WICHITA, KS – Today, we are announcing our first ever ECHL All-Star Team, selected by our team of writers and you, the fans.
Over the course of the last eight days, 91,849 votes were cast for players from all four divisions of the ECHL. From the fan vote, we took the top two forwards, two defensemen, a goaltender and coach from each division. Our team of writers filled in the other two forwards, defensemen and goaltender to round out the team.
Now, we will announce our team of thirty-six players – four forwards, three defensemen, and two goaltenders from the league’s four divisions in our first All-Star Team!
Leading Vote-Getter: Nick Riopel with 63% of the vote for netminders in the North Division.
Coach: Jeff Christian — second full season behind the bench in Wheeling, third in ECHL.
Career regular season record: 50-48-10
Career Kelly Cup playoff record: 10-10, 2015 Eastern Conference Champion
Captain: Cody Wydo
Thoughts: It is interesting that Charles Williams was left off our all-star team. He is the third best goalie in the ECHL, with relation to goals against average (2.33). He has a 13-5-1-0 record (13 wins tied for third-most,) and has a save percentage of .924 (sixth best) to go along with one shutout.
The forward corps is a good mix of shooters & playmakers, led by Wydo. One of the leading candidates for rookie of the year, Reid Gardner, is also on the team after collecting 28 points (14G, 14A) in 31 games. He and Wydo have each earned multiple trips to AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this season.
On the back end, the group is made up of puck-moving defensemen who love to shoot. Patrick McNally led the Railers in shots attempted (104) before leaving the team around the new year. Desmond Bergin is third on the Adirondack Thunder in shots attempted (83,) but leads the team in special teams points with 10 (1G, 9A.)
Breakdown by Team:
Wheeling – 4
Adirondack – 3
Manchester – 1
Reading – 1
Worcester – 1
Brampton – 0
Leading Vote-Getter: Eric Knodel with 51% of the vote for defensemen in the Central Division.
Coach: Gary Graham — Fifth season behind the bench in Fort Wayne, sixth season coaching overall.
Career regular-season record: 189-92-37
Career Kelly Cup Playoff record: 27-22
Captain: Shawn Szydlowski
Thoughts: The Central Division is home to the league’s leading scorer at the time of our announcement, Shawn Szydlowski, and a very stout goaltending duo.
Szydlowski has points in 15 of his last 16 games dating back to November 17 and has only been held off the scoresheet three times this season. Five of his 18 goals have come via special teams, while seven of them have either gotten the scoring started for the Komets or won the game.
Not to be outdone, Justin Danforth is making a compelling case for ECHL Rookie of the Year, thanks to his team-leading 37 points (18G, 19A) with the Cincinnati Cyclones.
On the back end, Willie Raskob has been a bright spot on an otherwise poor year for the Mallards, picking up 18 assists since his trade from Worcester in October. Both Knodel and Eric Kattelus are solid puck-moving defensemen who have racked up plenty of assists so far this season.
As mentioned earlier, the tandem between the pipes is the second-best 1-2 punch on our all-star roster. Combined, Pat Nagle and Michael Houser have a record of 30-8-4-0, a 2.60 goals against average, a .911 save percentage and three shutouts on the season. It’s safe to say that as long as Nagle and Houser remain hot, their teams will be playing each other in early May.
Breakdown by Team:
Fort Wayne – 3
Cincinnati – 2
Indy – 1
Kalamazoo – 1
Kansas City – 1
Quad City – 1
Toledo – 1
Leading Vote-Getter: Emerson Clark with 51% of the vote for forwards in the South Division.
Coach: Ryan Warsofsky — second season as head coach, served three seasons as an assistant coach prior.
Career regular-season record: 59-25-7
Career Kelly Cup Playoff record: 12-10 — defending Eastern Conference champions
Captain: Michael Kirkpatrick
Thoughts: If you’re looking for balance with grit, this is your division. Up front, Emerson Clark earns the lone bid from the expansion Icemen, after putting up 22 points in 22 games before earning a call-up to AHL San Jose. He is joined up front by three other forwards who have a combined 106 points (42G, 64A)
Third-year pro Nolan Valleau has been a pleasant surprise on the Solar Bears’ blueline, raking in 26 points (8G, 18A) in 29 games. Those numbers put him fourth among ECHL defensemen in points.
In net, the tandem of Parker Milner and Martin Ouelette is the best on our all-star roster. While the win/loss record hasn’t been as gaudy, the stats outside of that have been more than impressive. The two combine for a goals against average of 2.14 and a save percentage of .922. More impressively, the two have allowed just 58 goals on 745 combined shots faced.
Breakdown by Team:
Florida – 3
South Carolina – 3
Orlando – 2
Greenville – 1
Jacksonville – 1
Atlanta – 0
Norfolk – 0
Leading Vote-Getter: David Makowski with 56% of the vote for defensemen in the Mountain Division.
Coach: Malcolm Cameron — tenth season as ECHL head coach, 13th season overall
Career regular-season record: 358-224-75
Career Kelly Cup Playoff record: 34-34
Captain: Casey Pierro-Zabotel
Thoughts: If Malcolm Cameron could construct a team free of salary cap and affiliation restrictions, this is likely what it would look like. Up front, you have the league’s assist leader in Pierro-Zabotel and the league’s leading goal scorer in Michael Joly. Also up front, there is speed in Dante Salituro and Justin Parizek, both of whom can put the puck in the net.
On the blueline, you have two dynamic power-play specialists and steady defensemen in Travis Brown and Makowski. Matt Caito was also a steady hand on the Rush blueline before getting recalled to AHL Iowa.
In net, Shane Starrett and Joe Cannata have been at or near the top in most ECHL goaltending categories this year.
Starrett, a true rookie, is off to a brilliant start in Wichita, sporting a 10-2-2 record, 2.52 goals against average and .926 save percentage. Those numbers put him second in wins, third in goals against average and third in save percentage among rookie netminders.
Cannata has bounced back and forth between the AHL & ECHL this season but has managed to put together a solid campaign. His 2.29 goals against average is second to Ouelette (FLA), his .924 save percentage is good for seventh best in the league, while his 10 wins put him in a seven-way tie for seventh most in the ECHL among netminders.
Breakdown by Team:
Wichita – 3
Allen – 2
Colorado – 2
Rapid City – 1
Idaho – 1
Tulsa – 0
Utah – 0
So there you have it, our first ever ECHL All-Star team! What do you think of the team? Let us know by dropping a comment below or hit us up on our Facebook page!