Good news in Norfolk as the Admirals have signed some players. Even better news: they’ve re-signed two high-scoring forwards from last year. Rod Aldoff has decided to keep leading point-scorer Steven Whitney on his team as well as late-season trade acquisition Danick Gauthier, and hometown hero Ryan Salkeld. Oh yeah, there’s some Nic Riopel news.
Steven Whitney was enlisted to be the face of the Admirals, and he did that last year. Over the course of the season, the Boston College product amassed 23 goals, 32 assists, and 55 points, all team highs. (Yes Robbie Czarnik had 25 goals, but he scored most of those with Reading). Whitney played 66 games with the Ads, tied for most on the team with previous captain Jordan Hill. This season, Whitney will be expected to lead the offensive charge again, hopefully ready to go quicker than last year. Adding Whitney brings some familiarity to the team, as this is his third year in Ads togs. Unlike last year, there’s some unity to rally around.
Danick Gauthier played 72 games for three teams last year, never quite finding the grove which made him a 68-point player in 2014-15 for Wichita. This isn’t to say his brief time in Norfolk was a disaster. Far from it: Gauthier posted a nice 4G+5A=9P over 13 games. Granted, he did this at a clip of 11.5 SH%, whereas he shot a more reasonable 8% over the entire year. Some of this comes with an added caveat. Last year, Gauthier had a combined 175 shots over 72 games, or 2.43 shots a game. In that 2014-15 year with Wichita, Gauthier shot 246 times in 66 games, coming out to 3.72 shots a game. He scored 29 goals two seasons ago on those 246 shots, resulting in an 11.78 SH%. If we change that to 8%, Gauthier still makes out with a respectable 20 goals (and possibly a good deal of assists because he’s directing traffic at the net). They key, then, is for Gauthier to become a primary option on the team. Let’s do a thought experiment: say Gauthier gets 2.69 shots/game, the same he did in his Admirals stint last year. Extrapolating that out over a full season, he gets 193.68 shots. We’ll round up and give him 194, which is 19 more shots than he had last year. Applying 8% shooting, we get 15.52 goals. That would put him more-or-less in line with what he had last year. Gauthier needs to be able to shoot more, as either a first-line wing or a the primary option on the second-line. Right now, he’d line up next to Steven Whitney in a potent duo. In essence, Gauthier needs to shoot more.
Ryan Salkeld returns for his first full year of pro hockey. The Portsmouth native spent four years honing his craft at Division III Buffalo State, scoring 14 goals his last two seasons. Salkeld signed with his hometown team late in the year, appearing in 13 games. In those games, he amassed 3G+2A=5P. With some pro experience and a full camp under his belt, he could have a great rookie season. Salkeld is more than a sentimental signing, he’s also proven his worth as a player at the ECHL level.
Nic Riopel could be an Admiral next year. Maybe. Reuniting with his friend Frantz Jean, Riopel has re-signed an AHL contract with the Syracuse Crunch. It does not guarantee him a spot on the AHL squad. For this year, the Crunch’s AHL affiliate is the Kalamazoo Wings. Tampa’s goalie situation is a bit like this: Ben Bishop (if he’s not traded) and Andrei Vasilevskiy at the top, Adam Wilcox and Kristers Gudlevskis in Syracuse, and possibly Riopel in KZoo. Small problem there: veteran Joel Martin is back in net for the K-Wings. He doesn’t give up starts much, or at all.
Riopel probably wants to play, and appears to like it in Hampton Roads. Edmonton will most likely send rookie Nick Ellis to Norfolk, and he will need some leadership. It isn’t out of the question to see Riopel assigned back to the Ads. I’m sure the Oilers will look for a veteran or junior goalie to fill out the ranks.
AHL Contracts (Bakersfield)