Since being recalled in February because of an injury to Malcolm Subban, Lagace only appeared in two games for the Golden Knights. Hyka, managed one goal and a pair of assists in 10 total games while playing on Vegas’ third line.
Getting Hyka back will especially be an added benefit for the Wolves, given that prior to his call up with the Golden Knights, Hyka had registered 34 points in 33 games this season for the Wolves. Hyka is a huge offensive threat for the Wolves, and getting him back with some NHL experience under his belt should make him soar.
The addition of Lagace will also make a difference to the goaltending group, especially with another pair of back-to-back games upcoming for the Wolves this weekend. And it’s a foregone conclusion that Hyka and Lagace’s teammates will be excited to see them upon their return from the show.
Ever since being drafted 29th overall in 2012 by the New Jersey Devils, former first round pick Stefan Matteau is in the midst of his first campaign with the Chicago Wolves. With 64 games of NHL experience to his name already, Matteau could be doing more offensively this season in Chicago.
Eventually, Matteau fell out of favor with the Canadiens organization, and he was signed by the Golden Knights as a free agent last summer.
Matteau, the son of former Ranger Stephane Matteau, failed to make Vegas’s roster out of training camp. And in 43 games this season, he’s registered 13-8-21 totals.
At 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, Matteau’s size and skating ability should be translating into more on-ice production. If he gets closer to a point-per-game average, Matteau would be found gold for the Wolves moving forward.
Not many teams are as blessed as the Chicago Wolves in the goaltending department. This season, three different goalies who could each qualify as a starter for a lot of American Hockey League teams have had shared occupation of the net for head coach Rocky Thompson’s group.
When the season began, the Wolves looked set in goal with Maxime Lagace and Oscar Dansk as their netminding tandem. But when the Vegas Golden Knights had both of their starters sidelined with injuries in October, both Lagace and Dansk saw time as call-ups. Dansk even made a little bit of history during his brief stint in Vegas, when he recorded the franchise’s first shutout, in a 7-0 victory against the Colorado Avalanche on Oct. 28.
In 28 games as a member of the Wolves, Kaskisuo has posted a 13-13 record in conjunction with an impressive 2.38 goals against average and a .914 save percentage.
Kaskisuo, who is large in stature at 6-foot-3, says he can learn something by watching any goaltender who is in the NHL. But for him, Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens is, from a technical standpoint, the best in the business.
“I don’t think there is anyone in the NHL who is not doing something that I would want to do. But Carey Price is one guy I think who is just so technically sound. So you wanna follow some of the things that those guys are doing and see if you can get something from them that you can use,” he said.
Wolves goaltending coach Stan Dubicki, who has been in the same role with the team since 2012, has worked with many goalies, some of whom have gone on to establish themselves in the NHL. Jake Allen and Eddie Lack, for instance are now honing their craft at the highest level. And Dubicki wants the current Wolves netminders to follow the same path.
“I want to see all these guys to play in the NHL, and I want them to win a championship here,” said Dubicki about the trio of Wolves goalies, who he believes have each been impressive all season.
“I think they’ve done an unbelievable job. Kas has played fantastic all year, Oscar coming in, and Max being up in Vegas. As a goalie coach, I couldn’t ask for a better situation with these guys. On and off the ice, unbelievable,” he added.
In order to make sure everyone in the organization is on the same page, especially since guys move up and down for various reasons, Dubicki acknowledged how important it is for him to stay in communication with the other goalie coaches.
“I make sure I always keep in contact with the Vegas goalie coach [David Prior], and the Marlies goalie coach Pierre Greco. They have a great work ethic, and the goalies are great with each other, too, which is a good situation because they’re always pushing each other,” he said.
“He’s always there for me if he notices any bad habits in my game. Or even just to tell me to keep going and stay focused. He’s a great coach to have and he’s helped my game a lot,” said Oscar Dansk, who is still yet to lose a game in regulation with the Wolves and sports a sparkling record of 7-0-1.
Perhaps some of the toughest decisions that Rocky Thompson has had to make this season involve his goalies, and which one he should start, since each gives the team a chance to win on any given night.
The Richard brothers, of course, or the Mahovlich brothers, if you grew up watching the Montreal Canadiens in the early 1970s. Phil and Tony Esposito, who both stand out as an indelible part of the sport’s fabric in Chicago, are another distinguishable duo of brothers to have been enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame since their playing days.
Then there were the Hulls, and Mr. Hockey and his two sons Mark and Marty Howe.
