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VSN Divisional Previews: Low Division


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Low Division Preview

 

Welcome to the VSN S74 season preview of the Low Division! Admittedly, we’re a bit of the way into the season now, but not so far as to really draw too many conclusions, so this will primarily be judged as the teams headed into the season. 

 

New York Americans: 43-23-6, 92PTS - Lost in Quarterfinals to Calgary 4-3

 

New York, despite winning the Low Division last season by a fairly wide margin, projects to be a significantly worse team this time around. The loss of Julius Freeman, Acyd Burn, Lance Flowers, and A Red Guy just isn’t a loss a team is going to be able to shake off in one season. Flowers went to division rival DC, and the other three are now retired. Micheal Gary Scott, Owen Nolan, and Jerry Wang all also got slightly worse since last season, and the biggest pickups they’ve made have been rookie Markus Schauer and an aging Kefka Palazzo for one last ride into the sunset. In goal, Samuel Ross will help stem the tide a bit so they’re not going straight to Bacon who isn’t really ready for the starting role, but neither Ross nor Bacon are A Red Guy. This is a team in transition, likely to need a full rebuild as even the players they do have are on the older side. 4 S67s and 3 S68s out of 11 players isn’t really what you want to have after you’ve already lost 4 other guys. 

 

Prospect pool: decent. Prospect goalie Cal Conway looks likely to challenge Bacon soon, he’s nearly as good as him now and a year younger. Four skaters from the S74 draft are likely to break into the New York roster soon, with Rhynex Entertainment and Brian Strong Jr almost certain to add to the team next season and Gabriel Johnson and Peter Louis II projecting to perhaps be a season out yet. Assuming none of these players bust, and assuming the Americans draft well in S75, they should just about be able to cover their losses. Those are some big assumptions though, especially for a franchise who has had its fair share of misses.

 

DC Dragons: 37-33-2, 76PTS - Lost in Quarterfinals to Seattle 4-2

 

DC is in an interesting spot. Defensively, they’ve managed to upgrade since last season, picking up the aforementioned Lance Flowers and losing only the retired Charles Drumm. Up front, Groovy Dood got significantly better, but Boris the Forest got significantly worse, and they’ve lost a bit of depth with Mikko Aaltonen and Raleigh Ritchie. Stone Wolski is a bit better in goal than he was, although at that level, the differences are incremental. Largely, this is a pretty similar team to where they were last season, although Flowers is a big add, and they should benefit from New York’s decline within the division. DC will probably be a bit better in the upcoming season, but likely not a true contender. 

 

Prospect pool: better than it looks at first glance. Some might see a S72 player in Alek Andreshnikov who hasn’t yet cracked the bigs and assume the development has stalled, when in reality that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Andreshnikov stalled out a bit in the midsummer but has actually picked it up quite a bit lately. It’s unfortunate that a few seasons of his career have been burned, but this is a guy who has finally found his groove and projects to make DC next season. Jackson Philliefan and Rick Osman will likely do the same, if they continue on current growth, which will overload them defensively a bit next season but there are certainly moves that can be made. The two Hoffmans will likely take an extra season to come up though, but that’s fine since they’re S74 players and have plenty of career left. Plus it’s probably better overall for DC that they can spread their prospects out a bit - their pool is probably about the same strength as New York’s, but varies in class a bit more and DC doesn’t need to panic-fill the roster quite to the extent New York does.

 

Toronto Legion: 33-31-8, 74PTS - Missed playoffs by 2PTS

 

Toronto actually looks fairly strong on paper, although they have more depth than star power and that particular roster composition has been met with mixed results over the years. Offensively, they’ve lost Teemu Lehtinen Jr and Thorny Underyew and gained John Merrick and Raleigh Ritchie - compared to the abilities of Lehtinen and Underyew at the end of last season, Merrick and Ritchie are probably pretty comparable, but Merrick’s youth should serve him well over the course of the season and so as it goes on, the current crop should start to look better. Defensively, Fredrik Elmebeck has begun to decline in ability as his years have gone on (although he is definitely a Legion player until the end, for non-hockey reasons) but the acquisition of Daldo and the promotion of Ziarie Anigbogu should more than make up for the difference. Another season of development for Jaxx Hextall as well and this should be an improved year for Toronto, although it remains to be seen if that will translate onto the ice.

 

Prospect pool: thin. There are only two players currently in the Toronto prospect pool, and that’s just not enough to really qualify as a good group. However, Toronto is largely younger than both DC and New York, so they don’t need the replenishments as badly in the short term, and have no one to immediately replace at the end of the season as things stand. Plus a thin pool doesn’t mean the quality of the players in the pool is lacking. Wolf Weiss is already VHL quality, having just barely fallen below that classification as the season began, and Nicholas Sunderbruch has all the makings of a future solid piece for the Legion as well. Toronto has notably had a poor run of drafts, but as it stands, it looks like S74 may have broken that trend for the better.

 

Chicago Phoenix: 18-51-3, 39PTS - Missed playoffs and finished last in VHL

 

Chicago, like the other expansion teams, ought to need a bit more time to really become competitive. It’s hard to tell really, since such a big expansion increases the odds that at least someone will be good, but on paper Chicago just doesn’t look like that team right now. There was a pretty heavy turnover on offense, losing Vladimir Shaposhnikov, Milos Slavik, and Frans Eller and gaining Teemu Lehtinen Jr, S Kuchar, Lee Xin, and Christian Mingle. It’s a largely sideways move in terms of current ability, but the latter crew (with the exception of Lehtinen) should all be stronger investments in the long term. Chicago definitely looks better with the new set, but it remains to be seen just how much of it will be reflected this current season. The defense is significantly improved, even in the short term. Nethila Dissanayake and Khalabib Stiopic were never anything more than place holders, a job that Andrej Petrovic and Henrik Zoiderberg can do better, and Petrovic potentially for two seasons. Plus Matty Socks is now on the roster instead of the prospect pool and is already the best defender on the team. Jean Pierre Camus in goal is also steadily improving and is a younger player, exactly the type an expansion team needs. 

 

Prospect pool: fairly deep. There are 7 total players in Chicago’s prospect pool which is more than any of the other teams in the division, so the depth appears to be there at first glance. Two of these players, Joromir Jogr and XxMouthCreamxX, have stalled out on development and will not likely make the VHL in their careers. That leaves 5 real prospects, on par with DC and one ahead of NY. There are questions as to how some of the pieces fit - Roseann Petal seems at first glance to have taken the last few weeks off but isn’t gone long enough to count out yet, and could certainly become something for the Phoenix. Kloxified, despite consistent and strong development, might have to resort to backup duty for a while as Camus is more developed and not much older. Yuuto Kira Cloudera will probably take an extra season in the minors, Kasey Tamm is nearly a lock to be up with Chicago next season, and Darius Marimoto is somewhere in between and a little harder to predict where he’ll be at that time. 

 

That’s all for the S74 Preview: Low Division. Look out for the previews of the other three divisions by other VSN staffers!

Edited by diamond_ace
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*NOTE*
I know the Low and Shaw divisions are complete - there's a bit of uncertainty as to whether the Gow and Bunclewirth writers have done theirs. However, that's no reason to make the Low and Shaw writers lose out on pay for work we've completed. @PatrikLaine has the Shaw division written up and I assume will be sharing it with you all soon.

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