Since the Wolves started playing on Oct. 1, 1994, a total of 672 players have donned the Burgundy and Gold. When defenseman Max Lajoie made his Chicago debut Saturday at Rockford, he became the 386th player in Wolves history who also has appeared in the NHL. The 23-year-old Lajoie spent most of the 2018-19 campaign with the Ottawa Senators — posting seven goals and eight assists in 56 games — before seeing just six games with Ottawa last season. The Carolina Hurricanes acquired him Jan. 12 in a trade for forward Clark Bishop.
|Tuesday, Feb. 16||at Rockford||MetroCentre||6 p.m.||AHLTV|
|Saturday, Feb. 20||vs. Iowa||Triphahn Center||7 p.m.||AHLTV|
|Sunday, Feb. 21||vs. Iowa||Triphahn Center||3 p.m.||AHLTV|