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Why the Change?


VanCanWin
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       This past season and offseason the VHL has seen a number of high profile players switch positions for various reasons.  In an attempt to see why this trend was set and whether this is something we can expect more often going forward, I am taking a look at five players who recently made these changes.  Of the five, two made the switch from the wing to defence, one from defence to wing, and two from defence to center.  

       The reoccurring theme here was they made these changes with team inspired aspirations though some had some personal gain to make from the change as well.  With the increase in teams and GM’s getting creative in order to maximize their team’s potential the position change route seemed like a good alternative to acquiring players via trade or free agency.

Further in this article, I break down each player, the change they made and why, and provide an outlook on their season ahead as they acclimate to a new position.


 

Leph Twinger @DollarAndADream

Position Change: LW to D

Team: Calgary

 

         Leph Twinger is playing in his seventh VHL season already. Leph began his career filled with certain promise and generational talent. His first season in the league was a massive one as he scored 116 points. Unfortunately for Leph, his career faltered from there. Though he has still had a solid career up until now, Leph surely knows it wasn’t what it could have been. This is one of the reasons why he was willing to make this switch to defence when he was asked by his team to fill a hole in their roster.  

      As we look to this upcoming year, Leph will be coming into it on the back end of a declining career.  He will be fighting depreciation so will struggle to develop any current areas of concern. Thankfully, his build is quite solid making his transition game his weakest point. His passing sits at just 81 which is average at best. His defence sitting at 94 - which is respectable, won’t be high enough to make him an asset here and so he will resort to skating the puck out often. The problem there is any good checking team with speed will give him fits all night long.

      Leph will be getting top line minutes alongside Brady Stropko Jr as they anchor a contending Calgary team. The potential is there that the two of them stabilize the defence enough to lead the team deep into the playoffs, potentially ending as champions.  This is where we will be able to determine how successful his transition was.

     

      “Since my rookie season, it has been no surprise that my career has not gone the way that I wanted it to. I spend countless hours in the training room, but it just doesn't seem to pay off during games. I have only ever had a point per game season once in these last 5 seasons since having 116 points as a rookie in S62. The Calgary Wranglers had the option for me to switch this off-season, and I jumped right on that. I think I have been great defensively through hitting and shot blocking, and taking me away from the forward group should be fine as well. I cannot wait to help on the back end to finish off my career these next 2 seasons.” - Leph Twinger


 

Ryan Sullivan Jr @Advantage

Position change - D to LW

Team: Malmo

 

      Ryan Sullivan Jr is entering his fifth season in the VHL and has made a curious switch to forward after playing his entire career on the blue line up until now. Ryan is in his prime and is coming of a Jake Wylde trophy year as defensive player of the year.  It sure looks like Ryan is not settling for a good career but wants to push himself to be the best player he can be. This, along with team fit, are clear determining factors in making this switch to forward.

      Sullivan Jr has the capabilities and all around skills to transition smoothly to forward. Though he looks capable in all areas, his weakest would be in his puck handling abilities. He is better than league average but if left to face strong opponents he may have his hands full trying to keep the turnovers down to a minimum. With that said, Sullivan Jr has no real glaring weakness and so the question will be how he develops his chemistry and finding a fit for him with players that complement his style.  

      Sullivan Jr will start the season on the second line wing on a line centered by sophomore phenom Phil Marleau. Look for Ryan to be an offensive force playing again secondary lines while picking up his fair share of power play minutes as well.  If he develops his chemistry and gels with his new line mates, expect a big year out of him. If not, this switch may just be a big mistake in the prime of his already successful career.

     

     “I felt that my offense wasnt as effective from the back end and I always felt I could impact the game more around the net and while my defensive game has always been a huge strength for me, I feel like I can now develop into a well rounded talent rather than a more one dimensional one.” - Sullivan Jr


 

Cody Smith @cody73

Position change: LW to D

Team: Calgary

 

      Cody Smith is entering just his second season and is making a career altering decision to move to the back end.  Cody is still growing his skills and so is trying to make this change before he is fully developed as a VHL player. Will this be the right direction his career should take? 

      Being a young player in this league, Cody’s talents are still quite raw. Despite this, Cody has actually developed himself into a promising defender. There is one area however that he will realize he needs to grow in - strength. Cody will be bullied on the ice in his second year unless he hits the gym with renewed vigour. 

      Cody has secured a spot on the second defence unit and is sure to get his share of minutes here. Cody should receive power play time as well and so should see a nice amount of offensive output this season although he may struggle on the defensive end as he continues to develop there. Expect a season of growth for Cody as he adjust to this new position. 

 

      “I made it (the switch) in the middle of last year (Just as the WJC was going down) as my team had made a trade which left us short on defence and given my player's flexible build and lack of TPE, I fit best on the blue-line. I was willing to take one for the team as I felt I was versatile and could do great things as a defenceman.” - Cody Smith


 

Ryan Kastelic @Enorama

Position change: D to C

Team: Riga


 

      Ryan Kastelic was a prolific defender who is now entering his 6th season in the VHL. While Ryan has not won any individual awards, he has been a star for a while now.  As he enters his final stages of his career, Ryan felt a team need for a true number one center and the best option to acquire one was for him to make the switch.

