The Reign have one piece of their next goaltending tandem in place.
Twenty-one year-old Garrett Zemlak is coming off a four-year career in the Western Hockey League, the last two years of which were spent with the Prince Albert Raiders. The Saskatoon native also appeared in three games late last season for the ECHL’s Charlotte Checkers, going 2-0-1 with a 2.15 GAA and .929 save percentage.
Zemlak was probably enticed by the possibility of a tryout with the Kings, telling the Prince Albert Daily Herald that he expects to start the season with the American Hockey League’s Manchester Monarchs. In Manchester, Zemlak would probably split time with former Reign netminder Jeff Zatkoff; Jonathan Bernier, the Monarchs’ 2009-10 starter, is expected to gain a promotion to the NHL this season.
Kings goaltending prospect Martin Jones must also find a team, as his time in junior is up. Will Jones form a tandem with Zemlak in Ontario next season, or skip straight to the AHL? Will Zemlak be joined by another free-agent goaltender? Those questions will likely be answered in training camp.
With Prince Albert, Zemlak was named the team’s most outstanding player last season, going 26-25-4 with a 3.11 goals-against average and .909 save percentage. From 2006-08, Zemlak played for the Saskatoon Blades. During his four seasons in the Western Hockey League, he went 54-49-6 with five shutouts, a 3.31 goals-against average, and an .896 save percentage in 127 games.
Mike Egener, whose 11 goals last season led all Reign defensemen, has signed with the ECHL’s Florida Everblades.
Egener, who also led the Reign in penalty minutes last season (189 in 65 games), is reunited in Florida with Greg Poss, the Blades’ new head coach who served as a volunteer assistant with the Reign last season.
A former second-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning, the 24-year-old Egener returned to North America last year after playing a partial season in Sweden. He possessed the hardest slapshot on the team, but didn’t find his scoring touch until the second half of season. He finished with 18 assists and 29 points in addition to a plus-9 rating — second on the team.
The Reign will miss Egener’s physical presence, which often led him to the penalty box. The 6-4, 213-pound defenseman finished eighth in the league in penalty minutes.
Left a message with Egener earlier, and will update with his comments when we get ’em …
You don’t have to tell Geoff Walker what his big break during the 2008-09 season with the Ontario Reign meant to his career.
“I didn’t want to leave Ontario,” he said, a day after the Reign announced that Walker’s rights had been traded to the Wheeling Nailers.
“Karl gave me a great opportunity, and the fans – it was kind of like my second home. It’s really disappointing in that sense, but it’s about my career. You have to set some of those (sentimental) things aside.”
The Reign have traded the rights to forward Geoff Walker to the Wheeling Nailers for future considerations.
Walker, 22, was the Reign’s co-leading scorer in the team’s inaugural 2008-09 season, when he scored 48 points (21 goals) in 68 games. He then signed an AHL contract with the Manchester Monarchs prior to last season, and split the year between Manchester and Ontario.
The 6-foot-3 power forward appeared in 37 games for the Kings’ top farm team, tallying five goals and 14 points. Walker had seven goals and 23 points in 26 games with the Reign last season, and was among the steadiest point producers on a team strapped for scoring.
The Reign went 8-8-1-1 to start the season before Walker was promoted to Manchester on Nov. 21, 2009. When he returned to Ontario on March 5, the Reign were 24-25-3-5 and clawing for a playoff spot. With Walker in the lineup, the Reign went 15-14-1-3; without him they were 16-17-2-4.
An affiliate of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, the Nailers play in Wheeling, West Virginia, about 60 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. They went 33-32-2-5 last season, one of four teams that failed to qualify for the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Another dispatch from the vacation trail (only four days left …):
Forwards Kyle Kraemer (career stats) and Jeff Corey (career stats) have signed with the Reign. Both are veterans with ECHL experience, though I haven’t seen either play in person.
Going purely off official announcements, the current list of players who have signed for next season looks like this: forwards Brett O’Malley, Jon Francisco, Tim Kraus, Aaron Lewadniuk and C.J. Stretch; and defensemen Eric Doyle and Chad Starling.
Former Reign goaltender Jeff Zatkoff is looking for a mask.
Zatkoff, who backstopped the first regular-season win in Reign history, is now firmly entrenched with the Kings’ American Hockey League affiliate in Manchester, N.H. Any question as to where he would begin the 2010-11 season was all but answered with today’s announcement out of Manchester that Zatkoff is looking for a new mask.
The ECHL announced that Reign trainer/equipment manager Bobby Walls is the 2009-10 recipient of the ECHL Athletic Trainer of the Year Award, presented by Reebok Hockey.
The winner is determined in a vote of the league’s athletic trainers. Walls will receive a pair of 11K skates from Reebok Hockey in recognition of his win.
Click here for the full release.
Checking in from vacation to report that Brett O’Malley, a 26-year-old rookie out of the University of Calgary, has signed with the Reign for next season.
The center from Settler, Alberta, had 58 goals, 104 points and 210 penalty minutes in 149 college games. Last season he posted nine goals and 14 points in 20 games for a Dinos team that went 13-12-3. O’Malley, 5-foot-11 and 168 pounds, gives the Reign another right-handed shot along with forwards Jon Francisco, Tim Kraus, Aaron Lewadniuk and C.J. Stretch, who are all under contract for next season.