With the RBC Cup all wrapped up, congratulations to the Pembroke Lumber Kings, the flurry of 'futures' deals are becoming present deals.  Teams giving up players for this season get to evaluate and say, "was it worth it?".  For one of those teams, Yorkton, I would say no question it was.  You get within 3 goals of an SJHL Championship and I don't think you can say anything but.  For Melfort, they went to the Bauer Conference final, but those new additions weren't quite enough to get over the hump.  So was it worth it?  We'll find out in the next couple of seasons.

If you want more information on the deals that have come through over the last week, check out some of the other blogs.  Especially Craig Stein's because they all seem to be coming from the teams he covers.

Seeing as the Ice Wolves don't have a ton going on 'Futures'-wise; in this post I'll take a quick look at what the Ice Wolves have for next season and what they'll likely be looking to address heading into the 2011-2012 campaign.
The Wolves, contrary to popular belief, had a lot to work with last off season.  People looked at the assets leaving and said, "wow, how can they recover?".  The outlook is somewhat similar this go around, but with plenty of assets eligible to return next season.

Here are the graduating Ice Wolves:

Forwards 

Doug Lindensmith - Regular Season: 99 pts - Playoffs: 12 pts (Line 1/2)
Travis Eggum - Regular Season: 106 pts - Playoffs: 37 pts (Line 1)
Logan Herauf - Regular Season: 54 pts - Playoffs: 36 pts (Line 1/2)
Nolan Souchotte - Regular Season: 24 pts - Playoffs: 8 pts (Line 3)
Taylor Piller - Regular Season: 20 pts - Playoffs: 3 pts (Line 3)
Nick Keller - Regular Season: 43 pts - Playoffs: 6 pts (Line 3)

Defence

Dayton Fossum - Regular Season: 39 pts - Playoffs: 17 pts
Robert Monfore - Regular Season: 8 pts - Playoffs: 2 pts
Phil Belanger - Regular Season: 17 pts - Playoffs: 2 pts

Goalie

Adam Bartko - Regular Season: 27 W, 2.96 GAA, 0.908 Sv%
                                    Playoffs: 15 W, 2.73 GAA, 0.917 Sv%

*Playoff Stats include Anavet Cup


There are a lot of great players moving on from the Wolves.  Looking at some of the sheer point totals from the top line guys, those are big shoes to fill.  Equally tough though is that shut-down grinder line of Souchotte/Piller/Keller.  There was so much experience and great hockey sense on that line that the Wolves will miss next season.  On the back end, it's tough to replace the two Playoff MVP's in Fossum and Bartko while Monfore and Belanger worked some very solid minutes on the blue line for La Ronge.

Here are the Ice Wolves eligible to return:

Forwards

Marc-Andre Carre ('91) - Regular Season: 106 pts - Playoffs: 37 pts
Phil Cliché ('92)- Regular Season: 41 pts - Playoffs: 2 pts 
Rhyse Dieno ('93) - Regular Season: 30 pts - Playoffs: 12 pts
Aaron Enns ('91) - Regular Season: 29 pts - Playoffs: 13 pts
Justin Ducharme ('91) - Regular Season: 28 pts - Playoffs: 14 pts
Skyler Hladun ('92) - Regular Season: 18 pts - Playoffs: 11 pts
Graham Smerek ('92) - Regular Season: 17 pts - Playoffs: 7 pts
Nathan Boyer ('92) - Regular Season: 15 pts - Playoffs: 5 pts

Defence

Byron Sorenson ('91) - Regular Season: 15 pts - Playoffs - 9 pts
Alex Vandenameele ('92) - Regular Season: 5 pts - Playoffs: 0 pts
Michael Verret ('91) - Regular Season: 0 pts - Playoffs: 3 pts
Steven Cook ('91) - Regular Season: 2 pts - Playoffs: 1 pts
Ben Bula ('91) - Regular Season: 6 pts - Playoffs: 0 pts

Goalie

Myles Hovdebo ('92) - Regular Season: 15 W, 2.78 GAA, 0.915 Sv%
                                         Playoffs: 2 GP, 3.20 GAA, 0.897 Sv%

It's a pretty good list of returnee's for the Ice Wolves.  Headed up by, of course, the league MVP, Marc-Andre Carre.  With a player like Carre on your team, there's a chance to win every game.  He's good for a point or two every night which helps a lot.  Of course you have to play the right guys with him, and players like Aaron Enns and Justin Ducharme definitely fit the bill.  Enns had a coming out party in the playoffs after quietly putting together a solid 29 point regular season.  Enns has all the makings of a great leader on the team and could be next year's surprise scorer.

What should be interesting to see, is the progression of the Billet Line.  Can I still call them that if they're not in the same house next season?  If they stick together, will they become the third line?  Capable of shutting down lines and providing energy, but adding some offence as well?  Skyler Hladun could be one of the guys looked at to play with Carre because of his size.

Obviously Carre will anchor the Ice Wolves top scoring unit, but where does the second line fall?  It obviously depends on who meshes well with Carre and then the second line will emerge.  Guys like Phil Cliche, Rhyse Dieno, Aaron Enns, Justin Ducharme and Nathan Boyer are all guys that could log minutes as the second line.  There will most likely be a player or two coming to the team in the off season that can fill a spot there as well.

The Ice Wolves are pretty well set up on the back end with who they brought in during the 2010-2011 season.  Byron Sorenson was a co-winner of the Ice Wolves' top defenceman award and he will likely be one of the premier blue-liners in the league this season.  Alex Vandenameele showed a great progression last season.  In his 18-year old season, he didn't look out of place when he got the chance to play with Fossum on the top pairing.  Micheal Verret and Steven Cook were the late additions to the line and they were instrumental in solidifying the core to help towards the SJHL Championship.  Cook will be looked towards to fill a more physical role with the departure of Robert Monfore while the Wolves hope Verret can add some offence from the line and improve upon the solid play he brought in his limited time with La Ronge.  Ben Bula will be looked to do what he does best, and that's win some fights, but that's limited with the supplement.  However, I think he was one of the Ice Wolves most improved players through the season and even as a smaller guy, he provides a good physical presence to go along with solid and simple play.

