The league is excited to add another new team to the mix this summer that will come with a lot of new players. While one of the new players wont be Leo Burnett, Peach Caltagarone decided to take Burnett’s slogan for his new team, the Mayhem. It’s obvious Peach spent a lot of time talking to Dave Glass in the past couple months. On paper, this team doesn’t appear to be as talented as most of the other teams in the league, but they have a lot of young players with potential going forward. Peach Caltagarone and Wyatt Vitarelli were originally supposed to put this team together, but Vitarelli was offered a job that will prevent him from playing hockey this summer. Peach was able to pick up one of the league’s newest goalies, Jim Dennison to take Vitarelli’s place. Dennison has gone thru some growing pains as a goalie, but has shown some improvement in between fall and winter league. He has also had some games where it looks like he is getting more comfortable in net. The Mayhem will need him to step up this summer if the team wants to compete with some of the league’s better teams. Tyler Waltman and Matt McGinnis will not be returning to the Knights this summer, but instead, will join up with the Mayhem. We haven’t seen anything of McGinnis since last summer, but Tyler Waltman recently played a nice role in the Winter League that saw his team finish 1st in the regular season. He got to play a lot of minutes with the team with them only having 4 or 5 skaters every night. He also chipped in some big goals in the process. Other new guys who played nice roles for their winter league teams are Trenton Bembenic, Nic Cebulskie and Levi Miller. Each of those 3 guys got to play in a hard fought, 3 game winter league finals that saw each of them step up for their respective teams. They added another nice addition in Zach Puhala who played a nice role on the Gold’s fall league team. The Mayhem will wear the Allstate hands as their logo this season. While the team doesn’t have the one standout guy who could make them a team to take a little more seriously, they have a lot of potential and a lot of youth and determination that could help keep them competitive against some of the league’s better teams this season. Last season, Caltagarone and the Chiefs had a very tough season. Caltagarone thought a change may be needed this season. The team he has put together may not look like a playoff caliber team, but we know they will be giving it their all each and every night. With a little bit of luck, they could give some teams a scare this season. All of the young guys have bright futures in the xhl and getting to play together should make them better players going forward. The Mayhem will get to open against another new team in the Vikings on April 23rd.
It has become an spring tradition to predict the Knights as the team most likely to breakout each season. A quick look at their roster shows there is a lot to like. They are young, fast, and skilled. These characteristics have defined the team for the past couple of seasons, yet they've been unable to advance past a pair of early exits in the play-in games.
Even so, this team has a different feel. Their core is a year older and has a year more experience under their belts. They have been through the disappointments of those crushing losses and they've learned what it takes to play in those high stakes games. Furthermore, this is a deeper team with some older players who should mix well with the youth. And it doesn't hurt that they boast a one-two punch that is as dangerous offensively as any duo the league has to offer in Kurt Schindler and Andy Calvert. Both will be among the league leaders in points at season's end.
While Calvert and Schindler lead the charge, the Knights have a nice compliment of two-way players that any contending team will need to win. Jordan Tosh, Tate Rutherford, and Jadon Stuart all return while newcomer Jake Kline comes over from the Lazers. Kline is a perfect fit and brings a defense-first mentality and speed game that will match perfectly with the rest of the youth on the team.
Unfortunately, the Knights will have to play without Henry Sutter manning the cage. But luckily, the team may have found the perfect replacement in Todd Schickling, who is quickly making a name for himself after two solid showings in the off-season leagues. Schickling possesses the traits that will make him one of the league's best goalies moving forward. He's passionate about the game, is constantly learning, and doesn't get too up or twoo down. His sports background and demeanor makes him an instant leader on this young team.
The rest of the league has watched as the Knights grew as individual players and as a team. While they exited the stage earlier than they would have liked the last couple of years, nobody should be surprised if they take the next step forward this year. They have all the tools and now they have the experience. Can they put it all together in 2018? Count me among those who see a breakout in their future