Derek Lalonde did something that no one believed possible for the Iowa Wild - finish a season with a winning record. He didn't manage to make the playoffs, but that is still way above expectations for a team that finished dead last in the AHL the last two years.
The final record for Iowa was 36-31-7-2 record, which they reached despite losing their best scorer (Teemu Pulkkinen) in a trade and losing their best scorer from last season (Grayson Downing) in a trade, losing their best remaining scorer (Alex Tuch) to injury for 19 games. Iowa's highest scorer at the end of the season ended up being free-agent addition, and long-time AHL vet Pat Cannone with 38 points in 73 games. Alex Tuch finished second with 37 points in 57 games, and Teemu Pulkkinen had 36 points in just 47 games before being traded to the Arizona Coyotes for future considerations. Mike Reilly, in his 2nd season in the Wild organisation, had 30 points in 57 games improving on his 23 points in 45 games in the AHL last year, He did improve from -27 to a +4 this year, so, you know, silver linings. Sam Anas finished the year with 28 points in 66 games, while Mario Lucia had 22 points in 44 games before an injury ended his season prematurely. Luke Kunin, who made his debut late in the season, had 8 points in 12 games, including a hat trick! Dmitry Sokolov played 2 games with Iowa on an ATO also scored one goal for the Wild.
Alex Stalock had a fantastic year in net for the baby Wild finishing with a 23-17-8 record, a .926 sv%, 2.28 GAA with 4 shutouts. He found his game during the middle of the year and was great down the stretch. It earned him a 2-year-extension and likely the back-up spot for next year. Steven Michalek also had a solid year for Iowa with a 13-14-1 record a .919 sv%, and a 2.63 GAA. Iowa never used a third goalie in the season as Michalek was able to fill in for Stalock whenever necessary. No other team in the AHL used just two goalies during the season.
With a promising season behind them what does the future look like for Iowa? Maybe not that good. Gustav Olofsson and Mike Reilly are quite likely going to play in the NHL next year, and even if they don't, Olofsson will be waiver eligible so we likely won't see him back in Iowa. Luke Kunin will join the Wild team and is quite likely to end up in the AHL for at least part of the season. Alex Tuch has a good chance of being in the NHL next year as well so that's another top player possibly gone. Joel Eriksson-Ek might end up seeing some AHL time next year, but likely not the whole season. Jordan Greenway might sign but there were reports that he has decided to stay in college. However those reports have not been confirmed. Carson Soucy will start his ELC and is likely to play in the AHL or, perhaps, the ECHL. From the veterans, I think the Wild could bring Pat Cannone back, as he finally made his NHL debut this past season. Mike Weber could be back, but I wouldn't count on it. Weber has been playing in the NHL for most of his career so I'd expect him to attempt a comeback to the NHL and therefore at least look for try-outs elsewhere. Gustav Bouramann will likely join the AHL team next season and help their defense. A veteran defenseman will likely be added via free agency like Victor Bartley was last year, though they'd be hoping it'd end up a little better than the Bartley signing. He was injured during training camp and never played a game for Iowa. Zach Palmquist will probably be a core defenseman for the team if he doesn't make the NHL team. Palmquist, in my opinion. was bright spot on the team with 21 points on the season which was almost double his 15-16 totals. He will be waiver eligible, so it's possible he doesn't see Des Moines again, but a lot of better players have sneaked past waivers during pre-season.
The Wild's forward core will also benefit from a full year of a healthy Mario Lucia, a more developed Adam Gilmour, and also Sam Anas in his sophomore season should help. Christoph Bertschy and Zack Mitchell will likely be core forwards for the team. They might look to add a scorer to fill in the hole left by Pulkkinen via free agency as well.
It'll be interesting to see how Iowa's roster shapes up over the summer, as they will need to add lots of players and also look at goaltending again. Alex Stalock will probably end up being the NHL back-up so it'll be interesting to see if the club trusts Steven Michalek as the starter or if they sign or trades for another veteran. With a good year behind them, under new coaching staff, and some good prospects coming up I'd expect that the Iowa Wild will really push to make the AHL playoffs next year.
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