READING, Penn. – After getting swept out of the playoffs for the first time since 2011, the Reading Royals look to rebound in Kirk MacDonald‘s second full season as head coach. Joining MacDonald behind the bench is Mike Marcou, who joins the Royals coaching staff after former assistant coach Patrick Wellar accepted an assistant coaching job with the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League.
Nuts and Bolts:
Record: 39-24-9 (87 pts)
Division/Conference Finish: 3rd in the North Division, 5th in the Eastern Conference
Playoff Finish: Swept by the Manchester Monarchs in the North Division Semifinals
Record vs. North Division: 31-21-5
Record vs. Eastern Conference: 36-23-8
Goals For Per Game: 3.22, 12th in ECHL
Goals Against Per Game: 2.76, 6th in ECHL
Power Play: 41/257 (16%), T-17th in ECHL
Penalty Kill: 184/218 (84.4%), 8th in ECHL
1. Can new general manager Shawn Hackman help the Royals increase their attendance problems? Last year, the Royals averaged 3,431 fans, which was the seventh lowest in the league and the lowest in franchise history.
2. Can the Royals perform better past regulation? The team went 10-12 past regulation last season including 0-3 in the playoffs. The Royals did go 4-0 in the shootout, however, but leaving a possible nine points on the table is something that needs to be cleaned up this season.
3. Will the team make the playoffs for the 10th consecutive season? The Royals haven’t missed the playoffs since 2009 but has struggled in the playoffs in recent memory. The team hasn’t made it to the Conference Finals since 2013 and they haven’t made it to the Second Round of the Playoffs since 2016.
When asked about how the roster looks heading into the two preseason matchups against Adirondack, MacDonald responded by saying: “We’re cautiously optimistic on what the team we put together looks like, but we’re excited for opening night.”
Ilya Nekolenko – The 25-year-old Russian defensemen is making his North America debut after spending his entire professional career in Russia. At 6-foot-5, Nekolenko brings some much-needed size to the Royals blueline.
Dan Milan – The former Wheeling Nailer was a thorn in the Royal side last season. Milan brings 313 career ECHL regular season games of experience to the young Royals blue line and will likely be one of the team’s captains this coming season.
Frank DiChiara – The former Worcester Railer was the first new player signed by MacDonald this summer. DiChiara tallied four points — including two game-winning goals — against the Royals one season ago and is looking to build off a rookie season that saw him put up 23 points (9G, 14A) in 62 games.
Gone But Not Forgotten:
Matt Willows – Retired
John Muse – Signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins organization
Ryan Penny – ECHL rights traded to the Kalamazoo Wings
Sin Bin Swami Sez:
The Royals will go as far as their affiliation takes them. Last season, Royals players wore out US Highway 222 between Reading and Allentown. The result was a team that lacked cohesion late in the regular season and playoffs. The challenge for the coaching staff continues to be, as it has been, to find depth players who can replace the top-end players for periods of time.
That said, if the injury bug stays away and if Branden Komm can play like he did last year when he was in Reading, the Royals will make some noise come April until hopefully May.