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Edition 41


Pre-Season VHLM Power Rankings


As the off-season comes to a close, players around the VHLM are looking to prove themselves and show the world that they have what it takes to play at the next level.  The Season 39 VHLM Dispersal Draft was loaded with talent and will make this season one of the most anticipated in recent memory as VHL organizations will be watching the season 40 draft class closely in order to sort through an extremely talented prospect group.  One of the biggest story-lines to follow this season will be that of the Ottawa Lynx, who owned five of the top seven picks in the draft, including the top three selections.  Many are expecting them to be able to replicate the incredible success the Yukon Rush enjoyed last season as they dominated from day one right up to the Founder's Cup, which they were able to win following a four game sweep of the Turku Outlaws.  Without further ado, here is the first edition of the season 39 VHLM power rankings.


1. Ottawa Lynx


This one couldn't be more obvious.  The Lynx have a ridiculous amount of talent after not only making great use of their five first round picks but also returning forwards Leo Tesla, Andrew Erikson, and Aelred Leskowsky.  Their second forward line very well could be better than any other team's number one unit and with a strong defensive core led by Jerrick Poole and Jack Ryan, the Lynx are going to be an extremely difficult team to beat.  With goaltender Soren Douffet displaying some rapid development, this team has very few holes and it will be hard to imagine this team not establishing its dominance from opening night.


2. Saskatoon Wild


While the Wild didn't have the quality of draft slots the Lynx enjoyed, they did have a strong draft and have what is right now the top defensive unit in the league and the best chance of anyone to hold off Ottawa's offensive firepower.  With a defensive core of Mason Richardson, Gunzerker Salvador, Joshua Rubin, and Lights Bokan in addition to goaltender Gunnar Skovsgard, Saskatoon will find success.  Despite their lack of offensive talent, this team has enough depth to potentially make some noise in the VHLM.


3. Turku Outlaws


With some unquestionable talent leading this team, the Outlaws should be ready to defend the European Conference Championship.  They very well might have the best first forward line in the league with Milos Denis, Dexter Morgan, and Kez Kincaid and it should take them far in a very offensive oriented league.  Unless they do something about their defense, though, Turku is not going very far.  You have problems when Spud Murphy is your number one defenseman.


4. Bern Royals


The Royals have the pieces to be the best European team in the VHLM although it's too early to give them that distinction right now.  Goaltender is a glaring hole right now that must be addressed if they are to be a legitimate team but with a core consisting of Mikkel Boomgaarden, Sam Keeler, and Devin Sunberg, it's difficult to ignore this team.  While Bern is no Ottawa, they still have the ability to be one of the better teams in the league.


5. Brampton Blades


Yet another team with goalie issues, the Blades are lucky to find themselves here after owning just two picks in the dispersal draft and the first not coming until the middle of the fourth round.  But, with enough returning talent, the Blades still are not a terrible team and very well may find themselves in the playoffs at the end of the season.


6. Moscow Red Wolves


The Red Wolves received a gift from the gods when Tyler Cote fell to them at number eight overall and they very well might just ride him to the playoffs this season.  While they don't have anyone spectacular outside of Cote, Moscow does have some solid depth players and a decent goalie in Jose Canseco that can make them a sneaky team that could pull off some upsets.


7. Yukon Rush


Coming off a tremendous season in which they absolutely dominated from start to finish, the Rush just don't have anything close to what they had last year.  While returning Vincenzo Valentini and Kai Randal will help save Yukon from disaster, they face an uphill battle if they want to achieve anything close to what they were able to do in season 39 as they hand over the reigns of the VHLM to the Ottawa Lynx.


8. Minot Gladiators


The Gladiators don't have much to be excited about this season.  It will be interesting to see if they are even able to field a competitive team as they lack in both top level talent and especially in depth.  Minot is simply looking to the future right now and might be better served making some moves for draft picks.


9. Oslo Storm


Well, if you thought the Gladiators were a weak team, the Storm should shock you.  They have very little talent throughout their roster and with Mario Corvia nearing the end of his career, it would not be surprising to see him moved to a more competitive team.


10. Bratislava Watchmen


Finally we have the Watchmen.  This team has virtually no hope for anything this season other than the first overall pick next year although they do have a trio of season 40 VHL draftees who they will be relying on to carry the team and possibly help transition into next season.  But without any real high end talent or much depth, expectations are very low in Bratislava.

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Edition 43


Power Imbalance


Oftentimes there tends to be one conference that appears to simply be stronger than the other - total balance is truly the exception.  But this season in the VHLM, we are experiencing just about as much of an imbalance as you could find.  When you take a look at the North American and the European Conferences, the difference is astounding - it's almost as if you are looking at two different leagues.  While this isn't necessarily a concern this season, it could be damaging for the VHLM if it continues to be a trend and it very well may be yet another positive to contraction.


Right now, the European Conference is absolutely brutal.  The Moscow Red Wolves currently possess a solid advantage despite a very mediocre 14-13-4 record.  Following the Red Wolves are the Royals, Storm, and Outlaws, all hovering around .400 while the Watchmen sit well in the cellar at 3-28-2.  Should these teams continue at their current pace, this means that it would be likely to see two teams make the playoffs with records well below .500.  


Conversely, the North American Conference is about as stacked as you'll ever see.  In fact, the Wild, Blades, and Lynx have a combined 15 losses - each of the seven other teams in the league has lost more games on their own.  In addition to these three teams who have a combined .848 record, the conference also has the Yukon Rush who currently sit outside a playoff spot with a 17-9-6 record.  As if having four teams who would all lead the European Conference by a significant margin wasn't enough, the fifth place Minot Gladiators would be in playoff position if they swapped conferences.


Now you are probably reading this article and wondering what the point is.  All you have to do is take a quick glance at the standings to see this extreme lack of balance between the two conferences.  But this is more than just a the best teams happening to be in one conference - it is the manifestation of a greater problem in the VHLM.  There is a lack of parity and competition in this league and while solutions have been and continue to be discussed, the current situation should be yet another reason to make some real changes to the structure of the league.


While there are a variety of potential fixes, this article is not intended to discuss these.  Instead, it is to draw attention to the need for changes.  First of all, take a look again at the fact that, halfway through the season, three teams have less combined losses than any of the other seven teams have individually.  If that isn't already a clear lack of parity, I'm not sure what is.  Because of this, there are six or seven teams right now with virtually no shot at winning the championship.  In a developmental league, one that is supposed to serve as an introduction to the VHL for new players, this just doesn't seem right.  


