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Recap: Gulls Historic Season
By Thomas Harrington
The San Diego Gulls have completed their fourth season as Anaheim’s AHL affiliate, and it was their most successful one. After a disappointing year that saw them miss the playoffs entirely in the 2017-2018 season, the Gulls made the playoffs and advanced all the way to the Western Conference Finals where they lost in six games to the Chicago Wolves. As with the previous seasons, several players played for both Anaheim and San Diego this year. Some were NHL veterans on an IR stint, while others were some of Anaheim’s most promising, young prospects, while others were NHL veterans looking to continue their career.
Overall, 25 players played for both teams: Sam Carrick, Chase De Leo, Justin Kloos, Sam Steel, Troy Terry, Adam Cracknell, Kalle Kossila, Max Jones, Ben Street, Joseph Blandisi, Andy Welinski, Josh Mahura, Kiefer Sherwood, Jaycob Megna, Luke Schenn, Jake Dotchin, Isac Lundestrom, Korbinian Holzer, Kevin Roy, Jacob Larsson, Andrej Sustr, Pontus Aberg, Patrick Eaves, Max Comtois, and goaltender Kevin Boyle.
Despite how well San Diego did, the Gulls didn’t have a good start to the season and found themselves at the bottom of the AHL standings towards the end of December. However, they played great in the new year and clinched a playoff spot as the third seed in the Pacific Division late in the season.
While the 17-18 season was one of transition, this season the Gulls established themselves as an offensive force in the AHL. Most nights, they rolled four lines and virtually every line had at least one dangerous scorer on it. Carrick was San Diego’s offensive leader, becoming the first Gull to score over 30 goals and 60 points, finishing the season with 32 goals and 61 points. Newcomer De Leo led the team with 35 assists and was second on the team with 55 points. While Carrick scored over 30 goals, De Leo, Steel, and Corey Tropp all scored 20 goals.
Mid-season acquisitions Cracknell and Kloos both played large roles in San Diego once they arrived. Terry and Steel both finished with 41 points, a new rookie record. Sherwood spent most of the year in the NHL, but when he was with the Gulls, he was highly noticeable on the team’s penalty kill unit. Jones almost scored 30 points and would have certainly cracked that mark if he had played in more games with the Gulls. While Kossila didn’t score as much as previous seasons, he was one of their more reliable defensive players, getting a lot of time in a checking role. Roy missed most of the season with an injury, but he showed that he still has a high offensive skill set. Jack Kopacka missed half the season with an injury, but he still had a solid rookie season.
Despite the focus on offense, San Diego’s defensive core played very well as a unit, led by their captain Megna. Welinski continued to become one of the top offensive defensemen in the AHL. Mahura had a strong rookie season and showed why the Ducks think so highly of him. Simon Benoit started out the year on an AHL only deal, but his strong play rewarded him with an NHL contract. Keaton Thompson didn’t have a great season but still played over 50 games for the Gulls. Larsson became one of the Gulls’ best defenders over the second half of the season. San Diego’s season really started to turn around when they acquired Trevor Murphy in late December. He immediately stepped into their top four and was a solid veteran presence.
In net, Boyle and Jeff Glass both gave the Gulls a veteran presence in net to cover up any mistakes that were made. Boyle, in particular, was impressive, winning over 20 games for the first time in his career. Glass came over part way through the season, and was another reason for the team’s turnaround in the second half of the season. Angus Redmond spent most of the year in the ECHL, but he did make his AHL debut in two games this season. He’ll probably get more time with the Gulls next season.
The additions of veterans Murphy, Cracknell, Kloos, and Glass were four key deals that really helped invigorate San Diego’s fortunes. If not for those four trades, it’s unlikely that the Gulls would have made the playoffs, and, if they did, they certainly would not have gone as far as they did.
Next year, the Gulls could look very different. A number of their players, like Steel, Terry, and Jones, will likely spend most, if not all, of the season in Anaheim. The team also has a number of restricted and unrestricted free agents. However, a number of other Anaheim prospects should join San Diego next season, like Antoine Morand, Brent Gates, Jr., and Olle Eriksson Ek. With all of the young talent coming into both Anaheim and San Diego, next year could be a very exciting season for both teams.
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May 30th, 2019