Hill signs with Manchester Monarchs.

Defenseman Jordan Hill officially joined the Manchester Monarchs Thursday on an American Hockey League tryout agreement.

Hill, a rookie out of the OHL who signed with the Reign this summer, can stay in Manchester for up to 25 games into the season before he has to sign a new deal. He can be released at any time.

It’s a strong vote of confidence for the 6-foot-2 rookie, who pegs as a two-way defenseman with strong leadership skills, per Karl Taylor. The last Reign player to sign a pro tryout contract with the Monarchs was Jon Rheault, who wound up playing a total of 44 AHL games last season between Manchester, Providence and Abbotsford.

Without Hill the Reign have six defensemen: David Walker, Chad Starling, Eric Doyle, Luke Beaverson, Reggie Traccitto and Matt Delahey.

Flames assign Rheault to AHL.

Former Reign forward Jon Rheault is heading back to the American Hockey League after he was cut from the Calgary Flames’ training camp late Sunday. Rheault, who spent parts of his first two professional seasons with the Reign, had one goal and four penalty minutes in five preseason games with the Flames.

His reaction, from Monday’s Calgary Sun:

“It’s not a good feeling to be sent down, no matter from where,” said
Rheault, who played for four different minor-league teams last season.
“Unfortunately, I’ve had a lot of experience with that.”

Looking at the positives, Rheault has come a long way from Providence College and an uncertain hockey future.

“If you said to me five months ago that I’d be one of the last cuts
at an NHL camp, I wouldn’t have believed it,” he said. “I can definitely
taste the NHL and see it.”

In other Reign alumni news, Geoff Walker is one of three players battling for six forward positions with the Wilkes-Barre Penguins, Pittsburgh’s AHL affiliate.

Notes on practice, tryout players, Rheault.

Back from the Reign’s afternoon practice at Center Ice Arena, where there were some fairly tired hockey players.

Taylor said the players were on exercise bikes for an hour prior to the practice. “The guys were tired when we got here. We went really hard.” In spite of that, Taylor said, “the guys had lots of pace, lots of energy. I really like what we did. We got our systems started. Lots of work to do, then just decided we needed to shut it down.”

The goalies got more work today than on Friday, as Garrett Zemlak, Mike Zacharias and Kellen Briggs faced plenty of point-blank, one-on-one chances toward the end of practice. “It shows them that we care,” coach Karl Taylor said, “and it’s also to help them.”

I caught up with the three open-tryout invitees — Josh Newton, Gabriel Andre and Mike Thomson — and will have a story about them in tomorrow’s editions of the Sun and Daily Bulletin.

There were no new players in practice today — just the same 15 skaters and three goalies as yesterday — as all the absent signed players lived to see another day in American Hockey League camps.

Meanwhile up in Edmonton, Jon Rheault scored for the Calgary Flames in a 5-1 win over the Oilers. Rheault started the game on a line with former Kings enforcer Raitis Ivanans, which if anything means the Calgary staff is serious about possibly keeping him on as a fourth-line winger.

Hold on to those Jon Rheault memories. He won’t be making any new ones here this season.

Rheault makes NHL preseason debut.

Former Reign forward Jon Rheault skated Tuesday night for the Calgary Flames against the visiting Vancouver Canucks in the preseason opener for both teams, a 3-2 Flames win.

Rheault put three shots on goal (one, reportedly, requiring a big save late in the first period) and was whistled for tripping but was held scoreless.

Rheault, who finished last season with the AHL’s Abbotsford Heat, is vying to become the first Reign player to reach the NHL. Here are a couple pictures of Rheault in action last night.

Also of note: Seal Beach native Mitch Wahl picked up two assists for the Flames in the win. Wahl, a second-round 2008 draft pick by Calgary, is expected to turn pro this year after spending the last four seasons in the Western Hockey League.

Rheault in Flames’ camp, still shaggy.

Reign forward Jon Rheault is enjoying his time at the Calgary Flames’ NHL development camp this week. It sounds like he’ll be enjoying it more once he can get a haircut.

From the Abbotsford News:

For Jon Rheault, becoming a Heat fan favourite was a matter of style and substance.

The 23-year-old right winger, called up from the ECHL in late
March, scored a string of clutch goals during the Heat’s playoff run.
That he did so while sporting a spectacular mullet only added to the

Rheault’s magnificent mane wasn’t necessarily a fashion
statement. The goal was to grow his locks to eight inches long and
donate them to the Pantene Beautiful Lengths program, which makes wigs
for women who have lost their hair during cancer treatment.

