MOLINE, IL – The quest to fill the leadership void left by retired defenseman and Captain Darren McMillan is in full swing.
For fans of the Quad City Mallards, this been an offseason which has seen a lot of players going overseas or signing with other teams. Some of the players expected to have a share of the leadership role have signed elsewhere, including Matt Neal and Kyle Follmer.
Follmer, a 28 year old veteran of two ECHL teams (Allen Americans and the Mallards), had served as an older presence on a Mallards team full of young players fresh out of juniors or the college ranks. Though he hadn’t worn an ‘A’ during the season, his leadership on the ice was hard to miss. Follmer left the Quad Cities to join other former Mallards Nicolas Rioux, Jeff Lee, Dave Brown, and Justin Fox in the Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL) playing for the Fife Flyers.
Neal has joined the Austrian team EC-KAC, or Klagenfurt Athletic Sports Club, of the Erste Bank Hockey League. EC-KAC is the most prolific team of the EBEL, having won 30 titles since 1934. Neal had been alternate captain last season for the Mallards, with Mike Monfredo the other player to receive a letter. With Neal and Fullmer going across the pond, two holes in the leadership structure still need to be filled.
Monfredo’s return to the Mallards is a surprise. Though one of the longest tenured Mallards currently, his performance over the last two seasons has been inconsistent. If it were not for his performance issues, I would expect him to be named captain this season.
Now let’s turn our attention to the new signings. Chris Francis and Grant Arnold are both players with leadership experience, Arnold having captained the University of Denver Pioneers the past two years, the first time in 62 years that such a thing has happened. Francis served as alternate captain during his time with the Alaska Aces two years prior. Arnold had also served as captain while in juniors. These two will be expected to add a leadership element to the Mallards this coming season.
I expect Francis to be named captain this year, with Arnold named as another alternate along with Monfredo. However, if Austin Coldwell is signed, and Monfredo is not given a letter, I expect Coldwell to be named the other alternate.
We’ll find out whether I’m right or not on opening night.
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