A long off-season with broad sweeping changes comes to a close today when the beloved Rampage hit the ice at Northwoods Ice Center for their first practice in San Antonio. As of right now, Reid Petryk, Sam Henley and Assistant Coach Randy Ladouceur are the only folks returning that spent the entire season with the Rampage, although there are quite a few that were around for parts of last year and a couple cuts yet to be made from the Avalanche.
After the end of last season the Avs took a long look at their minor league and development system and didn’t like what they saw. Coaches, rosters, affiliates, facilities all went through major changes. There is a new state of the art training facility at Northwoods so prospects don’t have to lift weights in the parking lot. Neither the Ft Wayne Komets nor the Avalanche seemed to get what they wanted out of their affiliation agreement, so it was terminated early and now the Colorado Eagles are the Rampage’s ECHL feeder club. The head coach was dismissed. Many players, both prospects and vets, were found lacking and let go. Let’s look at the makeup of the team as it stands now.
Not long after the conclusion of the 2016 campaign, Head Coach Dean Chynoweth was let go and the search for a replacement began. Many candidates were interviewed including current and former staff members and several outsiders. In mid-July it was announced that Eric Veilleux would be the new head coach. He brings a long history of success in the QMJHL with a small amount of recent minor pro experience.
Coach V was seen in Denver during informal practices before training camp, ran the Avs Rookie Camp and was also a participant at Avs main camp coaching in the Burgundy/White Game. Safe to say that’s a lot more involved than we’ve seen the AHL affiliate coaches in the past. Even better is that it looks like he’s totally on board with Avs coach Jared Bednar’s system and practice regime and plans to mirror what they do in Denver. Yes, we’ve heard this before but this time I actually believe it.
Randy Ladouceur, who also spent a lot of time in Denver during the camps, returns as defense coach. Jean-Ian Filiatrault and Steven Petrovek return as Goalie Coach and Video Coach respectively. Tim Martin joins the staff as Conditioning Coach, he was also with the Monsters for a year as an intern in the same capacity.
This is just a snapshot as of Sunday, October 2nd. There are still some players that will be cut from the Avs and some mystery men we’ll find out about once skates hit the ice. Dan Weiss reports there will be about 30 players for practice on Day 1, right now there are 29. As usual, Dan’s on it.
Amateur Try-Out (1)
Jackson Houck - 6’/192# 21yo RW, played 3 games for SA at the end of last year and participated in Avs Summer Development Camp, Rookie Camp and probably would have been involved in main camp but for a shoulder injury.
Professional Try-Out (7)
Blake Kessel - 6’2/209# 27yo RHD, from Atlanta of the ECHL. RHD is a big need right now so just based on that he might have a chance to make the Rampage outright. Fun fact: He’s Phil’s brother.
Thomas Frazee - 6’3/176# 26yo C, also from Atlanta. Played for the Komets a couple years ago.
Sam Jardine - 6’2/209# 23yo LHD, from the Eagles. 6th rounder of the Hawks, played at Ohio State
Michael Sdao - 6’4/227# 27yo LHD, from the Eagles. Ottawa 7th rounder in ‘09, played the last 3 years for Binghamton in the AHL.
Matt Garbowski - 5’10/185# 26yo C/LW, from the Eagles. Played 4 years at RIT, spent last year with the Amerks and Elmira Jackals (ECHL).
Jesse Mychan - 6’2/181# 24yo LW, from the Eagles. Has played 2 full seasons with Colorado with a couple of brief AHL callups.
Josh Nicholls - 6’2/190# 24yo RW/C, from the Eagles. 7th rd pick of the Leafs in 2010, played for Saskatoon concurrently with Duncan Siemens. Spent last 3 years in the NYR system.
AHL Contract (6)
Shawn St Amant - 6’/198# 19yo RW, won the QMJHL equivalent of the Selke Trophy last year. Attended Avs Summer Dev Camp, Rookie Camp and Main Camp.
Nathan Lieuwen - 6’5/190# 25yo G, 6th rd pick of the Sabres and spent the last 4 years in their org. 7 NHL starts and 80 in the AHL. Kind of a mystery what the Avs are going to do with him, not an ECHLer at all.
Kent Simpson - 6’2/209# 25yo G, 2nd rd pick of the Hawks in 2010. Got a few starts with the Eagles 2 years ago and looks like that’s where he’s headed.
Cole Sanford - 5’8/163# 21yo RW/C, 238 points in his last 207 games in the WHL, not bad.
Alex Belzile - 6’/180# 25yo C, played 25 games for SA last year with 6G/4A.
Garry Nunn - 5’9 174# 26yo RW, had 7G/7A in 16 games for SA last year.
Avs Contract (15)
Mason Geertsen - sent down to rehab a hand injury
Reid Petryk - sent down to rehab a foot injury, out for a while
Julien Nantel - sent down to rehab a foot injury, sensing a pattern?