How can new players be expected to stay active when they only have one or two other active teammates?  How can new players be expected to stay active when their team has no shot at winning anything because a couple other teams have nearly the entire pool of assets in the VHLM?  The answer is that they cannot be.  The VHLM should not be a showcase of who can tank and load up on draft picks the best.  It should be a way to acquaint people to the league and to offer a fair chance for any player to have the spotlight.  And the only way to make the VHLM about the player, which is what a developmental league should be about, is to change the format of the league.

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Mid-Season VHLM Power Rankings


We're just over halfway through season 39 and it's time for the next edition of the VHLM power rankings.  Prior to the season, we expected a significant separation between the best and the rest and that separation has been very distinct thus far.  In many ways, it's also been far greater than anyone could have imagined with it becoming increasingly clear that the North American Conference has the lion's share of the talent in the VHLM.  With only a few teams truly having something to play for as the trade deadline and playoff push approaches, we can only expect that the top teams will continue to assert their dominance.


1.  Brampton Blades 35-5-1 (+4)


The Blades entered the season appearing to be a fringe playoff team but they quickly proved their doubters wrong and have only continued to dominate all season.  Their 71 points lead the league and while their goal prevention isn't anything to write home about, their goal scoring ability is unmatched in the VHLM.  Tyrone Williams' ridiculous 118 points through 42 games leads the league as their top line comprised of Williams, center Lukas Nykvist, and right wing DuJuan Cook has been absolutely dominant.  But, this team's success cannot be fully accounted for without mentioning the early season acquisition of goaltender Ikier Manushez.  Prior to the move, it appeared that goaltending would prevent the Blades from becoming legitimate contenders and adding Manushez has been a god-send as his .903 save percentage is only bested by the Wild's Gunnar Skovsgard.


2.  Saskatoon Wild 34-5-0 ( - )


The Wild's selection of Mason Richardson in the dispersion draft was praised throughout the VHLM and the defenseman has certainly lived up to expectations as he's on the fast track to being named the top defenseman in the league and to a highly successful VHL career.  Now while the Blades' success can be largely attributed to their offensive prowess, the Wild pride themselves on defense.  They've allowed nearly a full goal less per game than any other team in the league and have allowed less shots per game than every team in the league aside from the Lynx.  The defensive pairing of Richardson and fellow season 40 draftee Gunzerker Salvador has been, quite easily, the top unit in the league and with an efficient offense also led by the future superstar Mason Richardson, the Wild have been able to tear apart the opposition with precision.  With the Lynx also in the mix, it will be interesting to see if offense or defense will prevail in the three-headed beast that will be the competition to represent North America in the Founders Cup Finals.


3.  Ottawa Lynx 29-7-3 (-2)


Despite Ottawa's outstanding record, this season has been nothing short of a disappointment for the Lynx thus far.  While it's always difficult to put blame on a single player in a team sport such as hockey, it's difficult to avoid discussing the elephant in the room that is goaltender Souren Douffet.  His development has been slower than the team would have liked to see and a league-worst .851 save percentage overshadows the absolute dominance we have seen out of the rest of this team.  One quick example of their dominance is the fact that the Lynx are the only team in the VHLM to find themselves in the top half of the league in both shots for and shots against.  While they rank just third in shots for, they lead the league in shots against by an incredible 6 shot per game margin while taking nearly double the shots they've allowed so far.  The reason for this display of dominance over their opponents is fairly simple - the Lynx simply have more top to bottom talent on their roster than anyone else in the league.  If I were to mention one player here, I'd have to mention everyone.  And for that reason, Souren Douffet has a tremendous amount of pressure on his shoulders as he truly has more talent in front of him than any other goaltender in the league - it's ultimately up to him to take advantage of it.


4. Yukon Rush 24-13-7 (+3)


The Rush are in an extremely difficult position.  They have, without a doubt, a strong team as evidenced by their record and numbers so far this season.  In fact, they are very clearly the fourth best team in the VHLM.  The only problem with that is they are also very clearly the fourth best team in their conference and that's not going to be good enough to make the playoffs.  Essentially, this team will be playing for pride and Vincenzo Valentini, already with 115 points, will be chasing the scoring title because it just doesn't appear that the Blades, Lynx, or Wild are slowing down any time soon.  The only positive here is that the Rush are coming off a season in which they waltzed their way to the Founders Cup and can understand that in the VHLM, there will always be at least one team with disproportionate talent and they were alone in that position last year while this year two elite teams will ultimately come up short.


5. Bern Royals 18-20-3 (-1)


Finally we get our first European Conference team in these rankings.  Despite their record, the Royals are actually in a relatively good position.  This team has the forward depth and talent in net to at least put some fear into even the best of opponents.  Their first line of Devin Sundberg, Earl Parker, and Sam Keeler has been one of the best in the league and their second unit, while not necessarily putting up the numbers Bern would like, is certainly not devoid of talent.  While I'm not sure any European team is going to put much of a dent in any of the top teams in the North American Conference, if any team will, it's the Royals.


6. Moscow Red Wolves 17-17-7 (-)


The Red Wolves are simply a very mediocre, average team with an unspectacular offense and defense.  The addition of Mike McGrattan should help Moscow attempt to secure the top seed in their conference but regardless of their ability to achieve that goal, it will be a huge challenge to defeat the team that comes out of the North American Conference victorious.  While goaltender Jose Canseco has been solid, the burden of carrying this team falls on Tyler Cote who has been having a relatively quiet season thus far.  He is the most talented player on this team and will have to be the player the Red Wolves turn to if they want to compete with the power teams.


7. Minot Gladiators 16-21-4 (+1)


Minot's ability to stay afloat in such a stacked conference is certainly commendable.  They lack to talent to compete with the big boys but have certainly made the most of what they have.  Career VHLMer Matt Rielly has been a rock on defense for the Gladiators while Marcus Hurley and Edgar Balthazar have managed to find success on the second line despite their linemate not even being known to anyone in the Gladiators organization.


8. Oslo Storm 16-20-5 (+1)


Incredibly, the Storm appear to have a firm hold right now on the third and final playoff spot out of the European Conference.  It's very unlikely they will do much with this position but with a number of solid season 40 prospects of which some could play beyond this season for the Storm, they will be looking towards the future.  Left wing Christoph Klose has looked solid this season while defenseman Lloyd Light has shown why he very well could hear his name called in the first round in the Season 40 VHL Entry Draft.  


9. Turku Outlaws 13-26-1 (-6)


The Outlaws are one team I had pegged completely wrong.  But with recent additions of Kez Kincaid and Ryan Cattrall, they may be able to impose some fear in the Storm that their playoff spot may be in danger.  But, in reality, both these teams would be far better served to forgo the playoffs and take the earlier draft pick.


