The 2018-19 season was a memorable one for the Chicago Wolves. Not only did they celebrate their 25th anniversary all season long, but they also won their third straight Central Division crown and advanced to the Calder Cup Finals, the seventh championship finals appearance in franchise history.
Roster turnover is a lifestyle down in the American Hockey League and it is debatable that no team was hit harder by it, last summer, than the Wolves. They lost league MVP Daniel Carr, Brooks Macek and T.J. Tynan; their top three scorers who combined for 202 points. They also lost many key players who added to the superior depth that carried them to the Western Conference title.
Before the season started, the Vegas Golden Knights added to the roster changes by recalling top prospects Cody Glass, Nic Hague and Jake Bischoff. All of this has led to a very young team that is still searching for an identity six games into the new season.
Elvenes Has Been Better Than Advertised
Rookie Lucas Elvenes has been a pleasant surprise for the Wolves. In fact, he has been their most valuable player so far. The team has scored 12 goals over their first six games and he has factored in nine of them with three goals and six assists.
Elevens has played on a line with Gage Quinney and Tye McGinn and the trio has clicked from the word go. The 20-year-old winger made a great impact with a goal and three assists in his North American debut on Oct. 5 versus the Grand Rapids Griffins.
“I’ve actually been really impressed. It’s two-fold,” head coach Rocky Thompson said of Elvenes. “One, I think Gage Quinney has really helped him. Gage has been playing outstanding hockey this year. And two, the chemistry between them, you’ve got to give Elvey a lot of credit too. He’s been a catalyst. We wanted to give him an opportunity early to see if that could happen and it’s been happing for him. And that’s good. It’s got to be a continuing process.
“There are still areas of his game when he’s doing them right, it gives him even more opportunities. It’s a great start, which is good. That line has been really good. I think Tye McGinn has done a really good job of keeping the flies off of them, as well, and doing some of the trench work for those guys. He’s been very complimentary in that regard. We’re very happy with their development so far.”
Elvenes was selected in the fifth round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft and the expectations were not too high heading into the season. The youngster, who describes himself as an “offensive guy who likes to score points,” has taken advantage of the opportunity given to him.
When you looked at his numbers with Rogle BK of the Swedish Hockey League last season, you began to wonder if he had a chance to succeed within the Golden Knights organization. He scored just three goals and 20 points in 42 games.
Being a young player in Europe is not an easy assignment. Elvenes was playing in Sweden’s top league with veteran players who have been stars for years. This makes it difficult for an up-and-coming player to earn ice time in order to play themselves out of the normal growing pains that come with development. However, when Elvenes played internationally for Sweden at the U20 level, he had two goals and 11 points in 15 games.
Through six AHL games, Elvenes has been playing a confident and dynamic brand of hockey. Whether it is setting up his teammates or lighting the lamp himself, he proving that he can do it all.
Wolves Get Win from an Unexpected Source
The Wolves entered the 2019-20 season with a very good goaltending tandem in Oscar Dansk and Garret Sparks. Dansk has only made one start because he was recalled to Vegas on Oct. 12 due to an injury to Malcolm Subban.
Sparks started the last four games for the Wolves, but he needed a break on Sunday afternoon after starting on both Friday and Saturday nights. Enter youngster Dylan Ferguson, who was making his first professional start, but it wasn’t his first professional appearance.
Back at the start of the 2017-18 season, the Golden Knights had a crazy string of goaltending injuries that led them to use five different netminders in a short period of time. That list included Ferguson, who was just 19-years-old at the time. He was inserted into the third period of an 8-2 loss at the Edmonton Oilers on Nov. 14, 2017. He played just over nine minutes in relief of Maxime Lagace and gave up a goal on two shots.
Since that strange night, Ferguson had been playing for the Kamloops Blazers in the Western Hockey League. He started the 2019-20 season with the Fort Wayne Komets in the ECHL, but did not make an appearance before being called up to the Wolves.
Ferguson settled down after giving up a pair of goals in the first period and made 35 saves in a 3-2 shootout victory over the Milwaukee Admirals.
“I would say I was a little too fired up,” Ferguson said after his first pro win. “Then Mike Rosati, the goalie coach here, and even Garret Sparks came up to me and said, ‘You can do the job. Take a breath, calm down and play. That was actually a big turning point for me in the game.’”
Ferguson’s performance earned high praise from veteran Patrick Brown, who scored both of the Wolves’ goals and regulation and one of their two goals in the shootout.
“Fergie played awesome,” Brown raved. “He kept us in it, the whole game. We were down early and it could have been a lot more than it was. For a guy to step up and do that at the end of a three-in-three. It’s a really open game at the end of a three-in-three. Guys are tired and there are a lot of mistakes. For him to step in and make a couple of huge, backdoor saves. I mean, we wouldn’t have gotten the win without him.”
Nobody is sure how long Ferguson will remain with the Wolves as that all depends on the health of Subban in Vegas, but he has made the most of his time in the AHL.
Greg Boysen has been writing about the Chicago Blackhawks since 2010 and has been a site manager for both FanSided and SB Nation. He has been published in The Hockey News and was fully credentialed for the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. Among his various roles with The Hockey Writers are covering the Blackhawks, the AHL, writing the daily “Today in Hockey History” column, serving as a copy editor, and appearing and hosting multiple YouTube shows, including Blackhawks Banter. He is credentialed with the Chicago Wolves, Rockford IceHogs, and Milwaukee Admirals, while also being a regional scout for the NAHL. And, just because his plate isn’t full enough, Greg hosts trivia in the Chicago area two nights a week. For interview requests or to provide topic suggestions, follow Greg on Twitter and reach out.