As we head into September, player signings continue to dominate recent news across the Southern Professional Hockey League. Next month, we will begin to see which ECHL camps players will attend. Later in this article, I’ll give my top-10 list of players with the best chances of landing a gig in the ECHL. Until then, here are the league’s recent signings…

This week, we begin in Huntsville… the Huntsville Havoc re-sign second-year center John McGinnis for another season with the Havoc. Last season, the rookie put up 42 points (15G/27A) in an impressive pro debut. Also signing with the Havoc are Brown University goalie Tyler Steel (0-2-0, 4.94, .833 last season) and Northern Alberta Institute of Technology forwards Tyler French (15G/19A) & Jordan Wood (12G/23A).

The signings were overshadowed, however, by news of forward Jeremy Beirnes suffering a major lower-body injury which will likely sideline the enforcer for the season. Havoc coach Glenn Detulleo will talk more about the signings and an update on Beirnes’ injury in his Into The Sin Bin podcast debut next week.

We continue in Macon, where the Macon Mayhem announce the signing of goaltender Spencer Finney to their training camp roster. Finney (13-3-2, 2.40, .904 last season) played college at D3 powerhouse SUNY-Plattsburgh, alma mater to league notables Bryan Hince, Eric Satim, Mike Kavanagh, Mike Grace, Connor Toomey, and Anthony Calabrese.

The expansion Evansville Thunderbolts signed a pair of players last week. Defenseman (and author) Bo Driscoll split time between the Havoc and Knoxville Ice Bears, scoring three goals and ten assists last season. Also, rookie netminder Tyler Parks had an impressive season (8-2-1, 1.90, .925) with D3 Adrian (MI) College before deciding to turn pro.

Next, the Fayetteville FireAntz announced the return of second-year pro Tayler Thompson to the team’s training camp roster. Thompson, from Brendenbury, Saskatchewan (Home of the Byczynski boys), scored five goals and 18 assists as a rookie.

In this week’s interview with Knoxville Ice Bears coach Mike Craigen, he mentioned that 80-90 percent of the protected roster is slated to return this season. Craigen inked three returning players last week with Mark Pustin (7G/8A), high-scoring forward Trever Hertz (14G/32A/+11), and Garrett Vermeersch (18G/19A/+9). Look for our interview with Mike Craigen on our Into The Sin Bin podcast.

Defenseman Anthony Calabrese arrived in Pensacola late last season with the Ice Flyers from D3 SUNY-Plattsburgh and was an integral part of the team’s President’s Cup championship run. This season, the “Quarterback,” as coach Kevin Hasselberg describes him, will play his first pro season for the Flyers. Calabrese scored a goal with six assists in the SPHL playoffs, with a +8 plus/minus rating. The rookie blueliner will have a shot at directing Pensacola’s first-unit power play this season.

Also… At 3:00 PM on 9/1 (or was it 2:59:59.9) Pensacola re-signed this guy.

Finally, the Peoria Rivermen brought back a pair of players from last season’s record-breaking squad. Former Alabama-Huntsville Charger Frank Misuraca will begin his first full pro season with the Rivs. The defenseman played 34 games for the Chargers last season before finishing the regular season in Peoria. Also, instigator extraordinaire Alec Hagaman (14G/12A/151PIM last season) is set to return for his third season with his hometown team. Hagaman spent his signing day at a Peoria Chiefs baseball game, where he was given the honor of throwing out the first pitch. {Add Front Office Hire}

Attention SPHL goalies… Hagaman likes to go low blocker. Low, low, low blocker.

Top Ten ECHL Prospects

This week, since it’s a relatively slow week of SPHL news, and it’s about the time of season where SPHL players begin to make their training camp plans, I decided to put a top-ten list of players who I believe has the best shot of making an ECHL roster this season. Given the level of talent in the SPHL, this was no easy task – I could have easily made this a Top-20 list.

A couple of caveats, guys like Pensacola’s Paul Rodrigues and Fayetteville’s Parker Van Buskirk who have spent time in the ECHL are not included in this list. Additionally, guys like Huntsville’s Jordan Ruby and the FireAntz’ Sean Bonar who spent more time last season in the ECHL than the SPHL are also left out.

One notable snub which I’ll get out the way now… Peoria goalie Kyle Rank – obviously an ECHL-caliber netminder – is left off the list. Perhaps I’m wrong, but at this point in his career, why not go for a title with Peoria?

Since I’m done with the disclaimers… on with the list.

  1. Matt Zenzola (G-PEN): Spent time last season with ECHL Evansville, and was lights out for the Flyers (7-0) in the playoffs. It’s not a matter of when he makes the jump, it’s a matter of where.
  2. Shawn Bates (C-COL): Split time last season with ECHL Tulsa and Atlanta, and was impressive in both stints.
  3. Peter Di Salvo (G-MRK): Played all around the ECHL last season, with stints in Colorado, Allen, Fort Wayne, and Adirondack. At 25, he’s still young enough for an ECHL team to invest time developing him.
  4. Ben Oskroba (D-PEO): Has the size (6’5″), speed, and ability ECHL (and above) teams need. It’s unlikely Oskroba plays another SPHL game.
  5. Joe Caveney (RW-PEN): In 14-15, he was set to join ECHL Wichita before a training camp injury ended his season. After a great comeback season in Pensacola, Caveney could get a second shot at the ECHL.
  6. Brandon Greenside (D-PEO): The SPHL Defenseman of the Year, Greenside’s 31 assists and astronomical +31 plus/minus led all blueliners by substantial margins. Only drawback is he’s undersized at 5’9″.
  7. Brian Billett (G-KNX): The Boston College rookie netminder was a mid-season replacement for the Ice Bears, and went 14-4-3 during Knoxville’s stellar second-half turnaround.
  8. Stephen Buco (RW-PEN): Spent his off-season playing a try-out month in Germany with DEL Ingolstadt. Great tune-up for making a run at an ECHL roster this season.
  9. John Lidgett (C-HUN): The SPHL Rookie of the Year plays an impressive two-way game, despite being undersized at 5’8″. Scored 42 points (15G/27A) for the Havoc last season.
  10. Trever Hertz (RW-KNX): Going into his third pro season after successful seasons with Fayetteville and Knoxville, the 6’1″ Hertz (14G/32A/+11) has the size and skill to make a run at an ECHL roster.

Let the debates begin, because there are a bunch of players who could have easily made this list. Tomorrow, our Into the Sin Bin podcast featuring Ice Bears coach Mike Craigen airs – and it’s going to be podcast gold – don’t miss it!

Follow me on Twitter or Facebook at @SinBinSPHL.

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