MACON, Ga. – What kind of team will the Macon Mayhem put on the ice next fall? The release of the team’s protected list on Friday offered some clues.
While not a full-fledged guarantee of a roster, each team’s protected list offers a clue to who’ll be aboard, as the players on Macon’s list will all receive invites to the team’s training camp.
By placing players on a protected list, it ensures that players cannot sign with another SPHL team.
Two noticeably absent from Macon’s protected list as two of the biggest award winners from this past season, forward Mason Baptista and goalie Jake Theut. Baptista was named the SPHL MVP with Theut being the goalie of the year. Given that Theut and Baptista logged time in the ECHL in 2019-20, signs would point to them potentially making a return to that league going forward. Theut could also end up on Roanoke’s protected list as he appeared in 11 games for the Railyard Dawgs in 2019-20.
A handful of others were not able to be protected by Macon, but their rights are still retained by another team in the league. Defenseman Josh Victor and forwards Stathis Soumelidis and Brian Bowen, who played for Fayetteville as the 2019-20 season ended, were protected by the Markmen with Jason Tackett also not listed on Macon’s protected list.
It all indicates that the team’s top goalie, Theut, and top three scorers, Baptista, Bowen, and Tackett, will not be on the team for 2021-22.
It paves the way for a host of other returners, however, to pick up the baton and run with it. Overall, the Mayhem are protecting seven forwards, five defensemen, and one goalie.
And of those forwards, there’s plenty of experience from helping the Mayhem to the best regular-season record this past season. In fact, Ryan Smith, Dino Balsamo, Gabe Guertler, Jimmy Soper, and Logan Coomes rate fourth through eighth from 2020-21 on the team in terms of scoring. With Andrew Romano and Max Cook also protected, the team’s high-octane group of forwards should still boast plenty of firepower. Cook played in 13 games for Macon before being called up to Florida in the ECHL for 25 games, but if he ends up back in the SPHL, the Mayhem would have rights to him.
Macon’s defensive nucleus, however, will head into the summer mostly unscathed. Casey Johnson, Paul Meyer, Nick Minerva, Matt Stief, and Derek Topatigh were all protected by the Mayhem, and it represents the top four set to return from a year ago in terms of plus-minus ratings.
While Theut appears to be moving on, his backup from this year, Ryan Ruck, was protected by Macon. That experience in net should serve Macon well. Overall, Ruck’s 2.06 GAA was third-best in the league as he appeared in 19 games this season.
Macon may have lost a few headliners as it goes toward the summer, but signs pointing toward a strong core of last year’s team certainly should give the Mayhem fans signs of optimism as the fall inches closer.
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