The Portland Pirates will start their season in about a month’s time with more than half of last year’s roster intact. This will be a very different team however, as they will no longer have superstar goaltender Martin Brochu leading them into battle. Brochu signed with Calgary recently in an attempt to get to the NHL quicker.
The 2000-01 edition of the Pirates will have an overhauled defense corps, and should have a more potent offense. They will be counting on at least four rookies and four veteran additions to get them back to the form that had them first overall for an extended stretch last year.
Trying to predict a lineup before training camp begins is very difficult, as anything can and will happen before opening night. Using the entire organizational roster as a starting point, I have constructed what I think think the Pirates roster will look like.
The top line will consist of centre Jeff Nelson between wingers Mike Peluso and Matt Pettinger. Nelson is an offensive force for the Pirates and is a veteran leader among the forwards. Peluso has proved time and time again that he is top-line material and should once again be among the Pirates’ top scorers. Pettinger is a rookie, and would not normally be considered for the top line. However, the Pirates lost their top three left wingers in the off-season (Elomo, Moore, Toms) and are very thin at that position.
The second line will be led by new acquisition Stefan Ustorf. He is a former Pirate and Capital who has revived his career after playing in Germany a couple of years ago. He will be flanked by another rookie left winger – Krys Barch, and veteran Matt Herr. Herr, like Peluso, has done everything asked of him over the past few years – and could get a recall to DC at some point this season. Barch will be well served by having two veteran linemates, and will not have any pressure to produce right away.
The third line will have a nice mix of youth and grit. Centre Trent Whitfield will be joined by wingers Brad Church and Kent Hulst. All three of these players are on-ice leaders and very sound defensively. This line would be sent out against the opponents top line. There would not be much offense expected from this trio however.
AHL game rosters allow for only seventeen skaters, therefore most teams employ eleven forwards with the last two getting minimal ice time. The best candidates for these spots are Michael Farrell and Stephen Peat. Both are originally defenseman who have played a bit of forward. Peat will get shifts as an enforcer, while Farrell may get penalty kill time and would fill in at both defense and forward.
The defense has only three full-timers returning, but is very balanced with some new acquisitions. The first pair should consist of Patrick Boileau and J.F. Fortin. Boileau has been in Portland for several seasons and is one of their most trusted veterans. Fortin split time between the Pirates and Hampton Roads last season, and is ready to play full-time. These two can provide a lot of offensive support and should get the bulk of the power play time.
The second set should be made up of two former Blackhawks. Remi Royer and Todd Rohloff were both brought in from Chicago this off-season, and should be able to contribute immediately. Royer has had an up-and-down career so far, and will be looking to prove himself with this fresh start. Rohloff is as solid as they come, and should be able to provide a stable influence on Royer.
The remaining pair of blueliners will put Jakub Ficenec with veteran Jamie Huscroft. Ficenec came out of nowhere last season to star for the Pirates, but is still a little green. The Caps will be hoping that Huscroft will take Ficenec under his wings and help him progress.
The roster has space for four more players who will get into games through rotations or when regulars are injured. Forwards Mark Murphy and Jason Shmyr and Defenseman Scott Swanson should be among those players that will try to break into the lineup.
The goaltending has been set since the end of last season. The starter will be last year’s backup – Sebastien Chapentier. He played very well when he was given the chance and has excelled at every level he has been at. The backup will be sophomore Curtis Cruickshank, who spent most of last season travelling between Portland and Hampton Roads. Both of these goaltenders are young and looking to prove themselves. They played in the shadow of Martin Brochu until now and should provide solid goaltending for the Pirates.
The Capitals organization will be assigning players to ECHL Richmond and UHL Quad City this season to help them continue their development at a lower level. Some of the players that are candidates to be sent down are: Forward Etienne Drapeau, Defensemen Gerad Adams, Nathan Forster, Mike Siklenka and Ryan VanBuskirk as well as Goaltender Rastislav Stana.
Adams, Drapeau and Siklenka all played at ECHL Hampton Raods last year and will probably be back in that league with Richmond. Forster, Stana and VanBuskirk are all rookies this season and will be sent down due to Portland’s depth. All three are capable of playing in the AHL, but will spend a year in Portland to develop.
PORTLAND PIRATES OPENING DAY ROSTER
Matt Pettinger(19) – Jeff Nelson(27) – Mike Peluso(26)
Krys Barch(20) – Stefan Ustorf(26) – Matt Herr(24)
Brad Church(23) – Trent Whitfield(23) – Kent Hulst(32)
Michael Farrell(21) – Stephen Peat(20)
Patrick Boileau(25) – J.F. Fortin(21)
Remi Royer(22) – Todd Rohloff(26)
Jakub Ficenec(23) – Jamie Huscroft(33)
(with ages as of October 1st, 2000)