ECHL: Southern Division preview

By Holly Gunning

Below is a look at the eight teams of the ECHL’s Southern Division of the Eastern Conference, and in particular prospects to keep an eye on this season. By no means are these the only prospects worth watching, but it does offer a sampling of the talent in the league.

Charlotte Checkers

NHL Affiliate: New York Rangers
AHL Affiliate: Hartford Wolf Pack
2002-03 Record: 41-28-3 Overall ECHL Finish: T 12th
Coach: Don MacAdam, 5th Season (86-66-27)

Prospects to watch:

  • Dusty Jamieson, LW (Age 22)

Jamieson returns to the Checkers in his second year pro. He was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens 136th overall in 1999 but went unsigned. The two-way winger had a successful debut season, ending tied for first in goals on the team in 2002-03. He has good size at 6’2″ 195 lbs.

  • Rory Rawlyk, D (Age 20)

Rawlyk was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Rangers in 2001, but was returned to the WHL to play juniors for the past two seasons. He makes his professional debut this season on the Checkers blueline. A smart player with skill, he can play in all situations. Rawlyk possesses NHL height, but not weight at 6’5″ 195 pounds.

  • Marc St. Jean, D (Age: 25)

St. Jean got a taste of pro hockey at the end of last season when he joined the Elmira Jackals of the UHL following his season at Wayne State University. Invited to the Atlanta Thrashers prospect camp over the summer, he ended up on Charlotte’s towering blueline.

Columbia Inferno

NHL Affiliate: Vancouver Canucks
AHL Affiliate: Manitoba Moose
2002-03 Record: 47-23-2 Overall ECHL Finish: 3rd

2003 Kelly Cup Playoffs: Lost Kelly Cup Finals to Atlantic City (4 games to 2)
Coach: Scott White, 3rd Season (83-45-16)

Prospects to watch:

  • Josh Blackburn, G

Blackburn, out of the University of Michigan was not offered a contract by the Phoenix Coyotes upon graduation and became a free agent. He was originally selected by the Coyotes in the 5th round of the 1998 NHL Entry Draft.

  • Alexandre Burrows, RW (Age: 22)

Burrows is one of the resident tough guys in Columbia. Last year, in his pro debut, he racked up 265 PIMs between Greenville and Baton Rouge. At 6’1″ and only 170 lbs, he’s no heavyweight.

  • Marc-Andre Roy, LW (Age: 20)

Columbia may be trying to corner the market on tough guys with the addition of Roy. He joins the team from Baie-Comeau Drakkar of the QMJHL, where he racked up an eye-popping 653 penalty minutes, which works out to almost 10 minutes per game played.

  • Jesse Schultz, F (Age: 21)

Schultz is coming off a breakout year in the WHL, where he scored 104 points in 72 games, and 28 points in 19 games in the playoffs, earning him the WHL Playoff MVP award. This earned him a contract with the Vancouver Canucks as a free agent. A finisher, he will be a key on the Inferno power play.

Florence Pride

NHL Affiliate: Chicago Blackhawks
AHL Affiliate: Norfolk Admirals
2002-03 Record: 40-26-6 Overall ECHL Finish: T 10th

2003 Kelly Cup Playoffs: Lost Southeast Division Finals to South Carolina (3 games to 0)

Coach: Perry Florio, 1st Season

Located in Florence, South Carolina, the team changed its name from Pee Dee this summer.

Prospects to watch:

  • Scott Balan, D (Age: 21)

Balan is an all around defenseman who clears the front of the net, plays physical and makes a good first pass. Has good strength and balance on his skates. He has decent size at 6’2″ 194 pounds. Drafted and signed by the Blackhawks, he spent 15 games in the AHL last season.

  • Mark McRae, D (Age: 22)

McRae joins the Pride from Cornell University, where he played alongside his twin brother, Matt. Both were drafted by the Atlanta Thrashers in the 2000 draft, but went unsigned. Mark is a bit undersized for a defenseman, but possesses a solid offensive upside.

  • Matt Underhill, G (Age: 24)

Underhill hails from Big Red as well. His 2001-02 senior season was very successful, he was one of the top goalies in the NCAA with the third best goals against average and the fourth best save percentage. Underhill was a 1999 draft pick of the Calgary Flames. He played last year with the Pride as well as the Providence Bruins (7 games). This season he may split time between the Manchester Monarchs and the Pride. His best attributes are his size, competitiveness and work ethic.

Florida Everblades

NHL Affiliate: Carolina Hurricanes
AHL Affiliate: Lowell Lock Monsters
2002-03 Record: 35-23-14 Overall ECHL Finish: T 14th

2003 Kelly Cup Playoffs: Lost Southeast Division Wild Card Game to Greenville (1 game to 0)

Coach: Gerry Fleming, 3rd Season (72-50-22)

Located in Estero, Florida, the Everblades are owned by Peter Karmanos, who also owns affiliate Carolina Hurricanes, but not the Lowell Lock Monsters. Lowell will have a dual affiliation with the Hurricanes and the Calgary Flames this season, meaning there will be less room for Hurricanes prospects, not that the team used the AHL affiliate to its full advantage before. The team will continue to send many quality prospects to Florida, making the team a favorite.

Prospects to watch:

  • Chad LaRose, RW (Age: 21)

LaRose was signed by the Hurricanes as a free agent this summer after a breakout season in the OHL in which he scored 117 points in 67 games. His size, 5’10″ 173 pounds, is the only thing holding him back in his career. He will likely split the season between Florida and Lowell.

  • Brandon Coalter, LW (Age: 25)

Coalter was drafted out of the OHL by the San Jose Sharks, but continued on to the University of Prince Edward Island before turning pro. Coalter is an energy line player and a strong skater.

