Sioux Falls Stampede 2016-2017 USHL Season Preview
This should be another exciting season for the Sioux Falls Stampede. This team is two seasons removed from winning the Clark Cup, and is poised to return to the Cup Finals because of a deep roster and the superior coaching of Scott Owens and his staff. There is no reason to think that this team will not be right in the thick of the United States Hockey League (USHL) race once again.
Last year, the Stampede got into the playoffs with a late run that saw them finish fourth in the Western Conference. Overall, Sioux Falls finished 31-25-3-1 (66-points), one-point behind the Waterloo Black Hawks, and seven-points out of first.
Leading the Stampede on offense was winger Parker Tuomie, who netted 30-goals to go along with 24-assists. His 54-points were 11th in the league and his goal total finished seventh overall. Tuomie moves on to the college ranks, but there is still plenty of talent on Sioux Falls that should keep this team in the running this season.
It starts with Jack Becker. The center from Dellwood, MN, has good size (6-0, 197), and has great vision on the ice. He finished with 8-goals and 14-assists in 58-games last season, but with a year in the USHL under his belt and extended playing time he should be a huge contributor.
Lean Bergmann is another second year player that a lot is expected from. The left-winger is a speedster and he has great puck-handling skill. Born in Hemer, Germany, he showed some scoring touch last season (5-G, 7-A, 28-GP), and those numbers look to drastically increase in a full season of action.
Lakeville, MN’s Max Johnson should be a big addition as well. He appeared in just one-game last season, but has good speed. He just turned 18 a few months ago, and with a little more experience he has the potential to be a star in this league.
Any discussion about the Sioux Falls Stampede defense starts with Justin Wells. Wells has the height (6-4), but is a little thin for his frame (174). Expect him to fill out some as he just turned 18 in July. The defenseman is a natural leader on the point, and his shot only looks to improve. He is in his second full season in the league, and was already named one of the USHL’s top NHL prospects.
Two men that are going to be real forces for the Stampede on defense are John St. Ivany and Vitaliy Novytskyy. Both are 6-2, with Novytskyy weighing in at 212 and St. Ivany at 199. Both young men are in their first season in the league, but they show incredible promise. They will clear the way for the Stampede goalies and both men can bring it from the blue-line.
Stefanos Lekkas is gone, so the goaltending chores fall on Mikhail Berdin and Jeremy Swayman. Both are first year players in the USHL, with Berdin coming from Russia and Swayman from Alaska. Berdin was drafted by the Winnipeg Jets in the sixth round this last summer, but don’t be surprised to see Swayman win this job outright.
Scott Owens is one of the best in the league, with nearly 25-years of head coaching experience. He was a proven winner as the head coach at Colorado College, going 324-228-54 in 15-years at the school. He had coached in the league before, leading the Madison Capitals and the Des Moines Buccaneers. He won the Clark Cup in 1999 when the Buccaneers went an impressive 62-12-1.
There is a lot of skill on this team, but it is pretty green. The Sioux Falls Coach is going to have to mold this team quickly if they wish to compete. One area where they are going to need to see a drastic improvement is in the special teams. The Stampede were 14th on the power-play last season (14.2-percent) and 11th in penalty-killing (81.1-percent). If the defensemen progress to the point that they can add even a couple of percentage points to the power-play, the Sioux Falls Stampede will be tough to beat.
The biggest wildcard of all is going to be the goaltending, but Swayman has the right kind of stuff. The first-year player was awesome in the pre-season, posting an impressive 1.21 GAA in three-appearances.
The Tri-City Storm still look to be the class of the Western Conference, but Sioux Falls may not be far behind. Look for a second place finish and another trip to the post-season.
By Robert Pannier
Rob will be covering the Stamped for the Minor League Sports Report this season.