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From the Rampage Desk: Opening Weekend and Season Preview

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Carolina Hurricanes v Colorado Avalanche Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The beloved Rampage have made final cuts (and received a surprise late addition!) and now face the AHL with real points on the line. A new coach, fifteen new players, five new captains/alternates and a whole new organizational system make this a tough season to handicap, but it does look good on paper.

The Final Roster

Forwards(15): Garry Nunn, Joe Whitney, Troy Bourke, Turner Elson, Mike Sislo, Julien Nantel, Rocco Grimaldi, Shawn St Amant, AJ Greer, Trent Vogelhuber, Jim O’Brien, JT Compher, Sam Henley, Alex Belzile, Mikko Rantanen

Defense(7): Chris Bigras, Sam Jardine, Duncan Siemens, Ryan Stanton, Cody Corbett, Sergei Boikov, Anton Lindholm

Goalies(2): Spencer Martin, Jeremy Smith

Non-Roster Injured Reserve: Reid Petryk, Mason Geertsen (and maybe Mat Clark)

We haven’t had much guidance as far as lines and pairs, which is fine because they will be fluid in the opening weeks. Mikko dropping by for a bit puts whatever they might have had in to the spin cycle anyway. Pairs, or at least figuring out who’s going to be playing top-4 minutes is much easier. Bigras/Stanton and Siemens/Lindholm look like fair bets but Stanton’s health is in question as of this moment.

Last injury update we have is from Thursday, Mason Geertsen is skating in a NC jersey but hasn’t been cleared yet. Reid Petryk has a broken foot and will be out for another month or so. Jim O’Brien and Ryan Stanton did not skate for reasons unknown. With 15 forwards, having OB sit out isn’t as much as a problem as missing Stanton. The last D-man cut was Justin Hamonic so if we hear he’s on his way back to SA before tonight’s game, we know what’s up.

Just in general, this is a really strong team as far as forwards go, perhaps one of the best in the AHL. There’s great balance between players that have put up lots of points in the AHL & elsewhere and players who are strong at preventing opponents from putting up lots of points. There’s plenty of depth (for now) so depending on various roster moves and other unfortunate situations, they shouldn’t miss a beat all year.

Counter to that, the defense is a house of cards. The top-4 are stout for sure but after that is a sea of unknowns. Lose one of Duncan/Beegs/Lindy/Stanton and there’s trouble, lose more than one and it’s panic time. It’s understandable that the Avs development staff don’t want any roadblocks to Geertsen and Boikov getting the PT that they need but it’s put them in a bit of a precarious position that we’re all going to have to deal with this year. If Mason and Boikov develop rapidly and settle into solid roles, I’ll look back at these thoughts and laugh. It’s just a little dicey on day 1.

Goaltending is yet another strength. Jeremy Smith is a workhorse and it’s going to be a pleasure to watch the inconsistent awesomeness of Spencer Martin from last year smooth out into solid professional play as the season goes on. If either spots become vacated due to callups or injury, Nathan Lieuwen and Kent Simpson could be starter/backup on many AHL teams, which is a nice insurance policy.

Leadership

Friday the Rampage announced that Joe Whitney would become the 14th captain in the team’s history. Alternate captains on the road will be vets Trent Vogelhuber and Mike Sislo. Alternate captains at home will be Avs prospects Duncan Siemens and Sam Henley.

I can’t speak to the vets yet really other than I think those are good choices. I think it says something about Sam and Duncan that they were chosen to be part of the leadership group. After the troubling Winter and Spring the team went through, these two fellows seemed like some of the older prospects that tried to right the ship and take more of a role leading the part of the team that still gave a shit.

Season Predictions

Top Scorer: Mike Sislo. This is a toughie because there are several guys I can see getting top honors. Joe Whitney, Jim O’Brien and Rocco Grimaldi will be in the running for sure. Dark Horse: AJ Greer

Top Defensive Forward: Sam Henley & Trent Vogelhuber, co-winners. Too close to pick at the start, Turner Elson and Reid Petryk will also be in the conversation. Dark Horses: Julien Nantel & Shawn St Amant

Top Pest: JT Compher. Troy Bourke will give him a run for his money and it should be a good battle. Nice that we’re talking about a couple guys that have skill here for a change.

Top Defenseman: Chris Bigras. Easy pick if he sticks around. If not it’s a race between Duncan and Lindholm.

Top Goalie: This is a copout but I think Martin & Smith share the honors. Both will have to be spectacular at times if the Rampage are going anywhere and I think that’s exactly what will happen

Most Valuable: The system. This will be the difference. The Rampage/Monsters have had talent in past years, not Calder Cup talent but playoff talent that never realized that potential. Losing focus, losing confidence, losing leads, losing games to horrible teams became the norm once the season passed the halfway point. I have great hopes for Eric Veilleux but he’s as unproven as this roster is as a cohesive unit. The system is the security blanket they all can fall back on when things go pear-shaped and it’s what will transform the players from generic vets & prospects into potential NHLers that can help the parent club.

Team Wins & Points: Wild ass guess - 43 wins, 93 points, 2nd place in the Pacific

Calder Cup Run: I’ll predict they get to the 2nd round, after that anything goes

Preview: Milwaukee

Not much to say here since both teams are different from last season and no one’s played a real game yet. The Rampage finished at 33-35-8, good for 7th in the Pacific and 12th in the Western Conference. The Admirals finished at 48-23-5, 1st in the Central and 2nd in the Western Conference, but got swept by Grand Rapids in the 1st round of the Calder Cup playoffs.

Schedule

Rampage vs Admirals, Saturday 8pm ET
Rampage vs Admirals, Sunday 4pm ET

Radio calls on Ticket 760

Next up: Weekend series against Chicago

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The Eagles kicked off the organization’s debut weekend with a 4-2 win in Rapid City last night. Cole Sanford had a goal and Kent Simpson stopped 34/36 in the victory. Promising start.

The Avs begin their season exactly one hour after the Rampage do, so there’s a conflict. I’m conflicted as well, I want to watch both live and revel in the moment but that’s not possible. Sunday’s game however, does not conflict with the Avs so catching up Sunday AM and watching live in the afternoon will be the plan.