Toledo is less than a month away from its only home preseason game on October 7th, and they continue to add depth for the upcoming season. Since the end of August the Walleye have signed five more players to the roster, including the electrifying veteran Kyle Bonis. The other four acquisitions are either outright rookies or have less than two years of professional hockey experience. Our new guys are Jacob MacDonald, Andrew Huff, Erik Bradford, and Collin MacDonald. Expect to see the young guns earn their place alongside the old guard in October, but before that let’s get to know our newcomers.
Three of the four new members of the Walleye have limited experience in the ECHL: Jacob MacDonald, Andrew (Andy) Huff, and Erik Bradford. Collin MacDonald is entering his first professional year in the ECHL after four years at the University of New Hampshire. Collin and Jacob are not related by the way, they just happen to share a last name. Jacob MacDonald is the only defenseman of the group, the rest are forwards. Jacob can still put up points however, last season with the Elmira Jackals he earned a spot on the ECHL All-Rookie Team after scoring 17 goals and tallying 20 assists. An offensive defenseman will be perfect for the power play and top line, so I’m excited to see Jacob this year. Erik Bradford also played in his first professional season last year with the Orlando Solar Bears, making his presence felt in front of the net and in the slot. Bradford had a ten game point streak during the month of March last season en route to a 32 point season, he looks to continue his development this year under the guidance of veterans like Berschbach and Jenks. Andy Huff has been with four teams since the 2014-2015 season: the Florida Everblades, Rapid City Rush, Idaho Steelheads, and the Wichita Thunder. He only played 21 combined games between Florida, Rapid City, and Idaho during the 2014-15 season, but played 64 games last season with Wichita. One huge advantage with signing Huff: he played his college hockey at Ferris State with Scott Czarnowczan, Kyle Bonis, and Simon Davis so he should have excellent chemistry with his new teammates. Now we come to the first year rookie Collin MacDonald, fresh out of New Hampshire. Collin is a wildcard, he has had injury trouble in the past but at 6’ 2” and 200 lbs the rookie could prove to be a menacing figure in the offensive zone. One player overshadows all four of our rookies though, and that is Kyle Bonis.
Fan favorite Kyle Bonis returns to Toledo with one goal in mind: win a Kelly Cup Championship. Entering his third year with Toledo Kyle has a total of 50 goals and 34 assists over 97 games played for the Walleye. 36 of his 50 goals came during the 2014-15 season, which set a single season Walleye record. When Bonis first entered the ECHL in the 2013-14 season he played for the Florida Everblades and accumulated 45 points over 65 games played, so he has always been a natural scorer. Over his career Kyle has averaged 0.8 points per game, as if his point producing prowess wasn’t clear already. Bonis has also had limited experience in the AHL with the Norfolk Admirals (before they dropped to ECHL), Charlotte Checkers, Grand Rapids Griffins, and the San Diego Gulls playing 44 games between the four teams. The left handed shooter brings loads of experience and skill to a young Walleye team, and a natural ability to lead will prove priceless as the team gels early in the season. Bonis has always worked well with fellow forwards Jenks and Berschbach as a high power scoring line, so look out for a power play unit of Jenks, Bonis, and Berschbach with the defensive pair of J. MacDonald and Czarnowczan to back them up. Line tune ups and shift roles will change throughout the season obviously, but the preseason is a good time to see what roles a coach wants his players to fill. We already know what role Bonis fills though: point producer.
The Walleye currently have six players on the roster who are either fresh out of college or have under two years of professional experience. The ECHL usually doesn’t have long preseasons, as such it will not be long enough to sort out the proper roles, skills, and abilities of these young players. Head Coach Dan Watson is going to have to rely on his own judgement and the ability of his veteran core to properly prepare the new recruits for the regular season. Kyle Bonis will certainly help Watson in this regard with his leadership and play making ability, hopefully giving the new forwards a push toward success this year. Maybe we’ll even see another record setting year for Bonis as well. See you October 7th boys!
Pictures are my own property.
Information about player acquisitions was obtained from the Toledo Walleye website at:
http://www.toledowalleye.com/walleye-news and http://www.toledowalleye.com/walleye-news/fish-tales-blog
Team appearances for Kyle Bonis obtained from: