Fife Flyers are one week away from hitting the ice, and despite concerns over a lack of signing announcements, assistant coach Jeff Hutchins insists the team is ready to go.
Flyers kick-off their pre-season campaign with a match against Manitoba Bisons at Fife Ice Arena next Thursday, before heading into weekend exhibition matches against Aalborg Pirates and Odense Bulldogs.
Despite the imminent return to action there remains several unfilled positions on the Fife roster, with the 11 imports and one Brit confirmed thus far leaving them some way short of a full bench.
However, Hutchins insists that the team will be close to full strength on opening night, with a number of Brits signed but not yet announced, while he also expects two more imports to arrive before face-off next Thursday.
That would leave Fife with just one more import position to fill – a slot they had been saving for the possible return of Russ Moyer, but that will no longer be the case with the veteran believed to be heading for retirement having accepted a job outside hockey.
“There’s no panic because we’ve done our job in the background and we’re happy with where we are,” Hutchins revealed.
“We had a setback in that we gambled on Russ coming back, we were hoping that he would be our last D-man, so as it stands we’re one import short on D.
“Russ brought us a lot on both offence and defence, so we want to have someone comparable – or an improvement.
“We are talking to a few guys who could fill that spot, but we’re not in any hurry on the basis that we’ve got two weeks of pre-season, plus our first month is Challenge Cup.
“It gives us a cushion to look for that extra guy.
“We ran with four import D for most of last year, so running with the same again for a couple of weeks at the start isn’t going to kill uis.
“It will give an opportunity for Wando and other guys to get ice time.”
Hutchins hinted, however, that Flyers may still have the full quota of 14 imports for pre-season, adding: “We’re working on other opportunities to make sure we’re not short an import for opening night, and looking at the potential of carrying an extra guy.
“We might have 14 imports in the line-up for opening night, but it might not be eight forwards, five D and a goalie. It might be a different make-up.”
In retaining the majority of their top scorers from last season, and adding the likes of Mike Cazzola, Brett Bulmer and Paul Crowder, Hutchins believes Flyers fans can expect big things from the team’s forwards next season.
“I made a comment a few weeks ago that this will probably be the best forward line we’ve ever iced in the EIHL era,” he said.
“When people see it pan out I’m sure most will agree.
“Guys we brought in last year did a really good job but we’ve improved in areas we thought let us down, mainly on the defensive side.
“A guy like Charlie Mosey put in a lot of extra work at the boards but we believe Brett Bulmer and the other right winger yet to be announced will bring us that, but also more of an offensive ability as well.
“Adding to the league’s second highest scorers last year, with a little bit more offence and the same amount of grit puts us in a good standing going into the new season.”
The mjaority of the imports are due to fly in tomorrow (Friday) although Evan Bloodoff has been in town for a few weeks already as he steps up his rehab from surgery at the end of last season.
Among the new arrivals will be AHL defenceman Rick Pinkston, whose signing was confirmed on Monday. The 27-year old American, a former college team-mate of Charlie Mosey, joins from ECHL outfit Atlanta Gladiators where he iced in 41 games.
He also had 17 appearances with the Norfolk Admirals, and three in the AHL with Milwaukee Admirals.
In total he has iced in 35 AHL,and 150 ECHL games, and stats of six goals and 36 assists point to a stay a home defenceman, but one who brings a lot to the roster.
Hutchins said: “Rick is a solid all round D-man.
“He is responsible in the D-zone and has the ability to jump up in the rush when required.
“All the references that have come back have been positive and we feel that we’ve brought in a good character guy in the room.
“He comes to us as someone who has won championships and we will be looking for him to bring that winning mentality and experience to Fife.”
Meanwhile, Flyers are searching for a replacement off-ice performance director after parting ways with Rob Maguire.