Everblades Roster Starting to Take Shape-- by Alex Reed
The Everblades started the offseason with an open coaching vacancy for the first time in six years with the departure of Greg Poss who accepted a position with Red Bull Salzburg in Austria. Everblades President & General Manager Craig Brush tabbed Brad Ralph to become the fifth head coach in team history. While the search for a new coach didn't conclude until July, the recruiting process was already ongoing thanks to the efforts of Brush and Associate Coach Tad O' Had.
Currently the team's roster is comprised of seven ECHL contracted players. Forward Mike Aviani returns for a third season in Southwest Florida and will look to bounce back from several injuries that hampered what seemed to be a promising season for Aviani in 2015-16.
The team then acquired forward Peter Schneider and defenseman Kevin Clare from the Indy Fuel. Schneider was the third leading scorer for the Fuel last season, while Clare brings a stable and consistent body on the back end. The acquisition of Schneider and Clare came at a price, as the team sent Kevin Lynch and Matt Stansiz to Indy to complete the trade. Lynch's wife recently gave birth to their first child, and with a majority of their family living in the Indianapolis area, the Everblades helped accommodate the 58-point scorer to play this season with the Fuel.
The Everblades have added size and skill at the defensive position locking up Chase Golightly, Alexander Kuqali, and Fort Myers native Logan Roe. Golightly brings excellent offensive skills that will boost the team's power play. Kuqali joined the team late last season and brought good size and puck moving ability before suffering an upper-body injury in the final weekend of the regular season. Logan Roe will look to continue his development after exceeding expectations in his rookie campaign last year which helped earn him a late season call-up to the AHL's Springfield Falcons.
As usual the team will likely depend on it's affiliates the Carolina Hurricanes (NHL) and Charlotte Checkers (AHL) to provide its goaltending situation for the upcoming season.
With the departure of rookie sensation and leading scorer Matt Willows to the San Jose Barracuda (AHL), the team immediately found that offensive punch by locking up forward Matt Berry. Berry was a point-per-game player last season with the Utah Grizzlies totaling 37 points in 38 games. Berry also was impressive in 15 appearances with the San Diego Gulls (AHL) last year.
August will be an exciting month for the team, as it is typically the time of year when players who were holding out for that potential AHL deal will start making their selections to play in the ECHL. The team already has a lot of lines in the water, and the coming weeks could prove to be very fruitful for the 'Blades. Gone will be familiar faces Matt Marquardt, Corey Cowick, Justin Agosta, Carter Sandlak and Rasmus Tirronen who all have opted to go overseas or pursue other opportunities in the AHL.
Keep in mind coach Ralph has his own player connections having spent three seasons as the head coach with the Idaho Steelheads. Regardless, the team has a plan, it has its sights set on a number of quality players for the upcoming season. Let the short wait begin!