With more than half the back end turned over from last season, the Knights excited by defensive additions
Continuity has been a theme for the Knights and the players protecting their defensive zone over the past two years. Names like Dorian Dawson, Tim Gelatt, Elijah Latimer, and Grant Valentine have been regular since the start of the Knights arrival to the NAHL. That’s all set to change as Gelatt, Latimer, and Valentine head to college, while Dawson attempts to make the USHL.
That list of names includes the team’s number one goalie for the past two years, last season’s top defenseman, its most recent captain, and one of the Knights program’s original players.
Needless to say, the team has an important task ahead in replacing some of its core defensive players. With expectations high, the staff is confident that the players that can are among those they’ve brought in this offseason.
“We’re really happy with some of the defensemen we’ve added to the roster this year,” said Knights assistant coach Andrew Whiteside. “This year, I think the biggest thing we wanted to improve on is size. I think we have some bigger, stronger defensemen this year.”
The International Pool
Cory Ellerton is the lone defenseman from abroad vying for one of the four import spots on the Knights roster.
From Pointe-Claire Quebec, Ellerton is a big-bodied, left-handed shot with an interesting blend of speed and strength. The 20-year old is coming off a season in the NOJHL where he scored two goals and 11 assists in 46 games with the Espanola Express.
He flashed at both ends of the ice at camp, but added a few productive shifts in the offensive zone tallying a goal and an assist.
The Tendered Defensemen
The Knights tender class continued its strong showing as Tom Farrell and Blake Kryska both turned in strong performances at main camp.
“Two guys who have really stood out this camp are Thomas Farrell and Blake Kryska,” said Whiteside back at main camp. “They’re exceeding our expectations right now, and we’re looking forward to big things out of them.”
“I’d say I’m more of a two-way defenseman,” said Farrell when asked about his skillset. “I’m more offensive-I like to join the play a lot. I just try to shut the opposition as much as possible.”
Farrell affiliated with the team last season. His playing time included valuable minutes in the Robertson Cup playoffs in which he did not look out of place. The big righty looks to make himself a regular in the Knights line up.
“Thomas’ elite skating ability and vision are his best attributes,” said Whiteside. “We feel his game will translate extremely well at the NAHL level and above.”
Kryska started off quickly at camp, scoring three goals in his first three games. His size, strength, and past NAHL experience will make him a strong candidate to push for a roster spot in 2017-18.
“Blake’s a steady presence on the blue line and his decision-making skills with the puck are beyond his age,” said Whiteside. “We expect Blake to log a ton of minutes on our back end this year.”
Luke Robinson wasn’t at main camp, but affiliated with the Knights last season, playing enough to warrant a comfort level with the Knights staff over his abilities.
“Luke is a big, physical presence in his own zone and has the skating ability to jump in and join the rush if the opportunity presents itself,” said Schreiber. “Luke’s hockey IQ is probably his biggest strength as he keeps it simple and minimizes mistakes.”
Robinson displayed his consistency in his prior league, playing in a total of 72 games over his past two seasons in the T1EHL U16, scoring 3-7-10 in 2015-16 and 1-8-9 in 2016-17, supporting the offensive dimension he has, accompanying his intelligence and physicality.
Across the board, the Knights staff consistently praised the depth of their camp roster as more than a handful of invites will make their way back to compete at training camp.
Paul Luebke will be among those returning. The Wisconsin-native contributed two goals and an assist at main camp and has been a consistent performer in the USPHL prior to this season.
Hunter Macy was another steady defender throughout camp. With the Delbarton School in the USHS he scored 10 goals and 28 assists in 59 games over the last two years.
2000 birth year Jake Sandomeno was among the more productive defensemen in camp, scoring three goals and playing in the maximum of five games. In addition to a steady shot, the right-handed defender showed speed and a willingness to pinch hard from the blue line.
With all goalies from the 2016-17 roster now departed, the Knights are taking all applications to take charge in net for the upcoming season.
Their most familiar choice is the former first overall pick from the 2016 NAHL Entry Draft. With the Northeast Generals last season, Dave Tomeo stood out in a late-season contest against the Knights in which he made a handful of dazzling saves.
Now a tender for the Knights, Tomeo flashed again flashed his abilities at main camp. His most spectacular moment came on a leaping effort from his knees, deflecting a puck wide of the net while tangled amongst several bodies in the crease. His habit for regularly making saves ‘he’s not supposed to be able to make,’ highlights his name as one to watch moving forward.
“David is a goaltender that comes with junior experience in both the USHL and the NAHL,” said Whiteside. “He has won at every level and we expect him to have a significant impact in our crease right away.”
Morgan Kelly, a ’98 who played in the T1EHL and BCHL last year, performed admirably through five games at camp-including both all-star games-as the California native looks to stick in Pennsylvania on his cross-country voyage.
Kevin Lake is from either further west than Kelly, and likewise would like to make the most of air miles by finding a home with the Knights. The big, 6-4 netminder is coming off an NA3HL season in which he appeared in 27 games for two separate teams.
Two players the Knights could add to their defense are third-round netminder Christian Stoever, who was taken in the 2016 USHL Futures Draft by the Des Moines Buccaneers, and fourth-round defenseman Mason Klee, a 2016 USHL Entry Draft selection by the Lincoln Stars. Both will attempt to make their respective USHL teams in their camps in the coming weeks. Should they be released, the Knights would have the right to add them to their NAHL roster.
As a ’99 birth year who’s played the last two years in the T1EHL, Klee’s drawn attention for his ability to play a 200-foot game.
“Mason is a versatile defenseman that can make plays at both ends of the ice,” said Schreiber. “We valued his skating ability and his poise to keep things simple and not make mistakes under pressure.”
With the aforementioned job openings in the Knights crease, Christian Stoever has the talent to make a strong case for the position. Standing at 6-3, 165 pounds, the 17-year old showed athleticism and sharp reflexes over four games at Knights main camp, impressing the staff with his consistency and poise, and most importantly, his immense upside.
Like Klee, Stoever is a veteran of the T1EHL and spent last season as a teammate to Knights first-round pick Gabe Temple.
The Knights report to training camp at the beginning of September and will open their season against the New Jersey Titans at the Revolution Ice Centre at 7:30 pm on Friday, September 15th. Tickets can be pre-ordered by calling (570)-883-1100.