San Diego Gulls Season Preview 2021-22

Graphic: San Diego Gulls

By Thomas Harrington 

With last season’s pandemic weirdness hopefully behind them, the San Diego Gulls will be back playing in San Diego this season, and things kick off this Saturday.

Last year, the Gulls finished third in the Pacific Division, after only playing their division opponents all season long. As the lone division in the AHL to have a playoff tournament, the Gulls played against the Bakersfield Condors and lost in three games in the opening round.

This year, they’ll play their usual 68 game schedule and will hopefully once again be one of the better teams in the Pacific. The hope is that they’ll be able to exceed their best year, when they reached the conference finals in the 2018-2019 season.

They will also have a new head coach, as Joel Bouchard takes over coaching duties from Kevin Dineen, who had been San Diego’s coach for the previous two seasons.

In Net

In net, the Gulls will have some familiar faces, as Lukas Dostal and Olle Eriksson Ek figure to get a majority of the starts. Anthony Stolarz will be in Anaheim, and he’ll probably be John Gibson’s backup for the entire season.

Dostal was San Diego’s starter last season in his first year in North America and was one of the top rookie goaltenders in the AHL. It was also Eriksson Ek’s first year in the AHL, after playing in the ECHL the season before, and he was the equal of Dostal through certain stretches of the season.

The Gulls also have veteran Jeff Glass to help as needed, as well as the recently signed Francis Marotte, who split time between the AHL and ECHL last season. Finally, the Gulls also have Roman Durny who has been in the ECHL for the past couple seasons, and will be hoping to make his AHL debut with the Gulls this season.

Defensive Outlook

The Gulls have a very deep defensive core, led by veterans Simon Benoit, Brogan Rafferty, Kodie Curran, Jacob Larsson, Hunter Drew, Trevor Carrick, Brendan Guhle, and Nikolas Brouillard. After only playing in a handful of games with the Gulls last year, this will be Axel Andersson’s first full year in the AHL. Drew can also play forward, and spent much of Anaheim’s training camp playing wing.

Larsson, Benoit, and Guhle will all be trying to get back to the NHL, and I’m expecting big things from the three of them. Of them, Larsson has far and away the most NHL experience, with almost 160 NHL games under his belt. Guhle has played in 59 NHL games, including a career high 30 in the 2019-2020 season. Both Larsson and Guhle have dealt with injuries and inconsistencies over the course of their careers, two of the biggest reasons why both are back in the AHL this year.

Benoit made his NHL debut last season and played in six games for the Ducks. He was among the final roster cuts for the Ducks and figures to be among the first callups if the Ducks need another defenseman in Anaheim. Rafferty, Carrick, and Curran could also all see time in the NHL this season if needed, and Andersson is on my dark horse list to make his NHL debut this season as well.

There’s also a chance that Josh Mahura, who made Anaheim’s roster out of training camp, sees time in the AHL as well. He’s arguably been San Diego’s most consistent defenseman these past couple seasons.

Offensive Outlook

San Diego also has a deep forward core, led by veterans Sam Carrick, Alexander Volkov, Vinni Lettieri, Sonny Milano, Danny O’Regan, and Buddy Robinson, as well as second-year players like Jacob Perreault, Alex Limoges, Bryce Kindopp, and Jack Badini.

Brayden Tracey played in a dozen AHL games last season, and this will be his first full year in San Diego. Morgan Adams-Moisan last played in the AHL during the 2018-2019 season and has been in the ECHL for the past couple of seasons. This will be the first season for Vincent Marleau in the AHL, after playing in the ECHL last season and the QMJHL before that. 

Volkov and Milano will both be looking to get back to the NHL, and similar to Larsson, Benoit, and Guhle, I’ll expect big things from these two when they are with San Diego. Carrick was another player among Anaheim’s final cuts, and he’s never been able to stay in the NHL for a full season, but he’s been one of the best players for the Gulls for the past few years and will likely see time with Anaheim. It’s unlikely, but Perreault and Kindopp both have an outside shot to see some NHL action this year.

Before arriving in San Diego, Bouchard was the head coach of the Laval Rocket, Montreal’s primary AHL affiliate. Over the course of three years, he led them to a record of 83-67-14-10, including a 23-9-3-1 record last season, giving the Rocket the second best points percentage in the AHL. Before that, he coached in the QMJHL, leading the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada to the league championship final in 2017 and 2018.

The Gulls have some young, exciting talent, but they are also loaded with veterans, both from the NHL and AHL. The expectation is that they’ll be one of the better teams in the Pacific Division. There has been no Calder Cup Champion these past two seasons because of the pandemic, and the Gulls hope to be the first team to capture the trophy since the Charlotte Checkers captured it during the 2018-2019 season.

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October 16th, 2021


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