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Gulls Season Preview
By Thomas Harrington
Last season, the San Diego Gulls made it to the Conference Finals, losing in six games to the Chicago Wolves. A number of San Diego’s key players from that playoff run will be spending part, if not all, of the season in Anaheim. However, the Gulls will have some new prospects on the team, as well as a number of veteran players who have been signed to help out. The Gulls also have a new coach in Kevin Dineen. While it will be hard to make it to the Conference Finals again, the Gulls will hope to repeat that feat and make it even further.
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In net, the Gulls have several options. First, there’s returning goaltender Kevin Boyle. He made his NHL debut last season, but he’s expected to spend the entire season in the AHL. Second, San Diego has the newly signed Anthony Stolarz. He’s spent most of his career splitting time between the AHL and NHL. He and Boyle will likely fight for the starting position with the Gulls.
Besides those two, the Gulls have two other options: Olle Eriksson Ek and Roman Durny. This will be Erkisson Ek’s first season playing in North America and it will also be the first season of his entry-level contract. For Durny, this will be his first professional season, having played in the USHL for the last couple of seasons. Durny has been assigned to Norfolk of the ECHL, and Eriksson Ek has been assigned to Tulsa of the ECHL. Both could see spot duty with the Gulls, but I think they’ll both spend a lot of this season in the ECHL in order to get them more playing time.
San Diego’s defense has been almost completely rebuilt from last season. Jaycob Megna, Andy Welinski, Trevor Murphy, Luke Schenn, and Jake Dotchin all left as free agents. Jacob Larsson will likely be in Anaheim for the entire season. With so many players gone, Bob Murray brought in a number of new players for San Diego’s blueline. However, there are also a couple of returning players from last season: Josh Mahura, Patrick Sieloff, and Simon Benoit. Chris Wideman and Jani Hakanpaa were signed over the summer and will provide some veteran leadership. Rookies Steven Ruggiero and Hunter Drew will be counted on to provide some youthful energy on the blueline. Mahura is the most likely to see time in Anaheim, though I do think Benoit has a strong chance to make his NHL debut this season as well. Wideman and Hakanpaa could see some NHL games as well, but I think they’ll spend most of the season with San Diego.
The Gulls will have a number of forwards returning from last season: Corey Tropp, Alex Dostie, Deven Sideroff, Luke Gazdic, Justin Kloos, Jack Kopacka, Sam Carrick, Chase De Leo, and Kiefer Sherwood. Joining them will be rookies Antoine Morand and Brent Gates, Jr. Also, veterans Blake Pietila, Andreas Martinsen, and Andrew Poturalski were signed over the summer. At the beginning of the season, the Gulls will also have the services of Daniel Sprong. He’ll be expected to be one of the team’s top-scoring wingers. A number of Anaheim’s higher-end prospects will be with the Ducks, but some of them will get time with the Gulls throughout the season.
Players like Sam Steel, Max Jones, and Troy Terry are currently in Anaheim, and the hope is that they will be there for the entire season. Max Comtois and Isac Lundestrom have been assigned to the Gulls, but they’ll likely be the first players called up to Anaheim when someone is hurt or the Ducks need a lineup change. San Diego will enjoy their production when they are available, but it remains to be seen how much time they spend in the AHL. Personally, I think Comtois will spend more time in Anaheim and Lundestrom will spend more time in San Diego, but that’s far from a guarantee.
With so many new faces and a new head coach, some might expect the Gulls to struggle early in the season. However, I think that there are enough returning players who know the drill, and additions like Sprong, Pietila, and Poturalski should provide a lot of offensive punch for San Diego. They clearly have a strong team and expect to make the Calder Cup Playoffs. A year ago, the Gulls made the Conference Finals. This time around, they want to make it even further, and they’ve got a strong roster that just might be able to do it.
The season begins tonight at 7PM in Bakersfield and it should be a fun one!
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October 4th, 2019