Sunday, July 30, 2017

Allen Roster Update, Big Announcements Monday, Only One of ECHL's Top 20 Scorers Re-signed

It has been a while since I provided an update on all things Allen Americans and I will soon be headed to Africa on vacation so thought I would share what is happening with the roster, the front office, some former players and anything else of interest to those of you that can't wait for the season to get started. Here goes in no particular order.

- Chad Costello and family headed across the pond this week to Iserlohn, Germany to start their European adventure. If I read the team's website in German correctly the first game (preseason) for Chad will be August 12.

- The official Allen roster (players signed & announced) now stands at seven with the announcement this week that Miles Liberati has re-signed. Here is the current roster:

Riley Gill - goalie
Joel Chouinard - defense
Mike Gunn - defense
Eric Roy - defense
Tanner Eberle - forward
Jonathan Lessard - forward
Miles Liberati -defense

- Coach Martinson has other players signed but they may be going through the standard review by the ECHL office or the team may be waiting for the right timing to make an announcement.

- Tomorrow (Monday) the Americans will be announcing their new front office management team and making a "major" player annoucment. Two big steps forward for the Allen Americans. Stay tuned! UPDATE: Casey Pierro-Zabotel will be returning to Allen after winning the Kelly Cup in Colorado. Matt Canavan is returning as the President of the Allen Americans.

- If you are a regular reader of the blog you will remember what I posted at the beginning of July about Allen players from the past that fans talk about hoping they return. Here is what I said at the time.

 Every season Allen fans talk about players from the past returning to the team. Jamie Schaafsma, Alex Lavoie, Jonathan Lessard, Jack Combs, Casey Pierro-Zabotel, Vincent Arseneau and Rylan Schwartz are some of the names I hear most frequently mentioned and I am sure Chad Costello and Spencer Asuchak will now be added to that list. In case you were wondering everyone mentioned has already signed for next season with the exception of Pierro-Zabotel, Arseneau and Lessard who can sign with any team as they are free agents. It would be great if coach Martinson was able to recruit one or two of these unsigned players back to Allen!

It is now the end of July and Lessard has signed with Allen. As of this morning according to the website Elite Prospects neither Pierro-Zabotel or Vincent Arseneau have been signed by any team for the 2017-18 season. So there is still hope for Allen fans coach Martinson can work his magic on one of both of these players. 

-  Came across this story about a player named Zach Pochiro that was published in a blog out of Las Vegas ( on July 21st. Sounds like this player is coming to Allen but no official word from the Allen Americans.

- My reporting indicates coach Martinson may be recruiting two brothers to play for Allen next season. Everyone remembers the Ludwig brothers (Tyler & Trevor) who were a big part of Allen's first three championships. But do you remember the Howes brothers (Scott & Andrew) were in camp with Allen back in 2012-13? The Daniels brothers (Drew & Justin) were also with the Americans during the 2012-13 season. 

- Rick Pinkston and Danny Federico, who were part of Allen's Kelly Cup championship in 2015-16, signed contracts in the last week. Pinkston signed an AHL deal with the Milwaukee Admirals and Federico re-signed with the South Carolina Stingrays. 

- The Americans only have nine home games the first two months of the season (October & November). This is by design to avoid too many conflicts with Texas high school football games. However, the nine home games will give Allen fans the chance to take a look at five different teams. Here are the October & November home games. 

October 21 & 22 - Orlando Solar Bears
October 29 - Tulsa Oilers
November 1 - Utah Grizzlies
November 4 - Wichita Thunder
November 5 - Tulsa Oilers
November 10 & 11 - Idaho Steelheads
November 12 - Tulsa Oilers

DID YOU KNOW: How hard is it for ECHL coaches to re-sign their top scorers each season? If you look at the top 20 point scorers in the ECHL last season here is a status of the group. It is almost August and only one player has re-signed to return to his team from last season. It is pretty simple, with so much turnover of top players, if you want to be a top team you have to be a top recruiter. A big reason Steve Martinson has won 10 championship in 21 seasons as a coach. Here is the status of the top 20 ECHL scorers from last season.

10 - have signed to play in Europe next season
7 - have not yet signed a contract for next season
2 - have signed AHL deals
1 - has re-signed with his ECHL team


Thursday, July 20, 2017

Allen Americans Roster Update, Makowski & Moore Get AHL Deals, Vets Status & Leagues Explained & More

It has been a while since I have provided a roster update and with the long awaited announcement yesterday that David Makowski and Bryan Moore have signed one year deals with the San Jose Barracuda (AHL) today is a good day to do a recap of where the Americans stand on the roster. Also want to try and answer a few questions I have been asked over the last week.

- Based on their performance last season it was anticipated that Makowski and Moore would have a chance to be signed by the San Jose Barracuda and that came to fruition yesterday. A great opportunity for both of them. If you haven't seen it here is the press release issued by San Jose:

- A fan wanted to know if there is a chance Makowski and Moore could be assigned to Allen during the upcoming season. The answer is yes they can and probably will be in Allen at some point in the season. You always hope they have a great training camp in San Jose and they never return to the ECHL but history would say it is likely they will be back in Allen at some point. They could earn a spot on the Barracuda opening day roster or they could be sent to Allen at the beginning of the season and get recalled when there are injuries. When you talk to players all they want is an opportunity at the next level so Bryan and David now have that opportunity and I am sure they will make the most of it.

- Still no formal announcement on where Greger Hanson will play next season but my reporting is that he has already signed an AHL deal and it is a matter of time before that is officially announced.

- I mentioned in my last blog post that Casey Pierro-Zabotel, Vincent Arseneau and Jonathan Lessard are three players from the past that are free agents and have not been signed to ECHL contracts. Could they be coming back to Allen? You have to think coach Martinson would be in conversation with the players or their agents. I have heard unsubstantiated rumors Pierro-Zabotel will not be returning to the Colorado Eagles. More intriguing is Jonathan Lessard who played in France last season. If you follow Jonathan on social media you may have seen him ask his friends if they know anyone that could help him get an American visa for his French girlfriend for at least six months. The plot thickens! UPDATE: Jonathan Lessard has signed with the Allen Americans. Here is the press release:

- The Americans roster now stands at five players officially announced, Riley Gill, Joel Chouinard, Mike Gunn, Eric Roy and Tanner Eberle. There are others signed that have not been announced. Five players already signed and announced is about average if you look at all ECHL teams (see "Did You Know" below). The range is from zero players (Jacksonville) to 12 players (Fort Wayne).

- Another question I get all of the time is when will coach Martinson sign the high end goal scorers to replace all of the firepower that will not be back this season. It is possible that the top six goal scorers from last season will not be back and the top four have already signed elsewhere. Hard to replace that top four; Hanson (35 goals), Costello (33 goals), Moore (27 goals) and Asuchak (26 goals). These four players combined for an average of two goals per game last season. I had a chance to talk to coach Martinson about this loss of goal scoring and he assured me he has lots of irons in the fire and there are plenty of players interested in Allen. The delay is these top end players are all pursuing AHL deals as a first option and will sign with Martinson if that doesn't happen. It is only July and AHL teams are just now making decisions on signing free agents.

- I was also asked about the veteran rules by a fan who was trying to research games played on the website Elite Prospects. As a reminder each team is limited to four veteran players (excluding goalies). You are considered a veteran if a player has played in at least 260 regular season games as a professional as of the opening day of the season. Games played in all professional North American leagues at the "AA" level or higher count. European leagues that count toward veteran status are the top leagues in the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Russia, Slovakia and Switzerland. What are the top leagues in these seven countries?

Russia - Kontinental Hockey League (KHL)
Sweden - Swedish Hockey League (SHL)
Finland - Finnish Elite League (LIIGA)
Czech Republic - Tipsport Extraliga (Czech)
Slovakia - Tipsport Liga (Slovakia)
Switzerland - National League A (NLA)
Germany - German Ice Hockey League (DEL)

DID YOU KNOW: Here are the number of players each team in the ECHL has signed and announced. Remember, most teams have additional players signed but not announced.

Adirondack - 3
Allen - 5
Atlanta - 2
Brampton - 3
Cincinnati - 2
Colorado - 2
Florida - 4
Fort Wayne - 12
Greenville - 6
Idaho - 3
Indy - 5
Jacksonville - 0
Kalamazoo - 4
Kansas City - 5
Manchester - 3
Norfolk - 2
Orlando - 3
Quad City - 4
Rapid City - 4
Reading - 5
South Carolina - 6
Toledo - 4
Tulsa - 3
Utah - 3
Wheeling - 5
Wichita - 7
Worcester - 5

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Allen Americans Players, Past, Present & Future - An Update

I thought today would be a good time to recap and bring everyone up to date on where things stand regarding the upcoming season and share some information on a few other players that have passed through Allen in the past.

- The Americans announced two more player signings in the last week as defensemen Mike Gunn and Eric Roy will return. They join Riley Gill and Joel Chouinard as the four players thus far announced.

- As I mentioned in an earlier post about qualifying offers, if a player was on the season ending roster but not on the qualifying offer list and they are not veterans (more than 260 pro games) you can assume they have already been signed but not announced. Only five players were given qualifying offers by coach Martinson and they are David Makowski, Wade MacLeod, Spencer Asuchak, Zach Hall and Tanner Eberle.  Two players, Bryan Moore and Miles Liberati fall into this category (not vets & not qualified) so I would expect they have been signed. For Moore the only question is whether he was signed to an ECHL contract with Allen or an AHL deal with San Jose.

- Chouinard, Roy, Gunn and Liberati are all left shot defensemen. You can be sure coach Martinson will be targeting right shot defensmen as he fills out the rest of the blueline.

- If you haven't seen the tribute to Chad Costello that appeared on the ECHL website on Friday here it is:

- And if you have never seen the story I wrote back on May 22nd about Chad and Ashley heading to Germany for the upcoming season here it is:

-  Signing overseas sure makes for a short off season if you consider Chad Costello will head to Germany at the end of July and Spencer Asuchak told me he leaves for Slovakia on August 2.  

- Best of luck to goalie Jamie Murray who has signed with the Norfolk Admirals (ECHL) for the upcoming season. Jamie had a one year deal last season with San Jose and was not re-signed so he was a free agent. Norfolk finished in last place in the South Division last season. 

- Congrats are also in order for Phil Fox who was a member of the 2013-14 Allen Americans CHL championship team and just got  engaged. Phil is one of those players you knew would make a career in hockey. He was captain of his high school team in Stillwater, MN, was a three year captain in college at Northern Michigan University (NMU) and when he retired after the 2013-14 season he returned to NMU as the Hockey Operations Manager and also completed his master's degree in Public Administration. Phil has recently accepted a coaching position in Albuquerque and will be moving next month from the upper peninsula of Michigan to New Mexico, that is quite a change. Phil will be the head coach for the traveling bantam team and Director of Player Development for the entire youth program.   

Phil Fox & Ricci Filizetti engaged

- Every season Allen fans talk about players from the past returning to the team. Jamie Schaafsma, Alex Lavoie, Jonathan Lessard, Jack Combs, Casey Pierro-Zabotel, Vincent Arseneau and Rylan Schwartz are some of the names I hear most frequently mentioned and I am sure Chad Costello and Spencer Asuchak will now be added to that list. In case you were wondering everyone mentioned has already signed for next season with the exception of Pierro-Zabotel, Arseneau and Lessard who can sign with any team as they are or can become free agents. It would be great if coach Martinson was  able to recruit one or two of these unsigned players back to Allen!

DID YOU KNOW: As a rookie in 2015-16 Eric Roy led all Allen defensemen in plus/minus, was second in goals and third in points. He was even more impressive during the Americans 2016 Kelly Cup championship run leading all defensemen in goals (5), assists (16), points (21) and plus/minus (+12). Last season Eric was slowed by injuries and played just 40 regular season games but was still second in goals by a defenseman with 13, trailing only David Makowski who had 16 goals. Eric wasn't a 100% in the playoffs having just come off a broken jaw and spending six weeks with his jaw wired shut. He was injured February 19 and did not play again until the first playoff game on April 12th. Look for Eric, who was a fifth round draft choice of the Calgary Flames in the 2013 NHL draft, to have a big season for Allen in 2017-18. Always a clutch player, Roy has more game winning goals over the last two seasons (regular season & playoffs) than any other player on the Allen Americans. Eric has 34 career goals in Allen and 11 of them have been game winners.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Best Guess on Allen Americans Qualifying Offers, Arseneau Not Qualified by Wichita, Gens Wedding

I have been getting a lot of questions about what players have been qualified by the Allen Americans so thought I would  give you my best guess on what the list may look like when it comes out tomorrow (Monday). 

The deadline for making qualifying offers passed at 11:59 pm on Friday so there are now a lot more free agents around the ECHL. One of the more interesting names (for Allen fans) that did not get qualified according to unofficial reports is Vincent Arseneau of the Wichita Thunder. A fan favorite when he played in Allen (2014-16) it would be great if he would return. I am positive now that he is a free agent, coach Martinson will be working hard to get him back in red.

- As for the Allen Americans here is the list of players on the season ending roster that could have been given a qualifying offer. Riley Gill, Joel Chouinard, David Makowski, Miles Liberati, Mike Gunn, Wade MacLeod, Josh Brittain, Gary Steffes, Greger Hanson, Chad Costello, Spencer Asuchak, Bryan Moore, Zach Hall, Tanner Eberle.  Remember, only eight players can be given qualifying offers and this is a way to retain the rights to players. The number of players receiving qualifying offers will be less than eight. Any player that has already signed is excluded. Typically coach Martinson does not extend qualifying offers to veterans because the rules allow them to become free agents on September 1st as long as they don't sign with another team prior to that date. Last year Martinson qualified five players. My guess is the number this year will be about the same.

Here are my thoughts about the 14 players on the season ending roster that are eligible to receive qualifying offers. 

Riley Gill and Joel Chouinard have already been re-signed and announced so no need to qualify them. They are also vets.

Costello, Brittain, Steffes and Hanson are vets and will not be qualified in my opinion. Costello and Brittain have already signed in Europe, I have heard from five different sources (none associated with the Allen Americans) that Greger Hanson has signed a deal with an AHL club and it is not San Jose, so he will be gone. It remains to be seen if Gary Steffes plays next season. Gary has a post career position with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) awaiting him whenever his playing days are over but it remains to be seen when that will be.

If you take the six players listed above out of the equation it leaves eight left that might be qualified. MacLeod and Asuchak have signed in Europe and must be qualified so Allen can retains their rights should they return to North America prior to February 15.

Makowski, Moore, Hall and Eberle may have to be qualified because they are still awaiting deals with an AHL club or clubs in Europe before they re-sign with Allen. If any of them are not on the qualified list when it comes out on Monday it means they have already been signed by coach Martinson.

- Coach Martinson has most certainly agreed to terms with some of the role players on the team from last season and they are also a key to success. Mike Gunn is a player everyone talks about as a great guy in the locker room and improving every season. Miles Liberati has great potential as a puck carrying defenseman. If Gunn and Liberati aren't on the qualified list that means they have already been signed.

- The bottom line is Martinson has more than enough slots to qualify everyone he wants to qualify and if he has already signed some players (which I am sure he has) there will be less than eight on the qualifying list. Because July 1st fell on a Saturday this year the official list of those receiving qualifying offers that is issued by the ECHL will not be released until Monday. You may see some individual teams put out press releases prior to the ECHL issuing the complete list.


- The Allen Americans could not have had any better re-signing announcements than Riley Gill and Joel Chouinard. I mentioned when Riley was announced that he was the foundation from which Martinson could build the team. When Chouinard's re-signing was announced this past Thursday it put another big piece of the puzzle in place as Joel will anchor the defensemen. Chouinard eats up a ton of minutes, was the leagues best plus/minus player and did not miss a game all season. He most certainly will be chosen as one of the on ice leaders this season. If you haven't seen it already here is the press release announcing his return to Allen:

- Congratulations to Aaron Gens and Kellie Wyatt who were married today in Kentucky. It has been a tough recovery for Aaron since being injured back in December in a game against Wichita. Gens was actually delivering a hit when he was injured. It was certainly a very special day for the Gens and Wyatt families. When I first met Aaron back in 2014 and asked him about his family for a player profile I was writing this is what he said about his family. "My parents are both ministers and I have three brothers (Ed, Pete & Matt) and two sisters (Amy & Lisa). My dad (Dave) and mom (Mary Lee) live in Baudette, MN (population 1100) and have been great role models for all of us kids growing up in a small hockey community. All of my family are musicians and can play drums, guitar and piano. We are very close and love to jam together. To have your parents officiate at your wedding has to be extra special.

