Michael Pelech’s progress is coming slowly but surely. Signed to an AHL deal by the Manchester Monarchs last August, the former Kings draft pick started the season in Manchester, was assigned to Ontario in late October and never left.
At 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, Pelech was among the team’s largest forwards, and he used his size effectively on occasion while centering the team’s shutdown line. When Dusty Collins was in the AHL, Pelech was usually the man in the faceoff circle late in games on defensive-zone draws. He was also among the league leaders in minor penalties again — probably the biggest flaw in his game — but his minutes in key situations only went up as the year went on.
Pelech started with two goals and four assists in his first 21 games, was a healthy scratch once in December, but finished strong late (like many of his teammates) with nine goals and 19 assists in 63 games.
Here’s what he had to say before leaving the rink Tuesday:
Luke Beaverson became the first player to announce his retirement Tuesday.
The 26-year-old defenseman said he plans to complete his bachelor’s degree from his native Minnesota, then move on to whatever’s next. The 2010-11 season was the best statistically of his three professional seasons. Beaverson appeared in 61 games, recording three goals, 10 assists and 78 penalty minutes — all career highs. His minus-5 rating matched James McEwan for the best among players who started and ended the season in Ontario, which is all the more impressive considering he often skated against the opposing team’s best forwards.
The soft-spoken veteran picked up some of the leadership slack when Chad Starling and Jon Francisco were lost for the season to injuries. At 6-foot-4, Beaverson was usually among the biggest players on the ice and will leave some big skates to fill.
Here’s how our (last?) interview went:
Shawn Collymore was brought in to add speed up front and a veteran presence in the room. His season mirrored the rest of the team: Better late than early. Playing heavy minutes, including power-play and occasional penalty-kill situations, the 27-year-old finished with 17 goals (tied for third) and 38 points (tied for second).
After spending all of last season in Denmark, it looks like Collymore is going back to Europe for 2011-12. Here’s what he said Tuesday before leaving Citizens Business Bank Arena for possibly the last time:
From start to finish, Brett O’Malley was Brett O’Malley — a defensive-minded forward, asked to kill penalties and score when needed. For the most part, he did just that. His final stats weren’t much to bat an eye at — eight goals, eight assists in 62 games — but O’Malley continued to give Karl Taylor a reason to plug him into the lineup.
The 27-year-old rookie said there are more parts of his game than just defense. Whether or not he’ll get that chance depends on an important non-hockey factor. Here’s what O’Malley had to say after his final meeting with Taylor on Tuesday:
David Walker had some big news Tuesday — news that could affect the captain’s decision whether or not to return for an eighth season of pro hockey.
Still, Walker wouldn’t say which way he was leaning on the retirement question, although hockey might seem like a trivial pursuit rather soon (keep reading…). For the record, he finished with five goals, 38 points, a minus-18 rating and 106 penalty minutes in 69 games. The 69 games-played stat might be the most impressive, considering he injured his thumb in a fight on opening day and wasn’t the same all season.
Knowing that Walker will have plenty more to say in a month, when he expects to decide on his future, we kept it short:
It took Jordan Morrison a while to rediscover the form that allowed him to score 26 goals and 74 points as an ECHL rookie in 2008-09.
Once he did, he was a joy to watch. Morrison had 10 goals and 21 assists in his final 27 games after posting 10 and 14 in his first 44. It was a good bounce-back for the 24-year-old former seventh-round draft pick (Pittsburgh, 2004) who played for three different teams in 2009-10.
Like Bourret, another year in the ECHL might not be best for Morrison’s development, and he seems to know it.
One man can only do so much, and Alex Bourret did everything short of leading the Reign back into the playoffs.
From the time he arrived in late December, he gave the Reign as good a top-line left wing as any team in the ECHL’s Western Conference. The 24-year-old former first-round NHL draft pick (Atlanta, 2005) racked up goals, assists and fights with equal aplomb, finishing with 12 goals, 37 points and 68 penalty minutes in 42 games.
His time in Ontario was memorable — but could prove to be short-lived.
Chad Starling was a forgotten man around Ontario after he suffered what seemed like a fairly innocuous injury in practice in late November. Less than two months later, he went in for surgery to repair a sports hernia and an adductor muscle, and his season was over.
One of the great “what if”s of 2010-11 is what if Starling hadn’t gotten hurt. Remember that fellow shutdown defenseman Luke Beaverson also missed a month spanning December and January, and their combined absence was especially brutal. Starling’s final stat line: 14 games, no goals, 1 assist and a minus-1 rating.
He shared his thoughts on the impact of his injury, and his interesting summer plans:
Doug Krantz didn’t get the chance to show too many aspects to his game as a member of the Reign, and he knows it. Another midseason pickup, the 27-year-old defenseman in his third pro season occasionally flashed the ability to skate, get the puck on the net, and even play forward in a pinch.
He also was beaten off the rush on enough occasions to earn a near-permanent spot at the end of the bench. When he did play, it was rarely more than third-pair minutes. He finished with one goal, one assist and a minus-8 rating in 24 games with the Reign this season. He also played eight games in Cincinnati and 13 games in Elmira.
Krantz didn’t kid himself when reflecting on the year.
Aaron Lewadniuk endured the typical share of rookie highs and lows. Offensively, he provided as many highlights as anyone over the course of the season. Defensively, he wasn’t quite as consistent.
Aside from the occasional rookie mistake, Lewadniuk was always one of the more interesting players to watch – capable of scoring a goal, setting up someone else, or getting into a fight. He represented the team at the All-Star Game in January and finished with 17 goals (tied for third on the team) and 31 points in 69 games.
Here’s what he had to say on his final day at the rink: