ALLEN, Texas – When the 2019-20 season ended, the Allen Americans were on cruise control, poised for a deep run into the Kelly Cup playoffs and potentially, the franchise’s third ECHL championship. The pandemic didn’t slow down head coach Steve Martinson, who aggressively recruited another good crop of players.
The Roster and Stats
Allen will start the season with two goalies, seven defensemen, and 16 forwards. Here is the list in the jersey order number. In parenthesis is the type of contract the players are on, where they played last season, and their age. Those marked with * are rookies and those marked with ** are veterans:
#31 – C.J. Motte (ECHL, Coventry Blaze, USA, 28)
#34 – Zach Sawchenko (AHL, San Jose Barracuda, CAN, 22)
#4 – Turner Ottenbreit (ECHL, Iowa Wild, CAN, 23)
#5 – Phil Beaulieu* (AHL, Northern Michigan University, USA, 25)
#14 – Les Lancaster (ECHL, Stockton Heat, USA, 25)
#20 – Ben Carroll* (ECHL, Allen Americans, CAN, 25)
#23 – Cole Fraser (ECHL, Allen Americans, CAN, 21)
#25 – Nolan Kneen* (ECHL, Saskatoon Blades, CAN, 21)
#43 – Matt Register** (AHL, Iowa Wild, CAN, 31)
#8 – Joe Garreffa* (AHL, Ottawa 67’s, CAN, 21)
#9 – Braylon Shmyr (ECHL, Guildford Flames, CAN, 23)
#10 – Corey Durocher (ECHL, Allen Americans, CAN, 28)
#11 – Kam Kielly* (AHL, University of Prince Edward Island, 23)
#15 – Corey Mackin (ECHL, Reading Royals, USA, 25)
#17 – Jared VanWormer (ECHL, Allen Americans, USA, 28)
#18 – Jake McGrew* (NHL, Spokane Chiefs, USA, 21)
#19 – Alex Lavoie (ECHL, Frisk Asker, CAN, 28)
#22 – Tyler Sheehy (AHL, Allen Americans, USA, 25)
#26 – Spencer Asuchak** (ECHL, Allen Americans, CAN, 29)
#27 – Sam Laberge (ECHL, Sorel-Tracy Eperviers, CAN, 23)
#29 – Jesse Mychan (AHL, Esbjerg Energy, CAN, 28)
#40 – Josh Lammon (ECHL, Allen Americans, USA, 25)
#44 – Zane Franklin* (ECHL, Kamloops Blazers, CAN, 21)
#71 – Dyson Stevenson** (ECHL, Utica Comets, CAN, 27)
– Spencer Asuchak and Jared VanWormer will wear the “C” as co-captains this season but there are many players that have been captains in the past. Not sure this is a complete list but here are the players I found that were captains in junior, college, or pro. Dyson Stevenson, Phil Beaulieu, Zane Franklin, Kameron Kielly, Samuel Laberge, Josh Lammon, Turner Ottenbreit, and Tyler Sheehy. Another four or five players have worn an “A” in the past.
– There are seven rookies on the opening day roster and just three veterans but if you look at total professional games played it tells a slightly different story. Since just seven pro leagues in Europe count toward the 260 games before a player is designated as a vet the pro experience can be deceiving. Here are the five players with more than 300 professional games played when all pro leagues are included:
479 – Matt Register*
418 – Spencer Asuchak*
408 – Alex Lavoie
346 – Jesse Mychan
321 – Dyson Stevenson*
*meet ECHL definition of veteran
– Of the 17 non-rookies on the roster 13 have played in the AHL for a total of 365 games. Here are the players with 30+ AHL games played:
60 – Spencer Asuchak
42 – Dyson Stevenson
41 – Matt Register
33 – Turner Ottenbreit
31 – Sam Laberge
– Allen will start the season as one of the youngest teams in the league with an average age of 25. Only two teams (Wheeling and Orlando) are younger. The Americans average 190 pounds which is in the middle of the average of all of the teams.
– Winning breeds winning and knowing how to win championships is a key to success. There 18 players on the roster who have won championships in junior, college, or pro hockey. Four players (Asuchak, Lavoie, Register, Stevenson) have won championships in Allen.
– Knowing how to win championships is exemplified by Martinson and his value to this team cannot be overstated. His 10 championships as a coach including four straight in Allen tells you all you need to know. Martinson enters the 2020-21 season with 1043 wins as a pro coach which is second all-time trailing only Scotty Bowman with 1244.
The Makeup of the Team
The team toughness starts with the acquisition of Dyson Stevenson who returns to Allen after three seasons elsewhere. Someday, the story of how Stevenson ended up with the Wichita Thunder will be told but let me just say Stevenson is one of coach Martinson’s all-time favorite players. Dyson is a more mature player on his return to Allen having served as captain in Wichita for two seasons and spending the entire season in 2019-20 in the AHL with the Utica Comets. He will bring leadership and toughness to this team and will be asked to play in all situations. Dyson spent just three seasons in Allen but is ranked fifth all-time in playoff games played (55), third in playoff penalty minutes (84), and tenth in playoff points (17) to go along with two Kelly Cup rings. Championship playoff experience that Stevenson brings to the table will be invaluable on the ice and in the locker room.
