The Bites are back once again as I take a glance at the special teams and how it is playing out towards the success for the Binghamton Devils in this shortened season. In addition, I welcome back fellow AAtJ Panel member and colleague Tracey Lake as she offers some valuable insight on certain prospects in the ECHL that could play a future role for the Devils’ Organization.
First up, I address the recent success on the man-advantage that is steadily making a difference while the BDevils right the ship, so to speak.
Power Play Making Strides
The Power Play has been on fire as of late but has somewhat cooled off after Sunday’s results in Hershey that previously included four straight games going 8/15 on the man-advantage.
The BDevils seemed to have broken free from their early-season doldrums as the team is currently ranked sixth in the league at 24.5% whereas prior to Sunday’s game vs Hershey, it was fourth-best as they went 0/4 during that match. Much can be credited to BDevils’ Captain Ben Street as he has been solid with eight points on the man advantage which ties him for the league lead.
Also notably, defenseman Reilly Walsh has six points on the PP, tied for first in the AHL amongst all rookies along with five assists, also tied for the league lead in first-year pro players.
The turnaround has been quite remarkable as a result of some quick passes and full engagement in set plays by some of the older players and it’s been fun to watch. Especially on the two-man advantage. Beforehand, players were set outside the perimeter and it was frustrating, but that has since been addressed as the focus is now closing in around the slot area putting pressure on the netminder.
In addition, parking that man by the side of the cage is a reminiscence of the past glory days of ex-Binghamton Senators forward Mike Hoffman, as he was easily a threat and was rather successful during his efforts on set plays that were created at the time encompassing himself.
The first unit has featured Jesper Boqvist, Marian Studenic, Danick Martel with Ben Street, and Reilly Walsh at the point whereas Nate Schnarr, Graeme Clarke, Nolan Foote upfront with Connor Carrick, and Boqvist on the blueline that makes up for the second unit.
It’s been encouraging as we look forward to next season with the same results and apply the same systems that are currently standard in the coaching staff's wheelhouse.
Penalty Kill Still Needs Some Work
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the PK that threatens to overshadow the progress made on the other half.
Penalty kills are too troublesome and work needs to be down with a team that ranks 26th amongst the 28 teams this season at 75%. However, it appears to improve in whatever little steps that have been taken with the past weekend games against Hershey.
It’s not for the lack of effort with killing off 13/18 in the last five contests as the coaching staff has the younger prospects working it and in exchange providing results, it’s just the lack of experience on this side of the totem pole and the additional time for development.
The recent PK units consist of Kevin Bahl, Street, Carrick, and Martel as the first combo with the relief combination of Cam Darcy, Josh Jacobs, Nikita Okhotiuk, and Darcy for the second unit.
This season has been a quick dash for development and the more games played the better off the team will be when the fall approaches preceding the 2021-’22 season when wins and losses will have more meaning, including the special teams.
Moving on under normal conditions, Tracey’s coverage of the NJ Devils’ ECHL affiliate in Adirondack would be a regular feature for the Bites but has since been put on hold due to the pandemic. However, Tracey returns with a brief appearance featuring players' coverage surrounding the ECHL.
Tracey’s Updates From
When we last had checked in with the Adirondack Thunder in late August, the team was preparing for a 2020-21 season, bringing back several veterans and picking up some new rookie talent.
Unfortunately, that season was not meant to be, as the Thunder joined the rest of the North Division—Newfoundland, Brampton, Reading, Worcester, and Maine—in announcing they were pulling the plug on the season in late November, due to the ongoing pandemic and local restrictions.
However, there is some good news on the horizon, as the team recently announced they will return to the ice for the 2021-22 season, with their home opener scheduled for Saturday, October 23rd, against Newfoundland.
While Adirondack waits to resume, several players who were slated to take the ice in Glens Falls were able to join other ECHL teams as free agents or reassignments from Binghamton. Once the 2020-21 season ends, those players will again be considered Adirondack property and can be added to the Thunder’s Protected List and/or the Season-Ending Roster, which is the ECHL’s way of determining restricted free agency for each team.
Time to check in with some of those skaters who may be familiar to Binghamton fans, and maybe back in Glens Falls in the fall:
Mathieu Brodeur: The veteran defenseman, who had planned on a fourth season with the Thunder when he signed in late August, has signed on with Fort Wayne, who was the last ECHL team to start their season in early February. He has a goal and three assists in 16 appearances for the Komets.
Charlie Curti: Curti, who began his pro career in Binghamton’s 2019 training camp and had a successful first season in Glens Falls, is currently in Rapid City. The defenseman has picked up where he left off, with 3 goals and 10 assists in 33 games for the Rush.
Nick Hutchison: The rookie forward is spending his first full pro season with the Indy Fuel, where he has 2 goals and 5 assists in 23 games. A former teammate of Ryan Schmelzer at Canisius, Hutchison made his pro debut in the last Thunder game on March 10th, 2020.
Samuel Laberge: The 23-year-old forward, who has AHL experience with Texas, had signed with the Thunder in late October after playing in the LNAH in Quebec in 2019-20. He signed on with the Allen Americans, wherein in 28 games he has 9 goals and 10 assists.
Nick Rivera: The first-year forward, who had spent time in Binghamton’s training camp and began the season on the roster but never dressed, has returned to Wheeling, where he has 6 goals and 6 assists in 23 games.
Alex Sakellaropoulos: Instead of splitting time in net with Evan Cormier up north, Sakellaropoulos joined the other ECHL Thunder franchise in Wichita. He is 2-3 with a 2.60 GAA in 6 appearances, including one shutout.
Matt Salhany: Last season’s leading scorer, Salhany was the first player signed by the Thunder for 2020-21. However, he has headed overseas instead, signing on with SonderjyskE in Denmark. He has only appeared in six games but has three goals and three assists in that brief stint.
Additionally, the Devils reassigned Colby Sissons and Brandon Gignac, who were not receiving any playing time in the AHL, to two separate ECHL squads to pick up extra minutes. Gignac made his debut with the Jacksonville Icemen, who also have former Binghamton PTO Nick Saracino, former Thunder forward Ara Nazarian, and current Thunder signee Mike Szmatula on the roster, in early March, and has 2 goals and 4 assists in 10 games.
Sissons was reassigned to the Florida Everblades in late February. Although his time in the AHL has been underwhelming, the third-year pro has shined in his ECHL opportunities. In 11 games for the Everblades, the defenseman has 3 goals and 7 assists, and recently had a five-game point streak.
Let’s hope Sissons and Gignac find their groove enough to return soon to the AHL level as I am intrigued with Salhany’s progress. Look forward to your first Quarterly Reports/Evaluations representing The Panel soon for the Binghamton Devils!
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