With the 2011-2012 regular season fast approaching I thought it would be a good time to look ahead and predict how the US Division will fall out this season. This list is done in the order that I think they will finish in the regular season.
1. Portland Winterhawks – The Portland Winterhawks will probably start out slow this season because they had 15 players go off to NHL Camps. Obviously when you have 15 players go off to NHL camps you have a talented roster. They will probably lose 2 or 3 players to the NHL, but overall there wasn’t a lot of turnover by the Winterhawks during the off season.
2. Spokane Chiefs – I know this is called the Spokane Chiefs Fan Page and some of you probably think I should put the Chiefs at #1. However I think it’s going to be tough for a lot of teams to compete against the level of talent that the Winterhawks have. I was also one of those people who thought last year was going to be a rebuilding year, and the Chiefs would be lucky to make the playoffs. I’m glad to have been proven wrong.
While the Chiefs lost players like Jared Cowen, James Reid, Levko Koper, and Tyler Johnson in the off season. I think players like Cole Hamblin, Collin Valcourt, Davis Vandane, Marek Kalus, and Mike Aviani will have break out seasons this year. Darren Kramer probably won’t get 300+ PIMS this season but I suspect he’ll score more than 10 goals easily this season. If the Chiefs keep Matt Marantz I expect a battle between him and Anthony Bardaro for which Chief will score the most goals this season.
It’s going to be a tight race between the Chiefs and Winterhawks this season to see who is going to raise the US Division Banner at the beginning of next season.
3. Tri City Americans – The Tri City Americans had a good preseason and most likely they will have a strong start in the regular season. Around the end of January, early February they will begin to fall apart a little bit due to injury and/or fatigue. The AMS probably won’t be as strong this year as they had a lot of turn over during the off season; after all they finished the season with 9-19 year old players on their roster. Those players are now considered 20 year olds and they have some tough choices to make with 5 – 20 year olds still left.
The Ams are putting a lot of faith in a young goaltender that hasn’t really been tested in the WHL. While Bob Tory has made some wise choices when it comes to goaltending. Part owner- Ollie won’t be the goaltending coach this season as he will be an associate coach for the Washington Capitals.
4. Seattle Thunderbirds – The Seattle Thunderbirds still have the human brick wall known as Calvin Pickard. Seattle will only have 3 returning defenseman so Pickard will have to work really hard again this year. Offensively they are just as bad as the Seahawks. I don’t see the new coach turning around this team in one season either, but I do see them barely making the playoffs.
5. Everett Silvertips – Everett had a lot of turnover in the off season. Their new head coach came from a BCHL team and their new assistant coach is former tips player Mitch Love. It will definitely be a rebuilding year for the Tips. Hopefully their fans will stick it out and cheer on their young team.