It is that time of year when the Allen Americans can't announce the roster for the 2018-19 season quick enough and many fans are getting antsy about what is to come. With the announcement on Saturday that the Americans new affiliate will be the Minnesota Wild (NHL) and Iowa Wild (AHL) another piece of the puzzle has fallen into place.
I thought today I would take a crack at what is known and unknown about the 2018-19 roster and make some educated guesses about the players from last season that might return, who will be the new players added to the roster and who may be assigned to Allen by the Wild.
Joel Chouinard - the captain and anchor of the defense returns for his third season in Allen. He has never missed a game since joining the Americans in 2016-17. It has been quite the summer for the Chouinard family. Joel and his wife (Courtney) got a puppy (goldendoodle named Harley), bought a house, announced they are expecting their first child (a boy) in November and Joel started working as an agent for New York Life. Tune in tomorrow for a story about Joel's approach to life after hockey.
Casey Pierro-Zabotel - the team leader in points (69) and #2 in assists (50) in the ECHL returns for his third season in Allen. A two time Kelly Cup champion (Allen & Colorado), Casey is a player/assistant coach and also has not missed a game in the last two seasons.
Mike Gunn - Mike returns for his third season in Allen and the popular defenseman has improved every season.
Chad Butcher - Chad is a right shot forward who is a playmaker with great skating skills. In his last year of junior hockey (2016-17) in the Western Hockey League (WHL) Chad had 103 points (27G, 76A)
in 68 games. Chad is from Kamloops, British Columbia, the same home town as Spencer Asuchak and Casey Pierro-Zabotel. Not sure if there will ever be a "Kamloops Connection" line this year but the three do train together in the off season.
DEFINITELY NOT RETURNING
Here are some players from last season that will not return as they have already signed elsewhere:
Alex Guptill - signed in England with the Nottingham Panthers
Jared Bethune - headed to college at Queen's University
Peter MacArthur - signed with the Adirondack Thunder
Gordie Ballhorn - headed to college at the University of Saskatchewan
Stephon Williams - signed in Slovakia with HC Banksa Bystrica
Vincent Arseneau - signed with Utica Comets (AHL) but Allen retains his ECHL rights
Alexandre Carrier - signed with the Atlanta Gladiators
This gets a little more tricky because there is no way to know what has happened with the veterans. Keep in mind there are just four veteran spots available on the roster. Chouinard and Pierro-Zabotel have already been announced. Spencer Asuchak, Thomas Frazee and Tristan King are all veterans with Spencer reaching vet status (over 260 games) for the first time. My guess is Asuchak and Frazee take the last two vet spots and King will move on. Tristan was injured in the first game he played for Allen last season and missed the rest of the playoffs.
THE QUALIFYING OFFERS
If you track the qualifying offers given by the Americans you can make some educated guesses as to players that are already signed but not announced. This is a tried and true method based on past seasons. It goes something like this. The Americans can give qualifying offers to up to eight players from last season to retain their rights and the qualifying offer must be made by June 30. If a player has already been signed you don't need to give them a qualifying offer. Allen only used seven of their eight qualifying offers so you can assume any player from last season not on the qualified list has been signed. That list would include:
Of the seven players on the qualified list there are two (Eric Roy & Dalton Thrower) that could sign with Allen. The other five (Arseneau, Archambault, Guptill, Ballhorn, Lessard) will play in other leagues but Allen retains their ECHL rights for this season.
THE AHL CONTRACTED PLAYERS
David Makowski, Spencer Asuchak, Bryan Moore and Jake Patterson were all on AHL contracts last season and are free agents that can sign anywhere. If you listened to coach Martinson's Facebook Live session on Saturday (it is still available on the Allen Americans Facebook page and worth a listen) he mentioned David Makowski is going to camp with Iowa so it looks like he will be returning. You have to assume Asuchak will be back. Moore and Patterson I am sure are looking for AHL deals so their return is unknown and less likely in my opinion.
PLAYERS ASSIGNED BY IOWA
Coach Martinson mentioned on Saturday he will get a goalie assigned by the Wild who is a proven player. He also expects to get some players assigned that the Wild will sign in the next couple of months. Other possibilities from Iowa are players still on their roster that spent time with their affiliate (Rapid City) last season. Here are those players:
Gustav Bouramman - a 6'0" 187 pound right shot defenseman from Sweden played 54 games with Rapid City and had 28 points (5G, 23A). Gustav was drafted in the 7th round of the 2015 NHL draft by the Minnesota Wild.
Dante Salituro - a 5'8" 176 pound right shot right wing/center played 53 games in Rapid City and had 48 points (23G, 25A). Salituro was acquired by the Wild in a trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets in June of 2017. He was selected for the ECHL all-star game last season.
Pavel Jenys - a 6'3" 218 pound left shot center played 48 games in Rapid City and had 35 points (17G, 18A). Pavel is from the Czech Republic and was drafted in the 7th round of the 2014 NHL draft by the Minnesota Wild.
Chase Lang - a 6'1" 194 pound right shot center/right wing played 18 games in Rapid City and had 10 points (4G, 6A). He was drafted in the 6th round of the 2014 NHL draft by the Minnesota Wild.
This may be the most important and exciting category and the one I know the least about but coach Martinson did give everyone a few hints in the Facebook live event on Saturday.
Martinson has signed a couple of defensemen (one played for Richard Matvichuk) that will be attending the NHL Prospect Tournament in Traverse City, MI from September 7-11. The eight team field consists of prospects from the Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Minnesota Wild, New York Rangers and St. Louis Blues.
Martinson also mentioned he could pursue some of the free agents from the Colorado Eagles. With the Eagles moving to the AHL next season there will be a lot of free agents. There are many players from the two time Kelly Cup champions that have not been signed to AHL deals. Matt Register, Colin Bowman, Ryan Olsen, Gabriel Verpaelst and Jake Marto are a few of the names that are free agents and have not been signed according to eliteprospects.com.
There will be several new players that are not on anyone's (except Martinson) radar screen and they may be the most significant signings of the summer. Will just have to wait until they are announced.
Per coach Martinson, Allen will get one goalie assigned by the Wild. According to the website eliteprospects.com the Wild have four goalies under contract. The NHL club has Devan Dubnyk as their top goalie with Alex Stalock as the backup. The AHL club shows two goalies on their roster, Andrew Hammond and Kaapo Kahkonen. The goalie that will be assigned to Allen would most likely be the next goalie that is announced.
Neither Jake Patterson or Jeremy Brodeur have signed a contract for next season according to eliteprospects.com so they may very well be in the mix for Allen. The question is will Martinson bring two or three goalies to camp. Since Patterson was under AHL contracted (Milwaukee) last season he is probably looking for another AHL deal. Seems more likely that Brodeur would be back in Allen as the backup to the Wild assigned goalie.
There have been many questions and comments about the status of Riley Gill with the Americans. Even though I have not discussed this with the Americans or Riley Gill there is no doubt in my mind that Gill has played his last game for the Allen Americans. Last season was a difficult one for the future Hall of Famer who was injured in his second start of the season and was out for the year. Whether Riley retires or signs elsewhere his place in ECHL history is cemented as the winningest playoff goalie ever to go along with three Kelly Cups.
DID YOU KNOW: Allen's new affiliation with the Wild could be called the Interstate 35 affiliation. The Iowa Wild play in Des Moines which is 675 miles straight up Interstate 35 from Allen. The Minnesota Wild play in St. Paul which is 250 miles straight up Interstate 35 from Des Moines. I have made this trip many times over the years heading back to Minnesota for hunting and fishing trips and the directions are very easy, get on interstate 35 and go north for 925 miles.