10. Bratislava Watchmen 4-39-2 (-)


The Watchmen managed to grab one of the strongest groups of season 40 draftees in the VHLM and they will be hoping some of these players will stick around in Bratislava next season.  Ultimately, this team has been worse than even the Wild or Blades have been good and that is a difficult thing to do.  But, the prize for this dreadful season will hopefully be the first overall pick and hope for next year.


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Edition 45


VHLM MVP Race: Who's In The Lead?


Right now it seems like everyone is focusing on team performance and the season 40 draft, which is shaping up to be quite possibly the greatest draft class this league has ever seen.  But the point of this article isn't to do yet another ranking of the best teams or to talk about players' draft prospects and their VHL potential.  This will be all about individual performance.  The top performing players in the VHLM deserve recognition and they will finally get that here.


There are a number of players performing exceptionally well up to this point this season.  Naturally, the majority of these guys are hot prospects, either drafted last year or hyped prospects for the upcoming entry draft.  But in this race, we have two players who have bucked this trend.  The first is Yukon Rush forward Vincenzo Valentini.  While Vincenzo has likely reached his peak as a player and most likely will never step foot on the ice for a VHL franchise, everything seems to be working for him this season.  While the Rush, despite their solid record, have next to no chance of making the playoffs this season to defend the Founders Cup, they are reaping the benefits of Valentini's 120 points so far, good enough for second best in the VHLM.  His offensive output along with his solid defensive play including a +/- of 36 make him one of the most impressive players in the league this season.


Another VHLM veteran who is making his mark on the league is Minot Gladiators defenseman Matt Rielly.  While he is planning on retirement following the conclusion of the season, Rielly is certainly going out with a bang.  He leads all defensemen with 91 points and his presence has been great for the Gladiators, who very well could grab some good value out of him if they decide to move him at the trade deadline.  But Rielly is far from just an offensive threat despite his point totals and lethality on the powerplay.  His 112 shots blocked rank third in the league while his 115 hits make him one of the most intimidating players in the VHLM.  While Rielly never was able to display the talent necessary to reach the VHL, this is a season for him that will not be easily forgotten.


While those two veterans have had outstanding seasons thus far, it would be hard to say that either is most deserving of the MVP title.  But another two interesting players to take a look at are a pair of centers: Devin Sundberg and Lukas Nykvist.  Both find themselves among the top five point scorers in the VHLM with 111 and 117 points respectively.  Sundberg, who plays for the Bern Royals, has been carrying the team on his back with his tremendous performance thus far as his team looks to topple the first place Moscow Red Wolves.  Nykvist, on the other hand, is the number one center for the number one team in the league - the Brampton Blades.  His +/- of 61 ranks him second in the VHLM and since the early season trade that brought him to Brampton, he has been an essential piece of the team's dominant performance through this point in the season.  Despite these two players being atop the league in a number of important benchmarks, neither quite cracks the top tier of MVP candidates.


Unsurprisingly, the top four players right now in the MVP race all play for one of the three best teams in the league.  Of these four, one is a goaltender, one is a defenseman, and two are forwards.  The first of these players in Saskatoon Wild goaltender Gunnar Skovsgard.  Skovsgard is a lock to be a top five prospect in the upcoming draft and he's been proving his worth all season with the Wild.  He leads the VHLM in save percentage, wins, and goals against average and has been as reliable as any player for the Wild.  While the Wild very well may have the strongest group of defensemen in the league, Gunnar Skovsgard's talent in unquestionable and his play has enabled the Wild, who have been simply average in goal scoring, to secure themselves as one of the top teams in the league.


Next up is Skovsgard's teammate and greatest ally in defenseman Mason Richardson.  If this award was based purely on talent alone, we very well could stop here and award the MVP award to him.  He has been key for the Wild's defensive play and his 86 points rank him second among VHLM defenseman and first in points out of any player on his team while adding an incredible 44 points on the powerplay.  And his offensive prowess does not come at the expense of defense - he's also been one of the strongest defensive players in the league and with his 105 hits, he is a dangerous player that opponents are always watching out for.


Finally, we have the two forwards: Thomas O'Malley of the Ottawa Lynx and Tyrone Williams of the Brampton Blades.  Ultimately, if the season were to end today, these are the two players that the MVP award would come down to.  Both O'Malley and Williams are premier offensive players; Williams leads the league with 136 points while O'Malley sits at number three with 119.  Not only have these players been absolutely dominant, each with a +/- exceeding 50, but both have been clutch.  Tyrone Williams leads the league in game-winning goals with 14 as well as in game-tying goals with 5.  O'Malley, on the other hand, ranks second with 13 game-winners and third with 4 game-tying goals.  Both players have been essential to their respective teams' success.  But, the final separation is position.  Thomas O'Malley is a center for the Lynx while Williams is a left wing.  While this may not normally make a huge difference, O'Malley has been an exceptional center this season.  His 61.44 faceoff percentage is second best in the league and one of just three players to win at least 60% of faceoffs taken and only one of eight to win more than 51%.  O'Malley's exceptional ability and performance in every area of his play, combined with his contribution to the Lynx's performance so far this season make him the slight leader right now in the MVP race.  But, this certainly is not set in stone as there are a number of players throughout the league putting together tremendous seasons and leading their teams to success.


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Can Anyone Stop the Lynx?


Although the Oslo Storm recently put a halt to Ottawa's incredible twenty-five game win streak, the question remains.  Can anybody actually stop the Lynx?  While they had some struggles, at least relative to the Wild and Blades, to start the season, their performance as of late has been the dominance everybody expected at the start of the season.  And it does not appear as if anyone is truly in a position to do a whole lot about it.


Their performance this season has been otherworldly.  Not only have they been among the top teams in the league in goals scored but they have also been one of the very best in goal prevention.  Only the Blades have scored more goals per game and only the Wild have allowed fewer goals per game.  This combination of having a high-octane offense and a rock-solid defense has enabled them to outscore their opponents by more than 2.5 goals per game.  In addition, and perhaps even more impressive, is their ability to create scoring chances while cracking down on their opponents' abilities to put the puck in the net.  Outshooting opponents by nearly twenty shots per game, their 42 shots per game ranks them third in the league and well over the 34.5 shot average while allowing just 22.5 shots per game, leading the league by a significant margin.  This is a team that can beat in in such a variety of ways that it makes it extremely difficult for anyone to point to one aspect or one player on the Lynx and say that it is the single most thing to limit in order to beat them.


