This year has proven beyond a doubt that if you write a season preview of the Allen Americans you better do it on opening day or you will miss some major components. In the last ten days seven contracted players have moved on and five new players have been brought in. The addition of these five new players has dramatically improved the roster. In the last forty eight hours, two players from last year's championship team, Greger Hanson and Spencer Asuchak have signed with Allen. During the summer when it looked like only three players were returning this year many questioned what was wrong. The fact of the matter is after winning back to back championships players had the opportunity to get jobs in Europe or move to the ECHL where there was a better chance for the younger guys to get to the AHL. When the puck drops tonight to open the season the Allen Americans will have 20 players under contract with eight of them having played on one or both of the back to back championships. As with all Steve Martinson coached teams there will be changes to the roster during the year and for the playoffs. Allen recently affiliated with the San Jose Sharks (NHL) and Worcester Sharks (AHL) and San Jose has already talked to Martinson about the possibility of placing some of their young developmental players in Allen depending how the playoff picture pans out. San Jose doesn't want their young prospects sitting in the stands watching during playoffs so depending how the playoff picture looks for Worcester and San Jose it could give Allen the opportunity to get players assigned.
The 2014-2015 edition of the Allen Americans is unique in several ways that you may not see in most season previews but thought you would find some of these interesting.
- The team comes form a more diverse geographical background than any team in the past. Ten from Canada, nine from the United States and one from Sweden. The ten players from Canada come from four different provinces while the nine players from the US hail from six different states. Some years over half of the team has been from Ontario. Here is the breakdown:
Ontario - Jamie Schaafsma, Devin Di Diomete, Jesse Messier, Justin Baker
British Columbia - Brett Lyon, Spencer Asuchak, Kevin Young
Alberta - Ian Schultz, Aaron Dell
Nova Scotia - Garrett Clarke
Minnesota - Brian McMillin, Aaron Gens, Riley Gill
Wisconsin/Texas - Trevor & Tyler Ludwig
Michigan - Gary Steffes
Missouri - Jack Combs
Iowa - Chad Costello
Colorado - John Ryder
Sweden - Greger Hanson
- Ten of the twenty players on the roster have at least one game in the American Hockey League (AHL) with three players (Di Diomete, Schultz & Trevor Ludwig) having over a 100 games in the AHL. In total the ten players have 527 games in the AHL.
- Ten of the twenty players have a college degree and five others have some college background. At least four of the players (this is probably not a complete list) were on the all academic teams for their conference in college and graduated with honors (Aaron Gens, Trevor Ludwig, Brian McMillin, John Ryder). Makes one wonder why so many intelligent, college educated guys are playing hockey for a living. Just kidding as they play because they love the game.
- Most players playing professional hockey have won championships and awards in their amateur careers but this team has an impressive list of guys who have won leaguewide awards as professionals:
Chad Costello - ECHL MVP - 2011-2012
Aaron Dell - CHL Most Outstanding Goaltender - 2012-2013
Riley Gill - ECHL Kelly Cup Playoff MVP - 2012-2013
Tyler Ludwig - CHL Most Outstanding Defenseman - 2013-2014
Brian McMillin - CHL Presidents' Cup Playoff MVP - 2012-2013
Jamie Schaafsma - CHL Presidents' Cup Playoff MVP - 2013-2014
Kevin Young - CHL Most Outstanding Defenseman - 2012-2013
- The oldest player on the team is Kevin Young who is 32 and the youngest player on the team at 21 is third year pro Garrett Clarke. The average age for the entire team according to elite prospects is 26.14 years which is the fourth oldest team in the twenty eight team league. Only Rapid City, Tulsa, and Wichita have older teams than Allen.
- The team has five birthdays in February and five in May but no birthdays in April, June, August, September, October & December. Not sure what that says, if anything, about what happens in colder climates.
- Leadership on a hockey team comes in many different forms both on and off this ice. All players that have reached the professional level have had leadership roles in the past. Coach Martinson announced at the media luncheon yesterday the selection of Jamie Schaafsma as the team captain for the upcoming season. He cited the fact that Jamie was unwavering in his desire to return to the team this year, his willingness to challenge the coaches when he felt something wasn't right and his positive attitude and hard work when things were not going well for him the beginning of last year. The complete on ice leadership team:
(C) - Jamie Schaafsma
(A) - Trevor Ludwig
(A) - Tyler Ludwig
(A) - Gary Steffes
- There has been no official announcement about an assistant coach however Erik Adams has been actively involved in all on ice activities during the preseason. Details must still be in the process of being hammered out. One would think if this is going to happen it would happen today if Erik is to be on the bench tonight. Stay tuned.
THE SEASON ACCORDING TO STEVE MARTINSON
Had a chance to sit down with coach Martinson to discuss the team and the upcoming season. Here are some of his thoughts going into opening night.
- Being able to bring in players in the last ten days like Ian Schultz, Justin Baker, Jack Combs, Greger Hanson and Spencer Asuchak has really improved our roster. I am excited about the team going into the season.
- There are no questions marks in goal as we have two excellent goaltenders in Aaron Dell and Riley Gill who have both won professional championships. They both have the ability to play at the next level. Dell had six games in the AHL last year with a GAA of 2.29 and save percentage of .922. Gill had three AHL games with a GAA of 1.66 and save percentage of .948.
- We have great offensive players up front and on defense. Chad Costello and Jack Combs are one of the highest scoring duos in AA hockey and will be fun to watch. Tyler Ludwig and Kevin Young were the top scoring defensemen in the CHL the last two years.
- We don't have the top young players like we had last year. Because the transition to the ECHL took place so late we lost some young players that we could have retained had the decision been made earlier. We also lost players from our affiliate that could have been assigned to Allen if the affiliation had been completed earlier.
- The biggest concern is our depth and the risk of losing players to injury and the AHL. We are relying heavily on our established, experienced players.
- With the lineup we have going into the season we should do well so that will help attract players if we need to replace players that get called up or are injured.
- While the team has a lot of offense you can expect the team to be tough, gritty, finish checks and be hard to play against.
- For the game against Tulsa tonight Spencer Asuchak and Riley Gill will be on reserve and will not play. Remember, the only injured reserve in the ECHL is the 21 day injured reserve (Trevor Ludwig was placed on this effective October 17). Any other player (injured or not) that is not playing is placed in reserve status and there is no minimum time they stay on the reserve list.
- Raphael Girard has been signed and will be the back up goalie tonight.
- Based on observing practice Devin Di Diomete will be on the line with Chad Costello and Jack Combs to make sure nobody takes any liberties with the dynamic duo.
- Look for the top power play unit to consist of Schaafsma and Tyler Ludwig on the point with Costello, Steffes, and Combs up front.
- It will be a big night for Allen as owner Rodney Steven as well as ECHL commissioner Brian McKenna will be attendance as the Americans celebrate their Presidents' Cup championship by raising the championship banner to the rafters and handing out championship rings to the six returning players from the championship team.
It is a historic time for the seven new teams to the ECHL. Best of luck to all of them. Rapid City has already played a couple of games (they split with Colorado) and Wichita doesn't play until tomorrow but they all have something to prove to the rest of the league and that is they belong. While the seven new teams will spend the majority of time playing each other there are a number of games (over 40) between the seven new teams and the rest of the league. Brampton leads the way with 19 games against the older ECHL teams while Rapid City and Wichita have only two. Many are underestimating the new teams. Give em hell boys.