Congrats Mr & Mrs Gens - photo courtesy of Sheri Bohnemann

- For those of you that remember defenseman Josh Hepditch from his year spent in Allen (2011-12) he has made quite a career for himself as a coach. He was just named an assistant coach for the Moncton Wildcats of the QMJHL where he had a very successful career as a player from 2002-06. His teammates included former Allen Americans  Bruce Graham, Adam Pineault and Christian Gaudet. Here is the press release that brings you up to date on Josh's coaching career. Best of luck to Josh, Kathryn and their young son, Theo.

DID YOU KNOW: Aaron and Kellie met when he was playing for the Evansville Icemen (2012-13) and Kellie was a member of the Icemen dance team.  

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Riley Gill Returns, Roster Update, Asuchak Comments, The Sin Bin Awards, Allen Schedule & More

It has been a while since my last post and I have to admit my intentions for each day this past week was to write  a story but the bad news for Allen fans kept coming and every morning I would put off my good intentions. Finally yesterday some good news happened with the announcement that Riley Gill has re-signed for his fourth season with Allen.

- The foundation for any team is goaltending and with Gill returning to Allen it gives coach Martinson that foundation to build on. Riley had the best save percentage in the ECHL last season (.935) and almost led the Americans to the best record in the league, falling just two points short. Gill had the best winning percentage in the league with a record of 32-7-2. Allen's record without Gill in goal was 17-12-2. Throw in three Kelly Cups and the most wins in ECHL playoff history (53) and you can see the first signing for next season is the most important one of the year. If you haven't seen the ECHL press release on Gill re-signing in Allen here it is:

- The rest of the news recently has been anything but good for Allen Americans fans. It is always great to see players get opportunities elsewhere but tough to see them move on. The worst was to hear in a 24 hour period that Spencer Asuchak, Harrison Ruopp and Wade MacLeod will not return. For players heading to Europe it is a great opportunity where they can see their salary double or triple from what they can make in the ECHL. Here is a recap of the players from last season who will not return this season (at least at the start of the season).

Chad Costello - Chad signed with the Iserlohn Roosters in the top league in Germany (DEL). I have read that this league is the equivalent of the AHL so it is a great opportunity for Chad.

Josh Brittain - Josh signed with HC Banksa Bystrica in the top league in Slovakia

Spencer Asuchak - Spencer signed with HKM Zvolen in the top league in Slovakia. The distance between the team Josh plays for and Spencer plays for is only 21 kilometers (13 miles). I had the chance to touch base with Spencer and ask him if there is anything he would like to share with all of his fans in Allen and this is what he said, "The last four years in Allen were the best years of my life. Winning three championships in four years with such amazing teammates and fans will never be forgotten. I am very thankful to have gotten such a great opportunity playing for a coach of Marty's caliber. I am excited for the new chapter in my hockey career and to see other parts of the world. Allen will always be a second home to me and I will always consider the teammates and fans as family."

Wade MacLeod - Wade has signed with Lowen Frankfurt (DEL2) which is the second best league in Germany. Wade played for another team in this league (Starbulls Rosenheim) in 2015-16 and had 61 points (34 goals 27 assists) in just 50 games.

Dyson Stevenson - Dyson has signed with the Wichita Thunder after being traded from Allen as part of the deal that brought Alex Krushelnyski to Allen for the playoffs. This is part of what Dyson had to say when he was traded, "I had an amazing time in Allen! I had the best teammates ever all three years and I would still do anything for everyone of them (until I play against them next year). The fans in Allen were the best I have ever seen. Always positive toward the players and the team. And they wanted us to succeed more than any other fans in pro sports."
 Here is the press release from Wichita announcing that Dyson has signed,  - I said this when Dyson was traded and will repeat it again. - Dyson will be a success in Wichita because he is a leader and will be the ultimate teammate. With two Kelly Cup championships to his credit don't be surprised if Dyson joins a long list of players that move on from Allen and become captain of their new team. (Daniel Tetrault, Jamie Schaafsma, Trevor Ludwig, Jarret Lukin).

Harrison Ruopp - Harrison was traded to Indy to complete the transaction that brought Tyler Barnes to Allen for the playoffs. His hard nosed style of play and relentless checking will be missed. There has been no announcement from Indy of him signing a contract at this point.

- The list above represents some key players that coach Martinson will have to replace but he has done that many times in his 21 years of coaching experience. The question that remains is who else from the season ending roster may not return. Here are my thoughts on a few of the players that have not yet signed. Each year the San Jose Sharks sign players to two way contracts and they spend time in San Jose and Allen. Coach Martinson has some input and even identifies players that he feels would be a good fit with the Barracuda. If you had to pick players from last season that might get a look from San Jose the most likely based on their performance would be David Makwoski, Bryan Moore and Greger Hanson. It is interesting to note Moore was called up by San Jose last season and performed well. Hanson was called up by four different AHL teams last season (San Diego, Chicago, Binghamton, Charlotte) but not by San Jose. If you remember, Greger did the best in San Diego and even got some power play time and played on the second line. Makowski did not play any games in the AHL last season but with the year he had after returning from Germany in December there are probably several teams interested in him and Allen fans can only hope he signs with San Jose.

