Shaf's Blog: Lucky Number 13Jul 28, 2017
Hello Stingrays fans! Even though we’re in the dog days of summer, the 2017-18 year is approaching and everyone in the front office along with our hockey operations staff is busy making preparations for our 25th Anniversary season! This spring’s run to the Kelly Cup Finals cut some time off the offseason for both our players and staff, but come October 20, we’ll all be ready to go.
Head Coach Ryan Warsofsky isn’t wasting any time and is signing players quickly! To date, we have signed a total of 13 players to ECHL contracts for 2017-18. You can definitely expect more signing announcements to come in the next few weeks as the month of August begins, as well as some assignments from our affiliates in Washington and Hershey once training camp begins. Here’s a few thoughts on the moves coach has made so far:
• At least six players who wore a Stingrays sweater last season are returning next year, including forwards Joe Devin, Patrick Gaul, Trevor Gillies, Patrick Megannety, John Parker and defenseman Danny Federico. This is a very solid core group that has accumulated lots of pro hockey experience. I’ll have more on the leadership below, but in on-ice production alone this group accounted for 116 points in the regular season and 22 more in the playoffs. We spoke a lot about Gaul’s season last year, which was his top offensive campaign in his five-year pro career, and the Double Deuce is focused on doing the right things again this summer to have another healthy and productive run. Although in and out of the lineup at some points last season, Parker has all the skills to make the jump and be a top-6 forward for South Carolina in the future. He is valuable both in 5-on-5 and on special teams and I think Warsofsky will count on him for more ice time in the coming year as he continues to develop. The staff loved what they saw from Megannety towards the end of the regular season and should give him the opportunity to grow his role during the coming season.
• The leadership on last year’s team was very strong and I wouldn’t expect anything to change in that department now that the three core leaders are back for 2017-18. New players quickly assimilated to the group whenever roster changes were made last season in large part to the culture these guys have created. There’s a reason fans love these three and their leadership work does not go unnoticed. I can’t wait to see 8, 22 and 51 back on the ice in October. Maybe coach will even unite them on a line together! Or maybe I might be getting ahead of myself, coach doesn’t need me suggesting any future line combinations.
• The new player additions have been a mix of young and experienced, creating more depth to the roster. Forward Johnny McInnis has shown the ability to produce at this level and should be comfortable back in the South Division, as he has already had previous stops in Orlando and Florida. Defenseman Frankie Simonelli will also be comfortable, as this will be his second go-around with South Carolina. Many fans will remember his place on the 2014-15 squad that also made a run to the finals. Simonelli’s offensive presence and excellent shot from the blue line figures to be a huge addition and is someone everyone seems to be excited about. Rookies Nick Roberto and Robbie Baillargeon have had very good track records in the college game and also know each other well, having been roommates while at Boston Unviersity. Baillargeon figures to be more of an offensive threat, while Roberto plays a responsible game in all areas. The newest skater to the group is Jake Flegel, who played big minutes for Knoxville last season and is looking to make the jump up to the ECHL. His 6-4 size will be an asset on the back end as well as his great work ethic and desire to succeed.
• It’s nothing new, but the team is looking to once again have a strong connection to the New England area. Devin, Federico, McInnis and Roberto are all natives of Massachusetts, while Baillargeon is from Connecticut and played three seasons in Boston at BU. Warsofsky and his assistant coach Steve Bergin definitely have strong connections in that area and have used them to pick up a good number of players over the years.
A couple players who won’t be back next year include Domenic Monardo and Rob Flick, who have both signed deals overseas. While Monardo was on loan from Hershey last year, he had a huge second half and was a big part of the team’s success down the stretch. Flick became a must-watch talent who had the ability to take over games. He will definitely be remembered for his dominating play. We wish them lots of luck in the future.
Thanks to everyone for reading and keeping in touch during the summer. I’ll be writing more of these posts during the offseason and hope to continue blogging when the hockey starts back up again in October. In future posts, I will also highlight some of the special things we’ve got in store for everyone in the coming months during our 25th Anniversary season. Stay cool out there!