ONTARIO, Calif. – Rosters in the American Hockey League are always fluid, changing from game-to-game, and it’s hard to predict what the opening night roster will be for the Ontario Reign, let alone who’s going to be there at the end of the season. But with Los Angeles Kings rookie camp behind us and the preseason fast approaching, let’s take a look at the Reign so far.
Today: the forward group.
First up, we have Brayden Burke, coming off of three years with the Tucson Roadrunners. In the 2020-21 season, he only scored one goal and 13 assists in 28 games, but he was almost a point-per-game player the previous year, with 51 in 52 games. Burke is on a two-way contract, but it seems likely that he’ll spend much of the season with the Reign and can hopefully regain that scoring touch he had in the 2019-20 season with Tucson.
Our first returning player is journeyman Jacob Doty, who has previously played for the ECHL and Elite Ice Hockey League and other AHL teams. This is his third season with the Reign, though in thirty games over the last two seasons, he’s registered only two total points. With almost a hundred penalty minutes, it seems evident he isn’t here for his offensive ability.
Also returning is Adam Johnson, previously of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, here for his second term as a Reign. Johnson spent the first half of the 2020-21 season in Sweden, playing for Malmo of the Swedish Hockey League. But when he returned to North America, he put up 11 points in 14 games for Ontario and had one assist in the lone Reign playoff game he iced for. At 27 years old, it’s unlikely that Johnson will take a step up in his game and become even more of a contributor, but at a career 0.60 PPG in the AHL, he can undoubtedly chip in when needed.
This season, Brett Kemp is making his professional debut after playing parts of six seasons for the Everett Silvertips, the Edmonton Oil Kings, and the Medicine Hat Tigers of the Western Hockey League. Most recently, he had 31 points in 23 games with Medicine Hat, and at only 21 years old, he definitely has room to grow and develop, and hopefully can translate his game to playing against men instead of boys.
Another newcomer to the Reign is Nikita Pavlychev, a former seventh-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins back in 2015. After four years at Penn State for the NCAA, Pavlychev made his AHL debut for the Syracuse Crunch, recording three assists in eight games, but spent most of the season in the ECHL with the Orlando Solar Bears. At 24 years of age, it’s hard to know whether he’ll be able to take a step forward in his development and become an AHL regular, but the potential is certainly there for him to become a dependable defensive forward.
The Captain of the Ontario Reign and part of the Sutter family dynasty, Brett Sutter wasn’t going anywhere this offseason. He’s been with the Reign since the 2015-16 season, and has worn the “C” since the 2017-18 season. More than anyone else, Sutter is the face of the Ontario Reign, and at 34 years old, it’s likely he’ll retire as a member of the team. Though his offense has been on the decline since turning 30, he brings much more than goals to the table, and his leadership on the team is worth much more than the 13 points in 39 games he recorded last season. It’s hard to imagine the team without him at this point.
TJ Tynan is the most exciting acquisition for the Reign this offseason. Drafted in the third round by the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2011, Tynan would win the Calder Cup with the Lake Erie Monsters, play for both the Blue Jackets and the Colorado Avalanche, wear letters for three different AHL teams. He was named the AHL MVP last season, recording 35 points in 27 games as the captain of the Colorado Eagles. He signs with the Kings on a two-way contract, so it seems likely he’ll be near the top of the list for potential call-ups in the event of injury, but it’s equally likely that he’ll lead this team in scoring for much, if not all of the season.
With only eight forwards signed, there is still a lot of room to grow for this roster, and it seems that many of the remaining spaces will go to players on two-way or entry-level contracts with the Kings for development purposes. We’ll likely see players like Lias Andersson spending some time in Ontario, for example, and the Kings have many forward prospects; Quinton Byfield, Arthur Kaliyev, Alex Turcotte) that could see some AHL time to season their game.
Next week, we’ll take a look at the defencemen and goalies currently signed to the Reign, as the season marches closer and closer.
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