- Joel Chouinard certainly had the numbers last season including a league leading +47 to play at the AHL level but he may be at the point in his career where other factors such as family are more important to him. His wife has a career in Dallas and to have him re-sign to anchor the Allen blue line would be a big step.

- Coach Martinson has most certainly agreed to terms with some of the role players on the team from last season and they are also a key to success. Possibilities include the following. Mike Gunn is a player everyone talks about as a great guy in the locker room and improving every season. Miles Liberati has great potential as a puck carrying defenseman. Kyle Neuber was injured all last season but could be a factor if he returns.

- The only players I haven't mentioned above are Gary Steffes, Tanner Eberle and Zach Hall. They all bring something to the table that the Americans will need to be successful. Whether they want to return and whether they will be offered a contract or are qualified remains to be seen.

- The big task for Steve Martinson will be to find the players to replace all of the offense that has been lost from last season. Allen scored 294 goals last season which ranked second in the league. The Americans had eight players that averaged a point per game. It is likely five or six of those eight players will not return next season. Most high end players will wait until after the NHL draft to see what impact the draft will have on AHL rosters. That all trickles down to ECHL players looking for AHL deals. Another big day is next Friday (11:59 pm EDT) when qualify offers are due to players. ECHL players that are not signed or given a qualifying offer by next Friday will become free agents. The bottom line is Martinson will have lots of options in putting together a roster but it will take a while to sign the high end players. Stay tuned!


- I am sure you have seen by now the new ECHL division alignment. Here it is if you haven't seen it or want to refresh your memory: - As I predicted back on May 21 after the Allen schedule came out showing the Americans playing the Mavericks just eight times next season rather than the typical 13 or 14, the Mavericks would move to the Central Division and Wichita and Tulsa would move to the Mountain Division.  With this change Allen will now play 55 of their 72 games against teams in the Mountain Division. In 2016-17 Allen only played 31 of 72 games against Mountain Division opponents. Below is a complete list of Allen's 72 games by team. The asterisks are the Mountain Division teams.

*13 games - Tulsa (7 home 6 away)
*12 games - Wichita (6 home 6 away)
*10 games - Idaho (4 home 6 away) 
8 games - Kansas City (4 home 4 away)
*8 games  - Rapid City (5 home 3 away)
*6 games - Colorado (4 home 2 away)
*6 games - Utah (4 home 2 away)
2 games - Orlando (2 home 0 away)
2 games - Florida (0 home 2 away)
2 games - Fort Wayne (0 home 2 away)
1 game - Jacksonville (0 home 1 away)
1 game - Indy (0 home 1 away)
1 game - Atlanta (0 home 1 away)

- The odds are the Mountain Division will change again in 2018-19 as the Colorado Eagles are rumored to be pursuing a move to the AHL to be the Colorado Avalanche affiliate. Here is one of many stories about this move:
- It makes you wonder what players on the current Eagles team are thinking if the team will not exist after the upcoming season. Maybe it is better for them to find a new team this year when they have control rather than have to find a new team in 2018-19.

- The ECHL Board of Governors has approved the sale of the Alaska franchise to owners in Portland, Maine and they will compete in the 2018-19 season. Here are the details:

- I know many of you get a broad range of minor league hockey news by following "The Sin Bin" at The group announced their annual awards this week and I was honored and surprised to be selected for one of the awards, "Newsbreaker of the Year" along with my friend and Allen Americans fan Mike Campos who covers the SPHL. Here is a link to the award annoucment:

- Congrats to all Team Sin Bin award winners but a special acknowledgement to "Writer of the Year" Chad Boerth who covers the Orlando Solar Bears and "Photographer of the Year" Sarah Hobday who primarily covers the Norfolk Admirals but covered 61 games this past season in 11 different arenas and three different leagues (ECHL, AHL, NHL). You can get all of the details at

DID YOU KNOW:  Chad Costello will be playing with his best friend, Jack Combs, in Germany. The two have amazing chemistry together as evidenced by their production when playing together for several different teams. Allen fans will never forget the 2014-15 season when they combined for 39 goals and 61 assists in 32 games before Jack went to Europe. In 2010-11 they played together in Tulsa and had a total of 74 goals and 92 assists as they finished one and two in scoring for the Oilers. In 2012-13 they split time between Colorado (ECHL) and Bridgeport (AHL). Combined they played 63 games in Colorado and had 100 points (36 goals 64 assists) and in Bridgeport they combined for 8 goals and 18 assists in 50 games. It should be fun to following Chad and Jack this season in Germany.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Steve Martinson's Recruiting Process - Assembling the 2017-18 Allen Team & Dyson Stevenson Shares His Thoughts

Anyone who follows this blog knew Tuesday was the day all "future consideration" trades had to be completed but that doesn't make fans anymore prepared for what transpired. Dyson Stevenson was the player sent to Wichita in the transaction that ended up having Alex Krushelnyski assigned to Allen for the playoffs.  Dyson is the definition of a team player who will do whatever it takes for his team to be successful. Stick up for a teammate, block a shot, play forward, play defense, score a goal, finish check, the guy could and would do whatever he was asked to do.  And a great guy off the ice who was outstanding in representing the team with the fans and in the community. I had a chance to talk to Dyson this afternoon and ask if there is anything he would like to share and this is what he said,

"It was a phone call I wasn't expecting but it is pro hockey so anything can happen. I had an amazing time in Allen! I had the best teammates ever all three years and I would still do anything for everyone of them (until I play against them next year). The upstairs staff were all unbelievable to me! I owe Gus (Trainer) so much he was great to me especially with my concussions. Timmy (equipment manager) was unreal and the most professional equipment guy I have ever seen. I made a real close friend that I will miss everyday especially when I am on a bus and that is Monty Williams. He kept us safe on that shitty bus and still had time to be the most generous guy in the world. Finally, the fans in Allen were the best I have ever seen. Always positive toward the players and the team. And they wanted us to succeed more than any other fans in pro sports."

