(In our ongoing season preview series, today we preview the Medicine Hat Tigers)
Medicine Hat Tigers (2016-17 record: 51-20-1-0, 103 points, lost to Lethbridge in the Central division final)
The Tigers enter the season with an extensive amount of turnover, a new dressing room in the Canalta Centre and already dealing with injury issues. Below we will take a look at the upcoming season and try to make sense of everything going on in the “Gas City”.
Medicine Hat lost a lot of firepower up front this season with the graduation of Steven Owre and Chad Butcher. Also graduated is defenceman Clayton Kirichenko. John Dahlstrom moved on to Almtuna IS in the second tier Swedish hockey program. Also gone are goaltender Nick Schneider (dealt to Calgary), Jordan Henderson (trade with Kootenay) and Matthew Bradley (trade with Regina). Ty Schultz also has not returned from an injury he suffered last season.
Medicine Hat has been an excellent place to develop players though the Bantam Draft and all eyes will be on first round 2015 pick Ryan Chyzowski. As a full-time rookie last season, Ryan was able to pot five goals and add seven assists in 52 regular season games. Another name to watch this season is 2001-born fifth overall 2016 Bantam draft pick Josh Williams. Through just three pre-season games he had piled up seven points. He also had a goal in his four-game try-out with the Tigers last year.
Tough decisions are looming for an already depleted roster. There are still five overage players on the squad with just less than two weeks until opening night and about a month until the overage deadline. Zach Fischer and Mark Rassell are two of the top-six forwards on this team and with the loss of Mason Shaw likely until January or later, it would be another tough blow to this team to see them send either player elsewhere. The defense is an area of strength, and with two overage defenders in Brad Forrest and two-spotter Krisitans Rubins, it would be wise to deal here for some help in the top-nine up front. They also have overage goaltender Michael Bullion who played very well for the Tigers down the stretch last year. They did bring in Jordan Hollett in the deal for Matthew Bradley this summer though. It could be that Medicine Hat will now explore options for Bullion with the troubles facing them up front on offense.
Much like the Regina Pats, Head Coach and General Manager Shaun Clouston will not be able to ice the roster he had hoped for when the 2016-17 season ended. There has been a few deals made this off-season and there may be more coming as the team pares down from five to three overagers and deals with the injury to Shaw. Could we see Clouston make some moves that sets the team up better for 2018-19, or will we see him make a push for the Tigers to take the division title? A lot of questions remain.
The Tigers will see goaltender Jordan Hollett (OTT), forwards Mason Shaw (MIN, inj.), Max Gerlach (ARI), Zach Fischer (CGY) and Mark Rassell (CGY) away at NHL camps.
Before the news broke that Mason Shaw was hurt in Minnesota during their rookie tournament, it was believed that the Medicine Hat Tigers would at least be contenders for the division title again. While Shaw is not their only offensive threat, the loss of his talents on the top line will have an effect on how this roster is shaped beyond October’s overage deadline. This will in turn effect their position in the standings. If Shaw is able to return in short order after the Christmas break, the Tigers will remain in the title hunt, otherwise, it is likely that they will be fighting for second or third in the division this season.