6 Chicago Wolves to keep an eye on this season
Last season was a special one for the Chicago Wolves.
After watching players get called up at various times by the Vegas Golden Knights, others leave at the NHL trade deadline and plenty of others go down with injuries, the Wolves persevered and made an impressive run to the Calder Cup Finals.
They didn't quite clear that last hurdle -- falling 4 games to 1 to Charlotte -- but coach Rocky Thompson's squad came together at the right time and gave Chicagoans playoff hockey to savor for more than two months.
With the season opener at 7 p.m. Saturday against Grand Rapids at the Allstate Arena, here is a look at six players to keep an eye on during the 2019-20 campaign.
Forward Keegan Kolesar
Drafted in the third round by Columbus in 2015, Kolesar can do a bit of everything. The 22-year-old scored 20 goals for the Wolves in 2018-19 and added 6 more in the playoffs.
The 6-foot-2, 223-pound Manitoba native has a sense of humor in addition to skill.
From last May: "My first NHL preseason action came against St. Louis. I played against Vladimir Tarasenko and Alex Pietrangelo. It was terrifying."
Another: "My mom wanted me to play football or baseball. I don't think she really enjoyed being in an arena too much. It was too cold for her."
One scout said he likes how Kolesar is developing and could see him carving out a role in the NHL.
Forward Curtis McKenzie
Now 28, McKenzie might have a difficult time making it back to the NHL. But that doesn't mean he can't play the role of mentor, which he did with aplomb last season.
"He's made long runs (in the Calder Cup playoffs) multiple times," T.J. Tynan said last spring. "I don't think that's a coincidence. Even when pucks weren't going in, he was still great in the room. He's a great leader."
McKenzie appeared in 99 games with the Dallas Stars from 2014-18 and won a Calder Cup with Texas in 2014. He scored 20 goals last season and added 8 more in the playoffs.
Defenseman Dylan Coghlan
The undrafted 21-year-old poured in 10 power-play goals last season and finished with 15 overall. He's one of the top prospects in Vegas' system and should play a huge role for the Wolves.
"He can sling the puck and that's going to take him to the next level for sure," McKenzie said.
Coghlan suffered a gruesome injury in April when he took a puck to the jaw. It kept him out until Game 5 of the Western Conference final.
"My teeth were all crooked," Coghlan said. "I didn't really know what was going on. It was one of those moments where you black out and you don't remember a lot."
Defenseman Zach Whitecloud
Whitecloud was a staple on the Wolves' blue line last season, scoring 6 goals and leading the AHL with a plus-39 rating as a rookie. The undrafted Manitoba native is in the top pairing and could see plenty of action in Vegas as well as Chicago. He's currently week-to-week after suffering an injury in a preseason game.
Forward Gage Quinney
The undrafted Las Vegas native should center one of the top two lines. He's fast and has a nose for finding the right places to score. The 24-year-old notched 19 goals last season and finished just behind Whitecloud with a plus-36 rating. He scored twice in Game 2 of the Calder Cup Finals.
Goalie Oscar Dansk
Dansk has plenty of competition in net with Vegas trading for Garret Sparks, the 2017-18 AHL goaltender of the year. Dansk, a second-round pick in 2012 by Columbus, has been impressive in two seasons in Chicago. He's 40-12-11 with a .914 save percentage and 2.45 goals-against average.