MOLINE, IL – Barely over a month remains before the start of training camp in the ECHL and questions loom as to who’s going to be playing where, where veterans are going to sign next, and what each team will look like on opening night. For the Quad City Mallards, there’s an additional question: who’s coming down from Vegas?
I don’t expect much in the way of assigned players, to be honest. As I’ve mentioned before, the Vegas Golden Knights are building a team from scratch, and I expect the Chicago Wolves to be doing the same. The Knights have more guys in the system than can fit on one team so that they will be sending the extras to Chicago. The Wolves build a team around those guys – adds a few more players where needed, gets a pair goalies from Vegas, and the roster is set. So far the Wolves have four players signed – Kenney Morrison, Scooter Vaughn, Bryce Gervais, and Tyler Wong.
Marc-Andre Fleury, Calvin Pickard, Maxime Lagace, and Oscar Dansk are the four goalies left on the Vegas roster at the moment, and Fleury and Pickard aren’t going east to Chicago, which leaves Dansk and Lagace, both AHL veterans, to mind the net in Rosemont.
The 24-year-old Lagace split the 2015-16 season between the Idaho Steelheads and the Texas Stars. He then spent the entirety of the 2016-17 season with Texas, playing 32 games with an 88.3% save percentage. Kansas City Mavericks fans might remember Lagace from 2014-15 when he played 15 games for the team. In those starts, he collected a 5-6-3 record, a 3.01 goals against average, a .885 save percentage and registered a shutout.
Dansk was drafted in the second round in 2012 by the Columbus Blue Jackets, staying in the system with a three-year entry level contract. The past two seasons he was in his native Sweden playing for Rogle BK of the Swedish Hockey League, however, where he averaged three goals against last season. Before going home, Dansk split time between the Kalamazoo Wings and Springfield Falcons in 2014-15.
With all that said, I expect a goalie to be sent to the Mallards from Chicago for development, similar to Minnesota sending Adam Vay and Steve Michalek in recent seasons. While not the most ideal prospect for the Mallards, the return of C.J. Motte means that fans can have confidence in who’s manning the pipes if the assigned goalie gets recalled. Motte also has AHL experience, signing PTOs with Iowa, Chicago and the Charlotte Checkers – where he played two games and had a .976% save percentage.
Turning our attention to forwards and defensemen, I don’t think the Knights will affect the Mallards much. There maybe a player or two that could be sent back to the Mallards with a note pinned to their chest saying “please keep your eye on this guy for us,” but nothing like what the Mallards have experienced in the past with several players being assigned by Iowa or Minnesota.
So, I think Phil Axtell is building a solid roster for this season, and laying the groundwork for future seasons, and there won’t be much in the way of outside interference with the team. A few unofficial assignments, and a couple “hey Axtell, what about this fellow for you guys?” from Rocky Thompson and the roster should be put together. I’m excited to see who hits the ice for training camp this season.