AHL and NHL ELCs.
Norfolk signed five players yesterday, and they still do not have a complete team. The Admirals currently have nine players signed for the start of next season. While the ECHL is capped and plays with 16 skaters (compared to the AHL’s 18), that is not enough. Edmonton owns the Ads now and is responsible for the supply of players. Fans can expect to see players on AHL contracts as well as an NHL Entry-level contract here and there.
Bakersfield conveniently has all of their current AHL signings on their website. Each player that is considered a rookie on an AHL contract should be a prime candidate for the Ads. These are undrafted players who can only play in the AHL and ECHL and need ice time. Edmonton will most likely want to get top draft picks like Leon Draisaitl as much time as possible at the AHL level. Therefore, the undrafted players can grow their game with a very young team in Norfolk. I’ve written about the AHL contract rookies in previous posts.
Matt Ford, Josh Winquist, and Phillip McRae are likely headed to Bakersfield full time. They have experience, or in Winquist’s case, an extremely impressive first year. Alexis Loiseau, Braden Christoffer, and Connor Rankin represent three more additions, though none are ELCs. My leading ELC candidate (at forward) for Norfolk is Gregory Chase.
Chase is a 2013 7th-rounder who has spent most of his WHL career being a scorer with a physical edge, and has appeared in 9 games for Oklahoma City. None of his OKC appearances were especially noticeable, and the ECHL is host to a number of 6th and 7th round picks looking to develop his game. Adding these four players would bring the Ads up to 10 forwards. I expect more forwards to sign or come to the team after training camp–this is simply guessing.
Bakersfield has one defenseman under contract, Nick Pageau. Yes, he is related to B-Sen Jean-Gabriel. Pageau had an excellent 2014-15 for the ECHL Condors, one that earned him another AHL contract. While he’s impressive, the number of draft picks in Bakersfield might keep Pageau in the ECHL. Without Pageau, Edmonton has 10 players that could be slotted into the AHL. I am including Darnell Nurse (a top-10 pick) and Griffin Reinhart (a top-10 pick of the Islanders, traded to the Oilers), because I believe they will start out the year in California. Another player I could see coming to Scope is Ben Betker. The 2013 6th rounder has never played in a professional contest before. He put up 31 points in 64 games for Everett in his final WHL season, and significantly cut down his PIMs. Edmonton may want a player like that to develop in Norfolk. While two players doesn’t solve all of Norfolk’s needs, it is a start.
Goalie will be Ty Rimmer, on an AHL contract, and Eetu Laurikainen, on an ELC. There is no room elsewhere for these players. I think these might be the players for the team next year, until the Ads announce more signings.