INDIANAPOLIS – The newest head coach of the Indy Fuel, Doug Christiansen, is developing a roster that has never been seen before in Indy. Fuel fans will be watching a younger, faster team comprised of players from the North division that rarely see playing time against players in the Central division.
“I think we’ll definitely be younger,” Christiansen said, who is currently in New York coaching in the 2019 USA Hockey National Player Development Camp. “We’ll ideally be faster. I think that, in some part, comes hand in hand. With the players that are in their early 20s [and] in their first few years professional, [they] were raised and developed in the modern game.”
The upcoming ECHL season will be Christiansen’s second season in the league after coaching the now-defunct Manchester Monarchs to a 39-29-2-2 record in his first season. That Monarchs team would take the eventual Kelly Cup champion Newfoundland Growlers to six games in the second round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs before being defeated.
“There’s no question that there will be players that will come from Manchester to Indy,” Christiansen said. “I think that it’s important that those players come in hungry [and] excited. It’s a really good opportunity for them. It’s a new division for them [with] lots of exciting new challenges. Obviously, when you blend that with players from Indy last year, it makes for a really strong foundation as we go out into the recruiting base.”
A player that could be making a return to Indy is forward Kevin Dufour, who was traded from the Fuel to Manchester in the latter half of last season.
The 26-year-old had 19 goals and 34 points through 46 games with the Fuel last season, before mysteriously being benched by then head coach Bernie John. Shortly after that, Dufour was traded.
In Manchester, Dufour accumulated seven points in 12 regular season games, before lighting the lamp seven times to go along with three assists in 11 playoff games.
The attributes of the Quebec native meet what Christiansen explained as his ideal team: young and fast.
Acquired from the Manchester club in exchange for Dufour was defenseman Eric Schurhamer, who appeared on the Fuel’s season-ending roster. The 25-year-old tallied seven points in 19 games with Indy at the end of last season.
Furthermore, the Fuel’s NHL affiliate, the Chicago Blackhawks, made a trade with the Los Angeles Kings on February 24 that sent forward Matheson Iacopelli to the Kings for forward Spencer Watson. Both players spent time with the Fuel and Monarchs last season.
It will be interesting to see where each player lands up, as Iacopelli was not tendered a qualifying offer by the Kings and Watson is not expected to be qualified by the Blackhawks.
Christiansen, a resident of Chicago, is very excited to get started with the Fuel’s affiliates, the Blackhawks and the Rockford IceHogs.
“I think the Chicago Blackhawks are in a really exciting time to be their affiliate,” Christiansen said. “When a team has won multiple [Stanley] Cups, they are always making plays for now. Last year, they took a big step forward. You can see, they’re looking to add younger players to the organization, whether that’s through free agency or whether that’s through the draft. To get that corps of young players to come through [and] to be able to work with them and develop them is exciting because you know you’re going to get highly motivated, highly talented players. To be able to coach them is a lot of fun.”
It will be interesting to see the combination of players Christiansen brings together from Manchester and the Fuel for the 2019-20 season.
An ECHL team is allowed four veterans on its roster during the season.
The veterans on the Fuel’s season-ending roster include forwards Anthony Collins, Matt Rupert, Ryan Rupert, Logan Nelson, and Olivier Labelle, along with defenseman Zach Miskovic.
The veterans that were on the Monarchs’ roster last year and have not signed a contract elsewhere for the 2019-20 season are defenseman David Kolomatis, the 30-year-old captain of the Monarchs last season, and forward Jack Nevins.
Keep track of all the signings and movement during the 2019 ECHL offseason by visiting our ECHL Transactions page!