Where Are They Now Feature: Championship Hopes

Where Are They Now Feature: Championship Hopes

The Stanley Cup Playoffs begin this evening.  Defenseman Mark Eaton is the only former Waterloo player to ever lift hockey’s most well-known trophy when he was a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009.

That could change this spring, with two Hawks alumni on NHL teams preparing for the first playoff games of 2015.  Several other former Waterloo fan favorites are in the hunt for championships in other leagues.

Here is the breakdown:

NHL

Craig Smith – Nashville Predators
Regular Season:  82 GP  23G/21A/44Pts  +11  44PIM

Spending his fourth season with the Predators, Smith played in every game for the first time in his NHL career.  This was his second straight 20-goal season as the Predators claimed the second seed in the Central Division.  Smith tied for second in goals by Nashville players and ranked fifth in points.  The Predators begin a first round series against the Chicago Blackhawks tonight.

J.T. Brown – Tampa Bay Lightning
Regular Season: 52 GP  3G/6A/9Pts  -2  30PIM

Last spring, Brown appeared in all four of Tampa Bay’s postseason games, recording a pair of assists.  This year, his ice time and consistency in the lineup rose toward the end of the schedule, including a three-game point streak from March 22nd through 26th.  Game one between the Lightning and the Detroit Red Wings is tomorrow in Tampa.

AHL

(Note: the American Hockey League regular season ends April 19th.  Teams which have not officially clinched a playoff spot are marked with an *)

Vince LoVerde – Manchester Monarchs
Regular Season: 62 GP  9G/11A/20Pts  +12  63PIM

It was a breakout year for LoVerde when it comes to putting the puck in the net; after just four goals during his previous two AHL seasons, he has more than doubled the total in just this one campaign.  LoVerde is also among the Monarchs’ top plus/minus defensemen.

Nick Ebert – Manchester Monarchs
Regular Season: 42GP  8G/3A/11Pts  +10  18PIM

Ebert had a solid first full season as a professional.  His eight goals are third among Manchester defensemen, even though he has appeared in a little more than half of the Monarchs’ games.  Manchester has already clinched the AHL’s regular season title.

Brett Olson – San Antonio Rampage
Regular Season: 74GP  14G/31A/45Pts  +12  58PIM

Ranked third in plus/minus and fifth in scoring, Olson is the only Rampage player to appear in all 74 of San Antonio’s games.  The Rampage wrap up their schedule this weekend with a home-and-home series against the Texas Stars.

Tony Turgeon – San Antonio Rampage
Regular Season: 17GP  0G/1A/1Pts  -2  50PIM

Turgeon picked up his first AHL point in March, and has also spent some time in the ECHL.  He appears headed for the Calder Cup playoffs on the roster of the Western Division champion Rampage.

Vince Hinostroza – Rockford IceHogs
Regular Season: 3GP  0G/2A/2Pts  -1  0PIM

Just getting his start at the pro level, Hinostroza joined the IceHogs at the conclusion of his season at Notre Dame.

Eriah Hayes – Worcester Sharks*
Regular Season: 57GP  8G/16A/24Pts  +3  40PIM

Although Hayes scored a little less often than during his first year as a pro, his total point production went up.  Meanwhile, his -15 plus/minus differential from 2013/14 improved dramatically to +3.  With one more standings point from three remaining games, the Sharks will clinch a postseason berth.

Nick Sorkin – Hamilton Bulldogs*
Regular Season: 66GP  11G/14A/25Pts  +2  101PIM

Sorkin will almost certainly finish among the Bulldogs’ top ten scorers during his rookie season.  The campaign will come to an end this weekend unless everything goes right for Hamilton, who must win two games while hoping the Toronto Marlies lose three times.

ECHL

Tyler Barnes – Toledo Walleye
Regular Season: 71GP  34G/40A/74Pts  +20  30PIM

The highest-scoring player on the best team in the ECHL, Barnes was a shoe-in as the league’s Rookie of the Year.  He will try to add to his list of accomplishments as the postseason begins with a series against the Wheeling Nailers.

Jeff Jakaitis – South Carolina Stingrays
Regular Season: 26-8-1-1  1.96GAA  92.4%SVP

Jakaitis was the only ECHL goalie with a goals-against average under 2.00.  His 26 victories were the most during the six seasons he has appeared in the league and helped to boost his career ECHL win count over 100.

Drew MacKenzie – South Carolina Stingrays
Regular Season: 56GP  6G/23A/29Pts  +18  8PIM

Among Stingrays defensemen, no one had more points than MacKenzie this season.  His +18 plus/minus differential tied for second within that group.

Lee Moffie – South Carolina Stingrays
Regular Season: 42GP  4G/22A/26Pts  +10  31PIM

Moffie finished the season with seven assists in his last seven appearances, but did not play in a game after March 27th.  He is on South Carolina’s reserve list as the playoffs begin against the Reading Royals.

Mike Marcou – Reading Royals
Regular Season: 64GP  6G/29A/35Pts  -8  30PIM

In his third ECHL season, Marcou enjoyed a career-best point total.  His former Black Hawks teammate, Drew MacKenzie, will be on the opposing bench during the first round.

Brady Vail – Orlando Solar Bears
Regular Season: 64GP  15G/14A/29Pts  +4  33PIM

Only two Solar Bears scored more goals than Vail during his rookie season.  Orlando meets their in-state rivals, the Florida Everblades during the opening round.

Parker Milner – Quad City Mallards
Regular Season: 24-14-2-1  2.28GAA  92.0% SVP

Milner finished second in the ECHL GAA race, behind only Jakaitis.  He was in net for 24 of the Mallards’ 37 wins.  His win total more than doubles the nine ECHL victories he accumulated with the Stockton Thunder last season.

Nick Grasso – Quad City Mallards
Regular Season: 63GP  6G/10A/16Pts  +15  8PIM

Grasso came along when the Mallards moved from the CHL to ECHL during the offseason and helped the club to the playoffs in their first season.  Quad City meets the Rapid City Rush in the first round.

Joe Sova – Kalamazoo Wings
Regular Season: 62GP  3G/12A/15Pts  +2  34PIM

This is Sova’s third stint with Kalamazoo and the second time he will appear with the Wings during the playoffs.  Kalamazoo meets the Ft. Wayne Komets during the first round.

SPHL

Ryan Hill – Knoxville Ice Bears
Regular Season: 50GP  0G/4A/4Pts  -3  32PIM

Hill and the Ice Bears are preparing for the SPHL Championship which will begin Thursday.  The matchup pits Knoxville against the Mississippi RiverKings, Hill’s former team for part of the 2013/14 season.

Where Are They Now is presented by Karen’s Print Rite.  Photo courtesy of the Tampa Bay Lightning.