08/05/2013 10:38 AM
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The August dog days are here! Traditionally known as the slowest month in the 365 day season that hockey has become, August has once again exceeded expectations with its dearth of any relative breaking news. Of course the fact that it comes accompanied with the hottest temperatures of the year in South Texas doesn’t make it any easier on the local hockey fan, but I’m here to tell you that hope is right around the corner. Sunday night marked the beginning of the NFL calendar, which I’ve often found is the unofficial beginning of the hockey pre-season. Activity starts to pick up around the office. The AHL releases its schedule. Coaches and staff head off to South Florida in preparation for rookie camp and then full training camp. And once the calendar flips to September, news will be coming in waves leading right up until Opening Night at the AT&T Center. So be patient Rampage nation! We’re less than seven weeks from hockey returning to the friendly confines with the NHL tilt between the Panthers and Stars and roughly two months to the date of the 2013-14 season kicking off …
…Speaking of the schedule, the NBA and the Spurs will release their schedule Tuesday, which will give clearance to the AHL to go ahead and release their schedule shortly thereafter. Because four AHL teams including the Rampage share a building with an NBA tenant (Charlotte, Lake Erie, & Milwaukee are the others), the league must wait to see what dates are available after the NBA finalizes their calendar. Schedule making is no easy science and the folks at the league office do an incredible job in turning out the final product as quickly as they do once the NBA schedule is out. AHL Vice President of Communications Jason Chaimovitch mentioned Friday on Twitter that the schedule should be released sometime in the next two to three weeks. When it does come out, expect the Rampage to see an uptick in both their frequent flier miles and hotel points. Houston’s relocation to Des Moines, Iowa eliminates 12 games and six single day bus trips that often separated long stretches of games away from the AT&T Center. The Rampage also had four games last season with the Peoria Rivermen who have since relocated to Utica, N.Y., this summer, meaning San Antonio must replace 16 games. It is unlikely the AHL will add any more games to the 12 the Silver & Black already have against Texas and Oklahoma City, so expect the remaining 16 to be split up with additional games against both the Midwest and perhaps even the North divisions, and likely four more games against new division foe Abbotsford…
…Team depth charts are filling out in coaches offices in both San Antonio and Sunrise and with the exception of maybe adding a left-winger, the Rampage seem to be pretty set with the group that they have. Florida re-signed restricted free agents Michael Caruso, Colby Robak, and Jacob Markstrom, the latter two who most likely will be given every opportunity to start the year in the NHL. Caruso meanwhile will enter his sixth season in the organization, and should replace a majority of the top four minutes vacated by the departed Nolan Yonkman. Florida also re-signed unrestricted free agent Greg Rallo who will begin his eighth professional season this October with 203 career points in 387 AHL games. Now in his third season with the Rampage, Rallo should receive top consideration for the team captaincy. Also re-signed to AHL deals were forwards Jared Gomes and Jed Ortmeyer, and defensemen Zach Miskovic and John Lee. All four are smart “low risk, high reward” signings in my opinion. Gomes finished third on the Rampage and 27th among rookies in scoring with 16 goals and 33 points in his freshman campaign, exceeding the production of some other highly touted undrafted rookie free agents like Portland’s Brendan Shinnimin (2012 WHL Player of the Year) and Toronto’s Spencer Abbott (2012 NCAA scoring champion). He’s also a tremendously versatile player that can fill just about any spot on the second through fourth lines, and can contribute on both the power play and penalty kill. What I liked the most about Gomes’ development last season was that he had to work for every opportunity he was given, from making the opening night roster to getting into the line-up for the first time. Miskovic was acquired in the middle of the Rodeo Road Trip and collected 13 points and a team-best plus-8 rating in the final 26 games of the season. He’s a steady AHL defenseman who now has four years of service in the league, and is a consistent offensive contributor who provides excellent value for the role that he fills. Ortmeyer brings back leadership and stability in both a top-six and bottom-six role, and the veteran can usually be counted on for 10-15 goals and 30-40 points a year. Like Miskovic, he joined the club during the Rodeo Road Trip and produced at nearly a half a point per game clip with six goals and 15 points over the final 32 games of the regular season. Lee will begin his second professional season in October, and should return to San Antonio with plenty of confidence in his game after logging a ton of quality minutes during the final month of last year. As far as left wing help goes, some names to keep an eye on are Philippe Cornet, Andreas Nodl, Jason Gregoire, and Barry Almeida. All four have had some past success in the league, and could likely be had for the price of an AHL contract…
…Keep your eyes on SARampage.com for the release of the AHL schedule. In the meantime, hit up a public skate and stay cool!
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July 8, 2013
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