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.