In this second part of the season review for the Lake Erie Monsters, the focus turns to the defensemen. The Monsters had 10 defensemen, with NHL contracts, including Nigel Williams (pictured), that suited up for the club during the season.
As a team, the Monsters were 11th in the AHL with a penalty kill percentage of 84.1. It was an improvement from the 80.2 they had in their inaugural season. Lake Erie also allowed 29.2 shots (14th in the league) and 2.6 goals per game (8th).
Kevin Montgomery played only five games with the Monsters before being returned to the London Knights (OHL) to complete his junior career. In those five games, he did record an assist for Lake Erie. Like Montgomery, Ryan Wilson played in only a handful of games for the Monsters. He was acquired in a trade deadline transaction from the Calgary Flames. Wilson, who was undrafted, put up 71 points in 58 games for the Sarnia Sting (OHL) in 2007-08, before signing as a free agent with the Calgary Flames.
Prior to joining the Colorado organization, he produced 20 points in 60 games for Quad City (AHL). Wilson has a quality shot from the point, but is prone to mistakes. At 22, Wilson's development is hardly complete and he should be a key cog for the Monsters in the 2009-10 season.
After completing a junior career which saw the Belleville Bulls (OHL) advance to the Memorial Cup in 2008, Nigel Williams signed an entry level contract with Colorado and some hoped he would challenge for a roster spot immediately. The talented Illinois native is still raw, but did show some offensive potential putting up 21 points in 70 games with Lake Erie this season. Williams has a lethal shot from the point and is a great skater for a big man. Yet, Williams isn't the most physical defender and would lose one-on-one battles on occasion. He may have the most “boom or bust” flavor of any of the Lake Erie defenders when it comes to potential NHL success.
Derek Peltier joined the Lake Erie Monsters this year after completing a four year career at the University of Minnesota. Peltier contributed with 19 points in his first professional season in the AHL. He also suited up in 11 games with the Colorado Avalanche. While he didn't produce any points, the experience was invaluable. Like Peltier, Michael Vernace also made his NHL debut this season with the Avs. Vernace is in his third professional season with the Colorado organization (after acquired in a trade from San Jose in 2006). Of all the defenders recalled by Colorado this season, he was the most steady in his NHL stint. Vernace produced 17 points in 65 games for the Monsters this season. He has the tools to develop into a solid third pairing defenseman in the NHL.
Wes O'Neill was originally a draft pick of the New York Islanders in 2004. After failing to come to terms with the Isles, he signed a three-year entry level contract with the Avs in the summer of 2007. The Notre Dame product is big, but not the greatest skater and is mistake prone. O'Neill suited up for 54 games with the Monsters, producing six points. He did play in three games for the Avalanche this season, but he's likely to spend most of his career toiling in the minors.
Ray Macias played in just 36 games for the Monsters due to injury. He recorded 18 points in those games and earned a brief stint with the Avalanche. He assisted on a goal in six games for the Avs. While he possesses a strong skill set, he's a poor defender and it's likely to hold him back as a professional player. Staying healthy may be a bigger concern. In 2007-08 he played in just 47 games between Johnstown and Lake Erie and a total of 50 games this season due to various injuries.
Aaron MacKenzie returned to the state of Colorado, where he played four years at the University of Denver from 1999-00 to 2002-03, after stints with Worcester (AHL) and Peoria (AHL). He posted 12 points in 52 games for the Monsters. MacKenzie brought a much needed veteran presence to Lake Erie this season. At age 28, he made his NHL debut with the Colorado Avalanche, recording zero penalties and points. He'll be an unrestricted free agent come July 1, 2009.
Acquired from Columbus in 2008, Darcy Campbell completed his first full season with the Avalanche organization. The Alberta native contributed with seven goals and eight assists in 74 games with the Lake Erie Monsters. Always a hard worker, Campbell has a decent skill set. While he was recalled by the Avalanche, he didn't suit up for any games. Campbell is an unrestricted free agent (Group VI).
Kyle Cumiskey's professional career has been a roller coaster ride. In 2008-09 he played in just 34 games for Colorado and Lake Erie. Possessing blazing speed, Cumiskey lacks the finish that would keep him in the NHL. At age 23, he's still a developing player. Yet, his career has been somewhat derailed by injury and recalls that found him in the press box rather then on the ice. Cumiskey has raw talent, but without proper playing time, any potential will not be realized.