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San Diego Gulls Season Preview
By Thoma Harrington
After a disappointing end to last season, the San Diego Gulls will enter their fourth season as Anaheim’s affiliate looking to get back into the playoffs. Despite the poor end to last season, the relationship between Anaheim and San Diego continues to be a fruitful one, as over a dozen players played for both teams last year. Expect a similar number, if not more, to make the trip between Anaheim and San Diego this season. Even though the Gulls struggled at the end of last year, the expectation will be to return to the playoffs this season.
In net, the Gulls will turn to Kevin Boyle and newcomer Jared Coreau. Both will be doing their best to become the starter, but I think it more likely that they split most of the season. Boyle was stellar with the Gulls last season, posting a 2.66 goals against average and a save percentage of .921 while picking up 19 wins in 35 games. He and Reto Berra split most of the season load and put up remarkably similar numbers. Coreau actually has some experience in the NHL, playing in 21 games with Detroit over the last two seasons. He didn’t have great numbers with Detroit, but was much better in the AHL, posting a goals against average of 2.52 and a save percentage of .913 in 38 games with Grand Rapids. If either is injured or one gets called up to Anaheim, Angus Redmond would likely be called from the ECHL and could make his AHL debut. Boyle and Coreau should form a strong goaltending duo for the Gulls.
San Diego’s defense used to be the team’s greatest strength when the team had both Shea Theodore and Brandon Montour. However, even with them gone, the team has a strong defensive core, led by Jacob Larsson, Jaycob Megna, and Andy Welinski. Those three all have NHL experience and were the Gulls’ best defensemen last season. Welinski was San Diego’s All-Star representative, while Megna and Larsson formed the top pairing late in the season. Joining them will be Keaton Thompson, Josh Mahura, Simon Benoit, and Steve Oleksy. This will be Thompson’s third season in San Diego, where he has become one of their more dependable blueliners. This will be Mahura’s rookie season, and he should see a significant amount of time on the powerplay. This will also be Benoit’s rookie season; he was signed as a free agent by San Diego after playing in the QMJHL for the last three seasons. Oleksy is an NHL veteran of over 70 games and AHL veteran of over 370 games. He has far and away the most experience on San Diego’s young blueline, and he’ll be the veteran mentor of the group. Larsson, Megna, Welinski, and Oleksy could all spend some time in Anaheim as well. If any of those four do get called up to Anaheim or any of the defensemen are injured, the Gulls also have three defensemen in the ECHL to call up: Terrance Amorosa, Chris Forney, and Scott Moldenhauer. There is also a chance that Marcus Pettersson could get some games in San Diego, depending on what happens in Anaheim throughout the season.
Last year, San Diego’s offense dried up at the end of the year and was one of the primary reasons why they missed the playoffs. This year, their forward group is a little more exciting and will hopefully fill the net more often. The team will actually start thin at forward, primarily because so many players are either injured or in Anaheim. However, as both rosters get healthy, the Gulls should have a deep forward core. Right now, Alex Dostie, Giovanni Fiore, Joseph Blandisi, Corey Tropp, Chase de Leo, Deven Sideroff, Mitch Hults, Ben Thomson, Logan Shaw, Jake Marchment, Sam Carrick, Tyler Soy, and Jack Kopacka make up San Diego’s forward group. Last year, Dostie, Hults, and Sideroff were part of San Diego’s disappointing rookie class and much more will be expected of them this year. Fiore was the Gulls’ best rookie and he’ll be looking to crack the 20 goal mark this year. Tropp, Blandisi, and Carrick are NHL veterans who should make up a large part of San Diego’s offense. Tropp, in particular, has found a home with the Gulls over the last few years. Soy and Kopacka are the two healthy rookies in San Diego and will hopefully have a bigger impact than last year’s rookie class. Shaw and Marchment have been signed to tryout agreements, and there’s a good chance both will sign deals with the Gulls to stay for the entire season. De Leo and Thomson are a pair of AHL veterans who will help to fill the net as well. Fiore and Blandisi are the two forwards most likely to see some time in Anaheim this season; the rest should be with the Gulls for the entire season.
Once healthy, San Diego will also have Kevin Roy, Kalle Kossila, and Max Jones available to them. Roy and Kossila were San Diego’s two best forwards last year, and this will be Jones’ rookie year. All three will likely spend time in the NHL as well, but they will all likely get some games with the Gulls too. There are also three rookie forwards in Anaheim who will likely see some time with the Gulls as well: Sam Steel, Troy Terry, and Kiefer Sherwood. I think both Steel and Terry could spend most of the year in the NHL, but I’d be surprised if they didn’t get at least a couple of games with the Gulls. I think Sherwood will spend most of the year in San Diego, once Anaheim has a fully healthy roster. Finally, there are a number of veterans in Anaheim who could end up in San Diego once the Ducks get healthy: Ben Street, Pontus Aberg, and Carter Rowney. Both Street and Rowney were signed over the summer to help fill out Anaheim’s fourth line. Aberg was claimed off of waivers because of the rash of injuries Anaheim suffered during the preseason. However, if Anaheim’s rookies continue to play as well as they did against San Jose, all three of them could find their way down to the Gulls. Right now, injuries are a big factor in how San Diego’s forward lineup looks, but it should get stronger as the season goes along.
After a disappointing finish to last season, the Gulls will be looking to get back into the Calder Cup Playoffs. If Anaheim and San Diego can get healthy and stay healthy, they should have an excellent chance to do so. They’ve got two solid goaltenders, a steady defense, and a potentially deep forward group. The season kicks off on Saturday night against the Tucson Roadrunners, the top team in the Pacific Division last season. It should be a great test for San Diego in their first game of the season.
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October 6th, 2018