2023-24 ECHL Power Rankings

ECHL Power Rankings: Idaho Offense Stepping Up

Writer Justin A. Cohn delivers his ECHL Power Rankings every other week throughout the season.

1. Idaho Steelheads/Last Ranking: 1

Record: 15-3-1

The Steelheads’ defense, which ranks 12th in the ECHL with 3.16 goals against per game, hasn’t been as dominant as last season, when Idaho had the finest regular season in ECHL history. 

But the offense has been even more formidable than last season with a league-best average of 5.11 goals per game.

Mark Rassell may be the front-runner for ECHL MVP honors – he’s got 15 goals, 26 points and a plus-15 rating in 19 games – but one probably could argue for teammate Wade Murphy, who has 12 goals, 28 points and a plus-18 rating in 19 games.

Really, the list of impressive Idaho forwards goes on and on, from Ty Pelton-Byce (plus-20) to A.J. White (22 points) to rookie Keaton Mastrodonato (12 goals). 

And when that defense – led by Matt Register, Patrick Kudla and Seamus Donohue – really kicks into gear, look out.

Idaho is 8-1-1 in its last 10 games, and while that includes a 1-1-1 mark in its last three, which all were in Boise, Idaho, it was against a quality opponent, the Newfoundland Growlers. 

We’re going to see Idaho get its biggest test of the season in its next three contests, road games against the Kansas City Mavericks. Despite being division rivals, they haven’t played yet this season.

2. Greenville Swamp Rabbits/Last Ranking: 5

Record: 15-3-0

The Swamp Rabbits are coming off a bit of a hiccup, an 8-5 loss at home to the South Carolina Stingrays, but it’s the only loss in their last nine games.

Despite allowing six goals on 33 shots by the Stingrays, goaltender Ryan Bednard still has a .929 save percentage – second-best in the league behind Adirondack’s Jeremy Brodeur’s .937 – and Bednard is 7-1-0 with a 2.44 goals-against average and a shutout. 

Jacob Ingham has seen more work and been almost as good; he’s 8-2-0 with a 2.92 GAA and a .913 SP.

Other than Carter Souch, who has nine goals and 19 points in 18 games, and Nikita Pavlychev, the Swamp Rabbits don’t necessarily have forwards who are going to overwhelm opposing defenses. 

But what the Swamp Rabbits have is depth, balance and adherence to coach Andrew Lord’s systems, and it’s made Greenville dangerous at home and on the road, on the power play and the penalty kill.

The Swamp Rabbits are 7-2-0 at Bon Secours Wellness Arena, 8-1-0 away from it. 

On the power play, they rank fourth (26.2%). On the penalty kill, they’re seventh (83.3%).

3. Toledo Walleye/Last Ranking: 4

Record: 11-3-3

Even without Orrin Centazzo, recently called up to the American Hockey League, the Walleye roster is stacked at forward with the likes of Brandon Hawkins (11 goals, 24 points in 17 games), Sam Craggs (11 goals, 20 points in 17 games), Conlan Keenan, Alexandre Doucet and Mitchell Lewandowski. 

Toledo ranks third in ECHL scoring with 4.59 goals per game, better than every team except Idaho (5.11) and Cincinnati (4.69).

Defensively, the Walleye have been surprisingly sound – they rank 16th with 3.35 goals against per game – especially in a Central Division loaded with formidable scorers. 

It helps that the Walleye have maybe the league’s best goaltending tandem, reigning Goaltender of the Year John Lethemon and Jan Bednar.

Toledo doesn’t have much size, but it does have speed and is dangerous in transition, and opponents haven’t figured out how to counteract the Walleye consistently.

Since dropping back-to-back games to Wheeling and Kalamazoo, the Walleye have gone 3-0-1.

4. Kansas City Mavericks/Last Ranking: 3

Record: 15-5-0

The Mavericks have fallen off a bit with a 3-3-0 record in their last six games, but they’re about to face Idaho at home for three straight games, and it’s an opportunity to legitimize the surprisingly good start for Tad O’Had’s team.

Kansas City’s defense ranks second in the ECHL with 2.65 goals against per game, thanks to a blue-line corps anchored by Theo Calvas, Ryan Jones, Jake McLaughlin and Marc-Olivier Duquette, and a group of forwards who are defensively responsible.

