ECHL South Division prospects preview

By Holly Gunning

A look at just some of the talent under NHL contract found in the South Division of the ECHL for 2004-05.

Florida Everblades

The Everblades, located in Estero, Florida, are coming off a stellar year in which they lost in the Kelly Cup Finals to the Idaho Steelheads. They will again get some solid help from NHL affiliate Carolina Hurricanes, with whom they share an owner, Peter Karmanos.

Rob Zepp (CAR) returns in net. The talented netminder has been the victim of a deep system, a shared AHL affiliation and now the NHL lockout, all of which have kept him at the ECHL level longer than necessary. Last season with the Everblades, Zepp had a 14-13-7 record, a .921 save percentage, and 2.95 GAA. He recently signed a one-year contract with Carolina, so this is an important year for the 23-year-old.

Craig Kowalski (CAR) will join Zepp in net. The 5’10 23-year-old is a rookie out of Northern Michigan University where in 2003-04 he posted a 17-14-4 record, a .915 save percentage and 2.71 GAA. He served as team captain, the only goaltender in Division I to do so. He earned honorable mention on the CCHA All-Conference team.

Jared Newman (CAR) returns to the Everblades as well. The 6’2 defenseman spent 42 games with the team last year, and eight with the AHL Lowell Lock Monsters. He has decent skill, but is mostly a stay at home guy. Newman is 22.

Gwinnett Gladiators

The Gladiators play in Duluth, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta, and will be glad for the excess capacity of their arena this year during the NHL lockout. Seating 11,355 for hockey, they just might fill up to capacity a few times with hockey fans needing a fix. They continue their affiliation with Atlanta under coach Jeff Pyle, having gone 42-22-8 last season and losing in the Western Conference Final to eventual champion Idaho.

Adam Berkhoel (ATL) led the University of Denver to the 2004 NCAA Championship and was named the NCAA Tournament MVP. The 23-year-old went 24-11-2 last season, with a 2.45 GAA in 39 games for the Pioneers. He was acquired by the Thrashers this summer.

Brad Schell (ATL) joins the team from the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL, where he had 92 points in 71 games last season. He was a sixth round, 2002 draft pick of the Thrashers. Schell has very good hands.

Lane Manson (ATL) is a rookie out of Moose Jaw in the WHL where he had 253 penalty minutes in 72 games. The 6’8 stay at home defenseman was a fourth round, 2002 draft pick of the Thrashers.

Louisiana IceGators

The IceGators continue their affiliation with the Minnesota Wild and are led by new head coach Todd Gordon. They also have received a Dallas prospect via AHL Houston, who has an affiliation with the NHL team. The IceGators, based in Lafayette, Louisiana, lost in the Central Division Finals to Gwinnett last season.

Kyle Kettles (MIN) rejoins the IceGators, having spent last season in Houston of the AHL, where he had a 4-9-5 record, a 2.80 GAA and a .894 save percentage.

David Bararuk (DAL) was part of the Kelly Cup-winning Idaho Steelheads last season. The 21-year-old left winger is a talented playmaker who put up 15 points in 16 regular season games with Idaho last year. He spent most of the season in Utah of the AHL where he had 12 points in 52 games as a rookie.

Mississippi Sea Wolves

The Sea Wolves, located in Biloxi, Mississippi posted a 45-20-7 record last season, but were knocked out in the first round of the playoffs. A team with one of the oldest rosters in the league and without an NHL affiliate, lack of speed may be an issue this season.

Nicolas Corbeil is one prospect of note with the team. The 5’11 center started last year with the Florence Pride of the ECHL, where he played 31 games and scored 24 points. He made a stop in the AHL with the Norfolk Admirals and then returned to the QMJHL, where he played 27 games, scoring 30 points.

Pensacola Ice Pilots

The Ice Pilots switched coaches and NHL affiliations this offseason. Dave Farrish moves to Pensacola from the Louisiana IceGators and the Toronto Maple Leafs will be sending prospects instead of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Toronto previously had an affiliation with Memphis of the CHL. The Ice Pilots will have one of the youngest line-ups in the league this season.

Todd Ford (TOR) makes his pro debut this year after four years in the WHL with Swift Current, Prince George and Vancouver. The 6’4 goaltender was a former third round pick of the Leafs in 2002.

Dominic D’Amour (TOR), another rookie, is a 6’3 220-pound tough defender. He had an impressive 53 points and 211 penalty minutes in 61 games with the Gatineau Olympiques last season. He’s a player opponents hate to play against and should add a lot to the Ice Pilots lineup.

Kris Newbury (TOR) played 72 games for the St. John’s Maple Leafs last season, with 20 points and 153 penalty minutes. The 5’11 center is 22.

Cam Keith (TOR) is a 6’3 rookie signed out of the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. Last season the left winger had 26 points in 36 games. He also played four games for Hartford of the AHL.

Chris St. Jacques (TOR) is making his pro debut after five years in the WHL. The 5’9 winger had 92 points in 64 games last year with the Medicine Hat Tigers. The 21-year-old is a good puckhandler and plays a feisty game.

David Turon (TOR) is in his second pro year. The 21-year-old Czech defenseman played 42 games for Memphis of the CHL last season and 11 games for the St. John’s Maple Leafs.

Texas Wildcatters

The Wildcatters, located in Beaumont, Texas, had a miserable season in 2003-04, going 22-44-6, second to last in the league. This year they have a new affiliation with the Florida Panthers and return goaltender Davis Parley, who is now under contract with Calgary.

Jeremy Swanson (FLA) is a rookie out of the Barrie Colts of the OHL, where he had 34 points and 120 penalty minutes in 66 games from the back line. The 6’0 20-year-old was a sixth round pick of the Panthers in 2002. Though he has a good point shot, he is mostly a strong defensive defenseman.

Davis Parley (CAL) was the target in a shooting range last year with the struggling Wildcatters. Though his GAA was 3.98, he managed a .905 save percentage. The 6’2 goaltender was signed as a free agent by Calgary this summer. He is 22.

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