Ian Clark on Hockey: Monarchs taking shape
GOFFSTOWN -- THE Manchester Monarchs opened training camp at St. Anselm College Wednesday with a mix of familiar faces and brand new ones.
The roster turnover between the end of last season and the start of this one is more pronounced than usual. Just how the new pieces fit together and how quickly, is something the team will be sorting out as it heads into a pair of exhibition games with Portland in Saco, Maine, Saturday and at St. Anselm Sunday at 3 p.m.
"There's a lot of new guys. There's a lot of inexperience and a lot of rookies," said defenseman Andrew Campbell, who enters his sixth season with Manchester. "I'll help them along and there will be some competition for sure. It's exciting to see what they bring and they all have a fresh outlook and a lot of energy. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out and how they all fit in."
Campbell will be joined on the blue line by third-year man Nick Deslauriers and holdovers from last season like Vincent LoVerde and Chris Huxley. Andrew Bodnarchuk remains with the parent club Los Angeles Kings, but could return to Manchester. Colin Miller, who played with Sault St. Marie of the OHL last year, is a new defenseman to the team.
Bryan Rodney (Nashville) and David Kolomatis (Hershey) are no longer with the Monarchs. The team has three defensemen on tryout contracts: Jake Newton (who has AHL experience with Erie), Cameron Burt (fresh out of junior hockey) and Matt Campanale (who played in the ECHL last year).
Campbell will be called on to lead the defensive corps, and is the prime candidate to wear the captain's "C" now that Marc-Andre Cliche has moved on to Colorado. Campbell was an alternate captain last season and is ready to lead.
"It's something I'm comfortable doing. It's something I've been doing alongside Cliche for the last three years," he said. "Especially with the makeup of the roster now with a lot of new guys and a lot of rookies, I'm sure there will be a lot of questions. I'm happy to help them out along the way."
Up front, Manchester is dealing with the loss of Cliche, Colton Yellow Horn (playing in Austria), David Meckler (Austria) and Stefan Legein (in Toronto on a tryout). Enforcer Justin Johnson signed with Bridgeport and goaltender Peter Mannino is now with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
It remains to be seen whether Linden Vey, Tanner Pearson or Tyler Toffoli come back from Los Angeles or stick with the big club. Key forwards Brandon Kozun, Andy Andreoff, Jordan Weal, Brian O'Neill and Robbie Czarnik are back.
New faces up front for Manchester include Russian import Maxim Kitsyn and Sean Backman, who played with Bridgeport last season under former Monarchs assistant Scott Pellerin.
Among the players to keep an eye on is Scott Sabourin, who played five games with Manchester at the end of last season after a strong junior campaign. Sabourin opened some eyes with a solid camp in L.A. earlier this month.
"I got a good opportunity. I got a few games in and things seemed to be clicking. I got a couple physical plays in and a goal so I was happy with my camp," Sabourin said. "I think we have a good team here and it's going to be a great year. I'm excited to get going and get back in the groove."
Londonderry's Ian O'Connor is still with the team on a pro tryout agreement and will be looking to build on his 17 games with the Monarchs last season. Hunter Bishop is another returning player who saw action in 24 games last year."It feels good (to come back). The coaching staff is familiar, a lot of the players are familiar. It's nice coming in and knowing guys and what to expect as far as systems, practices," Bishop said. "A lot of that takes adjusting when you come to a new team so it's nice having that familiarity."
The regular season opens Oct. 5 at Springfield. The home opener is Oct. 19 against Providence.
Ian Clark covers pro hockey for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.