ONTARIO, CA – With the NHL rookie camps in full swing and the 2016-17 season about to start, we thought we’d take a look at the projected roster for the season’s Ontario Reign.
First things first, those who will not be returning. Jeff Schultz signed with the Ducks over the summer. Nick Ebert was traded to the Dallas Stars and Kevin Raine signed with the Charlotte Checkers. You’ll notice that all three of the confirmed changes are on the blue line. The forward corps that took the Reign to the conference finals will remain largely intact. Nic Dowd is expected to stay with the Kings and Michael Mersch has been given good odds to stay as well, but neither of those is guaranteed and both could return to the Reign’s lineup.
The Reign currently have six forwards signed that don’t have a contract with the Kings. Miles Koules is the only one to also receive an invite to the Kings’ rookie camp. TJ Hensick, Daniel Ciampini, Brett Sutter, Paul Bissonette and Sean Backman will all report directly to the Reign.
So where does that leave us?
Glad you asked.
Below is a list of all of the players currently under contract with the Kings or the Reign that have a good chance of making the roster.
- Nic Dowd*
- Brett Sutter*
- Andrew Crescenzi*
- Mike Amadio*
- TJ Hensick
- Patrick Bjorkstrand
- Miles Koules
- Daniel Ciampini
- Sean Backman*
- Justin Auger*
- Jonny Brodzinski*
- Matt Schmalz
- Spencer Watson (currently injured & expected to return to junior when healed)
- Paul Bissonette*
- Michael Mersch*
- Adrian Kempe*
- Joel Lowry*
- Sam Herr*
- Vincent LoVerde*
- Kevin Gravel*
- Kurtis MacDermid*
- Derek Forbort*
- Zach Leslie*
- Paul LaDue*
- Damir Sharipzyanov (can return to Junior)
- Erik Cernak (can return to Junior)
- Alex Lintuniemi (hoping to make the jump out of the ECHL)
- Jeff Zatkoff (most likely with the Kings)
- Peter Budaj*
- Jack Campbell
- Tom McCollum (invited to camp on PTO)
* Played with the Reign last season at some point.
Despite the apparent changes, the defense looks to have the most returning players from last year. At every other position, there are at least 3 players who have experience with the Reign.
The biggest question is in net. While Peter Budaj had an incredible season last year, he looked to be tiring out midway through the playoffs. With a short off season to recover, we worry about his stamina for this year and whether he’ll be able to perform as well.
Taken in the first round of the 2010 draft, Jack Campbell has been struggling to live up to the selection. He spent three full seasons with the Texas Stars, only managing to get the starting job once and having his best season derailed by injury. The last two seasons have been split between the ECHL and the AHL with a steadily declining save percentage in the AHL. We noted the difficulties the Stars had with goaltending throughout last year and Campbell was not immune, posting a save percentage of 0.884 in 19 games. We’ve seen that if Coach Stothers doesn’t trust his back-up, he won’t get very many games (if any). Campbell will need to impress early to get a chance with the Reign and give Budaj a break.
Tom McCollum might have a better shot. He spent last year with the Grand Rapids Griffins, posting a 0.923 save percentage in 30 games. McCollum has spent one extra season in the AHL than Campbell and has been increasing his save percentage each season, earning himself a call up to the Detroit Red Wings where he got into two games, posting a 0.96 save percentage. Should the Kings sign him, he might take the job from Campbell.
In limbo: Jordan Samuels-Thomas, Kris Newbury and Ryan Horvat are all currently free agents that could see camp invites for the coming season.
The Reign open their second American Hockey League season on the road in San Diego on Saturday, October 15. Face-off is set for 7:05 pm Pacific time.