The Reign have added some depth with three newcomers, signing winger Joel Irving, defenseman Mike Egener, and left wing James McEwan for the 2009-10 season.
Irving finished his eleventh professional season with the Arizona Sundogs in 2009. A true journeyman [stats here], the 33-year-old was a sixth-round draft pick in 1994 by the Montreal Canadiens. He’s got some size (listed as 6-4 and 225) and scoring touch — last year Irving led the Sundogs in goals (35) and points (69) in 64 games. In his last full ECHL season (2006-07), Irving notched 18 goals and 53 points in 67 games between Bakersfield and Utah. Here’s what he looked like in Utah.
“We’re not sure which way he’ll go,” Reign coach Karl Taylor said, “but he’s been around for a while and hopefully he can give us some leadership.”
Irving could fill a similar role to the one Brad Mehalko — a tough, 32-year-old minor-league veteran — filled last year. Taylor confirmed Wednesday that Mehalko, an alternate captain in the Reign’s inaugural season, won’t be re-signed for the upcoming season.
“In the playoffs he was one of our better players but we just decided to go a different direction,” the coach said.
Egener, 25, will be beginning his sixth professional season after appearing in six games last season with Swedish professional team IF Björklöven. The defenseman was drafted 34th overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2003. He’s had a fair amount of experience in the AHL, too. Listed as 6-foot-4 and 213 pounds, Egener’s stats indicate that he projects as a defensive-oriented defenseman, and this video indicates that he’s not afraid to fight.
Taylor called Egener a “big, stay-at-home defenseman” and a “very good person.”
“We anticipate him being a good solid anchor on the blue line, another big body that can do his job for us,” Taylor said. “We want to be a hungry team to play against down low in the zone and we want to take that play into the corners.”
The 22-year-old McEwan [career stats] is even more well-known for his fists. The 6-foot, 187-pound left wing ranked third in the ECHL in penalty minutes (227) as a rookie last year with the now-defunct Phoenix RoadRunners. By our count, 10 of those came against the Reign in fights against Ryan Bowness, who has since retired, and returning defenseman David Walker. In 59 games, the Kelowna, British Columbia native also picked up three goals and seven points.
Taylor said that he pursued signing McEwan a year ago, following McEwan’s final season in juniors with the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets. The coach described McEwan, a team captain in Kelowna, as a “wonderful person” and “wonderful teammate.”
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of signing McEwan is that the Reign already have one enforcer-type under contract in Dan Leslie. Taylor didn’t rule out the possibility of keeping two heavyweights on the roster.
“Who knows. I’ll know in 10 days,” he said. “Time will determine who rises to the occasion and who does not.”