 - I had the pleasure of getting to know Dyson off the ice as we spent many days around a fishing pond talking about everything but hockey. He will be a success in Wichita because he is a leader and will be the ultimate teammate. With two Kelly Cup championships to his credit don't be surprised if Dyson joins a long list of players that move on from Allen and become captain of their new team. (Daniel Tetrault, Jamie Schaafsma, Trevor Ludwig, Jarret Lukin).

- The other future consideration trade has not been announced as I write this but there will be a double dose of sadness when the player that was sent to Indy in the transaction that had Tyler Barnes assigned to Allen for the playoffs is announced. I will provide an update when the player is announced which should be later today. 

- The full story behind these two transactions will probably never be known but the basis was to try and win an unprecedented third Kelly Cup. I know coach Martinson along with many other observers felt Allen had more depth going into the playoffs than in any other season. Things didn't work out as planned and now Allen has lost two players that will be tough to replace. Steve Martinson is hard at work recruiting the 2017-18 team and the old adage of cheer for the name on the front of the jersey and not the back could never be more true. However, it doesn't make it any easier to say good-bye to players like Dyson Stevenson.

- For coach Steve Martinson there is an off season but for General Manager Steve Martinson there is never time to relax. Recruitment is something he spends time doing everyday all year around but with Allen out of the playoffs early, Martinson has had extra time to recruit. He shared with me that a big difference this off season is he has been able to talk to many more agents/players about coming to Allen. The first signings for next season should take place over the next few days as June 16 is the first day to sign players. It doesn't mean the team will announce the signings as that is more of a PR decision. Typically the team likes to make a big splash with the first signing announcement. With Chad Costello heading to Europe it won't be him but maybe Riley Gill's re-signing would be a good way to kick off the first signing for next season. I have not talked to Riley but it would be such a great foundation for the team if he would re-sign.

Season ending rosters are due tomorrow and teams can list no more that 20 players. This list is not very meaningful as Allen only had 17 players on their protected list that was submitted on June 1.  The next critical date will be on June 30. Until June 30 all of the Allen American player's rights for the ECHL remain with Allen (unless the rights are traded) but on June 30th Martinson has to submit to the league a list of no more than eight players he wants to protect/qualify. These eight names do not include players that have already signed. Because only eight players can be protected there is incentive to get as many players signed by June 30th as possible. The eight players will be given qualifying offers which for the most part must be 5% above their salary from last season. The qualifying offer period is from June 30th to August 1st.

- The starting point in putting together the 2017-18 Allen Americans team is determining a budget. While the salary cap is a given cost ($12,800 per week), housing and insurance can cost the team more than the players salary. A big cost factor is how many married players are on the team. Married players get their own apartment while the single guys share an apartment. Health insurance is much cheaper for single players and married guys without children than it is for families.

With four championships and a second round playoff loss over the past five years you might think everything would be positive in putting the 2017-18 team together but that is not the case. Some of the players want to try playing in the AHL or Europe. So you have a situation where some players want time to find other opportunities before committing to Allen. Another issue facing Martinson is most players feel they deserve a raise in pay, however the amount available for salaries will increase by just $200 per week for the entire team. The salary cap is set by the Professional Hockey Players Association (PHPA) and ownership and is spelled out in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). This past season the salary cap was $12,600 per week to be shared by all players on the active roster. Next season the salary cap will increase to $12,800. That is an average increase of just $10 per week per player.

What is Steve Martinson's secret to recruiting? Have as many tools in your recruiting tool kit as possible. With the salary cap, competing based on salary is not the key to success as a player can always find a team willing to pay $50 or $100 more per week. The key to getting the best players is having other reasons to have them want to play for your team. Here are some of the many tools Steve Martinson uses when making a pitch to players.

-  Allen has never missed the playoffs and has been to the championship final five times in eight years and won four championships. You can count on many additional weeks of pay as Allen makes a deep playoff run along with a couple of extra months of lodging and playoff bonuses. This can total $10,000 - $15,000 more in compensation for a player over a team that does not make the playoffs. 

- You will play an upbeat, aggressive offensive system in Allen that is also dedicated to defensive hockey. Points you score in the ECHL won't keep you in the American Hockey League (AHL) but points will get you noticed. You have to be able to play without the puck and you have to understand the game and that is what we will help you with in Allen. With our system you will have plenty of opportunity to get points. We won't handcuff you in the third period with a lead. We will take less risks but we will keep our foot on the gas. If you want to play in a system where you can score a lot of points come to Allen.

- You will play in a great facility in the eight year old Allen Event Center which is surrounded by shopping and restaurants.  

- You will play for a team that has a history of moving players to the AHL. Allen has had over 30 players from their roster spend time in the AHL in their three ECHL seasons. Our goal is to see you progress in your hockey career.

