A Closer Look At The Protected 13
Friday the Storm announced the list of thirteen protected players heading into the 2019-2020 season.
The list included:
Forwards-Dalton Mills, Joseph Widmar, Stephen Gaul, Shane Bennett, Tommy Tsicos, Vincent Beaudry, Michael Casale, John Scully
Defense-Cody Walsh, Kristaps Nimanis, Sean Kacerosky, Ludlow “Junior” Harris Jr.
Goalie-Peter Di Salvo
Examining the list reveals a thorough mix of speed, skill and scrap but what jumps off the page is the overall youth of this core of players. Five of the thirteen were rookies last season and another three are preparing for just their third-year pro. ‘The Mad Dog’, Peter Di Salvo, enters as the elder statesman of the group at the age of 28 (turning 29 November 15th) and has logged 243 professional appearances.
Below is an examination of each of the thirteen protected players, what they did last year and what could be expected of them by the Storm next season.
Dalton Mills-50 games/10 goals/17 assists/-5 rating
Playing in his rookie season out of Concordia College Mills got off to a scorching start to the season, scoring 17 points in his first 24 games before missing an extended stretch to injury. Once healthy he was able to find his initial pace and finished with nine points in the last eleven games of the season, highlighted by a four-point showcase in the finale with Evansville. If he is able to stay healthy for the season Mills could realistically be a 20-goal scorer in his sophomore year.
Joseph Widmar-ECHL ATL 31 games/7 goals/11 assists/+4 rating
The only player to not wear a Storm jersey last season will likely start the year in an ECHL camp and could spend time in the coast throughout the year. Widmar will be a third-year pro who began both of his last two seasons in the SPHL with the Peoria Rivermen before getting called up to ECHL Fort Wayne and Greenville in 17’-18’ and Fort Wayne and Atlanta in 18’-19’. His playing rights were acquired by the Storm in a multi-player trade that brought him, Dean Yakura and Stephen Gaul to the QC in exchange for Austin Hervey. Any time Widmar spends on the roster this season will be incredibly valuable and he will add a serious scoring threat to the Storm offense.
Stephen Gaul-32 games/10 goals/6 assists/+6 rating
More ice time and opportunity resulted in more production by Stephen Gaul when he left Peoria to join the Storm. Gaul finished with 10 points in fewer than 20 games with the Storm and emerged at the end of the year as a dangerous scorer within fifteen feet of the crease. It will be interesting to see who Storm head coach Dave Pszenyczny groups with Gaul, who had success with multiple different line mates during his tenure in Quad City, including but not limited to Michael Casale, Tommy Tsicos and Vincent Beaudry.
Shane Bennett-54 games/17 goals/22 assists/-9 rating
It’s amazing what a change of scenery can do. Shane ‘The Bullet’ Bennett spent the first 20 games of the year in Fayetteville and logged three goals and six assists. Then, in 34 games with the Storm he shot up the SPHL offensive leader board, burying 14 goals and helping on 16. Bennett will be a top liner next season and could very well get some attention from the ECHL. His speed makes him dangerous and he has the skill to pair with it that puts him in the upper offensive-echelon of the league.
Tommy Tsicos-50 games/12 goals/15 assists/-22 rating
Sometimes it isn’t easy to tell who is working hardest on the ice during a hockey game. However, that is often not the case in a game Tommy Tsicos is playing in. His two-way game and willingness to put his body on the line is recognized throughout the league, and appreciated by no one more than the Storm hockey staff. Tsicos, a native of Barrie, Ontario, started the year in ECHL Worcester before finishing the final 50 of the year in the Quad Cities. His relentless effort bore the fruit of 27 points and his ability to kill penalties and go up against the top lines around the league make him an invaluable piece to be bringing back to the puzzle.
Vincent Beaudry-48 games/11 goals/17 assists/+3 rating
Another rookie from Peoria whose production blossomed post-trade. Beaudry recorded 23 points in 34 games and, most impressively, was the only player to earn a positive on-ice rating with the Storm. This stat isn’t always trustworthy, but in Beaudry’s case I think it is a fair telltale of a player who has the potential to be as responsible defensively as he is productive offensively in his sophomore season.
Michael Casale-45 games/9 goals/8 assists/-17 rating
The swiss army knife of the Storm endeared himself to Quad City fans over the course of his time with the team through his ability to score and scrap. Casale was acquired by Quad City from Fayetteville on January 15th. A physical forward with the plenty of skill to boot, the former Salem State Viking will likely have a chance to earn a spot on one of the top two lines next season. The main target of improvement for Casale will be consistency: through his first nine starts with the Storm he scored one point, had twelve in his next fourteen and then went pointless in his final six. Even when not in the scoring column, however, Casale often found ways to make his presence felt.
John Scully-54 games/14 goals/8 assists/-19 rating
John Scully came into training camp last season as an underdog to make the roster and will enter this training camp as a fan favorite and all but a lock to be on the ice for opening night. Hard nosed hockey with the ability to finish accurately describes the game of the 6th year pro who finished tied for the team lead in goals after playing in a total of 12 SPHL games over the course of his career.
Cody Walsh-38 games/3 goals/14 assists/-12 rating
From spending the beginning of the season out of hockey and on his couch, to becoming one of, if not the, most reliable defenseman on the roster. Cody Walsh was an outstanding pickup for the Storm and will likely be even better next season with an offseason to prepare. ‘The Sherriff’ brings toughness and calmness to the ice that is incredibly valuable along the blue line.
Kristaps Nimanis-9 games/3 assists/-5 rating
No one may be more excited for a clean slate and new season than Kristaps Nimanis. The Latvian defenseman tore and strained ligaments in his knee in the third game of the regular season and was sidelined until late March. With a full offseason of rest and rehabilitation Nimanis could be a top pair d-man bringing physicality and sensibility to the ice.
Sean Kacerosky-47 games/6 goals/8 assists/-5 rating
From being release by Fayetteville to getting protected by Quad City; Kacerosky took advantage of his second chance to stand out as a two-way defenseman with the speed to push plays up the ice. With his first professional season under his belt it will be fun to watch the former Potsdam Bear settle in as the game begins to slow down for him.
Ludlow ‘Junior’ Harris Jr.-27 games/1 goal/-9 rating
Harris was a big loss for the Storm. After getting called up to ECHL Norfolk just eight games into the season he ended up staying with the Admirals for the entire year, playing in 19 games and racking up 47 penalty minutes. The Storm hope to have Harris spend significantly more time at the TaxSlayer Center next year.
Peter Di Salvo-13-19-13.26 GAA/.909 SV%
Over the course of the season ‘The Mad Dog’ was the pinnacle of professionalism. His consistency night after night was all you can ask for from a goaltender and he turned out strong performance after strong performance while being forced to make the second most saves of any goaltender in the league. Whoever is brought in to be the second goaltender next season will have a great example to look at in the Storm’s only protected netminder.