ALLEN, Texas – We just returned from a river cruise in France on the Seine River sailing from Paris to the English Channel. Without a doubt, the highlight of the trip was visiting Normandy. My dad was in World War II and I was in the First Infantry Division in Vietnam. The Big Red One played a major role on D-Day, June 6, 1944, leaping from their landing craft into the choppy waters off Omaha Beach. You can read about and see photos of what happened that day and the days, weeks and months that followed but to see it first hand, walk through the various battlefields, gives you a different perspective and makes you realize why they are called the greatest generation.

Because of my connection to the First Infantry Division, I was asked, along with two other veterans, to place a wreath at the memorial at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial on behalf of the 120 people in our tour group. Another member of our group brought his bagpipes and kilt and played Amazing Grace. Then everyone sang the National Anthem. Needless to say, there was not a dry eye in our entire group.

Catching Up

– I had a chance to catch up with coach Steve Martinson yesterday and as you can imagine, he has been very busy with the offseason recruiting process. While the Americans have officially announced just two player signings (Spencer Asuchak and Ben Owen) other players have been signed but not announced.

– The signing of Asuchak and Owen are unique for different reasons. Asuchak has played in 385 games (regular season and playoffs) for the Americans which is 77 more than any other player in Allen history. Spencer will be playing in his seventh season in Allen, and no other player has played more than five seasons. Allen is his second home.

For Owen, Allen is his home having grown up playing and working at the Allen Community rink. Ben is at the opposite end of the games played list for the Americans as he has played in just six games.

Here is the Asuchak press release: https://allenamericans.com/americans-welcome-back-longest-tenured-player/

Here is the Owen press release: https://allenamericans.com/americans-add-local-defenseman-ben-owen/

– Qualifying offers are given to a maximum of eight players to retain their rights for next season. Players that are already signed do not have to be given qualifying offers. The qualifying offers had to be delivered by midnight on Sunday, and Martinson qualified the maximum of eight players.

Here is the list:

Zach Pochiro
Braylon Shmyr
Chad Butcher
Alex Breton
Riley Bourbonnais
Josh Atkinson
Dalton Thrower
Mike Gunn

Keep in mind players from last season that are not on this qualified list are either signed and not announced, or they are now free agents. Most of them are now free agents and won’t be returning for next season.

Pochiro has signed to play in Denmark next season, so he was qualified to retain his rights should he return from Europe before the February 15 deadline for signing players returning from Europe.

Shmyr, Breton, Bourbonnais, and Atkinson all spent time in the AHL last season and are waiting to get AHL deals (if an AHL team hasn’t already signed them). If they get signed by Iowa, they will likely spend time in Allen. If they don’t get AHL deals, their only option would be to look overseas or sign with Allen.

– Pochiro is one of many ECHL players that led their team in goals last season that have made the jump to Europe for the 2019-20 season. Zach will be playing for the Esbjerg Energy. Esbjerg is a seaport city (population about 115,000) on the western coast of Denmark on the North Sea. One of Zach’s teammates will be former Allen defenseman, Travis Brown.

Packin’ the Bags

– I posted this on the @EchlStats Twitter and on Facebook, which shows how many top goal scorers have signed in Europe:

How hard is it for ECHL teams to keep their top goal scorer? Already, ten teams have lost their leading goal scorer from 2018-19 to Europe, and it is still early. This doesn’t include leading point scorers and players that get AHL deals. Here is a list of players that led their team in goals last season that are heading overseas for the 2019-20 season:

Josh Shalla – Indy to Romania
Zach Pochiro – Allen to Denmark
Josh MacDonald – Reading to Denmark 
Caleb Herbert – Utah to Austria
Steve McParland – Idaho to Italy
Ben Duffy – Norfolk to Germany
Mike Szmatula – Adirondack to Poland
Wacey Rabbit – Jacksonville to Romania
Chris Collins – Kalamazoo to Austria
Grant Besse – South Carolina to Germany

Eric Roy, who is fourth all-time in regular season scoring (101 points) and third all-time in playoff scoring (28 points) for Allen defensemen has signed to play in Romania next season.

ECHL News and Notes

– The ECHL Board of Governors (BOG) recently approved a couple of rule changes for the 2019-20 season in addition to video replay which they announced earlier. The most visible change is extending 3-on-3 overtime from five minutes to seven minutes before going to a shootout. The other change is more subtle but could have a much more significant impact. The BOG reduced from 10 to five the number of games a veteran player on an NHL or AHL one way or two-way contract must play in the AHL during the regular season to be eligible to play in the ECHL playoffs. This may give more opportunity for ECHL veterans to be signed to AHL deals and play the five games in the AHL to qualify for the ECHL playoffs.

– For players that are not veterans who are on AHL deals, there is no longer a minimum number of AHL games they need to play to be eligible for the ECHL playoffs. The old rules required five games in the AHL, but there were two exceptions. This rule change should mean more depth players signed to AHL deals that may not get any AHL games but will still be eligible for the Kelly Cup playoffs. The trend has been more, and more AHL/NHL contracted players being assigned to ECHL teams. The Americans, as well as most ECHL teams, could have 10 or more contracted player assigned next season. The new relaxed rules will allow all of them to be eligible for the Kelly Cup Playoffs.

Did You Know?

Here is a partial list of former Allen Americans and players from last season that are free agents or could become free agents because they are veterans or are coming off NHL deals which have not been signed for 2019-20. Since most of us live in the past, I know fans often talk about the return of these players. For various reasons, it is a long shot for most these players to be on the 2019-20 Allen roster but you can always hope that one or two just might come through. There are 13 Allen championship rings represented in this group.

Jamie Schaafsma
Matt Register
Dyson Stevenson
Colby MacAuley
Greger Hanson
Gary Steffes
Bryan Moore
Riley Gill
Casey Pierro-Zabotel
Dante Salituro

Keep track of all the signings and movement during the 2019 ECHL offseason by visiting our ECHL Transactions page!

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