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Saturday, October 07, 2006

Scouting Peoria Rivermen

The Saint Louis Blues may not have been the worst team in the NHL last year, they just did their best to be worst. It was a terrible thing to watch, as the former owners went on what could only have been a deliberate effort to beat the Chicago Blackhawks and every other team in the league to the bottom, showing good players the door and discouraging whatever effort was put forth.

Despite this, or perhaps because of it, many good players ended up on their AHL affiliate, the Peoria Rivermen, who gave a respectable showing for the first year in the conference and division. In fact, I’d expected them to beat the eventual Calder Cup contender Milwaukee Admirals in the playoffs.

This year is different. New owners in St. Louis mean a more focused team there, and it also means new people in Peoria. Starting at the top with head coach Dave Baseggio. Baseggio is already known in Chicago as he was former head coach of the Calder Cup contenders Bridgeport Sound Tigers, they fought the Wolves for the Calder in 2002, and lost. Still, to get that far is nothing to fart at. Baseggio’s Sound Tigers have been to the big game and we can expect a more active Blues organization to push the Rivermen harder too.

Chris Beckford-Tseu has come up from the Kelly Cup victor Alaska Aces to man the pipes, along with a Czech, Marek Schwarz. The Alaska Aces play on big ice and their final victory last year was over our affiliate, the Gwinett Gladiators. Beckford-Tseu has been as high as the Worcester Ice Cats, the pre-AHL Rivermen and also the ECHL level Rivermen. He also spent 16 games in the AHL last season. At the Aces he had a 1.87 GAA and .929 saves. I see him as being the main man as Marek spent the entire 2005 season with Sparta Praha in the Czech Republic. He posted .920 saves and .92 GAA.. Marek spent the 2004 season with the Vancouver Giants of the WHL.

I’m glad to see Rocky Thompson is one of the people returning to the Carver Arena. Thompson put up 247 Penalty minutes last season for the Rivermen, one goal and five points. Still there is a place in hockey for muscle.

Ryan McMurchy is up from the University of Wisconsin where he put up eight goals and 25 points in 40 games last season. He is joined by Konstanin Zakarov, who is up from the Alaska Aces and Mike Glumac, who spent a good part of the 2005 season in St. Louis. Also another rookie winger, Michal Birner of the Czech Republic, who is just up from Saginaw in the OHL. He produced 31 goals and 85 points in 60 games last season. And the final rookie winger is Magnus Kahnberg, a Swede who played on Vastra Frolunda HC Indians in 2005, producing 33 points in 45 games. Out of this group, the only one I’ve seen before is Zakarov, who played a fine tournament in Traverse City about a month ago. He was among the standouts of the Blues squad.

I’ve always liked Charles Linglet, but apparently he has not been loved back. Most of the 2005 season he spent in Peoria, but he was also in Las Vegas for a while. Linglet’s contribution to the team last year was 21 points in 38 games. Another Rivermen player I liked was winger Peter Sejna. Sejna produced more than a point a game for the Rivermen in 2005, went up to the NHL for six games and is back on the ice for the Rivermen again this year. Even discounting his NHL contribution, 2005 was his best year. Once again, Sejna will be a key man to beat on the ice.

Moving on to the centers, Trent Whitfield is coming down from the Blues. He spent part of the 2005 season in Peoria, but starts here. While producing 53 points in 41 AHL games, he only produced 7 in 30 NHL games last year. His NHL career has probably peaked, but he is still very dangerous at this level. He is joined by Denis Pederson, who most recently played in Germany, but has more than 200 NHL games stretching back to 1996. Pederson was producing about .8 points per game in Germany, which has recently seen many of its NHL alumnae return to the US. Two other centers, Ryan Ramsay and Cam Keith, spent time last year on the Aces squad and return to the Rivermen.

D man Patrick Wellar spent most of the year in Alaska in 2005. Mike Stuart, who I believe is related to the Collin Stuart of the Wolves, is back on D. However, what I mainly see in the defense men is sophomore blue men, returning. If you thought the Rivermen had a solid defense last year, you’ll see more this year. The team finished the year with the fourth best PP, lets remember, technically tied for second place with the Admirals and the Aeros. And fifth among all teams for PK, technically tied with the Lowell Lock Monsters for fourth.

Keys to winning, discipline. The Wolves still face a team that can defend and has some good scorers. We need to stay out of the penalty box. Putting early pressure on the goalie can’t hurt either as neither has played with this defense line.

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