And even with their performance so far, which has only been magnified by their 25 game winning streak that is almost unfathomable, this is not the most dangerous thing about the Ottawa Lynx.  The number one reason to believe that nobody will be able to stop the Lynx is the amount of talent on their roster from top to bottom.  They have six players with more than 180 TPE which is almost ridiculous considering there are a total of ten VHLM players meeting that benchmark.  And, just to further show how incredible this is, no team even has more than one such player.  In addition, only one other team comes close to Ottawa's eight players above 100 TPE - the Saskatoon Wild.  Not only do the Lynx have unparalleled top-flight talent but they have the depth most teams simply do not have, enabling them to put players on the ice that you very well could say are in another league than their opponents.


But, as we've heard all season, goaltending is the one spot where the Lynx just are not quite up to snuff.  It would be easy to assume Soren Douffet's performance has improved throughout their huge winning streak but that simply is not the case his his .859 save percentage puts him, fairly securely, at the very bottom of the VHLM.  While the dominance of the Lynx has mostly masked this fact, it's not difficult to see a high-powered offense taking them down over the course of a full series.  Because of this, the task of taking down the Lynx is solely on the Brampton Blades.  While the Wild have more talent, they simply do not match up as well against Ottawa.  If the Blades are able to approach the Lynx's shot totals, which they have proven they are very capable of in their matchups so far this season, they stand a strong chance at taking them down and putting an end to the season that was supposed to be Ottawa's from day one.

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Player Spotlight: Mason Richardson

Edition 47


The Season 40 VHL Entry Draft is right around the corner and this week we will take a look at the player who is perhaps the number one prospect available, Mason Richardson.  The defenseman has taken the VHLM by storm this year after being selected fourth overall in the dispersal draft just under a season ago.  He's been a leader all year for the Saskatoon Wild and will play a huge role in the team's pursuit of the Founder's Cup.


The California native actually did not even begin his career on the ice and scouts had concerns that his skills would never translate from roller hockey.  Over the years, though, we have seen Richardson put these critics to rest as he was able to develop into a strong player for the Oshawa Generals of the OHL and parlay his success into professional hockey, where he appears to be headed towards nothing short of stardom.


It was a shock to many that the Ottawa Lynx passed on Richardson the the VHLM dispersal draft last off-season although close ties with Saskatoon Wild management were rumored to be the reason for the apparent snubbing.  While Ottawa's hold over the first round made them immediate favorites to win it all, the Wild, with arguably the top defenseman in the league, were not ready to surrender to the Lynx right away.  While they certainly wouldn't be able to match the firepower of the Lynx, their drafting strategy was focused on defense, clearly in an attempt to counter the extraordinary talent level of the Ottawa forwards.  Even with a stout defense and a team that, overall, was not one to be taken lightly, the team received little attention as people were already starting to crown the Lynx as champions before the puck dropped to begin the season.


But the Wild started out fast as they, along with the Brampton Blades, left the Lynx in the dust.  In the process, Mason Richardson quickly stood out among his peers as an elite player, leading the way for the Wild both as a leader and with his performance on the ice.  Those who questioned his physicality were given a quick answer as Richardson came out hitting from the start.  While his team ended up just missing the top spot in the North American Conference, the Wild still possess as good a chance as anyone to win the cup with their stout defense that teams have yet to find a way to penetrate.  Richardson's 125 points this season ranked second in the league among defenseman and his defensive play was also among the strongest of any player in the VHLM, providing Saskatoon with a core that most other teams could only dream of.


While Richardson's play has been far beyond what anyone could have expected, the Wild are merely a stepping stone in his career.  He is the most talented draftee looking to enter the VHL in what is one of the league's deepest draft classes in its history.  The two-way defenseman who should be a force both offensively and defensively most definitely will be the prize of this draft and whichever team selects him may be taking one of the greatest all time.  Richardson is a generational talent and is as close to a sure thing as one can get.  But with such high expectations come pressure.  Will Richardson commit long-term to the team that selects him?  Can Richardson maintain continue to play at a level that exceeds that of everyone else on the ice with him?  Only time will tell but for now, it's safe to say that Mason Richardson in a very special player, one who is the best in this upcoming draft and is poised to be remembered as one of the best ever to lace up the skates.

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Ottawa Lynx vs. Oslo Storm: A Preview

Edition 48


The time is finally here; only two teams remain as we head into the Founder's Cup Finals.  The finals will pit the Ottawa Lynx from the North American Conference up against the Oslo Storm of the European Conference.  The Lynx, who finished with the top record in the league by a single point over the Blades and Wild, showed extreme resilience in the conference finals after finding themselves down three games to one early against the Wild.  Led by Thomas O'Malley's dominant performance, they managed to win three straight and put the Wild down in a series that was almost symbolic of their entire season that saw the team start out slow but wind up on top.  On the other hand, we have the Storm who finished third in their conference and seventh overall yet have been surprisingly dominant thus far in the playoffs.  First, they faced the favored Red Wolves in the first round.  Despite the sweep of Moscow, each game was decided by a single goal and three were decided in overtime.  The Bern Royals were expected to pose an even more difficult challenge for the Storm but they were quickly dismantled as the Storm again swept their opponent, this time outscoring the Royals by an incredible fifteen goals in the four games.


But now comes the real test for the Storm.  This season, it was very clear that the North American Conference was dominant with even the fourth place Yukon Rush owning a better record than any European team.  The Lynx, with 57 regular season wins, won more than double that of the Storm, winners of just 28 and not even owning a .500 record.  All season, the Lynx exerted their dominance over Oslo as they won eight of ten meetings between the two teams and outscored the Storm by a total of 32 goals in these games.  At this point, though, none of this matters.  Each team has a clean slate and their past performance bears little impact on what happens this series as they duke it out for the Founder's Cup.


Winning this series will be a tremendous challenge for the Storm despite their total dominance in the playoffs thus far.  Regular season performance is truly an indication of each team's skill and with the Lynx averaging over a goal more per game while allowing nearly two goals less per game over the course of seventy-two games, it's hard to imagine the Storm being able to keep up with the Lynx over the course of a single game, let alone a seven game series.  In addition, the Lynx simply have far more talent and depth on their roster that has the potential to simply overwhelm Oslo.  While the Storm have some solid defensive players including Lloyd Light and Vladamir Komarov as well as a strong goaltender in Niklaus Mikaelson, they lack the depth necessary to shut down Ottawa's high-octane offense, led by stars Thomas O'Malley and Andrew Erikson.  It's also difficult to say that the Storm even have an advantage over the Lynx defense which has been very tough to crack all season and should have no trouble shutting down Christopher Klose and the rest of Oslo's offensive attack.


