Thus the Guelph Storm season comes to an end.
Yes, the team is building. Yes, they were young. Yes, they feel they have pieces in place moving forward that will see the team steadily improve. But there remain more questions than answers right now.
Let’s look at some of them:
Will Mike Kelly be back as GM?
The team, and Kelly, doesn’t discuss contracts. Sometimes they don’t discuss them even if one has been signed. But all indications are that Kelly will return, at least on a one-year deal if not longer, next season. He is handling the draft and he has offered Jarrod Skalde the coaching position for next season. You don’t let an outgoing GM choose the coach.
Will Jarrod Skalde be back as coach?
While a contract hasn’t been signed, the team wants him back and Skalde wants to come back. It’s likely more about some details, like length of deal, at this point. But where there’s a will there’s a way and if both want it to happen it almost certainly will.
Who does the Guelph Storm choose first overall in the OHL draft?
There is no clear-cut top pick this year, but four or five who stand a cut above the rest. One or two of those five could be taken off the market when the United States National Team Development Program announces its signings prior to the OHL draft. While a commitment from a player doesn’t exclude them from the draft, or necessarily mean a team won’t take them it almost certainly means they won’t be coming to the OHL next season. Not likely a team will choose someone first overall if they won’t report next season.
I would think Chicago Mission defenceman Bode Wilde or Detroit Compuware forward Blade Jenkins will be at the top of the Storm’s lists. If commitment issues exist, Toronto Jr. Canadiens offensive defenceman Ryan Merkley would likely go number one.
Who plays goal next season?
Unless there is some major kissing and making up over the summer, I find it hard to believe Bradley Van Schubert returns next season. He wasn’t happy with the way he was treated and Skalde wasn’t happy with Van Schubert.
That would mean the Storm likely signs one of its young previously-drafted goaltenders – likely Anthony Popovich or American David Tomeo – then picks up an overage goalie in a trade. There is an outside chance they draft a goalie high, but I think they like the two they picked last year as much as any available in what is reportedly a goalie-weak draft.
What’s the rink lease situation?
The team is currently negotiating a new lease with the city. I’m told it’s not going smoothly. But with the team having little leverage, you assume the lease, which doesn’t expire for another season, will get done. The only real ace-in-the-hole the team has is to pack up and move. But there’s nowhere else to go to and another team would move to Guelph in a heartbeat.
What is the team’s biggest need?
A centre. Nate Schnurr arrives at centre next season, Cedric Ralph is a centre and there’s a chance the number one pick overall is a centre. But they’re all still young and unproven. They need a true number one centre, allowing players like Nick Deakin-Poot and James McEwan to play wing, which they are more suited for.
Will the team be better next season?
Yes, it would be hard not to be. But how much remains to be seen. Being a year older doesn’t always mean a year better. I expect them to challenge for one of the final two playoff spots, but not necessarily make it.
Which players won’t be returning?
Van Schubert and likely one of the team’s older defencemen as they need to make some room and balance out the afe of the blueline. Perhaps move an older defenceman for an experienced centre. The return of Christian Mieritz likely depends on what they can arrange in the Import Draft. Several veterans will be fighting for their jobs.