Sergei Boikov - Looked great in camp until his final game, expect big things from the rookie
Cody Corbett - Did not look great in camp and didn’t play in a pre-season game. Numbers of available players might hand him a spot early on but he needs to earn PT.
Rocco Grimaldi - San Antonio fan favorite from his Panthers days, he had a good NHL camp and it was somewhat surprising he got cut at this point.
Troy Bourke - Split time between SA and Ft Wayne last year, came to camp with a fresh outlook and it’s paid off so far.
Turner Elson - Free agent forward signing from the Flames org
AJ Greer - Big 19 year old scoring wing that won the QMJHL President’s Cup last year along with Julien Nantel.
Sam Henley - Big Sam had a wonderful pre-season with the Avs and was key on the PK. I’m looking for him to get a callup sometime this year.
Spencer Martin - Strangely didn’t get into a pre-season game although he backed up Varly against the Kings.
Jim O’Brien - Free agent 2-way center destined for the Rampage top-6
Jeremy Smith - Free agent goalie, should be the opening night starter vs Milwaukee
Ryan Stanton - Brought in to anchor the defense, has 2 full NHL seasons under his belt with the Canucks. Looked good with both Bigras and Siemens in pre-season.
Joe Whitney - Free agent scoring forward, want to see a line with he, Rocco and Cole Sanford at some point
Geertsen, Petryk & Nantel all indicated as injured when sent down, word on the street is that Pete has a broken foot and is out for 6 weeks. No info on the other two.
Trent Vogelhuber had his appendix out right before Avs training camp and hit the ice for the first time on Sunday morning. Not going to cut a guy without giving him a look, especially the potential San Antonio captain, so he should be in Colorado for a few days at least.
Shawn St Amant and Jackson Houck missed time before being sent down, no word on if they are cleared
Mat Clark showed up at Avs Camp, had his picture taken and hasn’t been seen or heard from since. Until we get more information it’s tough to say what role if any he will play for the Rampage this season.
The Avs need to get down to no more than 23 healthy players before October 15th so there’s somewhere between 3 and 7 more players headed San Antonio’s way depending on injuries and whether a couple of NHL PTOs get contracts.
Forwards: 9 on NHL contracts, 4 on AHL contracts (13 total signed), 5 on Try-Outs
- looking for another 3-5 from the Avs, 16-18 signed players for 13+ spots
Defense: 4 on NHL contracts, 3 on Try-outs
- looking for another 2 or 3 from the Avs, 6 or 7 signed players for 7+ spots
Goalies: 2 on NHL contracts, 2 on AHL contracts (4 total signed)
- no further goalie cuts from Colorado, 4 signed players for 2+ spots
It appears that the forward try-outs are there for callup spots only and a few of the signed players will be assigned to the Eagles.
The defense is wide open. If the Avs keep 8 on their roster and Geertsen is still injured they’re going to need at least one PTO just to play a game, more like 2. There is speculation that AHL signee from last year Justin Hamonic is going to be in camp and I’d honestly be surprised if he wasn’t, so that would help. Still a big opportunity for someone currently in the ECHL to step up.
I’m in a very small minority that thinks that the Eagles will only receive one goaltender from the Rampage but it makes sense on a few levels. A competitive ECHL team like Colorado doesn’t want both goalies available on a whim from the parent franchise, they need some stability and they have a guy they like in Clarke Saunders already signed. The ECHL has a cap and roster limits unlike the AHL so if they lose Saunders at the beginning of the year he’s gone, perhaps for good. From the point of view of the Avs/Rampage, putting a goalie in the ECHL backup slot makes little sense either. They won’t play much and it would be a waste of talent for any of the 4 fighting for the spots in San Antonio. Of course a 3rd goalie in the AHL won’t play much either, but at least he’s available, so... what do you do? I’m sure they have a plan, likely giving one of Simpson or Lieuwen to the Atlanta Gladiators (who only have 2 goalies right now, both on try-outs) of the ECHL until needed. It’ll end up being something like that, but I just don’t see the Eagles or the Rampage wanting 2 SAR goalies in Loveland to begin the year.
Mon-Weds: Practice from 9:30-12:15 CT at Northwoods Ice Center
Thursday: Rampage vs Stars 7pm CT at the AT&T Center
Friday: Practice 10:30-12 CT at Northwoods
Saturday: Rampage at Stars 3pm CT at Cedar Park
Next Monday through Friday, practice 10:15-11:45 CT at Northwoods
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I’d love to start throwing out some probable lines and pairs but with a new coach and new outlook from the Avs organization it’s really difficult to say how they will craft the lineup. Two or three of the Rampage’s best defensemen are still in Denver along with a few key forwards. All that aside, this is a solid squad even without them so truly reason to be optimistic.
Dan Weiss is really good about tweeting updates so we’ll have those to look forward to this week. The Avs will probably shed a few more players before their road trip to Las Vegas. The Rampage will also begin making roster cuts mid-week so the ECHLers can get back to their teams.