Manchester Monarchs season preview

By John Logue

The 2003-04 season followed a familiar pattern for the Monarchs, with over 90 points in the regular season, and an early playoff exit. Like most other AHL teams, the Monarchs will have a very different look this year due to the NHL lockout.
Gone will be top scorers Steve Kelly and Pavel Rosa,
and blueline veterans Bryan Muir, Tomas Zizka, Richard
Seeley, and Maxim Kuznetsov. The Monarchs will have to
rely heavily on the many new faces on the roster this
year.

The Monarchs lineup has been depleted over the last
two seasons because of the Los Angeles Kings’
unbelievable slew of injuries. The only certainty from
the NHL lockout is that the Monarchs will get to hold
onto their players during the season.

Goaltenders

Adam Hauser held the starter role for most of last season, finishing with a very stingy 1.94 GAA and .926 save percentage. The 24-year-old will have some stiff competition in net this year from Kings draft day acquisition Mathieu Garon. After being
stuck behind Jose Theodore in Montreal, the 26-year-old Garon will be
very eager to try earn the starting goalie job with the
Monarchs. In the 2002-03 season, his most recent AHL
season, Garon posted an impressive 1.77 GAA and a .937
save percentage for the Hamilton Bulldogs. The battle
between the pipes will be fierce.

Barry Brust is another newcomer to the Monarchs goalie
corps. Brust is big for a goalie at 6’2 and 216
lbs. The 21-year-old WHL product signed a free agent contract with the Los
Angeles Kings over the summer and is looking to make a
name for himself after being non-tendered by the
Minnesota Wild. Brust finished last season with the Calgary Hitmen while posting a 2.24 GAA and a .917
save percentage.

Defense

Los Angeles Kings top prospects Denis Grebeshkov and
Tim Gleason will anchor the Monarchs blueline this
year. Grebeshkov had a very good rookie campaign with the
Monarchs despite getting injured in the Pacific
Division Rookie Tournament prior to the start of last
season. The 21-year-old Grebeshkov will see plenty of time on the power play and penalty kill and could lead the Monarchs
in ice time this season.

Gleason spent the majority of 2003-04, his rookie year, in the NHL,
but did spend 22 regular season games and the playoffs
with the Monarchs. The 21-year-old will provide the physical
presence Grebeshkov doesn’t and his 47 games of NHL
experience will be helpful to a young Monarchs team.

Long time Monarch Joe Rullier will one of the more
familiar faces this season. Rullier led the team in penalty minutes last season and will once
again make forwards’ lives miserable if they cross the
Manchester blue line.

Mike Weaver joins the Monarchs from the Atlanta
Thrashers organization. He spent last season with the
Chicago Wolves, putting up 17 points in 78 games. The
Monarchs are hoping the 26-year-old will fill the void created with
the departure of Bryan Muir.

Beau Geisler is in his first year of professional
hockey after graduating from The University of
Minnesota-Duluth. Geisler’s goal totals increased each
season, finishing his senior year with 9 goals and 25
assists in 39 games. Geisler should see time on
Manchester’s second power play unit.

Troy Milam traveled a lot in 2003-04, his rookie season,
playing for Manchester and San Antonio of the AHL and
Gwinnett of the ECHL. The offensive defenseman with a powerful shot played seven games for the Monarchs last year and is hoping to win the job this
year as the team’s sixth defenseman.

Forwards

With the Monarchs top two scorers from last season
gone, Noah Clarke will be the team’s top offensive
weapon this year. Clarke was an AHL All-Star in his rookie
season last year and is primed to have an even better
season this year. The 25-year-old spent the offseason training in
Los Angeles, primarily working on his strength. Clarke
put together a very impressive string of games at the
Pacific Division Rookie Tournament and looked to be
much more of a complete player.

Petr Kanko joined the Monarchs last year after he
finished with Kitchener of the OHL. Kanko is a feisty
player who takes pride in getting under the skin of
the opposition and putting up points for his team. He
posted 68 points in 55 games last season. He made an immediate splash late
last season with the Monarchs with 4 points in 6
games. Expect to see the 20-year-old a lot on the penalty kill
and power play and quickly become a fan favorite in
Manchester.

Greg Hogeboom also joined the Monarchs late last
season. He had a very impressive four years at Miami
of Ohio increasing his point total each year. Hogeboom was
lethal on the power play at Miami scoring 17 of his 24
goals in his junior year with the man advantage.
Expect to see him in a top six forward role with the
Monarchs.

Dustin Brown hopes to rebound from an injury-plagued
rookie year in the NHL with the Monarchs this year.
Brown had a very impressive showing at the
World Championships and should make an impact
in the AHL. Brown is a prototypical NHL forward —
quick, aggressive and a good finisher. He can play in
every situation and should see a lot of ice time with
the Monarchs.

Scott Barney will start the season on IR with an
undisclosed injury. The Monarchs will miss his size,
work ethic and tenacity. Barney was up and down
between the Kings and Manchester last year. There is a
good chance he will spend a lot of time in Los Angeles
once the CBA issue is resolved.

Michael Cammalleri is a forward who will play a
larger role with the departure of Rosa and Kelly.
“Squid” spent half of the season in Los Angeles last
year, his second as a pro, and could also be headed West once the CBA is
resolved.

David Steckel is another new addition to the Monarchs
this season. The former first round pick had an up and
down career at Ohio State and is trying to earn an NHL
contract. Steckel is more known for his defensive game
than his offensive game and will try to hone his game
with the Monarchs this season.

Matt Ryan will be a new addition at center this year.
A former teammate of Dustin Brown, Ryan signed a three
year free agent contract with the Kings in August. He
has the talent to be a top six forward but will likely end up anchoring an energy third or fourth
line.

The Monarchs scored a major coup nabbing fan favorite
Tom Kostopoulos from the Penguins organization.
Kostopoulos was second on the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in points
last season. Better known for his heart and his tenacity than skating, Kostopoulos will be a welcome addition to the Monarchs.

Brad “Shooter” Smyth joins the Monarchs for his second
stint in the Kings organization. He was traded to the
Rangers back in 1997 and since has spent time with
several organizations and most recently in the Finnish
Elite League. Smyth has a reputation as one of the
best finishers in the AHL. His footwork, speed and
agility all improved with his stint in Europe.

Yanick Lehoux has had a very impressive training camp
and looks like he’s ready to turn the corner.

Veteran Monarchs Ryan Flinn, Chris Schmidt, George
Parros, Dan Welch and Jeff Giuliano will all play
varying roles with the team this season.

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