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Not too soon to take a peek at what this team will look like next season

2018-19 has been the season the franchise has been setting its sights on for some time
Saxon on the Storm with Tony Saxon

Too soon? Don’t think so.

For the past two and a half years any decision made in Stormland has been about building for next season. That’s the year a pretty good core peaks as 19-year-olds and the year the team expects to contend, at least for a Western Conference title.

So it only makes sense to take a look at what next season looks like, at least from eight months away.

In goal, the team appears set. They showed faith in Anthony Popovich early and he has been good. Not great. But good. The goals against isn’t in the top 10 in the league, but the save percentage just makes it.

It’s a consistency thing with Popovich. He’s got the skill. He’s got the disposition. He just needs to perform at the top level on a more consistent basis.

But believing you have a winning goaltender takes a lot of pressure off the general manager as he starts to assess his assets and where they need to be spent.

On defence, the Storm should return Dmitri Samorukov, Ryan Merkley, Owen Lalonde and Mark Woolley and none of them are likely going anywhere. Anthony Aguanno from the 2017 draft is also signed.

One of the biggest challenges moving forward will be finding two overage defencemen for next season. In fact it might be the biggest decision facing the team in the off season.

The forward group remains a bit of a conundrum. They only lose James McEwan to graduation and the team will have to decide whether to bring Zach Poirier back as an overager. One of several forwards having disappointing seasons, Poirier is going to have to play much better the last 20 games and in the playoffs to convince people he deserves a spot next year.

The rest of the forward group comes back and there will likely be a draft pick from the first two rounds of the draft to consider.

But just because everyone is eligible to come back doesn’t mean they will.

Alexey Toropchenko, Liam Hawel and Nate Schnarr were all expected to be 20-25 goal scorers this season. Poirier was being counted on for 15 to 20. Realistically, only Schnarr has a chance at hitting that mark.

Does the team believe all those players will be much more productive next season or do they hunt for an upgrade?

And if you're going looking for the right kind of upgrades, the players other teams are going to be asking for in return are named Bertuzzi and Primeau. Guaranteed.

So while on the surface there wouldn’t appear to be much turnover, fact is there will be more, if only in trying to get better.