The AHL Wolf Pack Training camp started today–with physicals and off-ice testing. The first practice will begin Friday and go through Tuesday. Wednesday is the first pre-season game, to be played against Worchester (the Sharks AHL affiliate) in Cromwell, CT, with another game the following night at the XL Center in Hartford against the Albany Devils. Friday September 27, there will be a game in Albany, with the Wolf Pack’s pre-season ending in Cromwell on Sunday, September 29, against Springfield in Simsbury, CT. The regular season opens Saturday night October 5, 2013 at home against the Norfolk Admirals (affiliated with the Anaheim Ducks).
The training camp roster is as follows:
Goalies: Jeff Malcolm, Jason Missiaen, Scott Stajcer
Defensemen: Brad Cole, Jace Coyle, Charlie Dodero, Sam Klassen, Jason Lepine, Mike Marcou, Brendon Nash, Samuel Noreau, Bretton Stamler
Forwards: Sean Ambrosie, Scott Arnold, J.T. Barnett, Ryan Bourque, Andrew Carroll, Jean-Philipp Chabot, Brodie Dupont, Angelo Esposito, Tyler Gjurich, Brandon Hynes, Kyle Jean, Matt Kirzinger, Josh Nicholls, Shawn O’Donnell, Andrew Rowe, Michael St. Croix, Matt Thurber, Jason Wilson
So, that’s the official stuff. Let’s take a closer look at who’s on this roster.
All three goaltenders were in the Rangers training camp. Malcolm is the NCAA champion Yale’s former netminder, who looked good in Traverse City and okay in camp, but not enough to win an ELC. Both Missiaen and Stajcer are Rangers’ prospects. Stajcer is coming off hip surgery and will just be skating for the first time this week. I expect that it will take him some time to be ready to play in a game. Missiaen should be Talbot’s backup to start the season. Currently with the Rangers on their Western pre-season trip, it is pretty sure that, absent injury, it will be Biron that is the NHL backup this season. Stajcer, when he returns likely will play in Greenville, in the ECHL. Malcolm may start there as well, if he signs within the Rangers organization.
The Wolf Pack will open camp with nine defensemen, but how many of these players will be on the roster by October 15th? The Rangers have 13 defenseman that are still on their pre-season roster after today’s cuts–all under contract. Even if New York keeps eight of the 13, which is unlikely, that’s still five blueliners coming down to Hartford. One or two of those could be sent to the ECHL, but there’s not much room for new D-men on this team.
That said, let’s go over who will be at camp on the blueline.
Brad Cole is 26 and has spent the last two seasons skating in Austria. He played both in the AHL and ECHL previously. He is mostly a defensive blueliner, with good size and some nastiness.
Jace Coyle is 23 and big (6’4″). He has spent the last two seasons in the Dallas Stars organization, mostly in the ECHL.
Charlie Dodero, age 20, is in his rookie pro season (after four years of OHL hockey). He played in Traverse City this fall and was brought to the Rangers training camp, but reassigned to the Wolf Pack this past Sunday.
Sam Klassen, 24, a former Rangers prospect. After spending most of the first two seasons of his pro career with Greenville in the ECHL, Klassen skated with the Connecticut Whale last season. A decent size defensive blueliner, with all the defensemen that may come down from New York, Klassen’s position on this team is not secure this season.
Jason Lepine, 28 years old, has been playing in Europe the past few seasons. Most of his North American professional career has been spent at the AA level.
At age 24, Mike Marcou is a former collegiate blueliner who showed some offensive abilities in Greenville last season, but the question is can he skate well enough to be able to show off that skill at this level.
Brendon Nash, 26 years old, is a free agent after playing in three organizations last season. He only saw action at the AHL level and is expected to be a regular member of the Wolf Pack this season.
