By Thomas Harrington
For two years now, the Anaheim Ducks’ AHL affiliate has been located just a couple hours away in San Diego. Despite losing in the second round for the second consecutive year, the Gulls’ second season was a successful one. Several players played for both the Ducks and Gulls, and the close proximity of the two cities made the exchange of players much easier than it has ever been before for the Anaheim franchise. There were also a couple of NHL players who spent time in San Diego when coming off of IR on a conditioning stint. Overall, 18 players played for both San Diego and Anaheim this season: Shea Theodore, Brandon Montour, Kalle Kossila, Jaycob Megna, Corey Tropp, Nick Sorensen, Chris Wagner, Nic Kerdiles, Stefan Noesen, Ondrej Kase, Ryan Garbutt, Jacob Larsson, Emerson Etem, Michael Sgarbossa, Clayton Stoner, Nate Thompson, Logan Shaw, and Joseph Cramarossa. At the end of the regular season and into the playoffs, a number of Anaheim prospects made their professional debuts with San Diego, and will likely join the Gulls on a full time basis in the next season or two. The Gulls used a league high 53 players this season.
San Diego set a number of franchise records and franchise firsts this season. First, the team stats. Their 43 wins bettered the mark of 39 they had in their inaugural season. The Gulls’ increase in wins also led to an increase in win percentage, as it jumped up from 0.618 to 0.669. After winning 20 home games in their first season, San Diego set a new franchise record with 23 home wins. The Gulls also won 20 road games, bettering their mark of 19 from the season before. They also significantly improved both their goals for and goals against. After scoring 208 goals and allowing 200 goals in the 2015-2016 season, the Gulls put up 221 goals this season and allowed only 178 goals against. The 178 goals against was the third fewest goals any teams allowed in the AHL this past season.
Up next, the individual stats that impressed this past season. The first hat trick in Gulls history was scored this season, but it came from a surprising source. Rookie defenseman Andy Welinski only scored six goals all season long. At the start of the game on March 31st, Welinski had only scored three goals in his freshman campaign. He scored his fourth goal of the season (and San Diego’s fourth goal of the night) in the first period. In the second, he scored his second of the night, and completed the first hat trick in San Diego’s history in the third.
With Theodore and Montour spending so much time in Anaheim this season, both Welinski and Keaton Thompson stepped up, had great rookie seasons, and became integral parts of San Diego’s defensive core. Kerdiles had another injury plagued season, but he impressed when healthy and finally made his NHL debut. He also led the Gulls in playoff scoring with eight points in eight games. In his first full season in San Diego, Tropp led the team with 21 goals and 54 points, the third highest point total of any player in the last two seasons. The 54 points were also a career high for him in the AHL. Megna took some huge strides this season. After scoring one goal in the previous two seasons, he scored five this season, and also made his NHL debut. Kossila and Kevin Roy were two rookie stars for the Gulls, and their point totals of 48 and 46 were good enough for second and third on the team in scoring. Roy’s 16 goals were third on the team. Antoine Laganiere tied for the team lead with 21 goals, an AHL career high for him, as was his 37 points.
Spencer Abbott and Sam Carrick were added at the deadline, and in 31 combined game, they scored six goals and 25 points. Brian Cooper wasn’t expected to log a lot of minutes for San Diego this season, but between injuries and callups, the rookie defenseman played in 37 games and scored 10 points. Jordan Samuels-Thomas joined the Gulls after the season started, and though he primarily played in the bottom six, he was a difference maker throughout the season and finished with 24 points in 56 games.
Max Jones joined the Gulls in the playoffs, and he was one of their best forwards. While he only scored two points in nine games, his speed made him incredibly noticeable. He had several scoring chances; only great saves and bad luck kept him from scoring more. It’s a pretty safe bet that he’ll be in juniors again next season, but in a year, he should turn pro on a full time basis. Finally, Jhonas Enroth joined the Gulls in January, and he was one of the best goaltenders in the AHL from that point on. In 18 games, he had a 1.73 goals against average, a save percentage of .936, and won 14 games.
While the series loss to San Jose was a disappointment, the Gulls still had a great season, and will hopefully have an even better one next year. The Ducks have a lot of young talent, and Larsson, another of Anaheim’s numerous young defensemen, will likely join the Gulls on a full time basis next season. His addition, along with the growth of second year players like Kossila, Roy, Welinski, Thompson, and Cooper, means the Gulls will likely be in the running for the Pacific Division lead again next season. This season, they were a young, fun team to watch, and they should be again next year.
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May 24th, 2017