ALLEN, Texas – There are many unanswered questions about the 2020-21 ECHL season, but when it comes to the on-ice product general manager Steve Martinson is putting together, a roster that coach Steve Martinson is going to really like.
Martinson wants teams that are big, fast, skilled, finishes their checks, and puts the team first. A combination of guys that carry the water and guys that chop the wood. The one thing Martinson has said consistently since the 2019-20 season was canceled is he will have a more physical team in 2020-21.
“We will have a very entertaining team in 2020-21. We will be more physical without sacrificing any skill. We are going to be a fun team to watch” Martinson has repeatedly said.
Where the Roster Stands Now…
There have been six players announced thus far, but look for another returning player to be announced tomorrow (Tuesday).
Spencer Asuchak – Mr. Allen American spent his franchise-record seventh season with the team in 2019-20. Spencer is the all-time leader in franchise history in games played (349) and goals (102). His 83 playoff games with Allen is also a record to go along with his three championship rings. Spencer will be a co-captain for the upcoming season.
Jared VanWormer – Jared finished his college career at Ferris State University in 2016-17 having scored a total of 25 goals in four seasons and never had a 10-goal season. He is a tenacious worker that never takes a shift off and despite his size lives in the dirty areas of the ice in front of the net and in the corners. He has improved in each of his three pro seasons. In 2019-20, he had 22 goals in 54 games, the best goal production of his pro career. Jared was named the team captain last season and will be a co-captain along with Asuchak in 2020-21.
Josh Lammon – Josh was acquired by the Americans in a trade with Florida just before the start of the 2019-20 season. A smart player who is always in the right position, he was captain of his college team (Mercyhurst) and was voted the best defensive forward in the entire league as a senior. After scoring just one goal in the first three months of the season in Allen, the dam broke on January 18 when Josh had two goals and an assist in a win over Kansas City. Over the next eight games, Josh had 11 points (6G, 5A). Lammon finished the season with 27 points (8G, 11A) but you get the feeling he has just scratched the surface of what he can accomplish.
Les Lancaster – Les got off to a great start last season with 13 points in his first 10 games with the Americans. At the time of his first loan to the AHL back in November, he was leading all ECHL defensemen in scoring. Several ECHL stints limited his time in Allen. He played in 34 games and had 22 assists. Lancaster will undoubtedly get more AHL opportunities in 2020-21 but will be a big contributor during his time in Allen.
Cody Corbett – A six-year pro, Cody was acquired by Allen in a trade with Atlanta in February. He is one of many Allen players that played their junior hockey in the Western Hockey League (WHL). Playing for the Edmonton Oil Kings he was part of two WHL championships and in his last season (2014) the team won the Memorial Cup. Corbett played only 11 games with Allen before the season was cancelled. Look for him to play a bigger role in 2020-21.
Braylon Shmyr – Braylon returns to Allen after finishing the 2019-20 season playing in England. As a rookie in 2018-19, Braylon had 44 points (20G, 24A) for Allen in 64 games. A strong skater, if Shmyr can improve his defensive play and look to make plays on offense by utilizing his teammates more, he will be a great addition to the Americans.
The Iowa Factor
– The other big part of the Allen roster for 2020-21 will be the players signed to NHL/AHL deals by the Wild that are assigned to Allen. Martinson has developed a great relationship with the Wild that has improved each season and will be a big help as players are assigned to Allen. While the Iowa Wild did take three defensemen that Martinson recruited last season (Josh Atkinson, Matt Register, Turner Ottenbreit,) the Americans were also assigned from the Wild the ECHL Defenseman of the Year (Alex Breton), the ECHL top goal scorer among defensemen (Stepan Falkovsky) and the Allen Americans team leader in plus/minus (Jack Sadek). The trend in the ECHL is having more NHL/AHL contracted players assigned to ECHL affiliates and Allen will be a part of this trend in 2020-21.
– While you never know what players will be assigned to Allen in 2020-21, the story below certainly provides some possibilities. Note Martinson’s quote about Jesse Mychan who Allen fans will remember from his time with the Colorado Eagles:
“He is a hard-nosed tough goal scorer who hits like a truck. He is the kind of player that opposing defensemen don’t like to play against.”
Martinson has been recruiting rookies that just finished their junior career in Canada. These are players that have AHL capabilities but have not secured an AHL deal because of the unusual situation this season. Martinson has shared with me he has recently come to terms with two of these rookies, a forward and a defenseman. Both are very skilled and also physical players.
– There are a lot of players that were under contract with Iowa last season that are still unsigned. Tyler Sheehy, Jack Sadek, Alex Breton, Olivier Archambault, Stepan Falkovsky were mainstays in Allen as they all played more than 45 games with the Americans. It is hard to believe Iowa isn’t trying to sign Sheehy, the ECHL Rookie of the Year and MVP runner-up.
– Nick Boka, who was under contract with Iowa last season and had his season ended when he broke his leg in January has signed with the Fort Wayne Komets where he will play with his brother, Luke.
– There was more hope than normal that Chad Costello would not return to Germany for the 2020-21 season and would sign with Allen. Looks like Allen fans will be disappointed again as eliteprospects.com has under “rumors” on their website that Chad is going to the Iserlohn Roosters, which is the team he played for when he first went to Germany in 2017-18.
What to Watch For:
– Without a doubt, the question I get asked most frequently is when will the season start? The official ECHL answer is “no decision has been made” and many teams are still advertising an October start date. The conventional wisdom, however, is the season will be delayed.
Here are five storylines I will be watching over the next few days, weeks and months:
1. When will the ECHL season begin?
2. What impact will COVID-19 have on home games once the season starts?
3. Will the Allen Americans be sold?
4. Will Steve Martinson, who is in the last year of his contract, get a contract extension?
5. Will the Minnesota Wild move their ECHL affiliate to Iowa City (Coralville) if a new ECHL franchise is established there?
Did You Know?
Steve Martinson’s regular-season record since joining the Allen Americans in 2012-13 is a lofty 316-179-34-25 which is a winning percentage of .624. Over his 24 seasons as a coach, Martinson has 1043 wins, second-most all-time in professional hockey in North America.
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