After an AHL season that began ten months ago, the league is finally getting back on track with games beginning on Friday, February 5. The Wolves are also starting again, but not just in a season change.

The Wolves and Golden Knights severed their affiliation agreement after Vegas purchased the San Antonio Rampage and moved it to Henderson, Nevada, to serve as affiliates of the AHL Knights. After months of research, the Wolves and Carolina Hurricanes agreed to enter into a partnership beginning with the 2021 season.

Another NHL subsidiary adds to the crazy differences this season. When the AHL season was announced, three teams (the Milwaukee Admirals, Springfield Thunderbirds and Charlotte Checkers) decided not to participate in the 2021 AHL season. As a result, the Nashville Predators, the Florida Panthers and the St. Louis Blues will no longer have an AHL affiliate due to a shortened season.

The Wolves have also partnered with Nashville to bring back AHL players who otherwise would have ended up in Milwaukee this season.

Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky will compete in the Calder Cup in 2019. Warsofsky was the assistant coach of the women’s team that defeated the Wolves in the 2019 Calder Cup final. The following season, he was named head coach of the women’s team.
Photo: Chicago Wolves

Prior to the season opener on Friday, coach Ryan Warsofsky spoke to the media on Monday about the team and the upcoming season. According to the coach’s comments, there will be plenty of intrigue to follow leading up to the Wolves’ 2021 season. Let’s get to the heart of the matter.

Here’s what the team looks like

Coach Warsofsky spoke about the team’s form this season, emphasizing the unique structure of the team. This season’s team is made up of experienced AHL players, complemented by outstanding young talent. The press conference highlighted players like Seth Jarvis, Ryan Suzuki and Dominic Bock and their roles with the club this season.

“They are thrown right into the fire,” said Coach Warshawski in reference to the aforementioned young stars. The team is focused on growing these youngsters who, under normal circumstances, would not be with the Wolves. If the WHL and OHL were playing at this time, Jarvis and Suzuki would be in their youth leagues. However, the pandemic presents a unique opportunity for these players.

They learn the rhythm of the game at the professional level much earlier, albeit in the minor leagues. Coach Warsofsky also spoke about creating a culture of winning not only within the Wolves franchise, but also among these players. Having two former first-round winners receive such training so early in their careers can only be beneficial to their growth and development.

As for the rest of the team, the veterans will be a big help. When asked what role the veterans will play, Warsofsky replied, “I will consult with team management in the next few days,” showing how important they will be this season. Not only do the veterans play a big role in the win column, but they are also mentors to the youngsters. “They are very important.” Warsofsky’s notes. “What comes to mind is Tyler Levington, who has helped Ryan Suzuki a lot lately, not so much by grabbing him by the shoulder, but in training, you know? Something Ryan needs.”

Warsofsky said he was excited about the team and the depth it has gained this season. Although the Wolves have a lot of players up front, the coaching staff is talented enough to provide a good lineup for every game.

To learn more about the staff that will play for the Wolves this year, see this article here and the official Wolves website.

Team style

Coach Warshawski answered a question at length during his press conference. The question was about the team’s style of play. At the beginning of the press conference, Warshawski said the Wolves would be tough to beat. “It’s a bit of a cliché,” he said, “we want to be tough and have another team that doesn’t want to play against us anymore.

Warsofsky’s style is to get out there, play hard, be a solid defender and stay consistent. The coach believes that if the Wolves can do that this season, they will be very successful. Warsofsky went into the details of the Wolves’ system, which works at the NHL level in Carolina. The coach said he will bring his own touch and flair to the system, but he will teach these guys how to manage a structure that will allow them to continue to function at the highest level.

But ultimately, even though Nashville is sending players to Chicago, it is a Carolina farm team. The advantage for Nashville, however, is the similarity of its top system to the one it will adopt in 2021. Warsofsky believes this will allow Nashville players to get the experience they need without being too different from what they did in Milwaukee.

The main problems

With a pandemic looming, everything seems to become extra complex. From simple teamwork to a player’s life off the ice, every action suddenly becomes an obstacle that could keep a player or the entire team from playing their 30 games.

But while man-to-man contact is a challenge for Warszawski and his team, the real challenges are on the ice. In a much shorter 30-game season, teams can spend six to seven days between games, which is very different from the usual schedule structure of AHL games. Coach Warshawski was asked how this would affect the team and how he would prepare his players for each game.

“We’re going to have to be creative,” Mr. Warsofsky said. “We’ve talked a lot about working with skills…. We’ve talked about doing more competitive things for game situations.” According to Mr. Warsofsky, too much practice becomes very monotonous and can deplete a team’s energy and level of competition. By incorporating new activities into practice, Warsofsky hopes to maintain the competitive nature of the game and prepare his team for the game.

Balancing the players of the two organizations is certainly not easy either. Most members of an AHL team get six or seven scratches on a weeknight when they are with only one NHL affiliate. Add a second and the situation is critical again. Balancing programming each night will be an incredible challenge.

“There are definitely issues, but we take things one day at a time,” Warsofsky said of this. Coach Warsofsky made it clear that these guys need to play as a team, no matter what organization they will be working for. Whether it’s the Predators or the Hurricanes, all of these guys are ultimately working toward the same goals.

What to look out for

The Wolves are on track for a strong season by focusing on player development while building a winning culture and winning several games this season. “Why not 30-0?” – Coach Warsofsky told the media. He and the entire team have high hopes for the Wolves in this shortened 2021 season.

There are many exciting young players to keep an eye on this season. Players like Suzuki, Bock and Jarvis are joined by the Cotton brothers, David and Jason, and by Jamison Reese, the 2019 second round draft pick. Nashville and Caroline AHL veterans are joined by a host of young players.

In addition to the wealth of talent, fans should also be excited about the background of the Carolina/Nashville coaching staff and the Wolves’ players. Both organizations have had great success in the AHL recently, with the most famous example being the Charlotte Ladies who defeated the Wolves in the 2019 Calder Cup Final. Coach Warsofsky and his staff will make sure that the team is a great product on the ice for the fans, with many wins and growth for these young players in the lead.

What should we drink?

The Wolves play their first game of the season on Friday, February 5. Chicago hosts the Grand Rapids Griffins on Friday and will host the same Griffins again on Thursday, February 11 for an afternoon of field hockey. Although not originally scheduled, the Wolves will also host the Ice Hogs on Saturday, February 6.

Notably, the Wolves will not play home games at Allstate Arena this season, but will play at their training facility, the Tryfan Ice Arena in Hoffman Estates. There will be no press or fans in the arena, meaning only necessary game officials will accompany the players during games.

officially covers the Wolves for the 2021 season. Stay tuned for reports and other content about the Wolves during the 30-game season.

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