Walleye roster shaken up with tentative end to NHL lockoutWritten by Vincent D. Scebbi | | email@example.com
Toledo Walleye Head Coach Nick Vitucci said his team will be treading “uncharted waters” as the NHL lockout appears to be approaching its end.
The Walleye saw their roster practically cleaned out on Jan. 6 as five players, Ben Youds, Max Nicastro, Brandon Svendsen, Byron Froese and Terry Broadhurst received calls to play in the American Hockey League.
“We’ve never been through this before,” Vitucci said. “The last lockout went the whole year and we didn’t have to worry about icing a new hockey club halfway through the season. Uncharted waters, we’re just going to feel our way through.”
Those five players have scored a combined 84 points for Toledo (19-13-4) this season.
Youds, who was selected to the ECHL All Star Game on Jan. 3, Broadhurst, Froese and Svendsen will be heading to Rockford to join the IceHogs, the AHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks.
Nicastro, who only played nine games with the Walleye this year, will be sent back to the Grand Rapids Griffins, the AHL affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings.
“Toledo does a great job here, they’re a first class organization, giving the guys everything they need; so it’s a little bittersweet,” Broadhurst said. “I think for all of us, it’s just a matter of being focused and being up there and making the most of our opportunity.”
While the NHL may be back as soon as next week, forward Randy Rowe said the team’s main focus will be trying to fill in the gaps as rosters get shuffled around.
“I think every team is going to be in the same situation so we can’t use that against us,” he said. “I guess just go game-by-game.”
The roster shuffling maybe at a bad time for Toledo as they prepare to fill a roster and leave Tuesday for a trip down south for a three-game showdown with defending Kelly Cup champ Florida Everblades.
“You come to the rink, the guys you have are the guys you play with; that’s just the way it works and you make do with what you got and points are a premium,” said defenseman Wes O’Neill. “If we pick up a few guys from a Florida beer league and they have to play with us, they have to play with us. You just have to make the best of the situation.”
The team will still have a core of players having standout seasons such as O’Neill and left winger Willie Coetzee, who leads the team with 33 points.
Toledo’s key to withstanding the return of NHL will be in their seasoned veteran players such as O’Neill, Rowe, Cody Lampl, Joey Ryan, Phil Oreskovic and captain Kyle Rogers.
“We were trying to look into the crystal ball and try to get our guys who were going to be ECHL guys that we knew that if they would get called up, great, but for the most part it would help us out with more of a consistent lineup and add a little more stability in the lineup,” Vitucci said.
While the team lost some offensive firepower in Broadhurst, who is second in points for Toledo with 31, Vitucci said he does not foresee losing either of his two goaltenders, saying he “for sure” be keeping Jordan Pearce unless there are injuries in the leagues above Toledo.
“[Pearce] and [Simpson] have been playing really well in the first half,” Rowe said. “That’s going to help a lot with all the transitions that’s going on, we know we have those two guys backing us up. That’s definitely a positive for us.”
With the announcement of a verbal agreement between the NHL and the players association was made in the early hours of Jan. 6 comes a 48-50 game season beginning as early as Jan. 15.
With teams in the American Hockey League sending players up to the NHL, they will be looking for players in the ECHL and other leagues to fill their roster spots.
Toledo is exactly halfway through the regular season and at 42 points, they are tied for first with the Cincinnati Cyclones.
“Any time you can get the points and in the leagues like this, you don’t know where we’re going to be next week; we don’t know what’s going to happen to our team,” O’Neill said. “Any time you can be ahead of the eight ball and be a bunch of games over 500, is a good thing.”
With changes throughout the whole league, however, Vitucci said they might as well take their knowledge of other teams and “throw it out the window.”
The puck is scheduled to drop on Jan. 9 at 7:30 p.m. at Germain Arena.