CINCINNATI, OH – While we’ve been looking at how the 2016-2017 Cincinnati Cyclones are shaping up with their free agent ECHL contract signings, it’s now time to shift our attention to which NHL/AHL contracted players could be calling the Queen City home this season.
Hockey season is slowly creeping in on us as prospects will report to the Music City for the 2016 Nashville Predators Rookie Camp on September 15th, before hopping on a plane the next day to Coal Springs, Florida, to compete in the annual Prospects Tournament against other NHL/AHL prospects from the Washington Capitals, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Florida Panthers organizations from September 16th-20th.
The group of 22 players scheduled to participate will include some names Cincinnati fans are already familiar with, as well as some names they’ll come to know throughout the course of the 2016-2017 season. They’ll be coached by Milwaukee Admirals Head Coach, Dean Evason, alongside Assistant Coaches, Stan Drulia and Scott Ford, throughout the camp.
The full roster:
|41||Kris Bennett*||Saginaw (OHL)|
|43||Justin Kirkland||Kelowna (WHL)|
|47||Anthony Richard||C.C. Val-d’Or (QMJHL)|
|48||Gabryel Paquin-Boudreau*||Chicoutimi (QMJHL)/Gatineau (QMJHL)|
|49||Tylor Spink*||Colgate (ECAC)/Toledo (ECHL)/Toronto (AHL)|
|50||Vladislav Kamenav||Milwaukee (AHL)|
|54||Mathieu Olivier*||Shawinigan (QMJHL)|
|56||Kevin Fiala||Nashville (NHL)/Milwaukee (AHL)|
|58||Tyson Spink*||Colgate (ECAC)/Toledo (ECHL)|
|61||Shane Walsh*||UMass (A-East)|
|68||Max Gortz||Milwaukee (AHL)/Cincinnati (ECHL)|
|53||Jack Dougherty||Portland (WHL)/Milwaukee (AHL)|
|55||Alexandre Carrier||Gatineau (QMJHL)|
|62||Trevor Murhpy||Milwaukee (AHL)|
|72||Frederic Allard||Chicoutimi (QMJHL)|
|75||Jonathan Diaby||Milwaukee (AHL)/Cincinnati (ECHL)|
|79||Samuel Girard||Shawinigan (QMJHL)|
|84||Teddy Doherty||Boston College (H-East)/Missouri (ECHL)|
|31||Jonas Gunnarsson||Malmo (SHL)|
|37||Zachary Sawchenko*||Moose Jaw (WHL)|
|74||Juuse Saros||Milwaukee (AHL|
NOTE: * = Attending camp on a tryout – is under AHL contract with Milwaukee
Starting with the names Cincinnati fans already know and are guaranteed to see again, have to say it is tremendous to see Eric Robinson back on the ice and back in the fold. For those who don’t know or don’t remember, Robinson only played in a handful of games between Cincinnati and Milwaukee early on last season and was on pace to be one of the ECHL’s top rookies this past season. Things took an unfortunate turn around Thanksgiving when he went down with a leg injury during a game in Fort Wayne that put him on crutches for the rest of the season.
The good news is that it sure sounds like Eric hasn’t missed a beat and is coming in with the right attitude and mindset. I was talking with our good friend Daniel Lavender, the man behind Admirals Roundtable up in Milwaukee, and he says Eric is back in shape, ready to put last season behind him and is looking forward to a fresh start this season.
Another already known name around the Queen City that you’ll see again in the fall is Jonathan Diaby. He spent the bulk of last season in the ECHL with the Cyclones, but did get a handful of ice time in the AHL with Milwaukee. His season can be described as “rocky” at best. There were times he just looked flat out uncomfortable on the ice which led to some frustrating turnovers and in some cases, a goal against. However, things could be looking up for him. Under the guidance of a guy like coach Patrick Wellar, who will primarily be handling the defense this season, a new voice could be just what needs to gain some confidence in himself and have a solid bounce-back season.
Other known names that will be back in Cincinnati that won’t be attending rookie camp include goaltender Brandon Whitney, and forward Jaynen Rissling. Both have one year left on their contracts within the Predators organization, and will probably both finish them out in Cincinnati. It wouldn’t surprise me if neither get renewals for the 2017-2018 season.
Whitney was in the same boat as Diaby and at times just did not look comfortable out there. Slow reactions to shots and had a tendency to give up a ton of rebounds. I hate to harp on the guy but when a third string goalie, fresh off a waiver claim, comes in and steals a seemingly guaranteed starting gig right from under you, putting you on the bench for the entire second half of the bench… that’s not good. I’m interested to see if he’s of the same mindset Robinson is in putting last season behind him and getting that fresh start this season, and has done the training over the off-season to improve upon those weak areas.
For Rissling, it’s just a matter of staying healthy. Both of the past two seasons for Jaynen have been cut short due to injuries, only appearing in ten games during the 2015-2016 campaign. Cincinnati was home of the walking wounded when it came to AHL send-downs last year, with Diaby, Rissling, and Robinson all going down with injuries at one point or another. If they can keep everyone healthy, this could turn out to be a pretty fun season.
