The Reboot of Hunter Miska

Coming out of Minnesota-Duluth, there were high hopes for Hunter Miska. Sure, he only put in one season, but got the Bulldogs to the final of the National Championship, was the most outstanding goaltender in the NCAA, and looked to be on a solid collision course with success in the pros; especially since he signed with the Arizona Coyotes— who probably was looking for a young, hungry talent to be the new franchise goalie.

Then…something just didn’t click. While he did have a stellar rookie season with the Tucson Roadrunners (22-9-0), his sophomore season wasn’t all it was cracked up to be with a 10-8-4 record, coupled with a 3.08 GAA and .889 save percentage. Because of that– he wasn’t tendered and became an unrestricted free agent. He caught on with the Colorado Eagles for the 2019-20 season, but how did he get there from a promising outlook out of his one year in the NCAA??

Maybe it was just that– only one year in college when he should have taken another year or two more in order to get his game a little more honed before jumping– but can’t blame someone for wanting to get paid for their job. That first year looked promising as many players didn’t have tape on him to figure him out, but obviously the fate was changed in year two while Adin Hill and Merrick Madsen passed him by on the depth chart.

An upside for Miska is that he has a winning pedigree. Before his time at Duluth where he help lead them to the National Title game, he was a big part of the Penticton Vees BCHL title in 2015, while also being named top goalie in the league that year. Following that, he went to the USHL and helped Dubuque get to the Clark Cup Finals in 2016, though he and the Fighting Saints came up short.

With a new team and a new reset on his career at a young age, it could be crunch time for Miska, especially since he’s only under an AHL contract and the Avalanche do have a bit of goaltending depth coming up. He’ll be teamed up with Adam Werner, who will be coming over from Sweden for his first North American season– which could be a bit of an opening for Miska to get playing time should Werner struggle getting adjusted to the North American style.

You just hope that for Miska’s sake– the risk he took coming out of the college early didn’t stunt his progression moving onward in his career.

Minor League Weekly: Utica Heating Up, Joe Cox Making His Mark, Final SPHL Spot Shuffling

AHL

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Photo by Lindsay A. Mogle / Utica Comets Facebook

-Heading into hosting the All-Star Game, the Utica Comets are amongst one of the hottest teams in the league with points in nine of their last 10 games (7-1-1-1) and four-straight wins. Even with leading scorer Reid Boucher (20g, 17a) on the shuttle from Utica to Vancouver, the Comets are still fighting in the playoff hunt. Thatcher Demko has continued to improve in the system with the Comets (16-7-5, 2.28 GAA, .929Sv%), but will need a lot of goal support to help. Despite Boucher’s 20, no other comment is in double-digits for goals. To keep their hot streak alive and hope to get a playoff berth, something will need to be done offensively to help Utica out.

-While things aren’t going great in Glendale, the Tucson Roadrunners are giving Coyotes’ fans some hope of what’s to come, mostly due to rookies Dylan Strome and Nick Merkley, who have commanded the offense for the Roadrunners in the first half of the season. While veterans Michael Bunting and Mike Sislo have helped out, the youth is being quite served– especially with Hunter Miska leading the team in wins (12-3-0), but his GAA (2.98) and save percentage (.898) leave much to be desired.

ECHL

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Photo by Florida Everblades Facebook

-One player that could be lost in the Florida Everblades season could be the second-half play, thus far, of rookie Joe Cox. The Michigan State product is on a seven-game point streak (3g, 10a) and has provided a much needed punch for the secondary scoring for the Everblades already dynamic offense. It just goes to show the time it takes players to develop, as Cox’s best season before this was in the USHL when he had 20 goals and 20 assists for the Muskegon Lumberjacks, while his junior year at MSU was his most productive with 11 goals and 23 points in 35 games. Around an All-Star line-up as he is, the protection could allow Cox to flourish throughout the rest of the season and into the playoffs.

-At the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference, the Wheeling Nailers have gotten a lot of their offensive from their first-year players. While Cody Wydo continues to be a constant, the emergence of Reid Gardner has been a welcome for the Nailers. Gardner leads the teams in goals with 21 and power-play goals with six. Couple that with another rookie in Cam Brown leading the team with 39 points (12g, 27a), the Nailers continue to churn out talent for the Penguins organization. The offensive will need to be strong, as the by-committee goaltending has a combined 3.14 GAA on the year.

SPHL

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-The race for the eighth-seed is still hot and heavy between a second-year Roanoke team who changed coaches to change fortune, the rebranded Fayetteville Marksman with one of the top players in the league in Jake Hauswirth on the team, while the expansion Birmingham Bulls are only three points out and have Mavric Parks being second in the league in minutes played and 7th in the league in save percentage (.911) despite a 3.32 GAA. When it comes to this playoff format, too, it should be interesting to see if the traditional 1st vs. 8th seed get picked because who knows how the top seed will look at these teams, who are already in playoff mode as it is.