Jordan Kyrou and Trevor Smith celebrate during a game earlier this season when the Rampage set a record with consecutive home-ice wins. (Darren Abate/AHL photo)
Sunday, March 31, 2019- The 2018-2019 San Antonio Rampage season is mercifully coming to an end in just two short weeks with just 6 games remaining on the schedule. I say mercifully because the Rampage have been decimated by injuries and permanent call-ups. Goals and wins have been hard to come by as of late, and the season looks destined to end much as it began; with a long streak of consecutive losses (until last night).
Since the last update, the Rampage have gone 2-9-0-1, scoring 1.9 goals/game and have lost Jordan Kyrou (lower-body), Ville Husso (lower-body), Austin Poganski (lower-body), Conner Bleackley (upper-body), and Trevor Smith (lower-body) all to season-ending injuries. Touted prospects Klim Kostin and Jake Walman have been underwhelming at best (until last night), but fear not Blues fans. It’s not all doom and gloom down here in Rampage land.
Jordan Kyrou (16G, 27A) led the way for Rampage forwards this year showing off speed and skill throughout the season. Earning several call-ups to the Blues and a spot in the AHL All-Star game, Kyrou posted the 4th-fastest time in the Fastest Skater competition. The Toronto, ONT native also posted a 12-game point streak earlier in the season which tied a Rampage franchise record for points in consecutive games. Kyrou followed up that effort with an encore 8-game point streak, helping San Antonio make a strong push for the playoffs at that time. While at times he can be knocked off the puck fairly easily and occasionally he tries to make just one extra move, his skill is very obvious and has the ability to score goals and create plays almost at will at this level. Look for him to recover from his season-ending lower-body injury and gain some muscle in the off-season and try to earn a permanent spot wearing the Blue Note next season.
Klim Kostin (10G, 13A) did not have the season that many expected of him. With six games left on the schedule, Kostin trails his point total from last season with the Rampage by 5 points. Although he has four more goals than last year, he has 9 fewer assists. He also is -27 (-6 last year) and has 92 PIM up 20 minutes from last year. Kostin plays on the edge every night and sometimes that translates into silly retaliatory penalties, however, he appears to be trending in the right direction. He has been making better decisions regarding his physicality and has earned points in four of his past ten games. Kostin has also scored two goals in his past two games, including the game-tying goal on Saturday night. The 6’3″ forward is just 19 years old and still has time to mature and develop.
Nolan Stevens (8G, 8A) has been making steady progress throughout the season and even enjoyed a three-game goal streak back in February and early March. The Brantford, ONT native has taken on a larger role with the team due to injuries and hasn’t looked out of place. Nolan averaged over a point per game for Northeastern University and even captained the team his senior year. Look for him to have a break-out season next year with the Rampage and even potentially earn a call-up or two with the big club.
Austin Poganski (9G, 22A) could be a future leader for this Rampage team. The St. Cloud, MN native led the University of North Dakota his last two seasons wearing the “A” his junior year and the captain’s “C” his senior year. It was at UND where Poganski scored an overtime shootout goal to defeat the University of Minnesota-Duluth (highlights can be seen on youtube; Yes, I watched). Poganski has continued his clutch shootout abilities in San Antonio going 3-for-4 on attempts this year. Although he suffered a season-ending injury recently, Blues fans should be excited to follow his development next year as he competes towards a spot in the bottom half of the St. Louis line-up.
Mitch Reinke (11G, 31A) has already set the points record for a Rampage rookie defenseman. With 42 points and six games remaining, he still has the potential to break the points record for any Rampage defenseman which stands at 49. The undrafted rookie out of Stillwater, MN could be a boost to the Blues powerplay in the playoffs if he is ever inserted into the line-up, with 8 of his 11 goals coming on the man-advantage. I have written about Mitch quite a few times this season and I look forward to seeing if his defensive game can match his offensive production.
Another defenseman to watch for is the 6’4” Kiiminki, Finland native Niko Mikkola (1G, 7A). While he isn’t going to light up the scoreboard, neither will his opponents while he’s on the ice. Mikkola plays a very physical game and is not afraid to mix it up with opposing players. He has a long reach and uses it to his advantage in the defensive zone. With Bouwmeester, Gunnarson, and Del Zotto all unrestricted free agents this summer look for Mikkola and Reinke to have a strong camp to make a push for the Blues opening-night roster next year.
Jake Walman (2G, 8A) has been an extremely popular player with Rampage fans due in large part his personality but not necessarily his play. Then Saturday night happened when Walman scored the overtime winner to end San Antonio’s ten-game losing streak. Walman scored just his second goal of the season and while the offensive production is typical of his professional career, it has been in his defensive zone where he has struggled. Posting a -27, Walman just has just never looked great this season and his frustration has shown in his 46 PIM, nearly double his total from last year. The Toronto, ONT native is a great skater, hard-hitter, and has outstanding hands. I wouldn’t give up on his development just yet as this has just been an odd year for many Rampage players this season.
Jordan Binnington (11-4-0, 2.08 GAA, .927 SAV%) stepped up in San Antonio when Husso struggled to start off the year. His hard work finally paid off when he was called up after St. Louis put Chad Johnson on waivers. The Ducks claimed Johnson and Blues fans know how the rest has gone.
Evan Fitzpatrick (2-2-0, 2.77 GAA, .897 SAV%)has gotten more playing time lately as both Husso and Jared Coreau have struggled as starters. He has posted fairly solid numbers as a starter earning his second victory Saturday night, and making 32 saves on 35 shots from a playoff hopeful Manitoba Moose team. Fitzpatrick should earn big minutes next year with Coreau likely moving on as an unrestricted free agent.
Ville Husso (6-17-1, 3.67 GAA, .871 SAV%)has been an interesting and frustrating story this year. Just looking at the numbers, Husso has been awful. Watching the games, however, would tell you a slightly different story. The team tended to play differently in front of Husso, allowing a lot of odd-man plays to develop, often hanging the Helsinki, Finland native out to dry. Husso has also battled injuries this year, likely contributing to his subpar play. He is a restricted free agent this summer and I would think the Blues give him some kind of offer sheet based on his history of stellar play, this year aside.
Potential Near-Future Rampage (All stats from current season)
Joel Hofer – Goalie – Swift Current Broncos (6-21-1, 4.02 GAA, .904 SAV%) Portland Winterhawks (9-8-0, 3.18 GAA, .911 SAV%)
Dominik Bokk – Winger – Växjö Lakers HC (47GP, 8G, 15A – 23P)
Alexi Toropchenko – Right Wing – Guelph Storm (62GP, 17G, 26A – 43P)
Erik Foley – Forward – recovering from an injury sustained during preseason prospect tournament.
Keep An Eye On
Mathias Laferrière – Right Wing – Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (68GP, 28G, 46A – 74P)
Tyler Tucker – Defenseman – Barrie Colts (68GP, 14G, 45A – 59P)
Hugh McGing – Left Wing – Western Michigan University (37GP, 16G, 14A – 30P)
Anton Andersson – Defenseman – Luleå HF J20 (39GP, 13G, 16A – 29P)