– Jesse Mychan is that rare player that brings skill and toughness to the table. He has led his league in both goals and penalty minutes during his career. Turner Ottenbreit, Sam Laberge, Zane Franklin, Cole Fraser, Kam Kielly, and Nolan Kneen all add to team toughness. Martinson often says sometimes you have a lion and sometimes you have a pack of wolves. I would describe Allen as a pack of wolves this season. However, waiting in the wings is a lion, Jake Doty. Allen still holds Doty’s ECHL rights even though he is under contract with Ontario (AHL). There is a chance you could see Doty in Allen. The bottom line is the Americans will be a tougher team in 2020-21. Allen finished an all-time low 18th in penalty minutes last season. Look for Allen to be much closer to first this season.
– It is hard to tell the personality of a team based on a few days of training camp given some players still haven’t practiced with the team but it is clear this team is one with both talent and character. With few ECHL jobs available because of so many teams opting out this will be the deepest Allen team ever. Allen will have top-line players on all four lines that can score but will also be responsible on defense. This team will be better defensively because it will have more two way players. Allen’s style of play is such that they will never contend for the fewest goals allowed but you can expect an improvement from the last three seasons when Allen allowed an average of 3.15, 3.74, and 3.22 goals per game.
– Last season, Allen’s power play was ranked ninth (18.5%) and the penalty kill was ranked 15th (81.4%). Once Tyler Sheehy started playing the wall on the power play, it was much improved. While it will always be true if one power play group is hot, they will get more ice time, you can expect power play time to be spread among more players this season. Alex Lavoie, Zane Franklin, Joe Garreffa, Kam Kielly, and Corey Mackin all have experience running the power play. And you can’t get any better than Matt Register on the point on the power play.
– Depth will also be the key on the penalty kill. There will be players on all four lines that kill penalties and have killed penalties in the past. Having enough players that know how to kill penalties is something that hasn’t always been the case in the past. This season you won’t have to wear out the same guys because of the lack of good penalty killers. Again, the depth of the team comes through.
– You can’t have a good team without good goaltending and the Americans will start the season with two solid goalies in C.J. Motte and Zach Zawchenko.
Motte is a former ECHL all-star who was a finalist for the NCAA top collegiate player (Hobey Baker Award) in 2013-14 when he played for Ferris State University. After the 2018-19 season in Allen, he went to Europe (Austria & England) to play. He finished last season with the Coventry Blaze in the EIHL and had the best save percentage in the league (.927).
As a rookie, Zach Sawchenko was assigned to Allen by the San Jose Barracuda (AHL) last November. He played 13 games in Allen before being recalled by San Jose and was with the Barracuda the rest of the season. In the two months Zach was in Allen, he was one of the best goalies in the league. He finished with a record of 8-2-2-1, a GAA of 2.35, and a save percentage of .930.
– There are a lot of familiar faces on the roster with 15 players who have played with Allen in the past. Bringing back proven top-end players from the past like Dyson Stevenson, Alex Lavoie, and Matt Register, who have won championships, has been a proven formula for Martinson in the past and they will be difference-makers this season.
– One question that remains to be answered that will go a long way in determining how good this team will be is the performance of the seven rookies. They all have great pedigrees in juniors and college but that doesn’t always transfer to the pros. If the rookies can play like Tyler Sheehy, Jack Sadek, Josh Lammon and Les Lancaster played as rookies last season, Allen will have another great team.
– The other unknown going into the season is the impact on the Allen roster when the NHL and AHL start playing which is tentatively scheduled for January 13 (NHL) and February 5 (AHL). While it is a given there are a lot of players competing for AHL jobs, the impact on Allen could fall into two categories. First, will any of the eight NHL/AHL contracted players already assigned to Allen be recalled. Second, how many of the players on the Americans roster, who are free agents for AHL jobs, will be recruited and signed by AHL teams. There is no doubt Allen has many players that could play in the AHL if given the chance. It will most likely come down to a lot of supply and not as much demand.
COVID & the ECHL
– Finally, you can’t do a season preview without acknowledging the impact of COVID-19, and there are so many storylines to follow. Will any of the 13 teams committed to playing the full season have to drop out because attendance restrictions get reduced to a point they can’t continue? How many games will get postponed or canceled because of COVID outbreaks in locker rooms? Will Toledo and Fort Wayne play or opt-out in February? Will fans get the coronavirus at games. These are all issues that could dramatically change the season. The hope would be everything can be held in check and the vaccine will be widely available by the end of March and by playoff time (June) things can be closer to normal with full attendance. One can only hope.
For all things Allen Americans, follow Barry Janssen on Twitter @AllenAmericans1. For the latest stats and trends in the ECHL, follow @ECHLStats. And for the latest news on your favorite AHL & ECHL team, “Like” The Sin Bin on Facebook!