As summer transitions to autumn, the energy that fall sports bring about is very much in the air. In Chicago and other cities across the United States and Canada, hockey is quickly approaching. As a matter of fact, the Chicago Wolves open their season at home on October 16. That means there are fewer than 40 days until Wolves hockey, so it’s time to begin discussing the makeup of the team’s roster.
During the abbreviated Spring 2021 season, the Wolves won the Central Division with an interesting and deep roster. The Wolves accepted the Nashville Predators’ prospects (Milwaukee Admirals) after announcing the Admirals wouldn’t play due to logistical issues. What was already going to be a deep Wolves team became deeper with the addition of Milwaukee’s players.
Among that group were six of the Wolves’ top 10 scorers. Forwards Philip Tomasino, Tommy Novak, Tanner Jeannot, Anthony Richard, Sean Malone, and defenseman Frederic Allard will all return to the Admirals for the 2021-22 season. Now, a perhaps younger, but still high potential group of Carolina Hurricanes prospects remain.
One player that Wolves fans could have been excited about is forward Morgan Geekie. Geekie only played two games with the Wolves last season but tallied four goals and an assist in that time period. He would have been a leading candidate to see a lot of action in 2021-22. However, the Seattle Kraken selected Geekie in the NHL Expansion Draft.
In this edition of our Chicago Wolves roster previews, we will analyze the forward group. The Wolves still have plenty of talent, but the names in the group will look much different than this past season. Let’s take a look at some players to watch come October 16.
As mentioned before, five of the team’s top-scoring forwards from the past season are returning to Milwaukee. However, there are quite a few names to watch. We’ll examine each of those names and categorize them into a few different groups as we analyze the Wolves’ 2021-22 roster.
The Returning “Vets”
Yes, we said vets. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean veterans with five years in the AHL. Rather, these are guys that are of AHL age and important pieces to the Wolves this coming season. Included in this group are players such as David Cotton, Dominik Bokk, Stelio Mattheos, and Spencer Smallman.
David Cotton had a strong rookie campaign with the Wolves during the shortened pandemic season. Cotton was tied for the Hurricanes organization lead with 21 points. He tied Maxime Lajoie, whom the Hurricanes re-signed this offseason. This season, Cotton will look to expand on his impressive rookie campaign with the Wolves.
Dominik Bokk was one of four first-round picks to suit up for the Wolves in 2021. He and Seth Jarvis, Ryan Suzuki, and Tomasino were all first-round picks in the last four years. Bokk, 21, is the eldest of the group after being selected 25th overall in 2018.
Bokk had a streaky first season in Chicago. The German native still registered 18 points in 29 games, but he tended to work in streaks when it came to aiding the offense. Throughout the season, head coach Ryan Warsofsky and Bokk had discussions about being more consistent and shooting more, which is one of Bokk’s best assets.
Both players should be near the top of the scoring leaderboards this season for the Wolves. As for Mattheos and Smallman, they both received short stints with the Wolves in 2021. Both players tallied two assists in six games during the COVID-19 shortened season.
The CHL Players
Yes, CHL-aged players will be playing with the Wolves this season, if the Hurricanes want them to return to the AHL. According to reports in late July, the NHL and CHL are working on a slight amendment to the NHL-CHL agreement. The agreement effectively states that players who played in the AHL last season for 20 or more games can play in the AHL in 2021-22 rather than returning to juniors. This is important for a few players who suited up for the Wolves in 2021, including Jamieson Rees, Ryan Suzuki, and Seth Jarvis.
Rees had a nice first season with the Wolves. He didn’t make a ton of noise early, but he came on strong later in the season for the Wolves. For the season, Rees tallied 14 points (eight goals, six assists) in 29 games with the Wolves. He showed noticeable power, speed, and fearlessness when going to the net. Rees profiles as a talented power forward who may become quite an NHL player someday.
For Suzuki, his first AHL season was a bit underwhelming. In 26 games, Suzuki only managed to tally 10 points (five goals, five assists). That said, Suzuki saw time on the penalty kill and fourth line quite a bit during his first professional season. Suzuki still has plenty of talent and will receive plenty of opportunities with the team in 2021-22.
Now, Jarvis sadly won’t be a name Wolves fans see for a majority of the season. There is a chance he joins the team for a potential playoff run, but Jarvis will be required to return to the WHL since he did not meet the 20-game minimum. Jarvis tallied 11 points in only nine games but was required to return to the WHL when they launched their season. With the amendment, Jarvis will once again return to the WHL this fall.
The Wolves-Signed Players
Most seasons, the Wolves will have five to six players that are signed to AHL deals rather than NHL contracts. This season, the Wolves are returning local product David Gust in addition to signing Stephen Harper and Kyle Marino to standard player contracts.
Gust debuted with the Wolves in 2021, tallying four points (two goals, two assists) in 16 games last season. The Orland Park, IL native will suit up for his second season with his hometown AHL team. Gust has also spent three seasons in the AHL with Bakersfield and Charlotte. Before turning pro, Gust played his collegiate hockey at Ohio State University.
Harper joins the Wolves after playing his rookie season with the Fort Wayne Comets in the ECHL. Harper was named June M. Kelly Playoffs Most Valuable Player after winning the Kelly Cup with the Comets. Prior to his time with Fort Wayne, Harper spent four seasons at Acadia University, amassing an impressive 130 points in 109 games.
In addition to Harper, new face Kyle Marino joins the Wolves for the 2021-22 campaign. Marino spent last season with the ECHL’s Wheeling Nailers and played four years of collegiate hockey at the University of Alaska Fairbanks before turning pro. Last season, Marino registered two goals and four assists, as well as 76 penalty minutes in 27 games. Marino has always profiled as a grinder and tough guy of sorts. In college, Marino recorded 198 penalty minutes over four seasons while adding nine goals and 18 assists in 101 games.
The 2021-22 Wolves
The Wolves will also have other players added to the roster via Carolina and potentially via standard player contracts. Until then, these names are the base forward group that Wolves fans can expect to see at Allstate Arena beginning October 16. The Wolves will look to repeat as division champions en route to a deep playoff run in search of a Calder Cup victory.