Season Record: 2-2-0 (.500)
Goals: Adam Ruzicka (4)
Assists: Matthew Phillips/Martin Pospisil (3)
Points: Adam Ruzicka (6)
Goalies: Dustin Wolf (2-1-0, 3.24 GAA, .895 Sv%), Garret Sparks (0-1-0, 4.57 GAA, .841 Sv%)
Weekly Summary: (2-2-0)
Feb 21 Heat 1 vs Marlies 7
Feb 23 Heat 1 vs Marlies 5
Feb 24 Heat 4 vs Marlies 2
Feb 26 Heat 8 vs Marlies 1
The Heat kicked their 2020-21 season off this past Sunday with a 4 game series against the Toronto Marlies. The two Canadian division rivals split the series, with Toronto taking the first two by wide margins, before the Heat drastically shifted the tide for the final two.
The Marlies had already played 4 games by the time Stockton took to the ice for their season opener, and that became evident in the first game of the series. Toronto chased Dustin Wolf after 5 goals through a period and a half, but he was absolutely hung out to dry by a very young Heat team. Luke Philp opened the 2020-21 scoring with the Heat’s lone goal, while CJ Lerby recorded his first career AHL assist.
Round 2 offered about the same amount of hope in the first period, where Garret Sparks was lit up by his old team. There were signs of hope, as the Heat only gave up one more goal while adding one of their own through the final 40 minutes.
They finally found their feet and confidence the very next night. After giving up the opening goal, they fired back with 3 straight going into the third, thanks to Adam Ruzicka, Alex Petrovic, and Zac Leslie. On those goals, Connor Zary, Colton Poolman, Connor Mackey, and Emilio Pettersen recorded their first AHL assists. Ruzicka added the insurance marker after the Marlies got one back, and Dustin Wolf earned his first AHL win with 36 saves on 38 shots.
The finale was the most impressive Heat performance in quite a while. The team converted a touchdown with a 2 point conversion, and Dustin Wolf only gave a single goal in the first period to post back to back impressive victories. Unfortunately, he is also now headed back to Everett of the WHL. Stockton scored 7 straight after Timothy Liljegren tied the game at one, and included three-point performances from Mattthew Phillips, Adam Ruzicka, and Martin Pospisil. Emilio Pettersen scored his first pro goal in the affair to open the scoring.
Emilio Pettersen (1-2-3) in 4 GP
The Norwegian’s speed, defensive stick, and quick hands have translated seamlessly to the pro levels thus far, and he’s getting better game by game. The coaching staff clearly have a high level of confidence in him already, and his time on the ice proves it.
Matthew Phillips (1-3-4) in 4 GP
Not even Johnny Gaudreau looks as small as Phillips does out there, but his perpetual movement and rapid changes in direction keep him free from most checking. His vision is absolutely ridiculous, but he can certainly finish as well.
Luke Philp (2-0-0) in 4 GP
He has that golden ability to just be in the right places to score goals or get great chances despite being relatively quiet shift to shift. The fact he scored the lone goal in that blowout says something, and he’s hit more posts and crossbars than everyone else combined.
Martin Pospisil (1-3-4) in 4 GP
His physicality has made him well known, but he’s always put up points wherever he goes. Now that he’s healthy and rested, his production will improve exponentially from a fairly quiet rookie year. It probably helps that he has a fellow Slovak on the team, who...
Adam Ruzicka (4-2-6) in 4 GP
...is absolutely on fire to start the season. If the Flames ever move Sean Monahan in the near future it could be very likely because his 2.0 version is tearing up the AHL. Ruzicka has the same gifted ability to score from anywhere 5 feet in front of the net or closer, but he skates much better and plays a more physical game. Back to back 2 goal games and every single one was scored a different way. He may have himself penciled in at the top of the callup list. Keep an eye on him.
Eetu Tuulola (0-0-0) in 4 GP
The jury is still out on what Tuulola could be, but it doesn’t look like much. He does typically start the season slower than he finishes it, and he engaged in a good battle against Liljegren all series long.
Connor Zary (0-2-2) in 4 GP
Zary carried a solid stint in the preseason to the AHL, where he will still remain for the time being while Wolf returns. He displays a lot of confidence for someone playing for their third team in less than 2 months, and his offensive game is really starting to evolve. He’ll be in line for a huge season when he returns to the Blazers. Check out his assist below.
Dmitry Zavgorodniy (0-1-1) in 4 GP
Zav hasn’t received as much ice time or opportunities, but hasn’t been invisible. He clearly has superb play-making ability, it’s t just very likely he needs a little time to get his legs under him given how much travel he’s done.
CJ Lerby (0-2-2) in 4 GP
He has really quick decision making, and skates really well. Where he’s really shone is his puck moving around the offensive zone. Stockton typically rolls 7 defencemen, so it’ll be tough for any one of these guys to put up particularly impressive numbers, but he definitely could be the one.
Connor Mackey (0-2-2) in 4 GP
It’s clear AHL time is huge for a guy who hadn’t played since March before playing in the NHL. He looks even more poised and calm thus far, and has a thundering shot when he uses it. Very well could see more NHL time as he continues to adjust quickly.
Colton Poolman (0-1-1) in 4 GP
Fairly stable defenceman thus far for a rookie. With all the offensive minded talent on the blueline he’s a valuable commodity to this team.
Alexander Yelesin (0-0-0) in 3 GP
Missed one game with an injury, but Yelesin has started this season angry. He’s tossing his body around whenever he gets the chance, and has the green light to dump and chase his own puck, which he usually finishes with a check behind the net. There’s a clear rotating vacancy on the bottom right pairing on the Flames, and a right shot physical guy could slot in there.
Dustin Wolf (2-1-0, 3.57 GAA, .895 Sv%)
It’s too bad the first game skews his numbers so badly, because Dustin Wolf was absolutely phenomenal in the final two games of this series. He stopped 62 of 65 shots, and played extremely confidently and poised given he’s around a year early on getting AHL action. The Heat absolutely killed him in the first game, as they didn’t give up a shot until 10 minutes in, which was a screened shot from 10 feet out.
Wolf will now have to return to Everett as the US division of the WHL begins play, but he’s taken a huge step in the furtherment of his development.
Which prospect has excited you most?
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