This is the first edition of the Bites during this extended off-season until we return to some normality, with hockey-related hopefully sometime in early December for the AHL, including the ECHL.
In this installment, our very own Panel member Tracey Lake provides us what is happening for the New Jersey Devils’ affiliate in the ECHL country of Glens Falls, NY. Tracey is a season ticket holder for the Adirondack Thunder and a long time fan of the NJ Devils’ AHL club dating back when the City of Albany was hosting the AHL team, then known primarily as the Albany Devils and also the River Rats.
In other news, I will also resume my duties keeping up with the latest for the Binghamton Devils here at AAtJ for yet, another season. Thanks for those that follow my work in what I hope is another informative year within the Devils’ hype train as I currently enjoy my role in this, my 44th consecutive year of Binghamton hockey excitement.
Coming up, I have a couple of articles on the horizon with a feature on forward Egor Sharangovich alongside what the expectations are for the upcoming season for the Binghamton Devils during the 2020-’21 campaign. For my research, nearly 3⁄4 of the team will be back to hopefully continue where they left off in the Spring of 2020 before the Covid-19 shutdown. I am excited to say the least.
As for now, take it away Tracey, and welcome back!
Tracey’s Updates From Adirondack
It’s been over five months since the Adirondack Thunder last took to the ice, a 5-4 home loss to Worcester on March 10th, which turned out to be their final game of the 2019-2020 season after the ECHL shut down five days later due to the pandemic. It was an end to a disappointing campaign that saw the team finish below .500 (22-28-8-5) and 11 points out of a playoff spot.
Despite the early ending, the team—and the ECHL as a whole—have been business as usual this offseason as they prepare for if or when the 2020-21 season happens. Much like the AHL, the ECHL has pushed back the start of the regular season from mid-October to December 4th. This targeted start date will rely on whether fans will be allowed to attend, based on state virus guidelines regarding gatherings and interstate travel. The league is planning on a full 72 game schedule, meaning the regular season could extend into June.
As for the Thunder, the theme this offseason has been “getting the band back together.” A total of 12 players are signed for next season, with 11 of them returnees. Among the familiar names coming back to Glens Falls:
- Forward Matt Salhany, who started the season in Binghamton’s training camp, returns for his third full season. He led all Thunder skaters in scoring with 26 goals and 25 assists in 62 games.
- John Edwardh, who began his pro career in Binghamton late in the 2017-18 season, returns after splitting last season between Adirondack and Cincinnati. He had a combined 17 goals and 26 assists with the Thunder and Cyclones.
- Forward Ara Nazarian, who was on an AHL deal last season with the Devils, will return on an ECHL contract for his second pro season. In his rookie campaign, he led all first-year Thunder players with 12 goals and 20 assists in 54 appearances.
- Also returning for his second pro season is defenseman Charlie Curti, an AHL camp invite who lead all Adirondack defensemen in scoring with 11 goals and 20 assists.
- One forward to keep an eye on is rookie Nick Hutchison, who made his pro debut in the last Adirondack regular season game and picked up a goal and an assist. He is a former teammate of Ryan Schmelzer at Canisius and comes from a hockey-rich background: his younger sister Cailey is a second year forward for the NWHL’s Metropolitan Riveters, while younger brother Conner is a BCHL defenseman. In his senior season for Canisius, he posted career highs in goals (18) and points (32).
- Forwards Mike Szmatula, Ryan Walker, Alex Carrier, and defensemen Blake Thompson and Tommy Parran will also return to the Thunder lineup.
The only new face on the Thunder roster is defenseman Steven Ruggiero, who comes to Adirondack after spending his first pro season in Tulsa and had a one-game appearance for San Diego. The Kings Park, NY native brings much needed size (he checks in at 6’3” 225 lbs.) to the Thunder blueline, something the team was missing after an injury to Michael Sdao kept him out for a majority of the season.
The goaltending appears to be set, with the return of Alex Sakellaropoulos to the Thunder net after spending the 2019-20 season with three different ECHL teams and going a combined 6-12-0 in 19 appearances after a breakout 2018-19 campaign in Glens Falls. The other half of the goaltending tandem is up to New Jersey, as the organization only plans on carrying 5 goaltenders in 2020-21.
Depending on the direction the parent Devils want to go, either Evan Cormier will return to the Thunder or a goalie will be signed to an AHL deal as a default #3 for Binghamton, like Eamon McAdam was last season.
As for departures, Michael Sdao has retired as a player to become an assistant coach for the USHL’s Lincoln Stars. Ludvig Larsson, who split time between Adirondack and Binghamton, will be playing in his native Sweden. Nikita Popugaev returned to his native Russia and will be playing in the KHL. Defenseman Kelly Summers, who got an extended look in Binghamton last season, is playing in Germany.
If you want to keep up with the latest Thunder offseason news, head coach Alex Loh holds a Facebook Live video chat every Thursday at noon on the team’s Facebook page, including the latest player signing announcements and fan questions.