Gulls Season Review 2023-24

Graphic: SD Gulls

By Thomas Harrington

For the second straight season, the San Diego Gulls failed to qualify for the Calder Cup Playoffs. The good news is that their record was significantly improved from a year ago. The bad news is the team got off to a slow start for the second year in a row and it just sunk their season. Overall, the Gulls finished with a 26-35-10-1 record, good for ninth in the Pacific Division, 14th in the Western Conference, and 28th in the AHL. It was far from a good season, but given that they finished last in the AHL by 20 points a year ago, it was an improvement. 

The Gulls actually won their first two games of the year, but struggled through much of the early season. They wouldn’t pick up their third win of the season until late November. Things finally started improving for the Gulls once the new year began. It was too little too late to really get back in the playoff race, but they were more competitive and had a better record. One area where San Diego really struggled was at home, where they finished with a record of 12-18-5-1. Their road record wasn’t stellar, but it was definitely better, as the Gulls finished 14-17-5 when they were the visitor.

In their ninth season as Anaheim’s AHL affiliate, seven players played for both the Anaheim Ducks and San Diego Gulls: Olen Zellweger, Tristan Luneau, Sam Colangelo, Nikita Nesterenko, Pavol Regenda, Glenn Gawdin, and Robert Hagg. In their near decade together, I believe this is the fewest number of players to play for both teams in a season.

Offensive Firepower

San Diego’s offense was much improved from last season, going from 180 goals scored in the 2022-2023 season to 216 goals scored this past season. Andrew Agozzino led the Gulls in goals, assists, and points, finishing the year with 26 goals, 38 assists, and 64 points. He also played in every game for San Diego, one of three players to do so last season. His 64 points are the most by a Gulls player since they became Anaheim’s primary AHL affiliate. Agozzino had previously been with the Gulls in the second half of the 2020-2021 season.

Glenn Gawdin was the only other player to crack the 20 goal mark and was second on the team in points, finishing with 22 goals and 55 points in 70 games. That was a nice increase from the season before where he finished with 33 points in 57 games. Chase De Leo finished third on the team with 48 points, but missed the start of the season with a major injury. He ended up playing in only 52 games. If he had been with the team to start the season, there’s a chance they could have had a much better start to the year. His return was one of the things that helped spark the team’s second half turnaround. His first game back coincided with the team’s third win of the season at the end of November.

After the big three, the rest of San Diego’s offensive leaders at forward were all Anaheim prospects. Playing in his first full pro season, Nikita Nesterenko scored 16 goals and 37 points in 70 games, finishing fourth on the team in goals and fifth in points. Between callups to Anaheim and injuries, Pavol Regenda only played in 54 games but still scored a career high 19 goals and 34 points. He finished third on the team in goals and seventh in points. Ben King had a solid rookie season, scoring 15 goals and 30 points in 61 games. Judd Caulfield, acquired towards the end of last season, had a solid rookie year with 10 goals and 26 points. Nathan Gaucher was San Diego’s third line center through his entire rookie campaign and scored 10 goals and 25 points. He was one of the three players to play in all 72 games.

For the third straight season, Brayden Tracey’s point total fell, though not significantly. He finished the year with nine goals and 25 points in 55 games. Josh Lopina had a nice bounce back season. He recorded only four points in his rookie year, but scored 14 goals and 23 points in 69 games this past season. Sasha Pastujov had an up and down season, but was better in the second half of the year and scored 10 goals and 23 points in 46 games. Newly acquired Jan Mysak played in 14 games with the Gulls to end the season and scored one goal. After finishing his college career, Sam Colangelo played in four games and recorded four points before joining Anaheim. Nico Myatovic joined the team on an ATO, and was scoreless in 14 games.

The Thin Blue Line

The Gulls weren’t great defensively this past season, but they were significantly improved from the previous season. In the 2022-2023 season, San Diego allowed a league worst 281 goals. This past year they managed to cut that number down to 245. Trevor Carrick was the only defenseman to appear in all 72 games for San Diego, and he led the defense in scoring with 44 points, which was good enough for fourth on the team overall. Veterans Robert Hagg, Colton White, and Nick Wolff all played 46 or more games for the Gulls but none had a huge impact on the scoresheet.

Similar to Anaheim, the Gulls used a plethora of young defensemen last season. The best of them was Olen Zellweger. He only appeared in 44 games, but led the defense in goals with 12 and his 37 points were second among all blueliners. Among all rookie AHL defensemen, he finished second in goals and third in points, while playing fewer games than the players who finished above him.

Drew Helleson had a solid but unspectacular second season in San Diego. He played in 59 games and scored four goals and 18 points, finishing the year with one fewer goal but one more assist to match the point total from his previous season, though it was done in six fewer games. Tyson Hinds only missed one game all season, and finished the year with two goals and 10 points. For a player known more for his physical play than his offensive ability, he finished about where expected. Tristan Luneau played in six games with San Diego in November and had two assists. Konnor Smith joined the Gulls on an ATO and scored in his AHL debut. That was his only point in six games.

In Between The Pipes

The San Diego Gulls used three goaltenders this past season: the veteran Alex Stalock, and two rookies, Calle Clang and Tomas Suchanek. Clang led the team with 32 games played, and had a 10-16-4 record with a 3.21 goals against average and a .897 save percentage. Suchanek started the year in the ECHL, but by January, he was with the Gulls for the rest of the season and earned an entry-level deal with the Ducks. He was San Diego’s best goaltender, finishing the year with a 14-10-5 record, a 2.92 goals against average, a .910 save percentage, and three shutouts. Suchanek was one of the primary reasons for San Diego’s second half turnaround. Stalock struggled with the Gulls, going 2-9-2 with a 3.82 goals against average and .888 save percentage. It sounds like he will likely retire from hockey now that the season is over.

Even though the Gulls finished well out of a playoff spot, it was heartening to see the team improve in the second half of the year. It would have been easy to give up on the season after such a rough start. Next season, a number of Anaheim prospects should once again be joining San Diego. If this year’s group of rookies can take a big step next year, and the incoming players have good seasons, the Gulls could challenge for a playoff spot next spring.

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April 27th, 2024


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