Houston Aeros 2006-07 season preview

By Courtney Wagner



Dwayne Roloson’s trade to the Edmonton Oilers last season was supposed to pave the way for
Houston Aeros standout Josh Harding to become the No. 2 man for parent
Minnesota Wild.
But bad luck and an injury has forced Harding to make a return to the AHL — at
least for now. Miroslav Kopriva also returns to
the Aeros. Kopriva appeared in 12 games for Houston last season with six
wins, a .890 save percentage and a 3.52 goals-against average.

Also joining the mix in net is Steve Shields, a veteran who split his time
between the Atlanta Thrashers and Chicago Wolves last season. Shields
appeared in five games with the Thrashers with one win, a .853 save
percentage and a 4.28 goals-against average. 

AHL rookie Tony Quesada also joins the Aeros from Holy Cross College. In 30 games last season Quesada had 22 wins, two shutouts and a .925 save


With top scorers Kirby Law, Eric Westrum and Patrick O’Sullivan
gone, the Aeros will look
to 20-year-old Roman Voloshenko to build upon the stellar rookie campaign he had in 2005-06.
They will also look to Matt Foy to add offense and power up front. The
23-year-old, who tallied 40 points in 51 games last season, also had 122 penalty minutes.
Second-year Aero Peter Olvecky also returns and may be able to beef up his
totals after a solid rookie season.

Newcomers Benoit Pouliot, Alex Leavitt and
Danny Irmen should provide Houston
with strong talent and offensive skill. Pouliot was the Wild’s first round pick
in 2005, and joins the team from the OHL Sudbury Wolves. Leavitt is coming off a stellar campaign
with the Alaska Aces in the ECHL. He led the league in scoring as a rookie with
26 goals and 91 points in 72 games and was named rookie of the year. He was also
instrumental in the Aces Kelly Cup win with 13 points in 16 postseason games.
Irmen joins the Aeros from the University of Minnesota where he had 38 points in
30 games last year.

Olson, with four seasons in the AHL under his belt, returns to the fold this
season. Joel Ward also returns for his second season with the Aeros. The strong
right winger enjoyed a successful training camp with the Wild and his 6’2,
215-pound frame should be a valuable asset for Houston this season.

Houston should get leadership from four veterans, Bryan Lundbohm, Jason Morgan, Joey Tetarenko
and Wyatt Smith, who have a combined 30 years pro experience between them.

Rounding out the forwards are three Aero rookies,
Ryan Hamilton,
Ben Thomson
and Riley Emmerson, who will also look to make an
impacts with Houston in 2006-07. Emmerson, not known for his offensive
abilities, is known for his size. At 6’8 and 230 pounds he is the tallest
player in the Wild organization’s history. He tallied only two points in two seasons
with the Tri-City Americans in the WHL. Thomson has also
enjoyed CIS success. He tallied 55 points in 43 games with the University of
Alberta in 2005-06 while helping the Golden Bears claim the national title.


The Aeros’ blue line will see five returning players from last year, Curtis
Murphy, Clayton Stoner, Shawn Belle, Eric Reitz and Ryan Stokes. Murphy,
entering his fourth season with the Aeros, should lead the way. Last season he
led team defensemen with a career-best 67 points and was fourth overall
in scoring for Houston. His strong play also saw him named to the first team
All-AHL and was selected for the AHL All-Star Classic. Reitz was the
second-highest scoring Aero defenseman last season with 23 assists and 28 points
in 72 games. His 139 penalty minutes were also third highest on the team. Stoner
and Belle, former teammates in Tri-City of the WHL, are back for their second
season in Houston. Stokes, whose two goals last season were both game winners,
also returns to the fold.

Three AHL rookies join Houston this season. Paul Albers is coming off a
career year with the Vancouver Giants of the WHL. He posted career highs in
goals (17), assists (45) and points (62) and finished second on the team in
scoring and first in the WHL in scoring for a defenseman. His +38 rating was
also a league best. Chris Ovington also comes off a successful season with the
University of Alberta. In 44 games he had seven goals and 22 points. His
impressive play saw him named Canada West’s top defenseman and a first team
all-star. To top off the season, the U of A captured the Canadian University Cup
and Ovington was named to the all-star team. The 6’7, 225-pound John Scott also joins the
mix from Michigan Tech.

Rounding out the defensemen is pro veteran Peter Ratchuk, who joins the Aeros
from the German Hockey League’s Mannheim Eagles where he led defensemen with 36 points in 52 games.

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