The New York Islanders' ECHL affiliate in Stockton, California, opens the season this weekend with three games against Bakersfield, the team that eliminated them from the playoffs: Friday and Saturday in Bakersfield, and Sunday afternoon at home.
The opening night roster of 19 includes a few names already familiar to Islanders and Bridgeport Sound Tigers fans, including one currently signed to an NHL entry level contract.
From the team release:
Forwards (11): Tyler Maxwell, Jack MacLellan, James Henry, Tyler Shattock, Ryan Hayes, Robin Soudek, Jessey Astles, Garet Hunt, Mike Pereira*, Lukas Sutter*, Peter Sivak*
Defenseman (6): Brad Stebner, Keith Seabrook*, Adam Phillips*, Ryan Constant, Shawn Boutin, Loic Leduc**
Goaltenders (2): Philippe Trudeau*, Shane Owen
* - Loaned from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers
** - Loaned from the New York Islanders
Including Isles draft picks Leduc and Sutter, four players on the roster have been drafted by the NHL:
- Keith Seabrook (2006, 2nd Round, 52 Overall, Washington Capitals)
- Tyler Shattock (2009, 4th Round, 108 Overall, St. Louis Blues),
- Loic Leduc (2012, 4th Round, 103 Overall, New York Islanders)
- Lukas Sutter (Drafted twice, 2012, 2nd Round, 39 Overall, Winnipeg Jets and again 2014, 7th Round, 200 Overall, New York Islanders).
A sign of the challenges of managing an ECHL squad: Just five players return from last season (Hunt, Constant, Hayes, Boutin, Stebner). Just 10 days before the season, the ECHL absorbed seven franchises from the now-defunct CHL, part of a minor league shakeup that could be continuing (and include the AHL) years to come.
Though it's generally a longshot for any of these players to become NHLers, it's hardly unheard of for ECHL players to forge NHL careers -- sometimes quite lucrative -- and the list of successes grows each year. Perhaps more pertinently, the Thunder have become a partner for the Isles and Sound Tigers to move extra bodies and get extra development time throughout the season, something they are hoping for Sutter and Leduc with their assignments this year.
After the two games in Bakersfield, the Thunder's home opener is Sunday at 4 p.m. PDT.