The 2018-19 season for the Pats was going to be a down year, and it was. They struggled with a record of 19-45-1-3. It was the first season since 2004-05 with less than 20 wins and only the second since 1979-80.
There was some hope in the season though. 10 of those wins came post Christmas break, which was after the blockbuster trade of stars Jake Leschyshyn and Nick Henry on Nov 29th and then other older players at the January 10th trade deadline. The team was competitive in most games despite the age of the team and the lack of talent.
Going into this season, the Pats were going to lose their three 20-year-olds, Brady Pouteau, Liam Schioler, and Brett Clayton. The rest of the roster was eligible to return.
Sergei Alkhimov was traded to Vancouver prior to the CHL Import Draft. Sebastien Streu signed in Germany as the Pats had four 20-year-olds at that point. Koby Morrisseau, who missed most of last season due to injury, has signed with the Dauphin Kings of the MJHL for this year.
John Paddock added two 20-year-olds in the off season. The first was Dawson Holt from Vancouver in the Alkhimov trade. Paddock then reacquired Robbie Holmes from Everett.
16-year-old Sloan Stanick was the one player acquired from Everett in the original Holmes deal at the trade deadline. He has signed with the Pats and is poised to make the team coming out of training camp.
Drew Englot was acquired from the Lethbridge Hurricanes in May. The 17-year-old spent last season with the Notre Dame Hounds of the SMHL. Drew missed training camp and most of the preseason with an injury.
16-year-old Jake Johnson has made the team on the blue line. Johnson was drafted in 2018 out of the Phoenix Jr. Coyotes system.
Josh Paulhus was a list pick up who showed well in training camp and signed with the Pats. The 17-year-old was cut from the active roster late in the preseason but will have a chance to see action with the team this year.
Will they score enough?
The team got a lot younger after last season’s trade deadline, so there was a lot of ice time for those young players in the second half. Guys like Garrett Wright and Carter Massier really started to hit their stride. It always takes rookies a while to get used to the league. Will the returning players be able to build on the success they had in the second half last year? The returning forwards are all a year older. They may not be the most talented, but with the natural progression of junior hockey players, they should be able to produce more offensively.
Older veterans like newly minted team captain Austin Pratt along with Ty Kolle and Robbie Holmes will be leaned on to lead this team in scoring. Dawson Holt hasn’t played up to his potential that got him drafted 8th overall, but he is coming off an excellent playoff run with Vancouver. Can he keep that going into this season? Will returning sophomores Carter Massier, Garrett Wright, and Cole Dubinsky provide the necessary scoring depth the team needs to win more games this season?
Duncan Pierce and alternate captain Logan Nijhoff have been with the team for a couple seasons now. Can they step up and provide good play at both ends of the ice, while possibly taking over leadership if some of the older guys get moved during the season.
Young on the back end
The defensive corps will be very young after losing two 20-year-olds — only Kyle Walker is over 18. The Pats gave up the third most goals against last season. Have the returning players developed enough to improve upon that and give the team more chances to win?
The team will lean on the 18-year-olds, led by assistant captains Tyson Feist and Nikita Sedov, plus Steven Zonneveld and Ryker Evans. 17-year-old Sam McGinley appeared in 24 games last season and looks to be a regular this season. Sam missed training camp and most of the preseason with an injury. Makai Mitchell, another 17-year-old, got a taste of the league last season when he appeared in 3 games.
Experience in the crease
In net, the Pats have two 19-year-old goalies. The team will most likely be moving on from one of them. Max Paddock has Memorial Cup experience and would be a big trade chip to potentially return younger talent. Max was a bit inconsistent last season, and if he comes out strong to start the year, his services could be in high demand.
Dean McNabb had a decent season, considering the team that was in front of him. He did show flashes of brilliance, like when he made 43 saves on 44 shots to give the WHL Champion Prince Albert Raiders their first home loss on December 30th, 2018. He may not be the goalie that Paddock is, but considering where the team is in their rebuild, he would be a competent starter.
The Pats do have gap in goaltending talent as they don’t have a signed 17- or 16-year-old in the system. Do they address that if they send one of their goalies out? Recently drafted Matthew Kieper may be the goalie of the future. He showed well in training camp and the preseason. Is he ready to make the team next season?
The 2019-20 season should be an improvement from last year. Will John Paddock look to move quite a few older guys at the trade deadline again this year? If he does, the playoffs will be out of the question. If the team is doing well and pushing for the playoffs, will he hold onto the older guys? The East Division will be weaker than it has been the past few seasons, and the Pats are perceived to be on the upswing.
John’s message to the season ticket holders was: “The steps that our team took over the second half of last season was evident, and we expect all the returning players to continue to improve, with a goal to compete night in and night out.”