- You will be able to develop your skating technique by working with Luke Chilcott who is the skating coach for the San Jose Barracuda (AHL) and the Allen Americans.

- While playing in the Dallas Metroplex you have access to whatever interests you may have including the Stars, Cowboys, Mavericks and Rangers. Playing where you have a major international airport makes it easier for you and your friends and family to travel in and out of DFW and for players to get to AHL cities quickly if called up.

- You will live in a place where you can play golf year around. Average high temperature during the hockey season is 79 in October, 66 in November, 57 in December, 55 in January, 61 in February, 69 in March, 77 in April and 84 in May. It is a great place to live whether your are single or married.

- If you like to fish there are plenty of opportunities within 30 minutes of your apartment. Fishing is great.

- One of the biggest detriments in recruiting in the past was that it was well known Allen traveled by bus more than other teams and players would bring that up as a problem. With new ownership Martinson can now tell players the team will be flying more and they have a newer, better bus when they drive to the closer cities. One of the bigger obstacles has been overcome. 

- You will be helped with whatever your post hockey career interests are through our intern program and you will be able to develop business contacts while you are still playing that will be useful after you retire. The DFW metroplex is a great place to build a post career network.

- There is a great fan base that supports the team and the players.

- With his record in Allen, Steve Martinson will have plenty of players and agents calling him this summer. When you have a successful program in a great location a lot of players will want to play in Allen.

- Because Steve Martinson has been around minor pro hockey for so long he has a real advantage when it comes to recruiting. But even with the contacts he has developed over the years he spends many hours going over data to determine who to recruit. He has a couple of techniques that he uses to find those diamonds in the rough, players who have underperformed but will thrive in his system and players that have not been used in the right way on their current teams. It is no coincidence that each year there are players that come in and have a career year in Allen. Whether it is young guys or experienced players, they thrive in the Martinson system.  

- Another issue the coach needs to be aware of is the veteran status of each player as the number of veterans on the team is limited to just four. A veteran is defined as a player with more than 260 regular season professional games (for games in Europe only the top six leagues count). The Americans finished this season with four veterans (Costello, Steffes, Chouinard and Brittain). Greger Hanson passed the 260 games played mark this past season and is now a veteran. With Costello and Brittain signed in Europe, Martinson will have some veteran spots available. It is always good to have at least one veteran slot available for new players that might want to come to Allen.

Here is my opinion of how Martinson will approach recruitment for next season.

- Coach Martinson will have a base of corp players returning. That doesn't mean everyone wishing to return will be signed but he will reach out to everyone to see what they want to do. Players like Asuchak, Hanson, Moore, Makowski and Hall are surely looking for AHL deals. Best case for Allen is San Jose will sign some of them. There will also be players already signed in San Jose that might start the season in Allen.

- Players that are ready to sign immediately will be the top priority. Those that wait run the risk of other players being signed and a slot not being available or money not being available when they are ready to sign.

- Coach Martinson will strive to get as many players signed as quickly as possible. A good goal would be to have two lines, four defensemen and a goalie signed by June 30. That may be a bit ambitious but it is a good goal.

- With the average salary being about $640 per week ($12,800 divided by 20 players) finding good rookie players that make less than the average is critical so you can pay the top end guys.

- Popularity of players with the fans is not a big factor when it comes time to signing. It is strictly based on performance. You can always find another popular player.

- If Martinson finds a good player at the right price they will get signed right away.

- With just four veteran slots available the decision on veterans will be a difficult one.

- The affiliation with San Jose will continue though it has not been formalized yet. Allen will have players assigned for development from the beginning of the season.

One thing is certain, Steve Martinson will have the same type of team as he has always had. They will compete hard, be physical and be difficult to play against. The team will be tough but also skillful. He recruits guys that understand you must work hard, be in great shape, follow the system, be a team guy and finish checks. He builds his teams to have depth rather than a few super stars. This approach has worked for 21 years and it will work again in year 22 as he puts together the 2017-2018 team.

DID YOU KNOW:  Dyson Stevenson played for Wichita coach, Malcolm Cameron, in junior hockey for the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League. Stevenson's last year playing for Cameron before turning pro (2013-14) he had 76 points (38 goals 38 assists) in 66 games.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Fishing Trip, Kelly Cup, Protected Lists, Future Considerations, Tetrault Rush Coach, Playoff Special Teams, Europe Exodus

Today marks one month since the Allen Americans played their last game of the season so thought it would be a good time to cover a few topics for those of you suffering from hockey withdrawal earlier than normal.

- For anyone that has ever spent time at a fishing camp in Canada the solitude and beauty is as great as the fishing. I just spent a week on Cedar Lake in western Ontario. It was my 20th year of this annual pilgrimage to Canada. It was the one positive outcome of Allen losing in the second round of the playoffs. I had not planned on going on the fishing trip because of the playoffs but Colorado changed the plans. The fishing was slower than normal but four of us still managed to to land 275 walleyes, 50 northern pike, 25 smallmouth bass along with a few crappies and perch.

- Enough about the fishing, the scenery on these Canadian lakes is spectacular. Lots of islands covered in trees in various colors of green at this time of year. During the week we saw bears twice, many Bald Eagles including three different pairs fighting in the air in an amazing acrobatic display of flying, we saw a fox, several beavers and we fed an eagle with a perch as the eagle came close to our boat. There were thousands of geese still traveling north to the breeding grounds. An otter was playing and looking for food where we docked our boat at night. The sounds of Loons calling at sunset travels for miles. The bottom line is a week on a lake in Canada is so much more than fishing. The serenity, beauty and camaraderie is as much fun as landing a big walleye.

