ST. JOHN’S, Newfoundland and Labrador – Few would argue the St. John’s IceCaps’ inaugural season was anything but a success. Capacity crowds, support from the local business community and a buzz throughout the city each time the team played all indicated the IceCaps were a major hit off the ice.
This success has led the IceCaps parent organization, the Winnipeg Jets, to extend the deal to house their AHL affiliate in St. John’s. The Jets have announced the original contract, which was for three seasons, has been extended for an additional year, keeping the IceCaps in St. John’s until at least the end of the 2014-2015 AHL campaign.
“One year ago we were thrilled with the opportunity to partner with Glenn Stanford and Danny Williams in an effort to return the American Hockey League to St. John’s,” said Craig Heisinger, Director of Hockey Operations and Assistant General Manager of the Winnipeg Jets, in a release issued by the IceCaps. “As an affiliated organization, we were immediately rewarded by the success of the St. John’s IceCaps on the ice and the immense community support off of it. We are excited about the chance to extend our affiliation with the IceCaps and the city of St. John’s and look forward to strengthening this relationship.”
Postma unlikely to return
IceCaps fans have likely seen the last of defenseman Paul Postma. The six-foot-three, 200-pound rearguard signed a one-year, one-way NHL contract with the Jets this summer, paving the way for him to spend the 2012-13 season in Winnipeg.
Postma was named the IceCaps most valuable player and top defenseman at the conclusion of the 2011-12 season, after he tallied 44 points in 56 games. He also appeared in three games with the Jets.
Although he is known primarily as an offensive defenseman, Postma showed marked improvement in his defensive play throughout the 11-12 season. As a result, he earned a spot on the AHL First All-Star Team.
“In Paul’s case there’s times where offensive players maybe do take some opportunities that are risk-reward,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff told the Winnipeg Sun of Postma.
Europe awaits former IceCaps
A number of players who suited up for the IceCaps last season have decided to ply their trade in Europe. Goaltender David Aebischer has signed with the Rapperswil-Jona Lakers in Switzerland; forward Marco Rosa has signed a contract with the Espoo Blues in Finland; defenseman Brett Festerling agreed to terms with the Nürnberg Ice Tigers in Germany; and defenseman Arturs Kulda has accepted an offer to join HC Sibir Novosibirsk in Russia.
Aebischer and Rosa can be replaced without much hassle, but the loss of Festerling and Kulda will definitely be felt. Combined with Postma’s expected jump to Winnipeg, these moves deprive the IceCaps of three of their top six defenseman from a season ago.
With veteran d-man Derek Meech also in the running for a job in Winnipeg this fall, it is possible the IceCaps could ice a much younger and less experienced defense when the 2012-13 AHL season opens.
New goalie in town
The IceCaps did not take long to find a replacement for the departing Aebischer, as 26-year-old goaltender Mark Dekanich was signed to a contract in early July. Dekanich is expected to team with incumbent IceCaps goalie Eddie Pasquale, combining for what could be a very formidable tandem in goal.
Dekanich was expected to push for an NHL job with the Columbus Blue Jackets last fall, but a devastating ankle injury kept him off the ice for almost the entire season. He returned late in the 11-12 campaign to play five games with the Springfield Falcons, posting a 1-2-1 record, a 4.00 goals-against-average and a less-than-desirable .867 save percentage.
Prior to last season’s injury, Dekanich’s career was on the upswing and he was seen as a legitimate NHL prospect. He hopes to use this season in St. John’s to get his career back on track.
In 127 career AHL games, the six-foot-two, 190-pound net minder has a 66-40-12 record, a 2.22 goals-against-average and a .920 save percentage.
Newcomers sign contracts
Ryan Schnell and Hunter Tremblay are very different players, but both are expected to join the IceCaps for the 12-13 AHL season after signing AHL contracts with the team earlier this summer.
Schnell is a hulking enforcer, who has laced up his skates in the AHL and ECHL in recent seasons. Last year the 23-year-old winger played 12 games with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, picking up one assist and 46 penalty minutes. In addition to his time in the AHL, Schnell also suited up for 18 games with the Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL, wracking up 108 penalty minutes while accumulating four assists.
Tremblay is an offensive-minded forward coming off a successful rookie year in the AHL. The 26-year-old had 16 goals and 15 assists for 31 points in 68 games with the Oklahoma City Barons in 11-12. He also appeared in eight AHL playoff games with the Barons, scoring four goals and adding two assists.
Tremblay joined the AHL last season after a very successful four-year tenure in Canadian university hockey with the University of New Brunswick.
Possible replacements on defense
Two prospects who could wind up playing valuable minutes on the IceCaps defense this season are Julian Melchiori and Cody Sol. Both young men fared very well at a recent prospects camp run by the Winnipeg Jets, furthering their chances of landing choice roles on the IceCaps blue line this year.
Melchiori is coming off a successful four-year run in the Ontario Hockey League, and projects as a steady, stay-at-home defender. At six-foot-four and 210 pounds, he has plenty of size to accompany his physical game. He registered two goals, 34 assists and 64 penalty minutes in 61 games last year, split between the Kitchener Rangers and Oshawa Generals.
Sol is even bigger at six-foot-six and 240 pounds and plays with an ever-growing mean streak. He finished the 11-12 campaign with 38 points and 180 penalty minutes in 62 games with the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League.
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