At the moment, the mullet is still intact.

“It’s still not the length it needs to be all the way around,”
explained Rheault, who has gone more than a year between haircuts. “The
top is at the right length to donate, but the sides and back aren’t.
Hopefully it’s soon, because I’m getting a little bit of crap for having
it this long. It’s annoying – I can’t wait to get rid of it.”

Rheault led the Heat in playoff goal-scoring with six in 13
games, and less than a week after the Heat’s season concluded, he inked
an AHL contract with Abbotsford. He’s determined to build on his
sterling playoff performance.

“When you have a good end to the season, it’s a fun summer,” he said. “I’m going to use that confidence in the fall.”

Francisco re-signs; qualifying offers sent.

The Reign’s 2010-11 roster began to take shape Friday, when Jon Francisco was announced as the first signing of the new season and eight qualifying offers were mailed out.

Francisco, 29, is the only captain in team history and a valuable two-way center. In 72 games, he had 15 goals and 45 points – both down from the previous season (20 goals, 48 points), when Francisco appeared in 63 games.

“He’s been one of our core guys,” Reign coach Karl Taylor said. “He had a decent season last year. We’re going to expect more out of him next year, and I know he’ll expect more out of himself.”

Qualifying offers were tendered to a league-maximum eight players: James McEwan, Greg Hogeboom, Jon Rheault, Geoff Walker, Curtis Darling, Peter Lenes, Mike Zacharias and Chris Curran.

None of the qualified players have re-signed with the Reign. The qualifying offer remains open until August 1, or until it is accepted by the player, during which time he cannot be traded.

The Reign will retain each qualified player’s ECHL rights for next season, regardless of whether or not he returns. For example, Taylor does not expect Peter Lenes back after the forward recently signed in Austria. But if Lenes decides to return to the ECHL, “maybe we’ll keep him, or maybe we’ll (trade) his rights.”

The complete list of qualified ECHL players can be found here.

Reign announce season-ending roster.

ECHL season-ending rosters were released today, the lists of up to 20 players from whom teams can qualify eight. The Reign’s season-ending roster included exactly 20:

Mike Egener, Chad Starling, Jon Francisco, Tim Kraus, Tony Voce, Peter Lenes, Curtis Darling, Chris Curran, Geoff Walker, Greg Hogeboom, David Walker, Sean O’Connor, Mike Zacharias, Jon Rheault, Dan Knapp, Luis Tremblay, Todd Jackson, Robert Pearce, Shawn Germain and James McEwan.

Of the players who finished 2009-10 on the Reign’s roster, five are missing:

• Defenseman Andrew Martens, who has signed in the Central Hockey League;

• Forwards C.J. Stretch and Jordan Nolan, who were playing on Amateur Tryout contracts, and therefore not eligible for the season-ending roster;
• Forward Michael Pelech and defenseman Colten Teubert, who were assigned to the Reign by the Kings.

In other words, the season-ending roster looks just as expected.

The next step in the process of whittling down who will be back next season is submitting qualifying offers.

Each team is entitled to qualify a maximum of eight players
the list of 20 by extending a qualifying offer no later than July 1. Of
eight qualified players, no more than four can be veterans (260 regular-season professional hockey games played as of the start of the 2010-11
season). Players on open qualifying offers cannot be traded. Teams are
required to extend a qualifying offer to players who sign a contract
to July 1.

Reign announce protected list.

There were no surprises on the Reign’s protected list, announced Wednesday:

Kellen Briggs, Dusty Collins, Chris Curran, Curtis Darling, Mike
Egener, Jon Francisco, Shawn Germain, Greg Hogeboom, Todd Jackson, Dan Knapp, Tim
Kraus, Peter Lenes, Andrew Martens, James McEwan, Sean O’Connor, Robert Pearce,
Jon Rheault, Chad Starling, Jason Tejchma, Luis Tremblay, Tony Voce, David
Walker, Geoff Walker, Mike Zacharias.
Continue reading “Reign announce protected list.” »

Rheault’s season is over; big day in Kelly Cup playoffs.

Jon Rheault’s long and winding season finally came to an end Monday night in Hamilton, Ontario, where the Abbotsford Heat were eliminated from the AHL Calder Cup playoffs by the Hamilton Bulldogs. Rheault and the Heat were stymied by Hamilton goalie Curtis Sanford, who made 30 saves in a 4-0 Bulldogs victory.
Continue reading “Rheault’s season is over; big day in Kelly Cup playoffs.” »