In the matter of an afternoon, the Avs went from 10 or 12 parts & pieces on the San Antonio Rampage projected roster to a fully operational and solid AHL team. As it stands now, there will be only three full-season players returning from last year’s lineup: Sam Henley, Reid Petryk and Mat Clark. I have been hearing from those who know the AHL well that the Avs killed it here and got themselves a slew of quality players. For the first time since the early 2000’s the AHL club will be more than a landfill for marginal talent and NHL injury insurance.
We got news of a few signings midway through the afternoon and as the talking heads on the NHL Network were droning on about Lucic and the like for the 6th straight hour, the Avs dropped the usual “oh by the way, we signed 8 depth players” press release and left us alone to contemplate. Let’s meet our new San Antonio folks:
Ryan Stanton - 6’2 196# 26yo LHD
Played last year for the Hershey Bears but spent the 2 previous seasons full time in the NHL with Vancouver. A solid defensive defenseman, should be good for mentoring youngsters and could provide NHL depth if needed.
Turner Elson - 6’ 195# 23yo LW/C
Elson has been in the Flames org since turning pro in 2013. Last year he was an alternate captain with the Corsi-darling Stockton Heat, putting up 14G/16A in 63 games.
Trent Vogelhuber - 6’2 185# 27yo RW
Vogelhuber was an alternate captain for the Calder Cup champs in Lake Erie last year. Not a major point producer, he’s very solid defensively and on PK. Signed a 2-year deal so we could be looking at our next captain.
Jeremy Smith - 6’ 176# 27yo Goalie
A 2nd round pick of the Preds in 2007, Smith has been a journeyman for the Admirals, Falcons, P-Bruins and last year on loan to Iowa. This is exactly the kind of guy that I was hoping the Avs would hook up with. He’s going to know his role and play very well.
Jim O’Brien - 6’2 200# 27yo C
O’Brien was a 1st round pick of the Senators in 2007 and has 67 NHL games aside from extensive AHL experience. Last year had 38 points in 56 games for a very good Albany Devils club.
Mike Sislo - 5’11 195# 28yo RW
Like O’Brien, he comes from the Devils org where he’s been since leaving UNH in 2011. Has played 42 games in the NHL and racked up 27G/26A last year in Albany making 3 straight years with 20+ goals in the AHL.
Joe Whitney - 5’6 170# 28yo LW
Another player with a long history in the Devils org, he spent last season with Bridgeport. A consistent nearly point-per-game scorer he had 33 points in 36 games last season.
The Avs signed an entire top-6 line, a couple of solid veteran bottom-6ers, an experienced D and a starting goalie. Wow! It’s like they were looking at my list and checked them off one by one! Also, from the contract details we have so far the Avs opened up the checkbook here. It looks like most of these guys will be in the $200k per year range in the AHL, totally unprecedented for this organization. I don’t want to make it sound like it’s all about the $$$ with these new players, I’m sure it’s not, but you have to throw down if you want quality players to shepherd your youngsters and avoid the nightmare seasons we’ve seen in the past from the Colorado affiliates. Along with the extensive contribution the club has made to the Rampage practice facility this summer it shows a concrete investment in development rather than just platitudes.
Besides the new folks, there were a couple of internal Entry-Level Contract signings that I’m absolutely ecstatic about:
AJ Greer - 6’3 205# 19yo LW
One of the Avs 2nd round picks in 2015, Greer started last year at BU but transferred to our beloved Rouyn-Noranda Huskies at Christmastime where he blossomed and ended up a QMJHL champion and a goal away from the Memorial Cup. Even though he’s eligible to return to the Q, the Avs seem to want him turning pro this season and will more than likely end up in San Antonio.
Reid Petryk - 6’1 212# 23yo RW
On the Avs radar since at least 2013, Pete has played the last 2 seasons on an AHL contract and done nothing but continually rise through the lineup. He’s got 50 points in just over a hundred AHL games, kills penalties and (cliche alert) has a great 200 foot game. Well deserved ELC, I’m really happy for him.
/ / / / /
Take these 9 players and add them to what there was already: Bourke, Henley, Nantel & Grimaldi at forward. Geertsen, Boikov, Lindholm, Clark & Corbett on defense. Martin in goal. Now there’s almost an entire team. We could or should get a couple of players from try-outs and whatnot. Rouyn-Noarnda goalie Chase Marchand has an invite to dev camp and is a candidate for the 5th goalie spot. Shawn Ouellet-St Amant from Val d’Or, who won the QMJHL equivalent of the Selke trophy this past year will be there and is eligible for the AHL.
The Avs are only at 43 contracts if all the RFAs are signed so there’s plenty of room to add more if needed. The ECHL affiliation is up in the air right now with many sources reporting that Ft Wayne will not return for the 2nd year of the contract that was signed last summer (the Colorado Eagles have a big announcement this week, something to keep an eye on). If there’s no ECHL affiliate then we won’t see too many more players added on AHL deals, but a few still will happen. If Colorado (or someone else) becomes the ECHL affiliate then there might be a bunch of AHL deals up for grabs at Rampage camp.
Even with the wide array of scenarios and unknowns at this point, it’s fun to start projecting lineups for a goof. Snapshot of July 2nd looks something like this:
Whitney - O’Brien - Sislo
Greer - Grimaldi - Petryk
Henley - Elson - Vogelhuber
Bourke - Nantel - (Ouellet-St Amant/AHL contract)
Geertsen - Stanton
(Siemens/9th Avs D) - Lindholm
Boikov - Clark
Looks good so far. There’s a nice blend of talent and experience, lines that can score, lines that can defend, Ds that can D, players that can fit multiple roles. Now all we need is a coach and a system to learn/execute and we’re in business.