Now, you may have been asking yourself about two names in particular that Cincinnati fans have to come to love the past couple years that I’ve been blatantly ignoring this entire time. Forward Joe Pendenza, and defenseman Garrett Noonan were both huge offensive threats for the Cyclones with the time they spent in the ECHL. Both of their contracts expired after the conclusion of the 2015-16 season. Neither received extensions, which is unfortunate because both had talent, but the numbers game with players above them in the system kept them down. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of either of them following the footsteps of Zach Budish and signing an ECHL contract with the Cyclones after not getting an extension from the Predators/Admirals. Either would play huge roles in Cincinnati, and I’m sure the coaching staff would be thrilled to have either of them back in the Queen City as ECHL property.
Now, onto the new names. Both rookies Teddy Doherty and Shane Walsh are certain to be ECHL bound at the start of the season.
Doherty just wrapped up a four-year collegiate career at Boston College, where he was named team captain his senior year. Appears to be another Noonan-style player with some offensive flair to his defensive game. In those four years, he totaled (beware, I have to do math here) 80 points (22 goals, 58 assists) in 144 appearances, in addition to being on the plus side of the plus/minus rating in all four seasons. He made his professional debut last season, appearing in one lone game with the Missouri Mavericks.
Walsh just recently wrapped up his collegiate career as well at UMass (Amherst). In 133 NCAA contests throughout his four-year career, he racked up 67 points (36 goals, 31 assists) during that time.
Now, for the probably the most entertaining subject of the off-season, the goaltending. The Cyclones already know Whitney will be sent down. But the question of a second AHL contracted goaltender being sent to Cincinnati comes up; with Marek Mazanec most likely winning the role of Pekka Rinne‘s back-up in Nashville, making Juuse Saros the top dog in Milwaukee. Competition heats up to be Saros’ back-up. That battle will be between rookie Jonas Gunnarsson, in his first season in the United States, and Mark Visentin. The winner of that battle will mostly come down to whoever has a better training camp, with the lesser of the two being assigned to Cincinnati.
Well, guess what… the possibility of a THIRD AHL contracted goaltender being sent to Cincinnati has come into play. Another rookie goaltender in Zachary Sawchenko, who is also attending the Preds rookie camp has come into question. He also attended the Preds development camp over the summer, which isn’t any freebie. If he decided to make the move to the professional game, while factoring in the ECHL contracted goalies through the Cyclones in Steve Racine and Joel Rumpel, that would put five goalies in Cincinnati’s training camp.
Keep in mind, Sawchenko going pro is highly unlikely as he’ll most likely return to his WHL juniors team in Moose Jaw, but the mere mental image of three pieces of Milwaukee goaltending property being in Cincinnati is very amusing.
Needless to say, expect four goalies to be in Cincinnati come October 1st, when training camp opens with either Racine or Rumpel not making it past the first round of cuts to make room for the two AHL contracted goalies. My guess is Racine will be the odd-man out as it would appear Rumpel is the early favorite to be the starting goalie out of the gate for the Cyclones.
And finally, we move on to the uncertainties where it seems only time will tell where they land.
There was a certain twin duo that came fresh out of Colgate University and made an instant impact on the Toledo Walleye late last season that have signed AHL contracts with Milwaukee in Tylor and Tyson Spink. Tyson potting four points (two goals, two assists) in five games with the Walleye, while Tylor put up nine points (two goals, seven assists) in seven games in Toledo, including an AHL call-up to the Toronto Marlies, appearing in two games.
Obviously, the fans and coaching staff would LOVE to have the Spink twins in Cincinnati, however, there’s one “small” problem preventing that from happening. Toledo gave qualifying offers to both of the twins, and with their non-veteran status, their ECHL rights belong to the Walleye for the 16-17 season. So, unless a “Milwaukee influenced” trade occurs to have their ECHL rights shipped to Cincinnati, they’ll go to Toledo if they’re sent down.
If a trade were to happen, it wouldn’t be cheap. The Cyclones would have to write a pretty hefty cheque to get Toledo to part with the twins, regardless of how much influence there is from the Admirals.
Finally, there’s also potential for either Stefan Elliot or Petter Granberg to fall from the Predators to Milwaukee, stacking the Admirals defensively. The pure numbers game could push either Jack Dougherty or Alexandre Carrier to Cincinnati.
Dougherty is a mix of Noonan and Tommy Mele. An offensively minded defenseman with a touch of physicality to his game. He spent the bulk of last season in the WHL with the Portland Winterhawks, putting up 52 points (11 goals, 41 assists) and 71 penalty minutes in the process of 68 games before making his professional debut with Milwaukee late in the year, skating in three games. He was also teammates with Rumpel at the University of Wisconsin during the 2014-2015 season.
It’s pretty much the same story with Carrier when it to comes to offense and physicality on the back-end except with a pinch of Andrew Yogan‘s playmaking abilities. Throughout a four-year junior career in the QMJHL with the Gatineau Olympiques, he posted 137 points (29 goals, 108 assists) as well as 171 penalty minutes in 242 games. In addition to being an alternate captain his last three years in the WHL, Carrier has also competed at the National stage in the World Juniors with Team Canada’s U-18 team during the 2013-2014 season.