Part of the hype of last week’s ECHL All-Star Game was its potential to launch players to the next level and beyond. Six scouts were in attendance and the game was televised almost nationwide … so did anyone’s career benefit from the exposure?
In a word, yes.
The biggest benefactor was undoubtedly Braden Holtby, the South Carolina Stingrays netminder who was named most outstanding goalie in last Tuesday’s skills competition. Holtby flew straight from Ontario to join the AHL’s Hershey Bears. Then on Wednesday he was backing up Washington Capitals starter Michal Neuvirth in a game against the Anaheim Ducks (but did not play in the game).
Holtby was already on the Bears’ roster when he came to Ontario, but fellow South Carolina all-stars Zach Tarkir and Nikita Kashirsky were not. That changed on Thursday when both were signed by the AHL’s Manitoba Moose.
In good news for Reign fans, Bakersfield defenseman Sasha Pokulok signed a pro tryout agreement Saturday with the AHL’s Springfield Falcons, four days after breaking 101 mph twice in the hardest shot competition. Pokulok had four goals and three assists in nine games against the Reign this season. Springfield also signed forward Rick Cleaver, who represented Kalamazoo in the All-Star Game.
Judd Blackwater probably had the strangest journey in the last week. He was traded from the Stockton Thunder to the Alaska Aces last Friday, then a day later scored the shootout winner in Stockton to beat his former team.
He’ll return to Citizens Business Bank Arena on Friday when the Aces visit for a two-game series.