      Ryan Kastelic, like many defensemen, doesn’t have much face off experience and so we can expect him to struggle here as a top flight center. This will cause him and his line to struggle a bit in the puck possession department. Ryan will have to improve in this area if he wants to ensure his success with his transition from the back end to the middle. 

      Kastelic has all the makings of a superstar forward. Elite passing, skating, puck handling along with an obvious talent on the defensive side. With an improvement in the face offs Ryan could quickly transition into an elite, pass first, two way center. Coupled with the elite skills, Ryan will be handed the number one pivot duties this season. Expect big things from Ryan as he enters the final stages of his career.

 

      “I did it mid-season last year because we were faltering with 4 good-decent dmen but no clear #1 C. I was the only one with the TPE to pull it off.” - Ryan Kastelic


 

Maxim Kovulchuk @Banackock

Position Change: D to C

Team: Seattle

 

      Maxim is the only player from this list that also purchased the reroll allowing him to identify as a completely new player. Maxim has struggled against depreciation as he enters his 7th season in the VHL. Seattle, in an attempt to expedite the rebuild, has taken their veteran defender and turned him into a center with the hopes he can add some star power to the top line. How much star power is left in him is questionable, however. 

      As Maxim fights against depreciation it will be interesting to see just how much he struggles against other top lines in the puck possession area, specifically in puck retrieval. Maxim’s defence is decent but not by top line standards, he doesn’t check anyone and his face offs are again average at best.   

      Maxim looks to get a boatload of minutes as he anchors the top line as well as the third line, getting 60% of ice time! The sheer amount of chances should bode well for his standard statistics but what quality of play he gives in those minutes is less of a surety.  The best thing he has going for him here is his build type. Maxim has all but forgotten about learning how to pass, which is by design, in an attempt to be decisive with his decision making as well as have one less area to try maintain this late in his career. Expect solid numbers from Maxim, but he won’t be the number one center that brings Seattle back to glory.

 

 

      So we see these five players and the career altering changes they have made in an attempt to revive their careers or help their team achieve a new level of greatness.  Will this be a trend going forward? Not likely. More likely this a fad that we see now as GM’s balance out their rosters which is something that may not be needed as much each and every season.  

      We will continue to watch these players adjust as the new season gets underway. Whichever way this works for these players, we give them respect for making their team priorities higher than theirs. These will be storylines to follow for all players as these five set the precedent for the future.

 

      Until next time, on behalf of VSN and all the great writers there, my name is Trevor Van Lagen and I look forward to providing you more articles and insight in the future.

 

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12 hours ago, VanCanWin said:

 

         Leph Twinger is playing in his seventh VHL season already. Leph began his career filled with certain promise and generational talent. His first season in the league was a massive one as he scored 116 points. Unfortunately for Leph, his career faltered from there. Though he has still had a solid career up until now, Leph surely knows it wasn’t what it could have been. This is one of the reasons why he was willing to make this switch to defence when he was asked by his team to fill a hole in their roster.  

      As we look to this upcoming year, Leph will be coming into it on the back end of a declining career.  He will be fighting depreciation so will struggle to develop any current areas of concern. Thankfully, his build is quite solid making his transition game his weakest point. His passing sits at just 81 which is average at best. His defence sitting at 94 - which is respectable, won’t be high enough to make him an asset here and so he will resort to skating the puck out often. The problem there is any good checking team with speed will give him fits all night long.

      Leph will be getting top line minutes alongside Brady Stropko Jr as they anchor a contending Calgary team. The potential is there that the two of them stabilize the defence enough to lead the team deep into the playoffs, potentially ending as champions.  This is where we will be able to determine how successful his transition was.

     

      “Since my rookie season, it has been no surprise that my career has not gone the way that I wanted it to. I spend countless hours in the training room, but it just doesn't seem to pay off during games. I have only ever had a point per game season once in these last 5 seasons since having 116 points as a rookie in S62. The Calgary Wranglers had the option for me to switch this off-season, and I jumped right on that. I think I have been great defensively through hitting and shot blocking, and taking me away from the forward group should be fine as well. I cannot wait to help on the back end to finish off my career these next 2 seasons.” - Leph Twinger

 

I assume you mean sophomore season unless that’s an actual quote you got. The passing isn’t average it depends on what build you have (at least from the advice I’ve gotten) especially if you’re a scorer. Plus I think he’ll fit amazingly in our d category especially with that 86 checking. 

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17 minutes ago, Big Mac said:

I assume you mean sophomore season unless that’s an actual quote you got. The passing isn’t average it depends on what build you have (at least from the advice I’ve gotten) especially if you’re a scorer. Plus I think he’ll fit amazingly in our d category especially with that 86 checking. 

 

Actual quote I got.

 

As for his passing, yes this is a common build recommendation to keep passing/scoring at least 10 apart. Regardless, he will still be a predominantly scorer (doesn’t mean he won’t get any assists). His strength isn’t in his passing though. Again, this doesn’t mean he sucks at it, it’s just that’s his weakest area. Really I think this speaks of how much talent he really has as there is no glaring weakness. 

 

Im sure he will be a very good player for you this season ??

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