Head Coach: Terry Ruskowski, who is in his fifth year as Mallards bench boss, 141-106-29 [two years each in CHL and ECHL], 11-19 in playoffs
Captain: With Darren McMillan’s retirement, there’s a hole in the leadership. In August I speculated on who’d get the letters this season. I still expect Chris Francis to be named the captain, especially after hearing some of his rather captain-ly quotes.
Last Season: 37-29-6, Finished 8th in the Western Conference, Swept in Round 1 by Missouri Mavericks
2015-16 Season Summary – At the beginning of last year, things seemed to be coming up all aces for the Mallards. They’d been assigned a few players from Iowa who seemed to be great, two goalies were assigned that were comparably stupendous, and Coach Ruskowski had gotten some good young talent during the offseason. But everything changed when the season actually started; some of the assigned players didn’t gel well with the ECHL-contracted guys, assignees and contracted alike didn’t always give 110% every night, and one of the players had performance issues during what seemed roughly half of the games. All of this was compounded when Steve Michalek was called up to Iowa for the last half of the season, leaving Ruskowski in a bind to find a replacement. Getting swept in the first round to long-time rivals the Mavericks stung a bit. But the longer offseason meant an ability to train harder and get even better than last season.
Hot or Not?
CJ Motte and Tanner Milliron have both signed with the Mallards. As of this writing, there is still an unsubstantiated rumor floating out there that Adam Vay will be assigned. I think goaltending is pretty even when compared to last year’s duo. The forwards definitely seem better this year than last year so far, but there hasn’t been any real test of them so far, especially with the lack of an exhibition game. I’d say the biggest upgrade to the forwards would be less an individual and more a line: Nathan Todd, Justin Kovacs, and Sam Warning are probably going to be the top line, at least for opening night. Kovacs and Warning played juniors together, and still mesh well. With longtime vet Darren McMillan retired, the remaining blueline will have to step up; I expect a little bit of a hard time at first, but Alex Gudbranson and Kevin Gibson seem up to the challenge.
- Warning– he scored 16 goals and assisted 15 times in 65 games last season after joining the team three days before the season started. He attended the Iowa Wild’s camp this season.
- Fifth-year defender Mike Monfredo is back, and he’s expected to continue to have a leadership role on the ice.
- Gibson also returns, and possibly will be paired with a new-to-the-team defenseman.
- Kyle Follmer returns for his first full season with the Flock after joining the team in late November last year in a trade with the Allen Americans. He had played 45 games for the Texas team the year before, scoring 10 times en route to winning the Kelly Cup.
- Matt Neal joined EC KAC of the Austrian Erste Bank Hockey League, where he has played eight games already.
- Matt Carey has moved up to the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack.
- Olivier Archambault now has a coastal view with the South Carolina Stingrays.
- Kovacs had played with Warning in juniors, as well as with Nolan LaPorte at Western Michigan University.
- Jack Nevins brings AHL experience after playing in 59 games for the Rochester Americans last season. In those 59 games, he racked up a total of 101 penalty minutes from nine fights and other penalties.
- Donnie Harris was acquired in a trade with the Wichita Thunder. Harris completed the trade from March that sent Miles Koules to Wichita.
Movin’ On Up
- Brady Brassart split last season between the QC and Iowa, so I expect this season will much the same.
- Jace Coyle– I know, Pavel Jenys would be a safer choice for this, but I think Jenys will be here for the whole season for development. Coyle saw lots of play in the EIHL, and if Iowa needs a defenseman I think he’s a safer bet than either Jenys or Gudbranson, since Gudbranson was never called up last season.
Sin Bin Swami Says… – I predict a slightly better win-loss record this season than last season, so somewhere in the 42 wins range. I won’t estimate the loss or Overtime loss record, though. I expect the Mallards to finish sixth in the Western Conference, though I think it’ll be another tough final month to get the needed points for that. I don’t think they’ll win the Kelly Cup this year, but I do think that they’ll at least make it to the second round. However, I’d love nothing more than to be proved wrong and get to cover a victory parade.
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