Essentially, the Storm are as heavy and underdog ad you'll ever find.  They've enjoyed a tremendous playoff run but this appears to be where their success will end as the Lynx are simply in an entire different league with their overall performance and talent level throughout their roster.  As long as the Lynx don't get too far ahead of themselves and focus on playing their own game, it will be a surprise to see the Storm even force a game six.  But, crazier things have happened and while it will take an enormous amount of luck and quite possibly the best hockey they've played all season, it's simply wrong to say the Storm have no chance at taking home the cup.  This should be an exciting series to watch as we see a number of players taking their final steps on the ice in the VHLM as they look to move on to bigger and better things in their hockey careers.

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Edition 49


Finally, the Ottawa Lynx have achieved their goal of a Founder's Cup win set forth at the beginning of the season.  While this was seen as a formality before a single game had been played this season, the eventual championship did not come nearly as easily as most anticipated.  The beginning of the regular season saw some fierce and unexpected competition from the Saskatoon Wild and the Brampton Blades, who both got out to fast leads over the Lynx in the standings.  And for most of the season, it seemed like it would simply be a battle between Saskatoon and Brampton for the first round bye out of the North American Conference while the Lynx struggled to overcome their goaltending issues.  But an incredible 25 game win streak for Ottawa that began mid-season was a display of just how dominant the team was capable of being and with a strong finish to the season combined with a little bit of luck, the Lynx ended the regular season as the league's top team, finishing one point ahead of both the Wild and Blades.


Going into the playoffs, the Lynx were once again the favorites although not nearly as unanimously as they were the past off-season.  With the first round bye, they were able to get some rest while scouting their next opponent, which happened to be the Saskatoon Wild, who pulled off the win over the Blades in an exciting series that went to a full seven games.  For many rooting for the Lynx, this was seen as a blessing in that they were able to avoid the Blades' high-powered offense.  But after a dominant 4-1 game one win over the Wild that saw Ottawa outshoot their opponents 42-17, the tables were quickly turned.  Saskatoon seemingly figured out the Lynx offensive attack that had been so strong all season and allowed just three goals in the next three games en route to a 3-1 series lead.  At this point, it seemed a virtual impossibility the Lynx would make it to the finals but in a series characterized by tremendous ups and downs, they held off the Wild over the next three games to complete the series comeback and earn a trip to the Founder's Cup Finals where they would face the Oslo Storm.  While Ottawa kept quiet on it, the excitement was mounting as it seemed to simply be a formality that they would overrun the Storm and take home the cup.  While the Lynx were played very closely and actually didn't even outscore Oslo overall, they finished the European Conference foes in five games, finally seeing their dreams materialize.


For many Lynx players, this was their final shot at the cup before moving on to the VHL.  In fact, of their top eight scorers, only defenseman Razzle Dazzle will be returning to the team for season 40.  The powerful foursome of talented season 39 draftee forwards, who combined for an incredible 495 points last season that included Andrew Erikson, Aksel Thomassen, James Faraday, and Leo Tesla, will all be heading off to their VHL teams.  Erikson and Faraday will both be headed to the Helsinki Titans, a team loaded with young talent that is primed contend for a championship over the next few seasons.  Aksel Thomassen, barring any off-season moves, will be playing for the Quebec City Meute.  The team finished with the worst record in the VHL this season and will be relying on Thomassen to begin to bring the team to some sort of relevance.  And Leo Tesla will be headed to the Cologne Express, another non-playoff team.  The Express won the first overall pick in the draft lottery and are a team that appear to be primed to make the next step and become a strong VHL team.


In addition to the season 39 draftees, Ottawa championship team also included two of the consensus top four players in the very talented crop of season 40 draftees, both of whom also happen to be Boston natives.  Thomas O'Malley is a forward who many expect to be selected first overall by the Express, where he could join Leo Tesla as part of a strong core of young players expected to help Cologne return to the playoffs.  The other player is defenseman Jerrick Poole, who has been a surprise to many but should be a top pick in the upcoming entry draft, where he will be relied upon to be a shutdown defenseman by whichever team selects him.


This season, we saw something very special with the Ottawa Lynx, who managed to stockpile an incredible amount of talent en route to their cup win.  This group of players will continue to make their marks on the VHL as they are the future of the league and will be expected to be players their future teams can build around.  With new rules in the VHLM coming into effect next season, this may be the last time we see a team with such incredible talent on a team's roster from top to bottom and this win will be something these players take with them for the rest of their careers.

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Ranking The Top 5 Individual Performances of the Last 10 Seasons


Edition 50


As we head into Season 40 and are coming out with the 50th edition of the VHLM Magazine, it is only fitting to take a step back and look at the history of the league.  While much of the focus is on the VHL, the VHLM certainly has its own history that deserves appreciation.  In this article, we'll take a look at some of the greatest individual season performances the VHLM has seen over the past ten seasons.  While there have been an incredible number of outstanding seasons, these five stand out from the rest.


5. Season 35 - RW Xin Xie Xao - Saskatoon Wild


Xin Xie Xao has become a household name for what he's done recently in the VHL but what people may not know is that he was a superstar from the very beginning.  His season 35 performance was a true display of all-around ability that culminated with being named the Yzerman Trophy recipient as the top two-way forward in the VHLM.  His 128 points were fifth best in the league while his 86 goals were second best.  He also ranked second in the league in hits with 387 while picking up 10 hat tricks over the course of 72 games.  Xao is a perfect example of a player who has made a successful transition to the VHL where he continues to be one of the best players on the ice in each and every game he plays.


4. Season 30 - RW Dave Mustaine - Vasteras Iron Eagles


In Season 30, Dave Mustaine had a season to remember after a mid-season trade that brought him to Vasteras from the Saskatoon Wild.  Mustaine's 151 points were good enough for third in the VHLM as he led the way for Vasteras' short playoff appearance, which saw them get swept by the eventual Founder's Cup champions, the Helsinki Panthers.  But, Mustaine's offensive contributions were not what made his season so impressive.  He was truly a two-way forward in every sense of the word as his defensive play was perhaps even more impressive than what he was able to do offensively.  His 420 hits easily led the league and were almost 100 more than the next most frequent hitter, a feat that was extremely impressive and something that we haven't truly seen since.  Ultimately, Mustaine was both an offensive and defensive threat to his opponents and his season will be remembered as one of the best the VHLM has seen.


