In this short video update, I try my best to summarize what has been going on with the Chicago Wolves. From the All-Star break, to what lies ahead for the Wolves as the second half of the season gets underway.
In this blog, I introduce my voice to the readers of this blog. I try to provide insight into what’s to come for the Wolves, and the keys will be for them in the second half of the season.
I also speak briefly about Read to Succeed, an initiative I wrote about in a previous post, and one that I feel is more important than you may think at first glance.
A Chicago Wolves initiative that began 23 years ago, Read to Succeed has become a tradition that touches Chicago youths every year in libraries throughout the city.
Since the program began in 1995, the Wolves have visited more than 100 different libraries in Chicago, and have had interactions with more than 500,000 kids. Read to Succeed‘s primary objective is to encourage reading and to highlight the importance of education.
Throughout each hockey season, members of the Chicago Wolves actually visit libraries and speak to children about the important role that education has played in the lives of even a professional athlete. With players coming to visit them live and in person, the hope is that this initiative will show kids that if some of their favorite hockey players are reading, than perhaps they should as well.
With a lull in the Wolves schedule this week, it was a perfect opportunity for the team to kick off this program.
Yesterday, 23 year old defenseman Jake Bischoff visited the skokie public library, and spoke to kids there about the value of education and reading.
Bischoff was greeted by many enthusiastic youngsters, and it is expected that there will only be more hype surrounding the program as it continues.
The library visits continued today, as Tyler Wong visited the Crystal Lake Public Library district at 4pm, and will head to the Cary Area Public Library afterwards, for a 7pm appearance with more kids.
Wong’s teammate Jake Walman also had a 4pm visit at the Westchester Public Library today.
To the average person, an initiative like Read to Succeed might seem insignificant to a professional hockey player’s path to the NHL. However, part of being a professional athlete, involves getting out in the community. Hockey players, as well as athletes from other sports, are seen as huge role models by young children who might also aspire to make it to the highest level one day.
This program is not just inspiring kids to develop good habits, but it’s also preparing members of the Chicago Wolves for life as a professional hockey player, by highlighting the importance of using their reach to influence positive changes in communities.
At its core, the American Hockey League is where raw professionals develop and fine-tune their craft. In many ways, the league is essentially a place where guys discover how to excel against grown men. This is why the AHL affiliate of any National Hockey League organization is such an integral part of a winning model.
If you are an expansion team in your first season, like the Vegas Golden Knights happen to be, the AHL is especially important in terms of establishing a strong foundation and culture across the organization.
While it is far too early to evaluate the success of their prospects from last summer’s draft, the AHL’s Chicago Wolves are already proving to be a reliable feeder system for the Golden Knights.
Early this season, when Vegas needed to trim its roster, GM George McPhee sent budding youngsters Alex Tuch and Shea Theodore to Chicago for a few games, in order to buy the Knights some more time. While both are proving they belong in the NHL, their demotion to the Wolves following training camp was only exercised because both men are waiver ineligible.
Although their time with the Wolves was short-lived, Tuch and Theodore made their presence felt in Chicago, and they’ve parlayed their AHL success into impressive seasons since being recalled by Vegas.
Jesse Granger, who covers the Golden Knights for the Vegas Sun, says both players haven’t looked back since returning from the Wolves.
“Those guys didn’t belong in the AHL. They were clearly NHL caliber players. The problem was that general manager George McPhee during the expansion draft, he just got too many players. So because those guys were waiver exempt, he sent them down to Chicago for a few weeks while he kind of settled everything out and figured out what they were going to do. So once he made room on the NHL roster for them, those two guys have been absolute studs,” said Granger, who offered heavy praise for the two former Chicago Wolves.
“Theodore and Tuch are two of the building blocks that the Golden Knights are going to build on going forward. Theodore is one of the most offensively skilled defensemen I’ve seen in the league, especially for his age. He can lead the rush, he can score goals, he has great stretch passes to help the breakout. Tuch has been one of the more important pieces on the power play, which admittedly has struggled. Tuch is just so good at being a big body, parking himself in front of the net, screening the goalie, deflecting pucks that come in, and he’s great on the fore-check. He’s the best fore-checker on the team,” he said.
Granger says that the Wolves play a similar system as the Golden Knights, which makes it easier for players to assimilate when they are called up.
“Rocky Thompson has told us that he will be running a similar system in Chicago, to what the Golden Knights are running, to make guys better prepared for when they do come up to Vegas. There’s definitely good communication between the two teams.”
When the Chicago Wolves (19-14-5-2; 45 pts.) take on the Iowa Wild (17-13-6-3; 43 pts.) on Wednesday evening at Wells Fargo Arena, the two similarly matched teams from the American Hockey League’s Central division will be looking to get back into the win column after each club fell in their previous contest.
Although Chicago currently sits two points above the Wild, Iowa holds a game in hand on the Wolves as both teams push towards solidifying a post-season spot.
As it stands at the moment, the Wolves are in 4th with the Wild directly behind them in the standings. Tonight will mark the fourth of eight matchup between the two clubs this season, and the last time these two clubs met was to open up the New Year, when the Wolves defeated Iowa by a score of 2-1 on January 1st.
The Chicago’s NHL affiliate, the Las Vegas Golden Knights announced yesterday that they recalled defenseman Jason Garrison, who currently leads the wolves with 4 goals and 18 points in 31 games played from the back end.
In Garrson’s absence, this means that the Wolves will be without their heaviest shot. Without this threat at their disposal, the Wolves already mediocre power play (14.9% efficiency) will look slightly different. It is expected that youngster Giffin Reinhart will be given a good look on the first wave in this game.
Defensively, it is paramount that the Wolves contain Wild forward Sam Anas, who has manufactured three goals and an assist in the previous three games against Chicago this season. As well, Wild forward Cal O’Reilly enters the game on a three game point streak, and has tallied two goals and five assists during the stretch.
Puck-drop is set for 7pm CT, and be sure to return here for some post-game coverage following the game.
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