For modern-day purposes, the Sedin twins are another iconic example of inseparable hockey brothers, having both played together on the same line for close to two decades with the Vancouver Canucks.
Mark Howe (left), and Gordie Howe (right) are the only father/son duo to play with each other in NHL history. This photo was retrieved from http://www.ThePostGame.com
And we must not forget the trio of Staal brothers either, who are all in the midst of impressive NHL careers.
In terms of quantity however, the Sutter family collects praise for producing an astonishing nine NHL talents, spanning over two generations. They are without question the most prolific hockey family in the league’s history.
But what happens when one brother receives many more accolades and publicity than another?
For example, Malcolm Subban, who is the backup goaltender for the Vegas Golden Knights [the Wolves NHL affiliate] shares the distinction with his younger sibling Jordan [of the AHL’s Ontario Reign], as the two lesser-known brothers of Nashville Predators star defenseman P.K. Subban.
Like Malcolm Subban, this is a label that Chicago Wolves defenseman Griffin Reinhart can identify with, but would like to shake, as his younger brother Sam is in his third NHL season and has already established himself as a regular with the Buffalo Sabres. Their eldest brother, Max, plays for the AHL’s Belleville Bulls.
The three brothers are the sons of Paul Reinhart, who was a fixture on the Calgary Flames blue line during the 1980s, so there was always a strong precedent for Griffin and his brothers to use for added motivation while they were growing up. And Griffin was well on his way to complimenting the Reinhart family’s NHL legacy in 2012, when he was drafted fourth overall by the New York Islanders.
As Wolves fans have gotten to know well, Reinhart is built like a freight train. Standing tall at 6-foot-4 and weighing 212 pounds, Reinhart exhibits a highly coveted combination of speed and size, which, for a defenseman whose job is to shut down the opponent’s top players on a nightly basis, is undoubtedly his greatest hallmark.
It’s this attribute that tempted the Islanders to make Reinhart there first-round selection nearly six years ago, and it’s why they hoped he could be a cornerstone on the back end for the franchise’s foreseeable future. Unfortunately for both parties, this did not come to fruition, as Reinhart only played nine games in an Islanders uniform, and is still working on making it as an NHL defenseman.
After getting just a brief sniff with the Edmonton Oilers the last couple of seasons, the Vegas Golden Knights claimed him in the expansion draft last year when the Oilers left him on their unprotected list. And initially, this appeared like Griffin’s best opportunity to make an NHL roster and play significant minutes for a young team. But Vegas has surprised the entire hockey world, and the Knights have resembled anything but an expansion team during their inaugural season.
The Golden Knights have remained remarkably healthy on defense, and Reinhart found himself exiled from the club’s group of top six rearguards in training camp. So it’s been another year in the American Hockey League for the 24-year-old this season, his first with the Chicago Wolves, and that’s where his focus is for now.
“Well I mean, obviously the goal is to play in the NHL, it’s not to play in the AHL. Vegas is pretty set up top right now though, so there’s not much I can do to get in that lineup. So for now it’s just about focusing on our playoff push down here, trying to clinch it, and than go from there. We’ve come a long way since the start of the year,” he said.
If Reinhart feels any pressure to get to the NHL and reaffirm what the Islanders felt about his game back in 2012, it would be understandable. And if the success of his brother Sam with the Buffalo Sabres or the legacy left by his father have created overwhelming expectations for the Wolves defenseman, I think many people could empathize with that. But Reinhart denies feeling any added pressure to match the hockey careers of anyone in his family.
“No, I don’t really care about that. I grew up with that, it’s all I know. My dad played, and he grew up with that. To be honest, it doesn’t even feel like we’re that big of a hockey family because when we’re together, we don’t really talk that much about hockey. We’re a close family, but I don’t feel any pressure from them,” explained Reinhart following a 2-1 loss to the Manitoba Moose on Saturday at Allstate Arena.
The Reinhart family and hockey go together like french fries go with ketchup, but according to Griffin, they surprisingly don’t spend all that much time talking about the sport together.
“I talk to my brothers all the time. Maybe once or twice a year, we’ll talk about hockey during the season. We try to stay away from that. I check on them every now and then, but we’re brothers first and we talk about hockey second,” he said. But back at the junior level, when Griffin would play against his brothers more frequently as a member of the Western Hockey League’s Edmonton Oil Kings, he admitted that his parents disliked watching them on opposite sides.
“I think they’re fine with it now that we’re all on different teams. Back in junior though, we used to play against each other sometimes and I don’t know if they were too happy with that. But I know they’re proud of us,” Griffin said.
