Join Voice of the Rampage Dan Weiss as he offers his unique insight to all things hockey in his weekly blog! Have a question or comment for Dan? Be sure to join the discussion of the San Antonio Rampage Facebook page for your chance to win exclusive Rampage prizes and to interact with other hockey fans! You may also submit your questions though Twitter by tagging @sarampage and use the hashtag #RampageVoice. Don't forget to follow us on Twitter by clicking here!
Busy week to recap after a busy week in the Big Apple. First, a thank you to all airline companies, car rental agencies, hotel chains, and other sports entities who made for a smooth and enjoyable vacation. We would have had a miserable time if none of you came through. And a big thank you to the weather for dropping down into the 70’s after giving us back-to-back days of continued Texas heat to kick off the trip. Regardless of how long you’ve lived in 100 degree weather (and I’m going on seven years), you never really grow accustomed to it.
The Florida Panthers kicked off said busy week last weekend with five selections at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. After losing out on my choice of London Knights defenseman Olli Maatta (who was selected one pick before by Pittsburgh), the Panthers still went for depth on the blue line taking 18-year-old Michael Matheson at #23. Matheson will be a true freshman at Boston College in the fall, and his development should be aided by the championship pedigree of the Eagles and their long-time head coach Jerry York. Because Matheson was not drafted out of the Canadian Hockey League, he would be eligible to play in the American Hockey League at any point after he signs a contract, though I doubt the Panthers brass will push him through college too quickly. That being said, Matheson could join the Rampage at the end of next season on an ATO if the Eagles are eliminated from playoff contention. Florida’s four other picks of Steven Hodges, Alexander Delnov, Francis Beauvillier, and Jonatan Nielsen are expected to resume their careers with their current teams next year. All five players along with several familiar names will convene on the Sunshine State beginning Monday for a week of prospect development camp. Rampage players scheduled to be in attendance include Quinton Howden, Joe Devin, Jonathan Hazen, Anthony Luciani, Alex Petrovic, Drew Shore, Garrett Wilson, and Justin Vaive. Also headed to Florida on a tryout is longtime Rampage back-up goalie Andrew Volkening who is looking to resume his hockey career after completing his two-year initial commitment to the United States Air Force. Volkening was stationed at Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio after graduating from the Academy in 2010, and has often been summoned by the Rampage to practice or even suit up whenever a goalie has been injured or recalled. Unlike most emergency back-ups, Volkening is a two-time NCAA All-Tournament Team selection and set an Academy record with 28 wins and a 1.97 goals against average during the 2008-09 season. His likely destination is either an ECHL or CHL roster, but this is a great opportunity for him to showcase his skills in front of NHL management.
Do you have a question to ask any of the players attending the Florida Panthers Development Camp? Be sure to ask them now in our Fan Mailbag by clicking here!
The Panthers qualified nine restricted free agents Monday, including Rampage skaters Michael Caruso, Roman Derlyuk, Michal Repik, Eric Selleck, James Wright, and goalie Brian Foster. Left unqualified was Ondrej Roman, Keith Seabrook, and Justin Bernhardt who now become unrestricted free agents. Derlyuk and Repik have already signed commitments in the KHL for next season, but this allows Florida to keep their North American rights. Caruso, Selleck, Wright, and Foster will likely sign their qualifying offers or work out new contracts for next season to return which will add to the evolving Rampage roster. No real surprises with any of the RFA’s that did not receive qualifying offers. Roman and Seabrook struggled to stay in the Rampage line-up on a consistent basis, and NHL teams are limited to 50 contracts regardless of whether they are one-way or two-way deals.
Sunday is not only Canada Day for our neighbors to the North, but the start of the 2012 free agency period, which is an exciting time for hockey fans everywhere. The big Rampage names headed to free agency are Bracken Kearns, Greg Rallo, Bill Thomas, and Jon Matsumoto. Most NHL-AHL two-way contracts for veterans or players that have completed their rookie contracts are usually one year deals, so nearly half of all AHL players are unrestricted free agents. With their defensive corps looking like the strength of the team at this point, I figure Rampage GM Mike Santos will be busy in trying to add some talent up front in the event he is unable or unwilling to sign any of the team’s current free agents.
Finally the American Hockey League concluded its Board of Governors meetings Thursday with divisional re-alignment changes and the addition of some new rules for the 2012-13 season. The West Division, home to the Rampage, has been renamed the “South Division” and will now include the Charlotte Checkers who are replacing the Abbotsford Heat. The Heat are moving back to the North Division replacing the Grand Rapids Griffins who are moving to the Midwest Division. While playoff format was not officially announced, it is not expected to change from last season. The biggest change coming for the 2012-13 season will be the introduction of video review league-wide on questionable goal calls. Video review was actually tested by the AHL last season for a number of games in Bridgeport, and sources report that NeuLion, the company that administers the “AHL Live” application, will provide the actual feed that will be used for video review. The other notable change will be, on request by the NHL, the testing of attainable touch or hybrid icing for the first month of the season. Hybrid icing eliminates touch icing in situations where a defenseman beats the forward to the face-off circle once the puck has crossed the goal line. The rule is currently being used in both the USHL and the NAHL junior leagues, and its goal focuses on player safety and the prevention of injuries when it comes to needless races down the ice to touch the puck for an icing call. I applaud this rule change, and I believe it will one day become a staple of both the AHL and the NHL.
Have a safe and Happy Fourth of July Week!
Views From The Press Box Archieve
Week 1: June 15, 2012
Week 2: June 22, 2012