The NHL is getting one step closer as they officially entered phase three on Monday which begins the official start of training camp before the qualifying and round-robin rounds begin on August 1st. As the NHL is expanding the rosters and players are bowing out due to safety concerns, a few ECHL players have recently been named to their respective NHL rosters for the time being as rosters will be shorted before play resumes. Here are the players that have been named to NHL training camp.
Alex D’Orio and Emil Larmi (Wheeling Nailers)
The Pittsburgh Penguins announced their rosters on Sunday for training camp and this came before the news that nine players have been removed from the roster due to potential secondary exposure to COVID-19. Before this news broke, the team had five goaltenders on the roster, including three who have seen a decent amount of NHL playing time. Despite the NHL and Penguins not releasing the names of the players who have been removed, it wouldn’t be a shock to see them carry one of these ECHL netminders when the play-in round kicks off. My list is mainly of players who spent almost half of their time in the ECHL last season.
Emil Larmi played in a total of 20 games last season as 11 of those starts came with the Nailers. In those 11 games with the Nailers, he put a record of 4-7 with a 3.55 goals-against average, .908 save percentage and one shutout. D’Orio served as the starter last year for Wheeling when Larmi was in Scranton (AHL), appearing in 31 games putting up a record of 12-15-2 with a 3.43 goals-against average and sub .900 save percentage. Seeing that both goaltenders failed to put up respectable numbers, I don’t expect them to be part of the group heading to Toronto unless the Penguins lose a goaltender due to the virus.
Krill Ustimenko (Reading Royals)
The Philadelphia Flyers have four goaltenders listed on their phase three roster and Reading Royals goaltender Krill Ustimenko is one of them. Ustimenko spent a majority of last season with the Reading Royals, making 31 appearances and putting up a record of 19-4-5 with a 2.40 goals-against average, .919 save percentage and two shutouts. As a third-round pick by the Flyers in 2017, a spot on the Flyers roster would be huge for the young goaltender and one that was well earned.
He spent five games in Leigh Valley, but struggled during his time in the AHL. The Flyers have relied on Brian Elliot and Carter Hart this season in net which has proven to be a success this season, so if Ustimenko ends up seeing the ice, it would take two of three goaltenders for Philly to get hurt for that opportunity to arise.
Brendan Crowley (Maine Mariners)
Brendan Crowley is the first player on this list who isn’t a goaltender and it’s important to note that the NHL does have a limit on how many forwards teams can carry. Crowley played in 38 games with the Mariners, putting up two goals and 10 assists for 12 points. He played in another nine games with the Hartford Wolf Pack, but failed to record a point during that short stint.
For the young 23-year-old forward, this will give him some time to train alongside the NHL squad for the next few weeks. It wouldn’t be an absolute shock to see him on the roster once the season resumes. I expect him to see time on the fourth line and could possibly be the extra forward for the Islanders as well.
Michael McNiven (Jacksonville, Norfolk and Adirondack)
The roller-coaster season for Michael McNiven continues as he’ll head back to where it all began with the Montreal Canadiens. McNiven has been in the Canadiens system for a while, but hasn’t quite caught the eye of management as Cayden Primeau has taken over, having been one of the more notable names. The 23-year-old goaltender saw time in all three leagues this season while playing for the three different ECHL teams, the Laval Rocket and Montreal Canadiens.
He had strong numbers at the beginning of the season with the Adirondack Thunder and had a strong AHL stint as well. Like most players, it’s unlikely he’ll see the ice.
This is a great opportunity for ECHL’ers to get back on the ice after the season was cancelled back in March. It comes as no shock only two of these players are skaters and not goaltenders, but with no limit on goaltenders, teams are taking advantage of the opportunity. It will be interesting to see if this short training camp stint is enough for some of these guys to see more time up in the AHL.
Colton Point (Idaho)
Colton Point just finished his second season in the ECHL and will now head to NHL training camp, taking part with the Dallas Stars. Point played in 20 games last year, putting up average numbers as he went 7-9-2 with a 2.86 goals against average, .898 save percentage and two shutouts. Dallas is one of the teams who are taking advantage of the no goalie minimum as heading into phase three, the the team added five to the 60-man player pool. Just like in Philadelphia, Dallas has a strong two goalie system, so the only benefit is that Point will get to take some shots from NHL’ers over the next few weeks.