3. Season 39 - LW Tyrone Williams - Brampton Blades


Tyrone Williams will be moving on in his career with the Vasteras Iron Eagles but his final season in the VHLM was absolutely outstanding.  The Blades, originally considered an afterthought, especially when compared with the stacked roster of the Ottawa Lynx, managed to pull off an outstanding season that saw them tie with the Wild for the second best record in the league due in large part to the performance of Tyrone Williams.  He easily led the league in points with 208 and also in goals with 135 over the course of the season.  Williams also found himself at fifth in the league with a plus/minus rating of +74.  His 20 game-winning goals were unmatched as the Blades nearly made it to the North American Conference Finals after falling in a close series to the Wild.  While Tyrone Williams and the season 39 VHL draftees have been overshadowed by the season 40 draftees, Williams is well on his way to making his own mark in the VHL.


2. Season 32 - LW Filip Forsberg - Brampton Blades


Forsberg's Season 32 with the Blades was one of the greatest in recent memory.  His 209 points were far and away best in the league, 44 more than the next best scorer.  He was one of two players with over 100 goals and very nearly managed to add 100 assists, finishing the season with 93.  His plus/minus of +121 was also best in the league by a considerable margin while nobody could top his 17 hat tricks.  Also a force on the powerplay and not afraid to get physical, Forsberg was far and away the best player in the VHLM in Season 32 and his season was one of the best the league has ever seen.  His utter dominance, along with the amount of points he was able to contribute, easily make his Season 32 performance one that will be remembered for years to come.


1. Season 37 - D David Januzaj - Bratislava Watchmen


David Januzaj stands out on this list for a number of reasons.  Not only did he put together the most incredible performance the VHLM has seen in the last ten seasons but he is the only defenseman to crack this list as well as the only player on this list to also lead his team to the Founder's Cup.  What is most amazing about Januzaj's season is that he led the league with a tremendous 207 points as a defenseman.  His 140 assists were also easily the most of any player in the league yet he did not sacrifice defense for offense.  With 155 shots blocked and 170 hits, he still was able to make strong contributions in the defensive zone as he helped the Watchmen ultimately win a championship.  Unfortunately he hasn't been able to be nearly as successful in the VHL as he has leveled out and has been nothing more than a replacement player of the last couple years.  Despite his disappointing present, he was absolutely dominant in the VHLM and put together what is truly the most impressive individual performance of the past ten seasons.

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North American Conference Rankings


Edition 51


One thing that is for absolute sure is that Season 40 will be very different from Season 39.  Not even ten games into the season, Ottawa, the defending Founder's Cup Champions, are halfway to their loss total from last season.  While much of the talent from the leaded Season 40 Entry Draft is currently competing in the VHLM, the big four of Thomas O'Malley, Mason Richardson, Tyler Cote, and Jerrick Poole, three of which played in the North American Conference, have all moved on to the big leagues.  The landscape of the conference has undergone some changes and it starts with number five...


5. Ottawa Lynx


The Lynx are in last place at 0-6-1 and don't appear to be turning anything around soon.  They put all their eggs into last season and ultimately won the cup after facing some fierce and unexpected competition but it will be some time before they're competitive again.  Their roster is extremely thin with only defenseman Razzle Dazzle and forward Dylan Raseri returning from last season's team.  They will be relying on Bobby Ricky to, at the very least, provide the fans with a bit of excitement as this season was all but lost before it began.  Their 2.71 goals for ranks them just ninth in the league, no surprise as the team with the least amount of shots taken per game.  And their defense is not any better as Dazzle is struggling to handle the load, surrendering over 40 shots and 5 goals to their opponents each game.  This is a team already looking a few seasons ahead at their next shot at a cup.


4. Yukon Rush


Despite their very respectable 5-2 record, it's very difficult to imagine this team's success will last.  If you take away their three wins against the Outlaws and Lynx, the two teams that have yet to win a single game, they're 2-2, which still may be better than how this team will end up.  They are extremely thin and are essentially being carried by veteran Mario Corvia and his 16 points in just seven games.  But as the rest of the league improves, the Rush are likely to be left in the dust.  With their lack of depth and overall talent, it will be interesting to see how this team is able to survive and build upon their surprisingly strong start.


3. Brampton Blades


The Blades are another team with a solid record that just does not appear to be in a position to maintain their current pace.  At 5-1-1, they sit at second place in the conference and do have a good amount of depth, at least compared to some of the other teams.  This is a team largely relying on young players who may not quite be at their peaks yet and thus will be getting ready for a Season 41 cup run.  Youngster AIM-11 has been outstanding so far with 19 points in just seven games, powering the strongest offensive attack in the VHLM so far.  Their 44.71 shots per game and 5.71 goals per game are both number one in the league as the Blades, despite major personnel changes, continue to boast one of the highest scoring units in the league, much like back in Season 39.  The Blades are likely to make the playoffs this season but their ability to truly be a contender is in question at this point.  But as we've seen recently, this is a franchise that does incredible things with limited talent.


2. Minot Gladiators


You may be asking why the Gladiators are so high on this list with a record of 1-5-1.  Honestly, they probably don't even deserve this rankings right now but their roster has so much talent that it's impossible to think that this will be a trend.  Minot has some solid veteran depth, supporting an extremely talented group of young stars, headlined by winger Brady Stropko and defenseman Shadhu Rathod Jr.  At this point, the Gladiators have both the eighth ranked offense and defense, allowing 4.71 goals per game while scoring just 2.86.  But with a number of players new to the league and a very young roster, it may take some time to tinker with the lines in order to maximize production.  This team is ranked at number two based purely on speculation and if everything goes as expected, they should turn this season around quickly.


1. Saskatoon Wild


The Wild at number one is an absolute no-brainer.  They're undefeated at this point at 7-0 and easily have more talent than anyone else in the North American Conference.  While they lack a true star a la Mason Richardson last season, their depth is simply unparalleled and should help them establish themselves as the best team in the conference.  They average more than double the amount of goals as their opponents per game, scoring 4.43 while allowing just 2.14.  While the Wild certainly possess some strong offensive talent, their real skill lies in goal prevention.  Their defensive group, led by Joshua Rubin, Ginzerker Salvador, and goaltender Gunnar Skovsgard, is among the very best in the VHLM and, interestingly enough, is where most of their scoring comes from as Rubin and Salvador rank first and third in scoring for Saskatoon.  Right now, no team in the conference can match the Wild and it will be surprising if any team even can at any point this season. 

