Toledo, we are mere days away from welcoming preseason hockey to the Huntington Center! The sound of skates cutting through ice and pucks ricocheting off of plexiglass fills the air in Toledo once again, much to my delight! Along with those glorious sounds the Center also holds those hoping to earn a spot on this year’s Walleye squad. Familiar faces return along with the appearance of rookies fresh out of college. Oh by the way, we can celebrate the triumphant return of Alden Hirschfeld to the Walleye after overcoming brain surgery six months ago! Training camp for Hirschfeld and the Walleye began on Monday, and the week will end with Toledo’s only home preseason game on Friday. Let’s take a look at the training camp roster to get a sense of the coming year.
We’re gonna split up our roster between offensive and defensive players for the purposes of simplicity, so how about looking at our forwards first. The forwards attending Toledo’s training camp are:
Shane Berschbach, Kyle Bonis, Alden Hirschfeld, Andy Huff, Michael Leone, Paxton Leroux, Collin MacDonald, Evan Neugold, Evan Rankin, Adam Rufer, Andrew Tegeler, and Austin Wuthrich.
Of those on the list Leroux, Neugold, Rufer, and Tegeler are unsigned (on a try-out contract) with Neugold and Rufer being invited back from the Free Agent Camp (FAC) in August. Toledo has a good mix of youth and experience for the camp, MacDonald and Neugold are fresh out of college while you have the grizzled vets like Rankin and Bonis leading the way. Of the four unsigned players I believe Rufer and Leroux have a good shot at making the team. Rufer has an abundance of experience due to playing in the Czech Republic above 20 leagues for nearly six years. So what does Leroux do for the team? Leroux fights, and he fights a lot. Nightingale is sure to see AHL action this year so it would be good to have a tough guy around consistently to protect the skill players. Turning our attention to the other side of the ice, how about a look at our defensive core.
The defensive unit can be split up between goalies and defensemen, I’ll list them here as I did with the forwards:
Defensemen are Andy Chugg, Brad Denney, Derek Docken, Sean Gammage, Myles McCauley, and Beau Schmitz. Two goaltenders have reported for the training camp, they are Drew Fielding and Andrew Gedert.
All of those listed except for Docken and Schmitz have not been signed by the Walleye, though Chugg and Gedert were invited to the training camp due to their performance at the FAC. Our defensive core for training camp is a big mystery to me, but not in the negative sense. A lot of new names here means there are plenty of opportunities to be surprised by an unknown talent. Only McCauley, Denney, and Fielding have ECHL experience of those who are unsigned, but even they have very limited experience. I’m pulling for the hometown kid Gedert though, he was born in Woodville (OH) and went to high school at Woodmore. Perhaps we’ll see him share the pipes with Paterson if he is sent back down after the Griffins camp concludes.
Now you may have noticed quite a few familiar names missing from the training camp roster. A lot of our veterans and/or signed players are attending training camps in the AHL or NHL. Walleye players attending the Grand Rapid Griffins’ training camp include Erik Bradford, Scott Czarnowczan, Simon Denis, A.J. Jenks, and Dane Walters. The Griffins are of course the AHL affiliates of the Walleye. Tyler Sikura, Jordan Hill, and Jared Nightingale are attending the Rockford IceHogs, Manitoba Moose, and the Chicago Wolves’ camps respectively. One Walleye has even managed to swim his way up to the Minnesota Wild’s camp, that fish would be Nolan Zajac.
Toledo’s preseason game Friday is the first of a back to back against the Kalamazoo Wings, where we will learn a lot about the new players at camp. One highlighted matchup during these games will be the battle of the Leone brothers, where Michael looks to better brother Chris. Hopefully the Walleye also best the Wings, while the players on try-out contracts look to impress fans and coaches alike. Perhaps we will witness the beginning of the next star Walleye. We won’t have to wait long to find out, so I’ll see you guys Friday at the Huntington Center!
Statistics and Information on players acquired from:
Featured picture obtained from the Toledo Walleye Snapchat at:
Other pictures are my own property.