Forward Max Andreev, a rookie, is an early MVP candidate with five goals and 24 points in 20 games. Rookies Cade Borchardt (eight goals, 21 points in 20 games) and Kyle Jackson (seven goals, 20 points in 20 games) have been almost as impressive.

Staying out of the penalty box has been key for Kansas City – its 7.6 minutes per game is fewer than every team except Jacksonville (7.44) – and so has its ability to win in hostile territory, as the Mavericks have a 10-2-0 road record.

5. Cincinnati Cyclones/Last Ranking: 10

Record: 10-6-0

The Cyclones are formidable offensively with Zack Andrusiak (six goals, 19 points in 16 games), Patrick Polino (seven goals, 17 points in 16 games) and Louie Caporusso (six goals, 15 points in 15 games), along with Justin Vaive, Luka Burzan and Lee Lapid. 

They create a lot of offense from the back end – Jalen Smereck is the early front-runner for ECHL Defenseman of the Year (four goals, 26 points in 16 games), and Ole Julian Bjørgvik-Holm can be a game-changer – and the addition of tough guy Cole Fraser in a trade with South Carolina has given the Cyclones some oomph in the lineup.

Cincinnati ranks second in the ECHL in scoring with 4.69 goals per game, but it needs to get stingier in its own zone. The Cyclones have allowed 3.56 goals per game, the eighth most in the league, though the goaltending of Olof Lindbom and Talyn Boyko has come on lately, as Cincinnati has won four of its last five games. 

(Note: Lindbom was called to the American Hockey League on Monday).

6. Trois-Rivières Lions/Last Ranking: 2

Record: 12-7-0

With five losses in their last seven games, the Lions are trending in the wrong direction. 

The penalty kill has been a major issue; the Lions have allowed at least one power-play goal in seven straight games, killing only 16 of the last 27 opposing power plays. That’s not good, but it’s also fixable, if the Lions can stay out of the penalty box and improve the penalty kill, which now ranks 22nd at 76.5%.

There’s plenty of offensive potential with Trois-Rivières, led by Anthony Beauregard (eight goals, 19 points in 18 games), rookie Jakov Novak, Justin Ducharme and Cedric Montminy, and Miguël Tourigny has shown in his first ECHL season that he can be an elite offensive defenseman at this level.

But the Lions need to become stingier in their own zone to assist the goaltenders, who have cooled off of late. 

Joe Vrbetic has played the most games – 13 – and is 7-6-0 with a 3.53 goals-against average and a .887 save percentage.

7. South Carolina Stingrays/Last Ranking: 14

Record: 10-6-2

The Stingrays are on a four-game winning streak that includes a victory at Greenville, one at home against Savannah and two at home over Trois-Rivières. 

Defensively, the Stingrays need to perform better – they’ve allowed 14 goals during the streak – but they’ve shown their offensive firepower.

Rookie forward Jack Adams has four goals and 20 points in 18 games, complementing established star Josh Wilkins, who has 11 goals and 20 points in 18 games. 

And the forward depth beyond that is impressive. It includes Kevin O’Neil, rookie Austin Magera and Tyson Empey. 

Offense also comes in bunches from the blue line with Connor Moore, who has two goals and 17 points in 18 games, Benton Maass and Michael Kim.

South Carolina has been particularly good early in games, but in the third periods, the Stingrays been outscored 21-17.

There’s a lot of talent and much balance with South Carolina; eight players have scored game-winning goals and seven have scored on the power play, which ranks 11th at 21.7% and is coming on lately with seven goals in its last 14 opportunities.

8. Florida Everblades/Last Ranking: 7

Record: 8-6-3

Riding a 5-1-3 run that includes only two home games, the two-time defending-champion Everblades haven’t taken any ostensible steps back from last season.

The goaltending of Evan Cormier and Cam Johnson has been solid, with Cormier sporting a 2-2-1 record with a 1.90 goals-against average, a .937 save percentage and one shutout, and Johnson going 6-4-2 with a 2.74 GAA and a .906 SP. 

The offense has been opportunistic, led by Bobo Carpenter’s seven goals and 13 points, and the defense, which I thought might face some growing pains this season, has been on point and ranks third in the ECHL with only 2.71 goals against per game.

If Oliver Chau, Sean Josling, Logan Lambdin and Joe Pendenza start scoring more – which seems like just a matter of time – then look out.