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Ranking The Top Five Defensemen


Edition 53


Although Mason Richardson has moved on to the Cologne Express and we don't have any defensemen exerting total dominance this season, there are a still a number of players, both young and old, enjoying strong seasons.  Now you may be wondering: what makes a strong defenseman?  Well, that would be a player who, first and foremost, helps his team defensively and is able to prevent opponents from getting quality scoring chances.  That is not to discount offensive prowess, though, and a defenseman who is able to contribute in the offensive zone is also exceedingly helpful.  With this in mind, here are your top VHLM defensemen to this point in Season 40.


5. Oslo Storm - Vladimir Komarov


Komarov was the eighth overall pick and fourth defenseman selected in the Season 40 VHL Entry Draft and he's been showing the league why he was a first round pick this season.  He's been strong both offensively and defensively, helping to lead the Storm to the league's best record this season.  Paired with Lloyd Light, Komarov has had to be very strong defensively to make up for Light's lack of defensive awareness and has not sacrificed scoring in the progress with forty-one points.  His 87 shots blocked and 52 hits are a display of his all-around ability and we should only see more of the same as the season progresses.  This young defenseman has excellent potential and so long as everything goes as expected, Komarov should be a name we hear for seasons to come.


4. Bern Royals - Jaime Hill


Perhaps the most interesting this about Jaime Hill is her gender.  But she is proving that girls certainly can play and is establishing herself as a solid player in the VHLM after being drafted in the second round of the VHL Entry Draft.  Her 43 points are sixth among defensemen while she's had some surprising success as a goal scorer, with 10 in just 30 games.  She's been relied on heavily by the Royals, playing just under 30 minutes per game and despite the regular stereotypes of female hockey players, Hill has been unafraid of throwing her body around.  Her 96 hits are seventh best in the VHLM while ranking fourth in shots blocked with 67.  Jaime Hill has shown significant improvement since breaking into the VHLM and has been one of the top defensemen in the league this year.


3. Yukon Rush - Brandon Holmes


The young defenseman has seemingly come out of nowhere this season to put up some extraordinary numbers.  His 52 points and 42 assists are the best in the league among defensemen and despite his offensive output, he's also been strong defensively.  His 67 hits, 78 shots blocked, and +3 ratings have helped keep the Yukon Rush afloat this season as they look to return to the playoffs after missing out last year.  Holmes has been a huge surprise as he was drafted in the fourth and final round of the VHLM Dispersal Draft this off-season.  But if he can continue to perform and improve, Brandon Holmes could be one of the best stories out of the VHLM this year.


2. Moscow Red Wolves - Borje Samuelsson


Samuelsson, like Holmes, is a VHL Season 41 draftee who has taken the VHLM by storm.  He has combined excellent offensive statistics with strong defense, making him one of the better prospects in the league right now.  His 49 points rank third for VHLM defensemen but the most impressive aspect of his game is his physicality.  Samuelsson's 126 hits and 79 shots blocked both rank second in the entire league as he's been one of the very best three-zone players all season.  He has a very promising future as he's shown rapid improvement en route to his current dominance in the VHLM.  While he hasn't quite been the best defenseman to this point, he very well could be the one with the most future success ahead of him.


1. Ottawa Lynx - Razzle Dazzle


One of just two returning players from the Lynx's Founder's Cup Championship last season, Razzle Dazzle has been the lone bright spot for this team in what can be most accurately described as a rebuild year.  One of the most incredible aspects of this performance this season is his plus/minus ranking, which is at +1 despite his team's -77 goal differential in just 29 games.  Just as incredible are his offensive statistics - with 18 goals and 33 assists, he has been directly involved in more than half his team's goals.  And Dazzle has certainly been no slouch defensively with a league-leading 137 hits to go along with 66 blocked shots.  While Dazzle, unlike the other defensemen on this list, is a VHLM veteran and heading to retirement at the end of the season, he has shown he still has it as a solid fill in despite never once stepping foot on the ice in a VHL game.

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The Case for Contraction


Edition 54


The desire to find new members and then ensure they stay and become productive members of the VHL community is constant.  Many people believe that they know the best ways to make this happen.  Incentives for recruiting is, without question, an important part of the process to ensure the success of the league.  And without excelling at member retention, the VHL never would have come close to its fortieth season.  But right now, there is one glaring issue that must be addressed.  While conversation regarding contraction of the VHLM is fairly regular, it just never seems to be presented as a legitimate argument.  Well, here's to hoping this helps spark the much-needed discussion.


One very obvious and apparent fact about the VHLM is the drastic differences between teams each and every season.  This has been recognized as a problem and actions have been taken in order to address seasonly parity including a recent action to cap the number of selections a team may take in each dispersal draft.  The aims of this rule amendment are to discourage the strategy of tanking and hoarding of draft picks that has been regularly utilized by VHLM teams in order to win the Founder's Cup.  Since this is a very new rule, implemented just this off-season, it will take time before we see the results and if they ultimately will have the intended effect.


Just to display the scope of the issue, here are some interesting statistics to take a look at.  In the last ten seasons, the average difference in point percentage between the top regular season team and the worst has been an incredible .656, clearly representing an issue, especially when the average first place team has a record better than .800 and the worst below .200.  With the Storm sitting pretty atop the standings this season at .841 and the Outlaws at a miserable .073, this trend is certainly not slowing down.  While this does present obvious issues, the most important problem here is keeping new members interested and ensuring they not only enjoy their time here but continue to stick with the VHL.


When you have ten teams and approximately thirty to forty active players in the VHLM at any given time, there are already major issues with filling teams.  Especially with the nature of the league and the fact that it will never be totally even, players will not be distributed evenly.  This can leave some teams with an excess of active members while others with maybe one or two.  This can alienate members, especially new members who simply will miss out on the experience of having an active locker room and actually interacting more naturally with others.  Ultimately, nobody wants to do something totally of their own free will that they don't enjoy so new members will be lost.


But an even more important and overlooked issue the lack of parity creates is a sense of competition and interest in following games.  When you know you're going to win or lose the vast majority of your games, there is less of a reason to routinely check up on your team's performance.  Even from my experience as a new member, coming from a very active team which won the Founder's Cup, it just was not all that interesting to continuously follow each win and although I had a great locker room, I still would spend long periods of time without ever checking the VHLM Index.  This takes one of the best aspects out of sim leagues: competition.


Contraction, in combination with the cap of draft picks a team is allowed to make, would be an important step in realizing the true goals of the VHLM: to develop new members and provide an entryway into the VHL.  Having less teams will limit the ability of any one team of having significantly more talent than other teams while it will unquestionably increase locker room activity and participation, ultimately creating a far more exciting and enjoyable experience for new and old members alike.  While I know the reality of contraction is not all that likely, it is something that could be a huge positive for the league's continuing success and should be looked into.

