Just as NHL teams have begun to fill out rosters with affordable deals and tryout offers, such as those yesterday for Drew Stafford (New Jersey) and Jay McClement (Pittsburgh), minor league squads are also trying to get their teams in order with the season set to start in just a little over a month. Here are some recent minor moves:
- The pro game has not been kind to the Rupert twins, but all hope is not lost. Ryan Rupert, a 2012 sixth-round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs and one of the smaller pieces sent to Ottawa alongside Dion Phaneuf in that massive 2016 exchange, was not tendered a qualifying offer by the Senators this off-season and became an unrestricted free agent. After splitting each of his first three pro seasons between the AHL and ECHL, it was unlikely that he would find an NHL contract. However, it was somewhat of a surprise when he and brother Matt Rupert signed ECHL deals with the Indy Fuel back in July. The Rupert twins were both very successful junior players with the OHL’s London Knights, with each wearing the alternate captain “A” for a season and combining for over 400 points during their tenure. After a brief reunion with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies in 2014-15, Ryan has amassed 58 points in 149 AHL games and 40 points in 53 ECHL games, while the undrafted Matt has 56 points in 125 ECHL games, as well as a couple AHL games on his resume. The duo seem to at least be worthy of an AHL contract, even if they do spend much of the season in the ECHL. It seems that one team agrees, as the Rockford Ice Hogs have invited the twins to camp on a tryout basis, according to The Sporting News’ Murray Pam. The Chicago Blackhawks’ affiliate is set to have some exciting, young players on the roster this season, but could use a couple hard-working minor league veterans like the Ruperts as well. If the tryout doesn’t pan out, the pair will likely return to Indy for the coming season and try to boost their in-season loan value and free agent stock for next summer.
- The San Diego Gulls, the Anaheim Ducks’ AHL affiliate, announced that they have re-signed defenseman Brian Cooper to a one-year contract. Cooper, 23, was a fifth-round pick of the Ducks in 2012, but signed a minor league deal with their affiliate last season after not being offered a pro contract by the team. Cooper played four years at the University of Nebraska-Omaha after being drafted, delivering modest offense and a solid defensive game, especially given his 5’10”, 196-lb. stature. The Alaska-native brought the same skill set to the AHL in 2016-17, recording 10 points in 37 regular season games for the Gulls and another pair of clutch points in the postseason, all while playing mistake-free in his own end. Cooper is expected to play a larger role for San Diego next season, as he works towards showing Anaheim that he can indeed be an NHL-caliber player one day.
More to come…