The Chicago Wolves will open the AHL's Western Conference Finals against the San Diego Gulls at 5 p.m. PT Friday night at Allstate Arena.
Vegas' affiliate was the top dog in the Western Conference during the regular season and is just four wins away from reaching the Calder Cup Final. San Diego, the AHL farm team of the Anaheim Ducks, finished third in the Pacific Division and has worked its way through to the third round of the postseason.
Golden Knights fans will have a few storylines to keep an eye on during the series that point to the past, present and future.
Past: Coaching Connections
Chicago Head Coach Rocky Thompson is in his second year at the helm and has coached the team to strong seasons in each of the two seasons. The Wolves had a record of 44-22-10 this year to earn the top seed in the Western Conference. Gulls bench boss Dallas Eakins led his team to a 36-24-8 record this year in his fourth season as head coach.
During his playing career, Eakins spent time with the Wolves from 1998-99 to 2002-03 and won a Turner Cup title (2000) and a Calder Cup championship (2002). Both Thompson and Eakins played for the Calgary Flames and Florida Panthers during their careers, but never overlapped on either team. Eakins went on to coach the Edmonton Oilers from 2013-2015 where he hired Thompson as an assistant coach ahead of the 2014-15 campaign.
Present: Goaltending Matchup
Chicago's goaltending tandem of Oscar Dansk and Maxime Lagace carried them to the playoffs, but Dansk has stepped up as the go-to goalie as the tournament has progressed. Dansk is 6-3 with a 2.28 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage in his nine starts for the Wolves. Goalie Jeff Glass mans the net for San Diego and has a 2.25 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage through 10 postseason starts.
Future: Top Prospects For Both Sides
The Wolves and the Gulls feature rosters that highlight talented young players acquired in the NHL draft. Cody Glass, Vegas' first selection in the 2017 draft (6th overall), has found his stride with Chicago as he's racked up seven points (4G, 3A) and two game-winning goals through 11 playoff games. Las Vegas native Gage Quinney has posted four points (1G, 3A) through seven games in the postseason.
Chicago's defense is comprised mostly of young players who have stepped into the roles that have been assigned to them. Nic Hague (six points), Zach Whitecloud (six points) and Jake Bischoff (four points) have stood out on the Wolves' blueline during the playoffs.
For San Diego, young forwards have been the catalysts for the team's success in the Calder Cup Playoffs. Anaheim's two first-round picks from 2016, forwards Max Jones and Sam Steel, have been consistent producers for the Gulls during the postseason. Steel (10 points), Jones (four points), and 2018 second-round selection Maxime Comtois (six points) represent a new era of offense for Anaheim.