In the first two weeks of the AHL season the Chicago Wolves had just three games. The season began with a back-to-back in Texas against the Stars. The Wolves lost both those games by the same score of 6-5. They then travelled home to play the Ontario Reign in a game they would go on to win 5-2.
And they won’t play again until Saturday evening when the welcome the Tucson Roadrunners to town meaning that the Wolves will have played just three games in the first 15 nights of their season. Still, a lot happened in just those three games.
The Wolves first ten goals were scored by six different players, five of which are in the Knights system. They include Tomas Hyka, and Tyler Wong, as well as the three stars of this week. We’ll get to them soon.
Overall, fourteen Wolves have registered a point in their first three games including Golden Knights prospects Brandon Pirri, Stefan Matteau, and Jake Bischoff.
There were a lot of great performances for the Wolves and the five guys mentioned above were part of that. Wong’s goal was gorgeous. Hyka’s going to get opportunities, and he looks capable of taking advantage of them.
This, right now, is a team built to win games. If their goaltending shapes up, they’re going to do a lot of it.
There’s a few combinations that have yet to be tried in-game both offensively and defensively, but with the roster turnover at both levels due to the injuries the Golden Knights have sustained, that should change.
Before we get into the three stars I must first give Pirri an honorable mention. He had two assists as a crucial part of an explosive first line, but his biggest impact was in the defensive zone, where he continually made plays. He may have been the only member of the top trio to play really well in their own zone.
A recent signing of the Golden Knights, Pirri struck a two-way deal. He ended up on the Wolves roster. “As an organization, they wanted to win... If I was going to be in the minors, I want to win, be on a team that, is trying to get everyone better everyday”, said Pirri.
Pirri was certainly a major factor in those two games as well. “It was fun playing a lot of minutes, being a go-to guy again.” The first line certainly was a major factor in those games, especially offensively. “When we get the puck, that’s the fun and easy part for us.”
Third Star: Alex Tuch
Tuch scored a hat trick and added an assist in the first game. It was certainly the type of start to the season the 6’4 Tuch wanted.
“It really helps my confidence. I had chemistry with my teammates, they’re talented, NHL-level guys. It just gives me confidence moving forward”, said Tuch who was acquired in a trade with the Minnesota Wild during the expansion draft. “It felt really good, it was something I didn’t expect. It was an honor to be considered as a trade, there’s a lot of guys that could have been picked up, especially from Minnesota”.
Tuch had been playing in Iowa, at the AHL level, but has a ton of potential. That fact is evidenced by his eighteenth overall draft spot in 2014, as well as by his recent AHL hat trick, and the goals he has scored for the Golden Knights both on Sunday against the Boston Bruins as well as on Tuesday against the Buffalo Sabres.
Tuch also looked excellent playing with Teemu Pulkkinen. “We played together in Iowa, but even in Iowa, it came naturally. We really play well off each other.” Tuch and Pulkkinen’s styles are complimentary, plus the first line, as mentioned, is just loaded with talent.
Tuch, as mentioned, has since been called up to the NHL but his play in his brief stint with the Wolves was worthy of the third star.
Second Star: Teemu Pulkkinen
Pulkkinen, who played with Pirri and Tuch, had nine points in his first three games. That leads the team in the early going and he made an impact in every area of the game. He’s built quick chemistry with Tuch, and that paid in dividends.
Those nine points you would think would lead to better than a 1-1-1 start, but the goaltending in the first two games was a bit underwhelming. Both Oskar Dansk and Maxime Legace posted save percentages below .900 in those games in Texas.
Pulkkinen was a key piece in the power play as he scored a goal and added assists on the special teams unit. He was also a force in getting the puck to the net with 11 shots.
He’ll be a player to watch all season, as he has historically been great in the AHL. There’s a chance he makes it at the NHL level if and when he gets his look.
First Star: Shea Theodore
It’s hard to go with anyone other than Shea Theodore here. So that’s what I’m going to do. Theodore was a massive part of the Wolves five goals in both Texas games, scoring three goals and two assists. He added two more assists against the Reign and has been skating circles around opposing skaters. He has certainly earned the heavy minutes he has been called upon to play for the Wolves.
Theodore should be in the NHL, and those three games were proof. He has three goals and four assists overall, and was a big part of both special teams units. His offensive abilities have always been there, of course. Helping kill off five of six Texas power plays for the Wolves demonstrated Theodore’s worth defensively.
Yes, it’s hard to find a defenseman with the Golden Knights who has played poorly enough to earn demotion. All have, to this point, earned their time on the ice. Still, none of them are rare offensive talents on the ice. None of them have that explosive capacity in their games that allows them to be a game breaker from the back end. None of them have elite skating ability.
In short, none of them are Shea Theodore. And he’s way too good for the AHL.