Lake Erie Monsters 2011-12 season preview

By John-Eric Iannicello
Photo: Going into the 2011 NHL draft, Gabriel Landeskog was hyped as one of the most NHL-ready prospects. So far he has lived up to that hype. (Photo courtesy of Ken McKenna/HF)

The Lake Erie Monsters will look to build on a successful 2010-11 campaign that saw them finish second in the North Division with 96 points and a record of 44-28-3-5. While they were ousted in the first round of the AHL playoffs last season, it was a positive step forward for the team that failed to make the postseason in 2009-10.

Forwards

The Monsters lost a few key veterans this offseason and will look to returning faces to contribute to the loss in offense.

Gone from the team last year are leading point man Ben Walter (70 points) and leading goal scorer Matthew Ford (26 goals). The Monsters also lost a chunk of secondary scoring from Julian Talbot who was second on the team with 45 points.

The team will rely on returning veterans David Van der Gulik, Ryan Stoa, and captain Greg Mauldin to do much of the team’s heavy lifting offensively.

A healthy Joey Hishon, Patrick Rissmiller, and Mark Olver would also give the team an added punch of skill up-front, but they are battling varying degrees of injury and aren’t expected in the lineup any time soon.

Hugh Jessiman joins Patrick Bordeleau as a large, physical presence up front.

Rookies Billy Ryan, Eric Hunter, and Brad Malone will look to establish themselves in roles with the club as they get their feet wet at the pro level.

Second-year forwards Luke Walker and Zach Cohen will look to build on their offensive numbers while and Justin Mercier will take on more of a leadership role in his third season.

Mike Carmen will also be a welcomed addition to the top-nine once he’s fully recovered from a broken foot.

Defensemen

The youth will be served on the Monsters blue line and will be an area of strength for the Monsters if a few rookies can make a smooth transition.

David Liffiton returns as the teams ‘elder statesmen’ at 26-years-old and is joined by AHL veteran Mike Brennan. Depth defender Scott Langdon brings experience in age, but hasn’t established a spot full-time at the AHL level.

Beyond those names the Monsters will be made up of a handful of players 23-and-under, but many who could make an immediate impact at the AHL level. Offensive-standouts at the junior level and impressive during training camp, Tyson Barrie and Stefan Elliott will look to continue their offensive production at the pro level. Both have scored over a point-per-game as defenseman in the WHL.

Sophomore defensemen Joel Chouinard, Cameron Gaunce, and Jonas Holos add more dimensions to the Monsters top-six defense in both offensive and defensive minded roles. Holos and Gaunce have already seen NHL action last season, playing 39 and 11 games respectively.

Newly acquired Jake Newton and free-agent rookie Ben Wilson will compete for depth roles with the club.

Goaltending

Trevor Cann returns to the Monsters looking to establish himself at the AHL level. The 22-year-old has spent the last two years bouncing between the CHL with the Tulsa Oilers and in the AHL with the Monsters.

At the moment Cann starting goalie, but is expected to slide into a backup role when veteran Cédrick Desjardins returns from injury. Desjardins is currently sidelined with a shoulder injury (week-to-week), but should provide a boost to the goaltending department when he returns.

Coaching

David Quinn is in his third year with the club as the team’s head coach. Quinn will look to build on escalating success after a strong 2010-11 season. He has a winning record with the Monsters at 81-65-17.

Prospects

Gabriel Landerskog had all eyes on him during training camp and didn’t disappoint. The second overall pick has so far lived up to his billing of being one of most NHL-ready players coming out of the 2011 draft. He has started to establish himself as a top-nine, two-way forward with the Avs and looks to have secured a spot for the season.

Elliot and Barrie were also strong standouts during training camp. Both were eventually re-assigned to the AHL, but it may not be long before both of them move into roles with the parent club. Elliot survived until the Avalanche’s final round of cuts.