  • Ryan Van Buskirk, D (Age: 23)

Drafted twice, and signed to an NHL contract for the past three years, Van Buskirk was a free agent this summer. At only 23 though, its too early to give up on this 6’2″, 215 lb rearguard.

  • Carl Mallette, C (Age: 21)

Mallette was selected by the Atlanta Thrashers in the 4th round of the 2000 Entry Draft, but went unsigned. He spent one year playing Canadian university hockey, and now joins the pro ranks. An accomplished playmaker, Mallette is held back by his skating.

  • Jared Newman, D (Age: 21)

Newman was drafted by Carolina 110th overall in 2000. He played only 29 games in his rookie year for Florida. He’s a defensive defenseman who plays physical and has good overall skill.

Greensboro Generals

NHL Affiliate: Toronto Maple Leafs
AHL Affiliate: St. John’s Maple Leafs
2002-03 Record: 42-21-9 Overall ECHL Finish: 5th

2003 Kelly Cup Playoffs: Lost Northeast Division Finals to Atlantic City (3 games to 1)
Coach: Rick Adduono, 2nd Season (42-21-9)

Greensboro has one of the oldest rosters in the Southern Division, with few prospects. NHL affiliate Toronto does not use Greensboro to its full advantage for player development.

Prospects to watch:

  • Eric Fortier, C (Age: 22)

Fortier started his pro career last season in Jackson after five years in the QMJHL. This 6’3″ offensive center has developed more of a goal-scoring touch over time.

  • Derrick Byfuglien, D (Age: 22)

This 6’1″ bluliner has played all over, in the USHL, NCAA, OHL and for four ECHL teams. A stay at home defenseman out of Roseu, Minnesota, Byfuglien plays a simple game.

  • Erik Wendell, LW (Age: 24)

Wendell was a 5th round draft pick of the Washington Capitals n 1998, out of the USHL. He attended the University of Minnesota, graduating in 2002. Last season he started his pro career in the UHL, scoring 36 points in 73 games. A checking winger, he plays a good all-around game.

Greenville Grrrowl

NHL Affiliate: None
AHL Affiliate: Chicago Wolves
2002-03 Record: 28-36-8 Overall ECHL Finish: 22nd

2003 Kelly Cup Playoffs: Lost Southeast Division Semifinals to Columbia (3 games to 0)
Coach: John Marks, 6th Season (177-143-36)

Over the summer NHL the Atlanta Thrashers moved their affiliation out of Greenville to neighboring Gwinnett. Greenville remains affiliated with the Thrashers primary affiliate, the AHL Chicago Wolves, but so far the Wolves have not sent any players to Greenville. Both players under AHL contracts in Chicago sent to the ECHL, Kevin Doell and Evan Nielsen, have been sent to Gwinnett. The Grrrowl will suffer the loss of goaltender Michael Garnett the most.

Prospects to watch:

  • Peter Flache, C (Age: 21)

Flache joined the team late in the season after his junior season was over, joining his twin brother Paul on the team. He showed a high level of skill, talent for faceoffs and good skating to go along with his 6’5″ build. He will be one of the main offensive weapons in Greenville.

  • Scott Kabotoff, G (Age: 24)

Kabotoff joins the Grrrowl out of the University of Wisconsin where he played only 50 games in four years. The big question for him will be how will he stand up to the rigors of the long professional season.

Roanoke Express

2002-03 Record: 42-24-6 Overall ECHL Finish: 9th

2003 Kelly Cup Playoffs: Lost Northeast Division Semifinals to Greensboro (3 games to 1)

Coach: Tony MacAulay, 2nd Season (15-7-4)

Prospects to watch:

  • Shawn Limpright, LW (Age: 22)

This left wing out of St. Adolphe, Manitoba is a second year player for Roanoke. Limpright played four years for the Moose Jaw Warriors of the WHL, putting up respectable numbers and as well as a fair number of penalty minutes. Last year for Roanoke he had 33 points and 154 PIMs.

  • David Silverstone, LW (Age: 21)

Though lacking in size at 5″10″ 190, Silverstone is a tough guy. He had 189 penalty minutes in 52 games for Roanoke last year. A native of Toronto, he spent his junior career with Belleville of the OHL.

  • Blair Stayzer, LW (Age: 23)

Stayzer is a crash and banger who goes hard to the net and causes havoc. He has played for four ECHL teams in his three professional years. Stayzer was drafted by the Calgary Flames in the 7th round in 1999.

South Carolina Stingrays

2002-03 Record: 42-22-8 Overall ECHL Finish: T 6th

2003 Kelly Cup Playoffs: Lost Southeast Division Semifinals to Pee Dee (3 games to 1)
Coach: Jason Fitzsimmons, 2nd Season (42-22-8)

Prospects to watch:

  • Jim Lorentz, C (Age: 22)

Lorentz joins the Stingrays from St. Lawrence University where he had 24 points last year in 37 games. This fall he attended training camp with the Buffalo Sabres and the AHL Rochester Americans. Lorentz hails from Grand Island, New York.

  • Kevin Spiewak, C (Age: 24)

Speiwak played college hockey at the University of North Dakota, where he had 29 points in 42 games last year, his senior season. He is fast and competitive, but his height is a drawback at only 5’10″. He attended training camp with the Detroit Red Wings this year.

  • Steven Spencer, D (Age: 21)

Spencer was drafted by the Nashville Predators in the ninth round in 2002. He is a hard-hitting, tough defenseman. He had 187 penalty minutes in 72 games for Swift Current of the WHL last season.

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