INDIANAPOLIS, IN – The season is all but over in Indy and the Fuel are officially playing spoiler for the remainder of their games. With that being said, that hasn’t stopped roster moves from happening in Indy. As collegiate players finish their seasons, a number of players are signing with teams around the professional hockey ranks. Those players are not only fighting to stay with their respective team but they are also fighting for jobs next season as well.

As the Fuel season has winded down and the roster has been a little bit more consistent than earlier in the season, I began looking at what this team could look like next season.

ECHL critical dates list that In June, the teams are to announce their protected list by the 1st and finalize future considerations trades by the 13th of June. ECHL teams are allowed to protect as many players as they wish provided the players protected meet the guidelines as defined in the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the ECHL and the Professional Hockey Players’ Association.

After the protected lists are announced, teams will begin looking to sign new players for the 2017-18 season and send qualifying offers to players. According to the ECHL, “each team was entitled to reserve the rights to a maximum of eight qualified players. Of the eight qualified players, no more than four could be veterans (260 regular season professional hockey games played as of the start of the upcoming 2017-18 season).”

With all of the CBA and rights talk aside, we will take a look at the potential for the Indy Fuel of 2017-18. Because the season isn’t officially over, we will assume the majority of players on the roster right now will be protected by the Fuel. We will jump to players who I believe should, at the very least, receive qualifying offers from the Fuel.

Forwards:

Josh Shalla (Veteran)
Matt Rupert
Alex Wideman
Michael Neal (Veteran)

Shalla has been a beast for the Fuel since his trade from Wheeling. The guy can put up points and can do it in many different ways. He reminds me of an Anze Kopitar when he’s on the ice. Rupert is one of the most all-around players on the team and can score as well as push his line mates to be better.

Wideman is just a very solid player and an ECHL All-Star. I’d love to see him back in a Fuel uniform but I have a feeling he’ll be looking at the American Hockey League, as he should be. What’s not to love about Neal? In his short, 15-game tenure with the Fuel he has nearly put up a point per game and has been in three fights. Definitely a guy that I’d like to see on the Fuel roster next season.

Defense:

Zach Miskovic (Veteran)
Chris Williams
Brandon Martell
Nick Mattson

On the defensive side of things, it got a little tricky. First of all, Miskovic needs to be in a Fuel uniform next season. He’s adored by the fans and although he’s has a difficult season, he’s taken on the captain role and has shown me that he can continue to hold that role next year. Williams is another fan favorite because he’s not afraid of anybody and will drop the gloves to protect a teammate in an instant. His size gives him the ability to clear the front of the net.

I’ve enjoyed having Martell on the blue line this season. He isn’t a goal scoring defenseman but is a good shut down defenseman in front of the goaltender. Mattson is tough because I can see him looking to sign another AHL contract next season and that could keep him from being in a Fuel jersey again. If I’m an AHL team, I’m giving him a look. If he doesn’t get that look, the Fuel would be smart to sign him again. He’s an assist machine.

You may be wondering why I didn’t list any goaltenders on qualifying offers. I don’t think we will see either goaltender in a Fuel jersey next season. Hildebrand has put up numbers that are good enough for him to get another AHL contract and when it comes to Levine, I think Indy will go in a different direction. If I’m the Fuel, I’m using my Qualifying Offers on the core of my team and worry about goaltending later. Although, having a consistent goaltender has been nice and has made things easier on the back end.

The season may be all but over but that doesn’t mean there isn’t time to start looking toward next season. Whether Bernie John is back next season is questionable in my opinion but a new coach would be smart to keep the same core players from last season.

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