The former first-round draft choice has registered two goals and eight assists for the Wolves in 47 games this season, and sports a differential of plus-15, which is good for second best on the team. He’s arguably been Chicago’s most reliable defenseman all season, and he hopes his play can raise a few eyebrows among NHL executives.
Reinhart knows the clock is ticking on his NHL dream, but also recognizes that just focusing on the process and staying patient is paramount while he awaits his next opportunity as a call-up.
While I still believe that Reid Duke will eventually play a key role as a forward for the Chicago Wolves, perhaps the 21-year-old deserves a pass if his first four games in professional hockey haven’t been anything to write home about. Duke has the skillset to be a game changer, and at some point his talent will be on full display. But after missing more than five months with a shoulder injury, it’s only normal that it’s been an adjustment period since his return.
Following the Wolves 2-1 overtime loss to the Rockford IceHogs on Sunday afternoon at Allstate Arena, head coach Rocky Thompson addressed Duke’s play since coming back from a long absence.
“Let’s not forget, Reid was out for a long time, and it’s going to take a bit of time for him to get some of the rust off. That’s only normal. But I thought today was one of his better games,” coach Thompson said of the Calgary, Alberta native.
As a junior player for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League, Duke registered 254 points in 311 games, so there is good reason to believe that his soft hands and quick wrist shot will eventually translate into offensive production at the pro level.
While Duke has yet to record a point with the Wolves, and has a plus/minus differential of negative three, it is important to recognize that he is competing with and against players who are in midseason stride.
But fortunately for the Wolves, Duke exhibits speed and elite level skill when the puck is on his stick. Look for him to gradually improve game by game in terms of his execution and confidence.
By the time the playoffs roll around, look for Duke to be a top-six forward for the Wolves. The combination of his ability to finish off plays, and T.J. Tynan’s playmaking skills could potentially be a dynamic duo for head coach Rocky Thompson’s hockey club.
Below are a few notes related to the Wolves that I put together, so please don’t hesitate to continue the discussion by posting your own comments and opinions below this post. I’m looking forward to interacting with you!
If you haven’t voted yet for the Time Breslin Unsung Hero Award, it’s not too late. Your choices are Kevin Lough, T.J. Tynan, Jake Bischoff, and Chris Casto. Personally, I’d like to see Bischoff win this award. He’s played in 56 games, holds a plus-14 differential and probably gets less attention than he deserves. I’m also not sure whether or not Tynan’s terrific season from a production standpoint makes him an “unsung” hero.
Not only is quality goaltending important, the Chicago Wolves are living proof that it goes hand-in-hand with having quality goaltending depth in their organization.
Unlike clubs who still have the traditional starter who plays over 60 games during the regular season, and a backup who only plays about 15-20 games, the Wolves have been blessed to feature three goalies this year who are all of a starter’s caliber.
Between Kasimir Kaskisuo (13-13-0), Oscar Dansk (7-0-0), and Maxime Lagace (11-4-1), the Wolves are not only equipped for a big game, but a busy schedule too, and that is what they had this weekend with three games in three days.
“We just go in when asked. I mean I’m sure you could get three games out of a guy, but it’s not optimal, and it’s always good for one of us to come in after getting some rest,” said Kasimir Kaskisuo following the Wolves most recent string of three games in three days.
In situations when the Wolves play on back to back days, especially when travel is involved, it is a luxury to be able to always play a fresh goaltender who could step in and give his tired teammates a shot of life.
Although this didn’t result in three wins this weekend, the play of Kasimir Kaskisuo on Saturday against a fresher first place Manitoba Moose team, is in all likelihood a key reason why Chicago kept it so close.
And in the third and final game today against Rockford, it was Oscar Dansk who was a major reason why the Wolves managed to secure just one point.
“With three games in three nights, it’s tough on players. Especially a day like this, yesterday and today, you wanna help out your teammates as much as you can, because you know they’re going to be tired,” said Dansk, who made 37 stops on Sunday in the Wolves 2-1 loss against the IceHogs.
Chicago head coach Rocky Thompson even highlighted the benefit of being able to play a fresh goalie like Oscar Dansk when the rest of his team was tired.
“And you need that in these situations, especially when you’re playing a good team, and a team that’s trying to get back into a playoff spot. And I thought he kept us in it, without a doubt. He played so well,” said coach Thompson.
Having different quality options in goal to turn to, the Wolves could have an advantage in the playoffs, especially when fatigue kicks in and injuries begin to pile up.