In net, Myles Hovdebo's future looks pretty bright.  His rookie season as a back-up was nothing short of stellar putting up 15 wins to go with one of the lower goals against averages in the league and higher save percentage.  He works hard and the Ice Wolves coaching staff has been impressed with him since training camp last season.  A strong indicator of how solid this goalie can be was his play in the Anavet Cup.  He hit the ice for the first time in 17 games in Game 1 of the Final and was superb, then did it again in Game 2.  While the starting job won't be a sure thing, you can bet he's got a very good chance at it.

So who are some of the guys the Wolves will look at to fill some of the vacancies?  There are a few guys that played as AP's at the end of the season and playoffs that will probably step in as regulars.

D/F - Franklin Cook - In his rookie season with the Beardy's Blackhawks, Cook chipped in with 11 assists from the blue-line.  He saw time with the Ice Wolves as a defenceman and forward.  It's not offensive punch you're looking for from this 5'8, 200 lbs player.  He brings a ton of energy and straight up physical play.  During the series with Flin Flon, he was well on his way to becoming a fan favourite after a couple shifts where he racked up multiple hits and drew the ire of a bunch of Bombers.  He's versatile with the ability to play up front, so if there's a back-log at the line, he could play on a fourth unit and be effective.

D - Brett Hope - He got in on two games with the Ice Wolves in the playoffs and looked strong.  Though he didn't play a ton of minutes, he was around the team for much of the playoff run and was taking in games and practice on home ice.  He's a big guy and could be a good physical presence for the Wolves in the years to come.  He also added nine goals and fifteen assists for the Tisdale Trojans last season, including a four goal night.  So there is an offensive upside to this 6'3, 220 lbs defenceman.

F - Jared Iron - One of the most offensively talented players in the Ice Wolves up and coming category.  As a sixteen year old, Iron scored 28 goals and added 20 assists in 41 games with the Beardy's Blackhawks.  He saw action in a couple of post season games where he created a bunch of opportunities, but couldn't quite find the back of the net.  It should also be noted Iron looked solid despite not having seen game action in about a month.  What could get in the way of Iron suiting up for the Ice Wolves is the fact that he's a prospect of the Kootenay Ice.  He will likely challenge for a spot with Kootenay next season.

Unfortunately I don't get a big rundown of the Ice Wolves list, so you'll have to wait for training camp to get some more in depth information on some of the players the Wolves are looking at, but these three could factor in to the Ice Wolves lineup next season.

So what needs do the Ice Wolves need to address for next season?  First and foremost, a goalie to challenge Hovdebo for the starting position.  As solid as he was in the regular season, it is unlikely Bob Beatty wants to head into the 2011-2012 regular season with only one option in net.  Also, competition in net is never a bad thing.  It will be interesting to see who comes in to the other goaltending slot for the Wolves.

The Ice Wolves lost their entire third line, but with some guys ready to step up into that slot, it's not a huge deal line-wise.  However, it means the Wolves, who pride themselves on depth, need to add some depth forwards.  With that, I'm sure Bob Beatty hopes to add some experience.  The Ice Wolves eligible returnee's feature seven '91 born players.  The Wolves carried ten 20's through the latter stages of the season and playoffs and it worked out very well for them as there were some injury troubles.  More important, though, is the experience.  Of the returning '91 players, two of them (Verret/Cook) still have limited experience in the SJHL.

There's plenty of experience on the back-end, and the Wolves don't have too many holes to fill.  The players available fit nicely into some good pairings and the addition of Brett Hope would give the Wolves a solid six.  Bob Beatty will likely want to run with eight defencemen again this season, so that means there will be some additions, and I would imagine they'll be on the younger side of things.  The Wolves really lacked size on the blue-line last year, though it didn't hamper them too much, it did cause problems in some games.  Look for the Ice Wolves to try and add at least one sizeable defender.

At this early point of the off season, there's a lot that can happen.  A player may decide not to return, someone may get picked up by a WHL team, or any number of reasons.  These moves create more holes that need filling and can sometimes put teams in a tough place.  I've written about it before, but the lynch-pin of the Ice Wolves' offence, Marc-Andre Carre is drawing NHL attention.  If a team signs him in the off-season, he could be off to the ECHL or AHL instead of the Ice Wolves.  That would leave a big hole, how do you replace a guy like M-A-C?  That said, there is the very strong likelihood the pro-teams will wait and see how Carre progresses in the offseason and next season before signing him.  Even if a team does pick up Carre though, there are still a bunch of players on the Wolves ready to step up offensively.  Maybe not in the singular output of Carre, but as a team offensive effort.

There is plenty of potential within the Ice Wolves returnee's and next season could be a great opportunity for them to keep the Credit Union Cup in La Ronge.  There are some factors Bob Beatty doesn't have a ton of control over, but as he showed last season, he's one of the top recruiters in the league.  Back to back championships certainly doesn't hurt that either as La Ronge is showing up on the map as a place for players to have success.  Players also know they will get their opportunities.  Coach Beatty doesn't back away from using younger players in key situations, a la the Billet Line against other team's top units and young players on the penalty kill.

If the Wolves can add a couple more 20-year olds to the players moving up in the system, they will be a very competitive team once again.

As the off season progresses, check back for more updates on the Ice Wolves as next year's team takes shape.

There are only a few weeks left of hockey, hope you're enjoying the NHL Playoffs!

-D

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