After nearly a year out of action, the 2020-21 AHL season finally got underway last month.
Playing in the re-aligned Canadian Division, the Manitoba Moose played eight games over the past two weeks, posting a 4-4-0 record.
2021 Moose Squad Full of Newbies
The Moose have welcomed a number of new players into the fold as a result of:
- Losing mainstay veterans such as Cameron Schilling, Seth Griffith, J.C. Lipon, Michael Spacek, and Logan Shaw in the offseason.
- Not having access to players currently sitting on the Jets’ taxi squad, such as Jansen Harkins, Logan Stanley, and Kristian Vesalainen.
Of the 25 skaters and goaltenders saw action this month, 11 were new additions while the other 14 were returnees.
Of the new additions, 2020 first-round selection Cole Perfetti, 2018 fifth-round selection Declan Chisholm, and 2017 second-round selection Dylan Samberg are the highest-profile.
Other Jets’ draft picks currently with the Moose are: Mikhail Berdin, Leon Gawanke, Jonathan Kovacevic, Ville Heinola, Skyler McKenzie, and C.J. Suess.
Can I Get an ‘A’?
Prior to their first game on Feb. 15, the Moose opted to name four alternates instead of appointing a captain. Former captain and Winnipegger Peter Stoykewych retired last June at age 27 due to concussions and concerns over his long-term health.
Meeting the Marlies
The Moose welcomed an old rival in the Toronto Marlies to Bell MTS Place for a four-game set to begin the season.
In their first game since March 8, 2020, they fell 3-2. That game wasn’t without its milestones, though, as Chisholm and Perfetti both scored their first-career AHL goals in the first period. See here for Chisholm’s and here for Perfetti’s.
The next day, they lost 6-2 as the Marlies — a much more experienced team — rattled off four-straight second-period goals.
The Moose rebounded, though, and ultimately split the four game set, winning 4-2 on Feb. 18 and 2-1 on Feb. 19.
Locking Horns With Laval
The Moose then traveled to Quebec for a four-game set with the Rocket. They won the first two —3-2 and 4-2, respectively —to improve their record to 4-2-0. In the first game, Heinola scored his first AHL goal on an overtime power play on a slick passing play between him and Perfetti.
The Moose then dropped a pair of one-goal decisions — 4-3 and 2-1 — on Feb. 26 and Feb. 27. In the 2-1 loss, rookie goaltender Arturs Silovs, on loan from the Vancouver Canucks, made his AHL debut and stopped 23 of 25 shots that came his way.
Top Prospect Report
Mikhail Berdin (G)
A young and inexperienced team, the Moose were outshot in every game in February. The athletic and unorthodox Russian backstop was heavily relied on as a result.
The goaltender, in his third AHL season, currently possesses a 4-3-0 record with a 2.88 GAA and .923 SV%.
Declan Chisholm (D)
Chisholm has played in all eight games, recording two goals. He is a minus-2.
Leon Gawanke (D)
After an outstanding 2019-20 season in whcih he rose to prominence on the Moose blue line, Gawanke has two assists in eight games.
Ville Heinola (D)
Heinola is logging big minutes with fellow top prospect Dylan Samberg.
He has two goals and one assists through eight games.
Cole Perfetti (F)
The offensively-adept and exciting centre has had a good start to his professional career, recording two goals and two assists and is sitting fourth on the team in points.
“We’ll be talking about his hockey sense every time that we talk about him,” Moose head coach Pascal Vincent recently said in an interview with Sportsnet. “Not only with the puck – because he has real good vision, and he can read plays before he gets the puck. He’s really good at having awareness of what is going on around him, so when he gets it, he knows what the next play should be, or should look like…”Moose head coach Pascal Vincent on Cole Perfetti
“His ability to understand and then execute at a high speed is pretty fascinating to me,” Vincent continued. He’s a very bright man and when you talk to him, you can tell. Playing at the pro level can be intimidating, but it doesn’t seem like he’s nervous.”
Dylan Samberg (D)
Samberg is logging big minutes with fellow top prospect Ville Heinola. His is still searching for his first AHL point, but has been physical and also got into a very awkward fight with the Rocket’s Laval Yannick Veilleux after dishing out a big hit.
Skyler McKenzie (F)
McKenzie, who posted 23 points with the Moose in 2019-20, has been held pointless in his first eight.
The 25-year-old Todd, an undrafted centre who recorded one goal in 16 games with the Moose last season, was red-hot, recording four goals and four assists.
Tyler Graovac is tied with Todd for the team lead in points with eight, as he notched one goal and piled up seven helpers.
Graovac — a 27-year-old veteran who has recorded as many as 50 points in an AHL season (2018-19, Stockton Heat) — was loaned to the Moose by the Canucks in January so he could play without crossing the international border, which is more complicated due to COVID-19 quarantine requirements.
Lynch, who played three games for the Moose last season but spent most of his time with the Jets’ ECHL affiliate in Jacksonville, sits third on the team with five points (two goals, three assists.)
The remainder of the Moose’s 36-game 2020-21 schedule was revealed on Feb. 23.
They play 12 games in March — four more on the road followed by the first eight of a 16-game mega-homestand at Bell MTS Iceplex. They’ll get their first looks at the Belleville Senators and the Stockton Heat (the Heat are playing out of Calgary this season.)
It will be exciting to see who steps up and which prospects continue to make their marks.
Declan Schroeder is a 26-year-old communications specialist and freelance journalist in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He holds a diploma in Creative Communications with a major in journalism from Red River College and a bachelors in Rhetoric and Communications from the University of Winnipeg.
Deeply rooted in the city’s hockey culture, the original Jets skipped town when he was two and the 2.0 version came onto the scene when he was 17.