The Everblades haven’t yet faced South Carolina, but three games this weekend in Estero, Florida, against the Stingrays will tell us much about the power structure in the South Division. 

Right now, it seems it could be either team jockeying for position with Greenville.

9. Norfolk Admirals/Last Ranking: 12

Record: 10-6-2

The Admirals, who have won four of their last five games, finally are back to ECHL relevance, and it’s good to see. 

Their defense has been a huge part of it; they rank first in the ECHL with 2.56 goals against per game, and they’ve allowed only 10 goals over their last five games, including a 28-save Thomas Milic shutout of Trois-Rivières.

Milic is 7-1-1 with a 2.21 goals-against average, a .916 save percentage and two shutouts this season, while rookie Yaniv Perets is 3-5-1 with a 2.70 GAA, a .908 SP and one shutout.

Kudos to coach Jeff Carr for building off the encouraging finish to last season, tweaking parts of the lineup that needed it. 

While the defensive corps, including Simon Kubicek and Andrew McLean, is reliable, it’s really about the team defense and the way the forwards have taken care of their own zone, as much as concentrated on their offense.

Norfolk leads the league in penalty minutes – 20.11 per game – which would be more worrisome if it didn’t have the No. 1 penalty kill (89.2%). It also has the No. 1 power play (28.8%), so its rough-and-tumble style is working out well, as it gets into a lot of games heavy on special teams. 

Worcester found that out the hard way Saturday; Norfolk scored on 3-of-9 power plays, and the Railers were 0-for-6, as the Admirals won 5-2.

Rookie Carson Golder has five power-play goals, and Mathieu Roy has four.

10. Adirondack Thunder/Last Ranking: 8

Record: 9-5-2

The Thunder made a bit of a statement last weekend with back-to-back victories over Florida at Glens Falls, New York. 

While Friday’s 5-3 victory was a bit of a nail-biter – the Thunder squandered a 4-0 lead, before Jace Isley’s empty-netter cemented it – a 1-0 overtime victory Saturday showed Adirondack can play a sound defensive game when it puts its mind to it. 

Jeremy Brodeur stopped all 31 shots he faced, while Florida’s Cam Johnson was solved only by Travis Broughman, who slipped through two defenders to get a breakaway rush.

Adirondack ranks sixth in defense with 2.88 goals against per game, but it needs some more defensive consistency. Defenseman Colin Felix is plus-12, and Will MacKinnon is plus-10, but too much of the lineup is in the minus category.

Ryan Smith (nine goals, 13 points in 16 games) and Patrick Grasso (eight goals, 12 points in 16 games) lead the offense. 

And the Thunder have been exceptional on the road with a 6-1-0 record. 

Though the Thunder won’t be the ECHL’s prettiest team, they’re also a team no one should want to face because they’re opportunistic.

The Rest Of The ECHL

11. Newfoundland Growlers/Last Ranking: 15

Record: 9-8-3

12. Iowa Heartlanders/Last Ranking: 16

Record: 9-7-3

13. Tulsa Oilers/Last Ranking: 20

Record: 10-6-3

14. Jacksonville Icemen/Last Ranking: 18

Record: 9-7-2

15. Indy Fuel/Last Ranking: 24

Record: 8-8-2

16. Orlando Solar Bears/Last Ranking: 13

Record: 9-7-2

17. Fort Wayne Komets/Last Ranking: 9

Record: 8-7-2

18. Wheeling Nailers/Last Ranking: 11

Record: 9-9-1

19. Wichita Thunder/Last Ranking: 26

Record: 9-11-2

20. Maine Mariners/Last Ranking: 25

Record: 6-8-1

21. Atlanta Gladiators/Last Ranking: 6

Record: 9-9-0

22. Kalamazoo Wings/Last Ranking: 22

Record: 7-11-0

23. Worcester Railers/Last Ranking: 21

Record: 7-9-3

24. Savannah Ghost Pirates/Last Ranking: 23

Record: 6-10-3

25. Allen Americans/Last Ranking: 28

Record: 6-11-1

26. Utah Grizzlies/Last Ranking: 19

Record: 6-10-0

27. Rapid City Rush/Last Ranking: 17

Record: 6-11-1

28. Reading Royals/Last Ranking: 27

Record: 5-10-2