Winter Break State of the Union From the Rockiesby Ed Whalen | January 10, 2019, 11:34 PM ET
With large snowflakes silently dropping outside the Skoki cabin window, I sat across from GM Ian Constable with a hot cocoa in hand and my feet warming aside a crackling fire. He shared his thoughts with me on the progression of a number of his players and prospects and his thoughts for the future of the Banff Rockies.
We had a very slow start to the year. Carey Price was keeping us in a few games, but was being shell shocked. Lately the team has played a little better and he has been lights out many nights. With 5 points in the 4 games leading to the winter break, I'm happy with how the team is performing lately. I know that I need to do a better job of providing the team with the skill to compete in this ultra competitive league. In the offseason, I added a lot of heart and leadership, but it is very apparent that I need to add some stronger playmakers up front. Price has started 23 of the teams 24 games thus far and has done it with a league competitive save persentage of .890 placing him 26 out of 38 SICHL goalies that have played at least 9 games.
In the minors, The Avalanche are blanketing the competition led by future Rockies backstop Casey DeSmith. We brought up Casey to test him out with him with the big club seeing how he was playing with a ton of confidence and he performed admirably for the first 40 shots against Whitehorse only giving up 2 goals and giving us a 3 goal lead in the 3rd, but he showed that he's just not ready quite yet giving up 3 late ones and eventually losing the game in the shootout. This offseason he will be working on his conditioning, we believe he will come back in excellent form for the 19/20 season.
Up front Kyle Connor had a slow start for us with only 3 points in his first 8 games, but has picked it up lately with 14 points in the last 16 and now leads the team in scoring. He will soon have to be replaced on our Top Prospects list.
Maybe the teams most pleasant surprise has been the play of 41 year old Matt Cullen. Cullen is tied for the team lead in assists with 9, tied for second on the team with 13 points and leads the team in +- at +10. We are very happy to have him under contract through the 19/20 season at a bargain of 525k.
Kasperi Kapanen has a symbiotic relationship on the line with Cullen and is tied with him for 2nd in scoring on the Rockies is third on the team with a +5 and leads the team in shots with 50.
The best play from the blueline has come from Matt Benning with 10 points so far including a team leading 3 power play goals and 53 hits. His -5 rating while not good is also indiicative of the tough minutes he is eating and the level of competition he goes up against each night.
Duncan Siemens seems to have cemented himself as the teams tough guy leading the team with 31 penalty minutes so far.
One player that has performed well for his age is 19 year old D Mikhail Sergachev who has 7 points in 20 games and is a respectable (on this team) -2. We are extremely excited about Mikhail's future with the Rockies. We believe he will qb the pp for a decade at least.
Two players who have struggled mightily so far are free agent additions Torrey Mitchell and Adam Cracknell. with 9 points and -24 combined, we expect them to be much better the rest of the way if they want to renew their contracts which both end this year.
On the prospect side for the Rockies, there are a number of players who are coming along very well, while we also have our share of duds.
D Miro Heiskanen - We were ecstatic to pick up Miro and he hasn't disappointed. He's is playing big minutes in every situation in that other league at the age of only 19. The only place he hasn't been given an opportunity for most of the season so far is on the top pp unit and he still has 9 goals and 20 points in 44 games. He is expected to make the Rockies as a rookie next year.
C Nick Suzuki - Nick hasn't produced what we were expecting from him so far this season. We are hoping the trade to Guelph in the OHL will help him rise back to the top of the scoring race. Like many Canadians he underperformed at the World Juniors this year.
C Henrik Borgstrom - There was a lot of hype surrounding this prospect this offseason and we recieved a number of inquiries before the season on his availability. We are very pleased with his jump form college to the other 2 leagues where he had 22 p in 24 games before being called up producing 4 points in 11 games so far. We hope he can play for the Rockies next year but most likely is 2 years away.
C Joseph Veleno - Joe has been on fire lately with 35 points in his last 11 games with Drummondville in the Q. This was a big reason why he was selected as one of only 2 2000 born forwards for Canada at the World Juniors, there he showed of his speed, vision and tenacity, but was given a very minor role with the team. If he doesn't force his way into the bigs next year, we expect him to return and be a leader at the tourney. He is currently leading the Q in points per game and poised to make a long run with Drummondville towards the Memorial Cup. We think Joe will be able to crack the Rockies roster by the 21/22 season.
C/LW/RW Klim Kostin - Klim is having trouble cracking the Avalanche roster this season. He has also struggled to score in the other leagues minors this year. Klim captained Russia's World Junior team this year and was a polarizing figure in Vancouver. Most fans there hated him, but we loved the passion he showed and are still very excited about his Future with the Rockies. ETA 20/21
LW Joel Farabee - The Rockies 15th overall selection at theis years draft had a slow start to his college career with 12 points in his first 17 games at BU. Joel played very well at the World Juniors and was counted on by the silver winning US squad. He pulled off one of the greatest 1 on 1 moves the tournament has ever seen only to be foiled by the Finnish goalie in the gold medal game. We are still very high on Joel, but we don't expect him to crack the Rockies roster untill the 21/22 season.
C Adam Gaudette - While adjusting to the pro game very well in those other minors, Adam has struggled in that other top league. Rockies ETA, 20/21
RW Serron Noel - The young giant has already surpassed his draft years point totals with 56 points in 40 games. His name is consistetly in the 3 stars selections for the Generals. Rockies ETA 21/22
D K'Andre Miller - Has 17 points in 18 games as a freshman on the U of W blueline. Was not a standout at the World Juniors for the US. THe Rockies are very excited about this recently converted forward to Dman and don't want to rush him, ETA 21/22.
D Matthias Samuelsson - With his poise at the World Juniors for the US, showed why he was the US U18 captain. We expect him to make the Rockies in the 20/21 season.
D Jared McIsaac - One of only 2 18 year olds on Canada's D at the World Juniors, Jared had a good tournament being called upon to man the PK and play some tough shutdown minutes. Incredibly, this is already the 5th time he has suited up to represent Canada in international play. He is on a point per game pace with Halifax this year as their Assistant Captain and is looking to make a run at the Memorial Cup. Rockies ETA 21/22
D Ryan Merkley - Ryan was on an incredible scoring pace, leading all CHL defensemen in points per game when he was left off the invite list to the Canadian World Junior tryout roster. since then he has tailed off his scoring and has been traded from now powerhouse Guelph to Peterborough. He has 44 points in 35 games and is a plus player this year. While Rockies management is still extremely high on this player, other SICHL GM's believe we refuse to see what others see. Rockies ETA 20/21
D Bode Wilde - Another surprise non-invite to his countries World Junior tryouts, Bode has had a fantastic rookie season with Saginaw in the OHL sitting third in D scoring. Rockes ETA 21/22
"The plan last year when we entered the league was a 5 year build that would put us in playoff spot contiention. We are happy with our improvements over the last year and think there will be noticable improvements in the team for next season. Our goal is to improve every year. The Banff fans have been very patient with us and continue to support us through this build. they are the best fans in the world and we will do everything we can to bring a Continental Cup to our fans in the next decade."