Twenty-year old Sam Noreau was recently signed to an ELC by the Rangers. Very big, with some skating issues, he has improved his positioning and decision making since being drafted in the 5th round in 2011. Noreau is someone on the bubble. If he can show that he can keep up with the skating at this level during training camp, he will stay in Hartford, even if his defense is not quite up to par.
Bretton Stamler is a 26-year old defensive defenseman, who skated in the ECHL the past two seasons. Although he will get a look in this camp, he is likely to start the season back with Greenville.
Where things get interesting is here–among the forwards. There are some familiar names–in Ryan Bourque, Kyle Jean (who is injured), and Jason Wilson–all of whom are Rangers prospects and played with the team last season. Brodie Dupont, 26, a former Rangers prospect, who was a character player, a leader on this team, who also has the ability to create offense, is back in camp. Dupont played in Europe last season and could be a long term addition to the team.
Then there is Angelo Esposito. For those of you who don’t know, for several years before the 2007 draft, Esposito was expected to be the number one pick overall in the draft. He had amazing skill, creativity, vision. By his draft year, things had changed–there were questions about his game–whether it would transfer to the pro level. Could he be successful when he was not the star player on the team. I watched him in those years and Esposito was a wizard. By the time of the draft, Esposito dropped to 20th overall–it was the Penguins that selected him. But then they traded him to Atlanta less than a year later–at the trade deadline–as part of the deal that sent Marian Hossa to Pittsburgh. He suffered injuries and languished in the Thrashers organization. He wound up playing out his ELC in a combination of the AHL/ECHL in 2011-12. Last year, he played in Europe, and did not exactly light up the ice. The question is who is he at age 24? Can he be anything like what he was at age 16? If so, and the Rangers can sign him as a UFA, that would be very exciting. Otherwise, it would be a terrible shame–Esposito was unquestionably one of the more talented juniors I have ever had the pleasure to see play this game.
As for the other forwards:
Sean Ambrosie, 24, C, who just graduated from the University of Connecticut, and was one of the team’s leading scorers.
Scott Arnold, 24, RW, who spent most of last season in the ECHL with the Gwinnett Gladiators.
JT Barnett, 21, RW, who was in Rangers training camp and Traverse City. He is a good two-way player out of the WHL.
Andrew Carroll, 28, C, a tough guy, who split his time between the Connecticut Whale and the ECHL last season.
Jean-Philipp Chabot, 25, C, an enforcer who has spent the last two seasons in the Central Hockey League.
Tyler Gjurich, 21, a small forward who was an offensive wizard for the OJHL Buffalo Jr. Sabres.
Brandon Hynes, 21, RW, who spent five years in the QMJHL. A good offensively gifted diminutive forward, Hynes may be able to provide offense for the club.
Matt Kirzinger, 25, C, just completed four years of eligibility at Ferris State University. Injured last season, he did not get to show his full abilities, which he should be able to display in the coming weeks.
Josh Nicholls, 21, RW, is a Rangers prospect. Signed as a free agent last spring, Nicholls was very impressive in training camp this fall. Offensively gifted, he is expected to stay at this level this season.
Shawn O’Donnell, 25, RW, was invited to Rangers training camp and even played in a pre-season NHL game this past Monday. O’Donnell just completed four years at St. Mary’s University and has some offensive upside. He will get a good look in the Wolf Pack camp. I saw some skating issues over the past week, but he has good strength and may be able to stick in the AHL.
Andrew Rowe, 25, LW, is a fourth year pro, who spent most of last season with Elmira in the ECHL.
Michael St. Croix, 20, is a Rangers prospect, who is expected to be a very good two-way player. A veteran of Traverse City and Rangers training and development camps, St. Croix has yet to show his best talent outside of his play with the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL.
Matt Thurber, F, 23, completed his collegiate career last spring. The small forward had excellent numbers for his last two seasons at Northern Michigan and could be a welcome addition to the offense-challenged Hartford team.
So that’s who will be in camp for the next week. Of course, there will be more additions as the Rangers re-assign more players over the coming weeks.