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Oslo Storm Clinch Playoff Berth

Edition 55


With eighteen games remaining in their season, the Oslo Storm have clinched a playoff berth in yet another big step in their excellent season to date.  At 44-7-3, their 91 points are best in the league as they hold a significant advantage in the European Conference over the second place Watchmen.  Their success this season should come as no surprise to anyone as they possess a roster loaded with talent, especially defensive talent.  In Season 40, they've been the most difficult team to score on, the key to their performance to this point.


Despite the Storm's place atop the VHLM's standings, their offensive output has been near the bottom of the league.  With just 3.76 goals per game, led by Christoph Klose's 78 goals and 111 points, Oslo is outscoring only the Rush and the Outlaws.  But this has not prevented the team from excelling as their goal prevention has been far and away the best in the league.  In fact, they average just over two goals allowed per game, joined by the Wild as the only two teams who have allowed fewer than three goals per game.  In addition, their 24.39 shots allowed per game is only bested by the Bratislava Watchmen.


This defensive dominance is due to the fact that not only does Oslo have two strong defensive lines but also perhaps the best goalie in the entire league.  While defenseman Lloyd Light's incredible 25 goals and 80 points have stolen the show, he is far from on his own in helping the Storm display defensive dominance.  His defensive partner, Vladimir Komarov, has been very solid as well, racking up 78 points this year to go along with 189 hits and 106 shots blocked, both of which rank in the top ten in the VHLM.  While they have, without a doubt, the best first pairing of defensemen in the league, Season 41 draftee Jack Kowalski has done an excellent job on the second unit.  With the recent addition of Jaime Hill, the Storm have only further solidified their roster and appear poised to win the Founder's Cup.


But, perhaps the most important player to this team's highly successful season would be goaltender Niklaus Mikaelson.  Mikaelson has simply been dominant this year and has been extremely difficult to figure out as he serves to only generate more and more frustration for his opponents.  His .918 save percentage and 1.97 goals against average are both best in the VHLM by a significant margin.  Not only has his ability in net been appreciated by the Storm, though, but there have been numerous reports from the VHL that he is a highly valued Season 41 draftee and a player with the potential to be a superstar.


While the season is far from over with about a quarter of games yet to be played, it is difficult to bet against the Storm.  Their defensive dominance and strong goaltender to go along with it make them one of the most feared teams in the league.  Oslo's overall talent in addition to their depth and performance to date make them the favorite to win the cup at season's end.  Provided nothing goes drastically wrong, it will be exciting to watch the Storm march to the Founder's Cup and graduate a number of extremely talented players to the VHL.

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Race for the Sakic Trophy


Edition 56


With the regular season approaching the end and the playoffs team nearly set in stone, players are primarily focusing on helping their team win the Founder's Cup.  But if we take a step back, there are a number of standout players this team, many of them coming from the loaded Season 40 draft class.  With so many players putting up strong numbers and playing major roles in their respective teams' success thus far, here are your top five contenders for the Sakic Trophy as the MVP of the VHLM (in alphabetic order by last name).


Center Oskars Harumpf - Bratislava Watchmen


Oskars Harumpf has taken a big step in Season 40.  In his first VHLM season with the Wild last year, he scored just sixteen total points in 43 games played, hardly an exciting debut.  Despite this disappointing performance, the Helsinki Titans saw his potential and made him the sixth overall pick and he's surely justified that pick this season.  In 62 games this season with the Bratislava Watchmen, who currently sit at second place in the European Conference behind the Storm, he's been scoring at a pace of more than two points for a game with a total of 25 goals and a league-leading 114 assists.  On top of his incredible offensive output, Harumpf's 63% faceoff percentage is fifth best in the league and his 88 +/- ranking is behind only Sachimo Zoidberg's 92.  Harumpf's outstanding season thus far not only aligns the Watchmen well for the upcoming playoffs but point to a very promising future in the VHL.


Goaltender Niklaus Mikaelson - Oslo Storm


There is a reason the Storm have the best record in the VHLM and that reason is Niklaus Mikaelson.  He is unquestionably the top goaltender in the league and the youngster is likely poised to be the first overall selection in the VHL Entry Draft this off-season.  His team has allowed just 125 goals this season, easily the least among all teams, as Mikaelson leads the league in every significant goaltending statistic.  His .919 save percentage makes him one of two players, along with Gunnar Skovsgard of the Saskatoon Wild, with a save percentage over .900.  In addition, there have been a total of fifteen shutouts in the VHLM this season - Mikaelson has over one third of these.  Essentially, you could go on and on about how Niklaus Mikaelson is the number one goaltender in the league and for this reason, he is definitely a true contender for the Sakic Trophy.


Center Jody 3 Moons - Bratislava Watchmen


Jody 3 Moons began his season with the Bern Royals before being moved to the Watchmen at the trade deadline where he will be added to an already formidable offensive team.  His faceoff percentage of 64.23% is second best in the league and his 140 points, split perfectly evenly between goals and assists, are fourth best.  While his statistics are, without question, good enough for his name to make it into the Sakic discussion, his peripherals are where he truly stands out.  He has an outstanding 15 game-winning goals, which just so happens to be more than three times the win total of the Outlaws this season.  3 Moons was the tenth and final selection of the first round of the VHL Entry Draft last season and his development should certainly please the New York Americans.  He will be a key player for the team in order to ensure a smooth transition from the current state of the team to the future.


Right Wing Brady Stropko - Minot Gladitors


Like Mikaelson, Stropko is a Season 41 draftee who is making a name for himself early in his career.  His 101 goals this season lead the VHLM while his 156 points are second best.  At this point in the season, the Gladiators are firmly entrenched in their second place position in the North American Conference, well ahead of the Blades and Rush who are still fighting for the third and final playoff spot.  Stropko's thirteen hat tricks rank him second in the league while his +/- ranking of 48 pace his team by a significant margin.  He is yet another future franchise player who should make his VHL debut next season.


Right Wing Sachimo Zoidberg - Bratislava Watchmen


The third forward on this list from the Watchmen, Zoidberg is currently the VHLM leader in points with 159.  He also leads the league in +/- while his 17 game-winning goals pace the league.  With the recent addition of center Jody 3 Moons, the Watchmen are an even more dangerous team as they own some of the very best offensive players.  Zoidberg, drafted fifth overall by the Toronto Legion, was the first selection of the draft not to make his VHL debut this season.  Despite this, he certainly seems ready to make the jump as he is absolutely dominating the minor leagues.  With limited time remaining in the VHLM, he will look to leave his mark by winning some hardware with the Sakic Trophy and even a Founder's Cup not out of the question.



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