The Hartford Wolf Pack made their final training camp cuts on Monday, trimming their roster to 23 players by reassigning or releasing six players.
Up front, New York Rangers draft picks Ryan Hillier and Tomas Zaborsky were reassigned by the Rangers to the Charlotte Checkers of the ECHL.
A season ago, Zaborsky struggled in Charlotte under head coach Derek Wilkinson, putting up only 12 points in 28 games before asking for a change and being loaned to the Daynton Bombers, also of the ECHL. Once there, he broke out for 10 goals and 6 assists in 19 games and earned himself a recall to Hartford. Major shoulder surgery ended his stint in Connecticut’s capital — and his season — after only 8 games. Whether he stays in Charlotte this season or once again asks to be moved elsewhere will likely depend on how prominent a role he earns with the club and how much ice time Wilkinson is willing to give him — and whether injuries in on the Wolf Pack create a need for him in Hartford early in the season.
Joining Hillier and Zaborsky in Charlotte will be defensemen Trevor Glass and Jared Nightingale. There was simply not enough room for either player on an already-stacked blueline which features 4-5 blueliners with serious NHL potential.
Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, the Wolf Pack cut only one goaltender, 24-year old former Los Angeles Kings prospect Ryan Munce. That leaves the team with three netminders on the roster — unusual, but not at all unheard of in the AHL, where there are no limits on roster size until after the AHL’s “Clear Day” in March.
The decision to keep all three was most likely influenced by a combination of Matt Zaba’s preseason struggles and Chad Johnson’s strong showing both at the Traverse City Prospects Tournament and in Rangers’ camp. Miika Wiikman, who looked shaky in his only preseason playing time for the Rangers, remains in the mix despite not seeing any preseason action with the Wolf Pack. The Swedish-born Finn will be looking to rebound from a difficult sophomore season, but there has also been speculation that the soon-to-be 25-year old could be moved to make way for Johnson.
UPDATE 10:06PM: Leslie Treff, who spent the weekend covering the Wolf Pack for Hockey’s Future NY Rangers Blog, revealed today that Wiikman’s lack of playing time in the preseason was due to injury. She didn’t specify the nature of the injury, but said he was considered day-to-day.
Finally, the Wolf Pack released their preseason scoring leader, Derek Couture. The 25-year old former Calgary Flames draft pick put up good numbers during the preseason in an effort to earn a contract, but with the Wolf Pack already stocked with forwards who have NHL deals, the cards were stacked against him from the start.
Today’s cuts, plus the addition of Evgeny Grachev, who was assigned to Hartford by the Rangers last night, leave 23 players on the roster as the team prepares for Saturday’s season opener in Binghamton.
Goal (3): Chad Johnson, Miika Wiikman, Matt Zaba
Defense (7): Ilkka Heikkinen, Brent Henley, Corey Potter, Bobby Sanguinetti, Michael Sauer, David Urquhart, Nigel Williams
Forwards (13): Andres AmbÃ¼hl, Tyler Arnason, Dane Byers, Paul Crowder, Devin DiDiomete, Brodie Dupont, Evgeny Grachev, Corey Locke, Jordan Owens, P.A. Parenteau, Patrick Rissmiller, Justin Soryal, Dale Weise
Players cut by the Wolf Pack on September 28th:
Reassigned by NY Rangers from Wolf Pack to Charlotte (ECHL):
Forwards (2): Ryan Hillier, Tomas Zaborsky
Loaned by Wolf Pack to Charlotte (ECHL):
Defensemen (2): Trevor Glass, Jared Nightingale
Goaltenders (1): Ryan Munce
Released by Wolf Pack:
Forwards (1): Derek Couture
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