MANCHESTER, NH – After announcing only four signings in the entirety of August last year, the Manchester Monarchs have been rather busy by comparison this off-season. By bringing on a variety of faces both familiar and new, the Monarchs are beginning to take shape, but there are still a few unanswered questions and holes to fill.
The busy month started on the fourth with the announcement of the signing of Jordan Smotherman. The veteran winger played 18 games in Manchester last season, tallying 20 points on 12 goals and eight assists. He also spent five games in Springfield with the AHL’s Thunderbirds before shipping off to Sweden to join MODO Hockey for the remainder of the year. Fans may also remember that Smotherman returned to Manchester for the ECHL playoffs, taking an assistant coaching role beside Rich Seeley and Jeff Giuliano.
The next week saw contract extensions made to a pair of rookie defensemen in Rob Hamilton and Eric Schurhamer. Hamilton, a product of the University of Vermont, spent six games with the Monarchs last season, putting up one assist, a number he matched in Springfield in as many games. Schurhamer, a former Maine Black Bear, skated 12 games in Manch Vegas, with a goal and two assists to his credit. Both of these guys are relatively untested at the pro level and will be expected to help fill the hole left by Connor Hardowa (signed with the Rodevre Mighty Bulls of Denmark) and Alexx Privitera (signed with Medvescak Zagreb of Austria.)
Things then went quiet for a while, before a rash of announcements over the span of three days.
First came one of the most anticipated signings, that of 2016-17’s team points leader Matt Leitner. Leitner was a force last season with 14 goals and 39 assists in his 51 games in silver and black. He also netted eight goals and threw in for 14 assists in 19 playoff games. Leitner, who also spent 17 games in Springfield with the Thunderbirds, will be expected to keep up his level of production in the upcoming campaign.
Next came news that the squad’s designated enforcer, Tony Turgeon would be making the return to the squad in 2017-18. Turgeon split 50 games between the Monarchs and Thunderbirds last year, with 38 played for the Monarchs. He tallied one goal and ten assists in the ECHL, and racked up 79 penalty minutes, averaging over two per game. In the playoffs, he held pointless in 17 games, but did add tack on another 25 PIMs. The tough as nails winger did score two goals in Springfield, however (and added another 21 penalty minutes) in 12 games.
24-year-old center Tony Cameranesi was the next acquisition, coming from the Toronto Marlies’ organization to join the Manchester ECHL squad. Cameranesi split the year between the Marlies and the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears, and tallied 15 goals and 13 assists in 43 games with Orlando. Also, he was added to the ECHL All-Star squad where he participated in the skills competition.
The same day saw the arrival of Michael Doherty, a rookie winger fresh out of Yale University. The former Bulldog notched 16 points in 33 games during his senior season, and was named to the All-Ivy League First Team in his sophomore year. He has yet to play a game at the professional level.
The most recent announcement, on the 25th, saw the return of defender Justin Agosta to the fold. Agosta played 40 games with the Monarchs in 2016-17, accumulating seven goals and 18 assists before a trade for Tyler Sikura and Chris Leone sent him to Toledo to join the Walleye. He spent twelve regular season games with the Walleye, collecting 10 more assists with the Western Conference squad during the regular season, and played 14 playoff matches as well, picking up one assist. He also played three games in the AHL with three different squads, but was held off the scoresheet.
With the signings of Hamilton, Ward, Turgeon, and Leitner (and the departure of Privitera), this leaves a few threads left dangling on the qualifying offers front. First and foremost being the status of Charles Williams, the rookie goaltender who played three games in Manchester last year. With Sam Brittain officially signed with the AHL’s San Antonio Rampage, the Monarchs will have questions between the pipes. Though he only played 180 minutes in the ECHL in 2016-17, Williams put up a .919 save percentage. He also was rather successful in his senior season at Canisius College, sporting a 1.82 goals against average and a whopping .943 save percentage in 34 games. Brittain’s will be some rather big skates to fill, but Williams looks up to the challenge, at least by the numbers.
Joe Diamond’s status is also a concern, though fans shouldn’t be feeling too worried quite yet. Diamond, the Monarch’s leading goal scorer last season, has yet to come to a new agreement with the squad despite being tendered a qualifying offer. In 2016, Diamond didn’t make a deal until October 11, so there’s still plenty of time for a deal to get done. Diamond’s 23 goals and 27 assists represent a fair amount of firepower that the team will be relying on coming into the upcoming season.
The final unresolved offer belongs to the previously-mentioned Tyler Sikura. The forward arrived in Manchester in the Agosta trade from Toledo after playing 39 games with the Walleye in which he scored 29 points on 13 goals and 16 assists. His eight games in Manchester saw him add a goal and four assists in the regular season as well as five goals and six assists in 19 playoff games. Sikura, who also played 16 games with the Iowa Wild of the AHL, is a solid contributor who doesn’t get into penalty trouble (only ten penalty minutes in 47 ECHL games) and would be a good player to lock down for the upcoming season.
It’s certain that the Monarchs will rely on players from the Kings’ organization, but there are plenty of players who could be returning to the fold.
Keep your eyes here for more information as it comes!
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