Jesse Virdee has played in the league several years and is one of the best d-men in the PBHL. He is the only rookie captain of the 10. You would think inexperience = bad drafting, but the stats indicate otherwise (see Sukhman and Banga last year).
With that said, he turned the most heads with his first pick Akash Mehta. Akash puts up points anywhere he goes, any team he plays on and has been rewarded for his consistency with a first round selection. However, this will be a true test for Akash as he will be asked to drive his line against top d-pairings. We anticipate big numbers again.
Centering him will be Mani Sira. Mani is of a dying breed. A hard-nosed two-way player willing to take abuse to get to the front of the net. He is a former playoff MVP and we expect a big year from him. The RW on this line will either by Taj Dhillon or Shaun Atwal, both are young, quick players.
Gagan Khaira will be asked to raise his level this year as the second line C. There is a lot of excitement this year for him. We think he can have a big year. Gurj Sidhu with his simple play and hard fore-check will make his life easier. Harjup Dhillon could be a good fit with this line.
To round out the scoring, we have Parm Thiara, returning to the PBHL after a a few years off. He will be sound defensively, allowing Vineet Kanwar and Terry Bains more space in the offensive zone.
On the back-end Virdee, Kulshaan and Sawan make for a strong core. Vardaan, is versatile as D or F and can smoothly enter into this top 4.
Karanvir Gill, Ram Sidhu, and Rohin Judge are solid. All of them are capable of stymieing the other team’s top lines.
In net we have our IT guy, Guppy Rai. Since Guppy has focused on G (he can also play D) we have seen him take big strides. Virdee, who has seen him play more than other captains is a big believer in G Rai, as are we. He will be called on to make saves and will get the job done. If he doesn’t then the site will be down until he has a rebound game.
Prediction: Pizza 38 makes playoffs.
Vacuums R Us
We didn’t know how Banga would fare as a rookie captain last year. He exceeded all expectations. He drafted a strong, young team that wanted to play for him. Result? He took them to the semis.
This year he went all-in with some of his Kings teammates. Gurp Bhangal has been itching to be thee guy. Some players shy away from the expectations others relish it. He is coming out of camp in the best shape he’s been in. On the other wing will be Karan Dhaliwal. Karan is built like a kabaddi player but has hands and a hefty shot. He and Raj Virdi, a smart play-maker will work very well together. Kal Sahota is starred on every C’s draft sheet, every year for good reason. On his right will be Jason Heer. Jason is quick and can beat guys 1v1. A rare trait in the PBHL. He really turned it on near the end of PBHL last year and he’ll pick up where he left off. Can Banga get these guys to play a two-way game? We’ll find out soon.
This forward class may be the strongest offensively in the league. Navi Sandhu can play top 6 and can center his own line. Rookies Navu Sandhu, Armaan Basi and Rami Johal have quite an opportunity ahead of them. Pirt is the man.
The core of the D is impressive. Banga, Gopi Bansal and Sukhman Gill are guys you can’t beat 1v1. They are smart, agile with good sticks. Inder Sangha and Dipesh Chavda too. But all eyes will be on Sunny Deol. He has always been a good defenceman but rumours have it he reported to camp 40 pounds lighter. He could be the missing piece to the top 4. Sahib Lalli is athletic enough to play any position.
The big Q is Jag Mann. He played good in the Rookie Game but how will he do stopping PBHL veteran snipers? G’s have the most important position, entrusting it to a rookie is a bold move that could make or break their season.
Prediction: Vacuums R Us makes the playoffs.