My buddy Mike with a 27" walleye

- Congrats to the Colorado Eagles for their Kelly Cup victory and especially to former Allen Americans Darryl Bootland, Casey Pierro-Zabotel and Matt Register on a well deserved accomplishment. Allen fans can't help but wonder how things would have turned out had Casey and Matt been in Allen this season. If you can't win the Kelly Cup the next best thing is to have a team from your division win it. And the streak of former Central Hockey League (CHL) teams winning the Kelly Cup remains intact. Seems like that rough and tough style from the CHL translates to the ECHL pretty well.

- Matt Register had arguably the best post season in the history of the ECHL. He is the first defenseman in the history of the league to be selected as the Kelly Cup MVP. He finished second in playoff scoring with 24 points (8 goals 16 assists). Of his eight goals he had the game winning goal five times including twice against Allen. He also scored the game tying goal twice in the playoffs with less than a minute remaining in the game. Matt tied a game against Idaho with nine seconds left and against South Carolina with 25 seconds left. And lest Allen fans forget, Colorado beat the Americans both times they met in the regular season and Register had the game winning goal in both games. That I would say is payback!

- I will do a special recruiting post in the next few days but thought is would be interesting to see what former Allen Americans showed up on protected lists around the ECHL. Protected lists don't tell you very much as players that have retired, signed overseas and several other specific provisions can be protected. Teams will have to submit "season ending rosters" by June 15 and those rosters are limited to 20 players. June 30 will be the big date as each team will be able to qualify only eight players who aren't already signed.

Adirondack - J.P.Anderson
Atlanta - Alex Guptill
Brampton -  Reggie Traccitto, Garrett Clarke, Justin Courtnall
Cincinnati - Joel Rumpel
Colorado - Matt Register, Casey Pierro-Zabotel, Darryl Bootland
Florida - Bryce Aneloski
Fort Wayne - Kyle Follmer, Jamie Schaafsma.
Greenville - Tristan King,
Idaho - Corbin Baldwin,
Indy - None
Kalamazoo - Ben Wilson
Kansas City - None
Manchester - Rick Pinkston, Daniel Doremus, Tony Turgeon
Norfolk - None
Orlando - Trevor Ludwig, Chris Crane
Quad City - None
Rapid City - Nicholas Miglio
Reading - None
South Carolina - Danny Federico
Toledo - J.P. LaFontaine
Tulsa - Reid Halabi
Utah - None
Wheeling - Kale Kerbashian
Wichita - Randy Cure

- A very important date for Allen fans is Tuesday (June 13) at 3:00 pm EDT. That is the date all future consideration trades need to be completed. The Americans have to send a player to Wichita to complete the transaction that had Alex Krushelnyski assigned to Allen and they will have to send a player to Indy to complete the transaction that had Tyler Barnes assigned to Allen. My prediction is there will be some sad faces in Allen when these trades get announced.

- Special teams were excellent for the Allen Americans in the playoffs. It was even strength that caused the problems. Allen had by far the best special teams stats of any of the eight teams in the Division finals. Here is how the final eight ranked.

Power Play
24.6% - Toledo
24.4% - Allen
23.1% - Colorado
22.6% - Fort Wayne
18.9% - Manchester
17.4% - Florida
17.2% - South Carolina
12.2% - Brampton

Penalty Kill
90.0% - Allen
89.1% - Florida
86.0% - Brampton
85.7% - Manchester
85.3% - South Carolina
82.1% - Toledo
79.5% - Colorado
79.5% - Fort Wayne

One way to look at overall special teams performance is combine power play and penalty kill percentages. Greater than 105% is considered excellent special teams play and anything under 100% is considered disappointing. Here are the percentages for the eight teams that made the division finals.

114.4% - Allen
106.7% - Toledo
106.5% - Florida
104.6% - Manchester
102.6% - Colorado
102.5% - South Carolina
102.1% - Fort Wayne
98.2% - Brampton

- Congrats to Daniel Tetrault who was named the head coach of the Rapid City Rush yesterday. Daniel won the only championship of his long and storied professional career in Allen in 2014. I first interviewed Tetrault when he signed with Allen in the summer of 2013. Two things struck me about that interview were his open, friendly demeanor and his passion for hockey. Daniel was a leader on every team he ever played on. He is a natural leader. Former Wichita head coach Kevin McClelland, where Tetrault was captain for two years, best described the type of player he is, "He gives his heart and soul to his team. Some guys are leaders in the dressing room, some guys are leaders on the ice. Daniel Tetrault is both. One question I asked Tetrault back in 2013 was, if you could be anything besides a professional hockey player what would you be and without hesitation he said "a hockey coach." Just four years later he has reached his dream.

Daniel Tetrault

- The exodus to Europe is going full tilt with many of the best players fielding offers they cannot refuse. The leading scorer for Allen (Chad Costello), Rapid City (Ryan Walters), Orlando (Eric Faille) and Brampton (David Vallorani) are just a few examples of great players heading overseas next season. In total over 40 players from the ECHL (including Josh Brittain) have signed overseas with many more to sign in the next two months.


 DID YOU KNOW: If you look at the team history of every team that has ever played in the ECHL, Allen has the highest overall winning percentage at .692 (138-55-23) and the highest road winning percentage at .708 (71-26-11).