AHL Clear Day
We're a little long-winded today, so pop a cold one, sit down and settle in.
Today is what is known as Clear Day in the American Hockey League, when all 29 teams must submit a list of 20 skaters and two goaltenders which would comprise the final roster for the duration of the regular season and playoffs.
Only those players named on the Clear Day lists are eligible to play from today on, but there is plenty of wiggle room. Teams are also allowed to include several "in residence" players, or those eligible to fill in if a listed player is injured, ill or recalled to the NHL.
Draft picks or free agents signed out of the junior or college ranks are also exempt from being included on the Clear Day list. That would include a player like Brandon Sutter, Carolina's first-rounder from 2007 whom the organization has been negotiating with in hopes of getting under contract. Sutter is finishing up his third full season in Red Deer, Alberta in Canada's Western Hockey League. Were he to sign, Rats coach Tom Rowe said Sutter would likely be assigned right away to Albany.
The Clear Day deadline is 3 p.m. today, and the AHL doesn't release the final lists until sometime on Friday, after they have checked the eligibility of the more than 600 players. Looking into my crystal ball, here is who I see ending up on Albany's roster:
Goalies: Mike Leighton, Justin Peters.
Defensemen: Noah Babin, Joey Mormina, Mark Flood, Tim Conboy, Brett Carson, Bryan Rodney, Steve Ward, Casey Borer.
Forwards: Mike Angelidis, Brandon Nolan, Kiel McLeod (signed on Wednesday), Jeff Hamilton, Jakub Petruzalek, Jerome Samson, Bobby Hughes, Joe Jensen, Jamie Johnson, Pat Dwyer, Nicolas Blanchard, Trevor Gillies.
An in-residence list could include players like Cohoes native Marc Cavosie, Chris Blight, Joel Rechlicz and Chris Murray (signed on Thursday).
The goalies are a no-brainer. Leighton is the best in the league, and Peters has played with confidence in his rare appearances.
Defensively, Murray was added to fill in for Flood, who isn't expected back anytime soon (keep reading for more on that). Putting Conboy on there allows for his return should Carolina be bumped from the playoffs early and the Rats still be playing; plus, since he is on recall, his Clear Day spot can be filled by another player.
There aren't any surprises up front, either. When Rowe mentioned McLeod's signing Wednesday night, it sounded like he was brought in to be here for the duration, thus his inclusion on he list. Blanchard and Nolan are both currently hurt, but Blanchard could be back by the weekend and Nolan will be reevaluated next week. Hughes is a question mark, since it appears his season might be over, but his inclusion leaves open his eligiblity should he return; if not, again, that spot can be filled by another player.
As for the in-residence guys, Cavosie, Blight and Murray are all on pro tryouts. Since he is young and inexperienced, and fighting is generally absent during the postseason, I would leave Rechlicz off the main group.
"There may be one or two guys we need to leave off but that's the way it goes. We explained that to the guys," Rowe said. "It doesn't mean they're not going to play, because we'll have callups and injuries and everything. It's tough. When you go through a whole season and then guys get sent down and you need to pick up guys to be a stronger playoff team, that's the way it goes. It's a business and we're here to win.
Now, to the notebook:
** - Rowe said that Flood could miss anywhere from two to six weeks, pending the results of an MRI exam he had today. He was knocked from Wednesday's home win over Binghamton on a hit by Jeremy Yablonski, and left the game favoring his right arm/shoulder/collarbone.
"We're still waiting for a report back from the doctor," Rowe said. "Hopefully, we know sooner rather than later. He's out probably a minimum of two weeks and more likely four to six. It's unfortunate, and we're going to miss him. He had played himself into such an important role on our team."
Regarding the hit, Rowe said: "Yablonski's a tough kid and he plays hard. I think he plays honest. He hit Floody with a good hit. It's that time of year. I don't know him personally, but I respecf him a lot. He's got a tough job to do. He's out there to play physically and get his team energized. It was a good hit. I don't think it was a dirty hit at all."
** - With Keith Aucoin in Carolina for good, several Rats veterans are sharing the captaincy, a week at a time, starting with Johnson, who wore the 'C' for the first time on Wednesday. Also in the rotation are Flood, Dwyer, Hamilton, Gillies, Mormina and Nolan, and Conboy, too, if he gets sent back. Leighton is also in the leadership group, but goalies cannot wear a letter per league rules.
"They're such a solid group of guys that I thought they all deserved a chance to at least experience what it's like to be a captain," Rowe said.
Said Johnson: "Anytime you can wear a letter and be a captain in this league, it's a great honor. No matter how long you have it for, it's great, especially being the first guy to wear it after Keith, who's someone I respect a lot as a player and especially as a person in the room. I'm honored."
** - McLeod (6-6, 235) was signed before Wednesday's game and joined the team Thursday. He was added to lend size and experience to the lineup. "We felt we needed a big centerman to come in and complement what we already have," Rowe said. "His agent is an agent I used to have, Herb Pinder, and I've talked to Herb about this kid for 2-2 1/2 years. It's not somebody we just pulled off the street to fill the roster. He's a guy we have interest in."
** - To help fill the void for Flood, Albany signed defenseman Chris Murray on Thursday. A rookie out of the University of New Hampshire, he has spent most of this season in the ECHL with Phoenix, but had one AHL game with Lake Erie and two with Springfield. "He's a little more stay at home than Mark," Rowe said. "He plays with an edge and he's physical, probably more similar to Timmy Conboy, though he doesn't have that experience."
** - Though he was held scoreless and had his wraparound attempt at an open net blocked by Binghamton defenseman Matt Kinch, both Cavosie and Rowe deemed his Rats debut a success. "It went all right," Cavosie said. "The tempo was a little quicker than I was used to, so my legs went a little earlier than I wanted, but I felt like I made some good plays. A sloppy play here and there, but I feel like I clean those up and it should be all right. The biggest thing is getting some chemistry with my linemates. It's hard off one practice and one morning skate. Once we do that, we're on our way."
Said Rowe: "Offensively, you can see he's real creative. It was Marc's first game at this level in quite a while, and it will probably take him another game or two to get up to speed. If Cavosie keeps playing like he did, I see him being here for an extended period of time. He's got a lot of skill, and we need that. It's not guaranteed, but I liked what I saw."