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From the Rampage Desk: The Calm Before the Storm

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Since things will be heating up on the player trade and signing fronts next week, I’d like to get a snapshot in of where things are with our AHL affiliate and what has happened so far this off-season. By the time all the idiots in my neighborhood start lighting off firecrackers on July 4th we should have a pretty good handle on who some candidates will be for filling out the roster in San Antonio.

Coaching

Leading off the big news, Coach Dean Chynoweth was let go following the season. It’s easy to make a case it was purely performance issues that cemented his fortune, no playoff appearances in 4 years, a 135-128-41 record and an average finish of 11th in the Western Conference. It’s difficult to speculate on his development record since there was not much to work with and players that have left haven’t made any breakthroughs but the fact remains that outside of Tyson Barrie and Calvin Pickard no one graduated to the NHL from the A under his watch.

As of right now the search for a replacement is under way. Former Avs player Steve Konowalchuk was interviewed after leading the Seattle Thunderbirds to the WHL finals. Other names in the mix include Rampage defense coach Randy Ladouceur, former Avs defenseman and current Lake Erie defense coach Nolan Pratt and I’m sure a few others. Joe Sakic stated recently that we’ll be hearing something in mid-July about who takes the reins.

Signings

The Avs have signed 4 players to Entry-Level Contracts this Spring and most or all will spend time with the Rampage next year.

Julien Nantel - 2014 7th Rd, 6’ 195# LW/C. Nantel will join the team after winning the QMJHL championship with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. He’s a solid 2-way forward with great speed and puck management skills. I see him bringing some of the same things we’ve seen with Reid Petryk over the past few seasons, excellent defense, some PK and probably some complementary scoring down the road. Also, like Petryk, I see him as a player that keeps moving up the lineup.

J.T. Compher - 2013 2nd Rd (BUF), 6’ 190# C/RW. Compher has a real shot to make the Avalanche either right out of camp or soon after. Another solid 2-way forward but with very good offensive skills, he joins the org from the University of Michigan where he was captain and put up 16G/47A in 38 games this season. If he ends up in San Antonio for any amount of time we will see him centering one of the top lines.

Anton Lindholm - 2014 5th Rd, 5’11 195# LHD. Lindholm flew under the radar as an Avs amateur prospect but completed his 2nd full year in the Swedish Hockey League with Skelleftea as a 21-year old and went on to play a few games for Sweden in the World Championships. Known primarily as a defensive defenseman, I’m hoping to see his game round out a bit in North America.

Sergei Boikov - 2015 6th Rd, 6’2 195# LHD. Boikov finished his amateur career getting eliminated by Nantel’s Huskies in the QMJHL playoffs playing for a terrible Drummondville squad. That enabled him to get a head start and play 4 games for the Rampage at the end of the season. I was very impressed by Boikov, maybe the most poised youngster I’ve seen on an end-of-season Amateur Try-Out. A fantastic skater, he’s smart and very calm with the puck. Really looking forward to seeing what he can do this season.

Recently Joe Sakic mentioned that defensemen Duncan Siemens and Brandon Gormley (among others) will be qualified as Restricted Free Agents this summer. While not a guarantee that either will be back in San Antonio it definitely increases the odds. Siemens made some good progress this year although once again hampered by a long-term injury. Gormley struggled with the Rampage for various reasons and I question his interest level in playing in the AHL at this point.

Returning Players

Sam Henley - Big Sam made the switch from primarily bottom-6 center to top-6 wing late in the season and really started to take off. I hope that sticks because he’s better offensively that stats indicate and freed from the responsibilities of the center position will make him able to contribute more overall to the team.

Cody Corbett - Corbs’ struggles defensively continued this year but he did show some improvement offensively and with Ft Wayne did show some signs of being a better 2-way player. I hope some changes in the coaching staff can get a little more development going in the 3rd year of his ELC.

Troy Bourke - Just a ghastly season for Bourkie in the AHL last year, his point production dropped by more than 50%. A great playoff run with the Komets should bring his confidence back as well as having a coach that won’t repeatedly try to turn him into a grindy 4th liner. I see a 20 goal season as a possibility for Bourke next year if all goes well.

Mat Clark - Clark was signed for leadership and solid play guiding the younger Ds but the result was anything but that. If his issues were all injury related last year then maybe he makes a comeback, if not, and I suspect they weren’t, then his spot on the roster is troubling at best.

Mason Geertsen - Some early season struggles compounded by the number of more experienced D made for a forgettable first three-quarters of a rookie season. Really poured it on coming back from Ft Wayne late in the year and that’s going to continue this season.

Spencer Martin - As it stands now he should be the backup goalie, but an oft-used one. I wouldn’t put it past him to win the starter role at some point either.

Reto Berra - Should be the starter and insurance policy for Varly’s groin although there’s always the possibility he gets traded and an AHL vet takes the spot.

Possibilities

We saw some fine play from AHL and even ECHL players like Reid Petryk, Alex Belzile, Garry Nunn and Garrett Thompson. Belzile and Thompson will almost definitely stay property of the Komets so they will be around in at least that capacity. I can’t imagine not signing Nunn to an AHL contract and Petryk has a shot at a 2-way NHL/AHL deal on July 1st.

Thanks to AJ from BSN we have heard that there is mutual interest between the Avs and defenseman Will O’Neill from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Also Stephen Harper, an overager from the Niagara IceDogs could make an appearance on the roster.

There’s also a possibility Avs 2015 2nd rounder AJ Greer plays for the Rampage next year. Just because he’s 19 and is allowed to play in the AHL makes the Avs have to consider that as a development path.

The org needs a 5th goalie on the depth chart, my personal favorite would be Rouyn-Noranda’s Chase Marchand, but we’ll see where that goes. As Marty proved last year, it’s a pretty important role.

As far as players we know won’t be back, Dennis Everberg, Joey Hishon and Roman Will have signed in Europe so far with Borna Rendulic expected to.

Conclusion

What we have is 10 pretty solid roster spots and a whole lot of maybes right now. 43 players suited up for the Rampage last year although only 27 played 20 games or more. I doubt too many of the solid spots will be determined in the next couple of weeks, that will come from Development Camp, Rookie Camp and ultimately Rampage Training Camp in September. What will become clear is a larger part of the pool we’ll be looking at.

Stay tuned, any & all San Antonio related news will be passed along as it becomes available.