Lake Erie wrapped up their final game of the preseason today. Unfortunately their preseason consisted of only 2 games against an actual opponent not wearing Monsters colors so not much exposure for every player. What did become clear was that these two games were used to see what the first and second year players (not to mention try-outs) brought to the ice as many of the Vets alternated games. Noticeably missing from BOTH games were Hishon, Connolly and Luke Walker.
On paper, this team looks deep at every position. Even if Hishon is a no show from here on out, the Monsters top 9 consist of VDG, G. Walker, Connolly, Lerg, Sgarbossa, Thomas, Malone, Olver and Carey. That leaves guys like Heard and Agozzino (AHL contract) looking from the outside in. When it came to the Avalanche prospects who will be AHL rookies this year, they ALL showed solidly.
After this weekend, Carey will be talked about more as he lead LE in goal scoring. Not to mention both his goals were important as the first was the game winner in game 1 and his second came at a key time in game 2 with LE down 3-1. Very reminiscent of his playoff run last season in college. Malone and him seemed to be paired up a LOT with a rotating member filling in the 3rd spot. Carey's skating and willingness to shoot was apparent in the two games.
Of course the big name everyone will be watching for, not named Hishon, is Sgarbossa. He was clearly being utilized as the #1 center in BOTH games. Sure it is preseason and he made way for other players to be tried out at different times, but you could tell that he was being looked at to possibly center one of the scoring lines when the season started. The good news is he held his own in the games with some ups and downs but overall did not look out of place. As Sgar develops chemistry with his linemates (possibly VDB & G. Walker?), his play will start showing up more on the scoreboard.
On the Heard side of things, he played solidly wherever he was asked to play. Unfortunately a lot of the time it seemed to be with the 4th line guys. When he did see time with the others, he created more noise and havoc for the other team to deal with. Like I said before in another post, his stats may not blow anyone away this year but it won't be for a lack of ability but rather who his linemates could be and the role he could have with this team. He did have a crazy beat down of larger Red Wing prospect Aubry in game 2. While Heard changed up which hand he pummeled Aubry with (not too mention an uppercut), something may have been said about the fact the Wings passed him over for Aubry in 2010. But who knows... it could have been something else Heard was chipping about and finishing off with a grin.
All four goalies showed strong with, as expected, Pickard and Aittokallio looking like the favorites for the Monsters (unless the Avs want both to see heavy time as starters and split them between the two affiliates). While Milan and Patterson did not look bad, neither one staved off heavy assaults to start the games like the other two did. Definitely going to be a goalie battle in the minors for the next two years.
As expected, guys like Olver, Malone, Gaunce, Elliott, and Barrie all played as expected with Barrie channeling his inner Ozolinsh while in the Griffins' end. For those not familiar with the 96 Cup team, Barrie was very dominant with his stick handling, passing and overall ability to make things happen.
While it's only two PRESEASON games, the Monsters team looks to be deep enough to shrug off
call-ups and injuries this season to still be a very good team. Will be interesting to see how things shape up, especially when Connolly and (if) Hishon returns.
One final note... we may see Beaupre in Lake Erie. While the team looks to have 7 D already under contract, they sorely lack the physical play Beaupre would bring. Gaunce can't do it all. The D just isn't scary enough and can be manhandled in their own end too easily.