MOLINE, IL – The Quad City Mallards’ roster is beginning to shape up, but they’re still only less than halfway to a full line-up. There have been a few trades, a few players leaving, a few college guys signing, and an off the ice signing on top of some returning players signing. But the Mallards have been silent for a week now, so perhaps now’s a good time to recap what’s happened so far for the roster.
The Mallards sent defenseman Kevin Gibson to the Rapid City Rush on June 14th to finish out the trade that sent fellow blue-liner Mike Monfredo west in return for forward Josh MacDonald – who re-signed July 6th. After sending Gibson to Rapid City, the Mallards were able to submit their season-ending roster. The Minnesota Wild announced five days later that they had chosen Rapid City as their new affiliate, making one think that the powers-that-be in the scouting department wanted Gibson to remain in the system.
The first signing of the off-season was last year’s captain Chris Francis. The forward re-signed June 27th; one month later he hosted a Pro-Ambitions hockey camp at the River’s Edge in Davenport for kids ages 6-15. Being involved in the community is always a great idea for a captain, and it was clear from Jay Kidwell’s report on the camp that it wasn’t just a PR move for the Las Vegas native. A week after Francis re-signed, defenseman Chris Leibinger and MacDonald both re-upped. MacDonald was one of the Mallards’ top five scorers, amassing 15 points (6G,9A) for the Mallards in 22 games after totaling 17 goals and 20 assists for the Rush.
Leibinger spent four years at Michigan Tech before signing with the Mallards on a standard player contract on March 30th. The two-way player appeared in ten games for the Mallards last season – five in the regular season and the entire playoff run for the Illinois team. While being held off the scoresheet in the regular season, he did assist twice – the last one coming on Sam Warning’s overtime goal that gave the Mallards their lone playoff win for the post-season. Speaking of Warning, he was the next to sign a contract to return for his third season with the Mallards. In 133 regular season games, he has 85 points (40G, 45A); in nine playoff appearances, he scored four times with one assist.
Brady Brassart, whose contract with the Minnesota Wild ended July 1st, signed with the Idaho Steelheads on July 19th. He had split the 2015-16 season between the Mallards and the Iowa Wild. Idaho is the ECHL affiliate of the Dallas and Texas Stars. Bit of trivia, Des Moines was also home to Dallas’ AHL team at one point, being named the Iowa Stars – they only lasted for three seasons before changing names to the Iowa Chops and affiliating with the Anaheim Ducks for a season before going dark for a year. The Iowa franchise was then bought by Texas, completing the circle of life in 2010.
Nolan LaPorte was traded to the Florida Everblades in return for future considerations on July 26th. According to Head Coach Phil Axtell in the press release announcing the trade, “Nolan requested a trade to Florida after last season to be closer and more available to his parents who live not far from the Everblades’ arena.” LaPorte played 65 games for the Mallards in his rookie season, totaling 44 points (14G, 30A). The same day, it was announced that Michael Parks had signed with Vaasan Sport of the Finnish Liiga. Because Parks was offered a qualifying offer, he must play for the Mallards if he returns to the ECHL unless his rights are traded to another team.
The next day forwards Michael Pontarelli and Kenny Brooks were signed by the Mallards. Pontarelli is breaking into the professional ranks after a five-game stint with the Norfolk Admirals at the end of his college career last season, while Brooks played in Loveland for the Colorado Eagles last season after one game with the Atlanta Gladiators. Brooks totaled six goals and six assists with a minus six rating in 43 games for the Eagles last season; Pontarelli averaged a point per game in his short appearance with Norfolk.
The beginning of August saw Kyle Novak and Joe Kalisz sign with the Flock. Novak was the first of those offered a qualifying offer to return, having signed for the Mallards’ playoff push just two days after leaving Western Michigan University. Kalisz played last season for the SPHL’s Fayettevillle FireAntz, racking up 18 goals and 17 assists in 48 games. Kalisz and Gibson had been teammates at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point; Gibson graduated a year ahead of the new Mallard.
For the first time in several years, a goaltender has signed with the Mallards for a second season. C.J. Motte, who also had been offered a qualifying offer, will be guarding the pipes when October rolls around. Coach Axtell said in the team’s release that “having [Motte] between the pipes allows the team in front of him to play a fast and exciting style of hockey.” Motte went 20-11-2 last season, with a save percentage of .917%.
The rights of forward Jack Nevins were traded to the Greenville Swamp Rabbits on August 14th in exchange for the rights to defenseman Desmond Bergin. Nevins had been offered a qualifying offer by the Mallards. Bergin played his rookie campaign with the Swamp Rabbits after four years at Harvard, where he helped the Crimson win the ECAC Tournament in 2015. With the Swamp Rabbits, he scored seven times with 19 assists in the regular season and only 10 penalty minutes. In five playoff games, he earned one assist and four penalty minutes. His numbers look good, and having a defenseman who can stay out of the sin bin is always a nice thing. However, the Mallards’ roster needs to add a player or two who isn’t afraid to go in the box.
Off the ice, the Mallards have a new voice in the form of Richard “Goose” Giesecke. Goose is a DJ for local Classic Rock station 97X, as well as producer for the much-loved Dwyer & Michaels Show on the same station. He has filled in as the public address announcer for many years, but steps into the position full-time after Jim Albrecht.
There’s still plenty of room on the Mallards roster, so stay tuned for more updates on who’s coming to the Quad Cities.