San Antonio Rampage season outlook

By Ryan Garner

The San Antonio Rampage entered their third season in the American Hockey League with a new coach and a handful of NHL regulars. The team finished the 2003-04 season second to last in the AHL’s West Division. The Florida Panthers affiliate is looking to improve upon those results this year and secure a spot in postseason play.

Optimism runs high in San Antonio as Steve Ludzik returns to the Rampage head coaching position. Ludzik was behind the bench during San Antonio’s first 12 games last year before he was called up as an assistant coach with the Florida Panthers. The 43-year-old bench boss played over 400 games in the NHL and has extensive coaching experience in the UHL, OHL, IHL, AHL and NHL over the past 10 seasons.

Goaltending

The Rampage have one of the most experienced goaltending tandems in the American Hockey League. Patrick DesRochers and Travis Scott have 11 seasons of AHL experience between them and they are expected to share the netminding duties all season. DesRochers spent last season with Lowell, appearing in 50 games for the Lock Monsters. The Penetang, Ontario native has bounced around the minor leagues since being drafted by the Phoenix Coyotes in the first round (14th overall) in 1998. Veteran Travis Scott handled the load for San Antonio last season, posting a 2.50 goals against average and .924 save percentage in 64 games for the Rampage.

Defense

Jay Bouwmeester finds himself the cornerstone of a talented San Antonio blue line because of the NHL lockout. Drafted by the Florida Panthers in the first round (3rd overall) of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, Bouwmeester is widely regarded as one of the most talented young defensemen in the world. The soft-spoken 21-year-old has already represented Team Canada at several international tournaments, including the World Cup of Hockey this past September.

Czech rearguard Lukas Krajicek enters the season looking to build on a successful rookie campaign. The 6’2, 185-pound playmaker is one of the top prospects in the Panthers system and his solid two-way play earned him a stint with the big club last year, appearing in 18 games for Florida. He has six points in nine games and is +4 on the season so far.

Fellow Czech Filip Novak joins Krajicek along the San Antonio blue line. The New York Rangers second round pick (64th overall) in 2000, Novak put up 27 points in 57 games for the Rampage last season. He has one point in 10 games and is –4 so far this season.

Rugged enforcer Grant McNeill is hoping to find a regular spot on the San Antonio roster. The Vermillion, Alberta native provides no offense but he’s valuable because of his tough play and willingness to engage in fisticuffs. He has played in only three games so far, and is –1 with seven penalty minutes.

The duo of Joel Kwiatkowski and Burke Henry will provide veteran leadership for the Rampage inexperienced defensive corps. Kwiatkowski benefited from 80 games with the Washington Capitals last season. Henry will add toughness to the San Antonio defense with his gritty, physical style of play.

Forwards

Rob Globke, the Panthers second round pick (40th overall) in 2002, has established himself as one of Florida’s most promising young forwards. The 6’2, 200-pound winger has spent the past four seasons playing with Notre Dame of the NCAA. Globke will be given plenty of time to develop and should be a leader among the Rampage as he adapts to the professional game. He is scoreless in eight games thus far.

Czech center Kamil Kreps made his AHL debut with San Antonio this season after three in the Ontario Hockey League with the Brampton Battalion. Only 19 years old, the talented playmaker was a second round draft pick (38th overall) for the Florida Panthers in 2003. He has two points in 10 games and is even.

Undrafted center Greg Jacina has taken a tough road to the professional leagues. Playing a gritty style, the 22-year-old posted 38 points in 58 games for Augusta of the ECHL last season, earning himself a spot on the Rampage roster. He has five points in 10 games and 33 penalty minutes thus far this season.

Gregory Campbell will be looking to build on a solid rookie season with San Antonio. The Tillsonburg, Ontario native finished with 29 points in 76 games and even received a call up for two games with the Panthers. Campbell is off to a good start for 2004-05, with seven points in nine games.

Petr Taticek is also looking to improve on a fine rookie campaign with San Antonio. The 6’2, 183-pound Czech is a talented playmaker but needs to build some muscle to increase his effectiveness in the middle. The Panthers are expecting big things from Taticek, whom they drafted ninth overall in 2002. He has three points in 10 games so far this season.

The mammoth Josh Olson (6’5, 236 pounds) finished with 22 goals last year, good enough for second on an inexperienced San Antonio squad. The Rampage are hoping he can improve on those numbers this season. The 23-year-old native of Grand Forks, North Dakota plays effectively in front of the net but he needs to add a mean streak to make the most of him imposing frame. He has three points and is +3 this season.

Lou Dickenson is looking to resurrect his career with the Rampage this season. The native of Orleans, Ontario was originally drafted by the Edmonton Oilers in the fourth round of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft but crumbled under the weight of high expectations. Dicksenson spent last season with St. Thomas University of the Canadian Interuniversity Sports league and may struggle for playing time this season. He is pointless in nine games so far.

Stephen Weiss, Juraj Kolnik and Eric Beaudoin each spent time with the Florida Panthers last season and should carry the bulk of the Rampage offensive production this year. Weiss finds himself in the AHL thanks to the NHL lockout. The Panthers first round pick (4th overall) in 2001, Weiss possesses all-star caliber talent and plays a solid game at both ends of the ice. Kolnik, drafted 101st overall by the New York Islanders in 1999, took huge strides towards establishing himself as an NHL regular with the Panthers last season. The talented winger registered a surprising 25 points in 53 games for Florida last year and he’s expected to continue his development as one of San Antonio’s most dangerous scoring threats. Beaudoin finished third in team scoring last season, but is off to a slow start with only two points in eight games this year.

Winger Paul Healey returns for his ninth AHL campaign after being named the San Antonio captain in the offseason. The 29-year-old Healey will provide the Rampage with veteran leadership and an inspirational work ethic. Ryan Jardine will line up on the left wing for San Antonio this season. The Ottawa, Ontario native will provide energy and chip in offensively. Serge Payer may find himself the odd-man out among the Rampage centers this season. The 6’0, 192-pound center plays an aggressive style but he should battle for ice time all year long.

Outlook

The San Antonio Rampage roster features a wealth of NHL experience as five of their seven defensemen, and six of their 13 forwards, spent time in the National Hockey League last season. Future all-stars Jay Bouwmeester and Stephen Weiss will bolster the club at both ends of the ice and the team will benefit from the return of Steve Ludzik behind the bench. San Antonio is not a big, physical club but their solid mix of talented prospects and steady veterans should make them a competitive force in the American Hockey League’s West Division. The Rampage are 4-4-2 on the season so far.

Copyright 2004 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.