The Steuben Courier Advocate
  • Jackals sign 4, join Ducks

  • Elmira Jackals new head coach Malcolm Cameron outlined what kind of team he’s building for the 2010-11 ECHL season on Tuesday by announcing that defensemen Brennan Turner and R.J. Anderson have joined blueliner Joel Ryan and center Brock McBride have signed on.

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  • Elmira Jackals new head coach Malcolm Cameron outlined what kind of team he’s building for the 2010-11 ECHL season on Tuesday by announcing that defensemen Brennan Turner and R.J. Anderson have joined blueliner Joel Ryan and center Brock McBride have signed on.
    The average age of all four players is 23, the three defensemen are 6-foot-plus and all of them play with an edge.
    “Defense wins championships, no question. You have to have size, you have to have guys that can skate and have guys that play with a passion,” Cameron said Tuesday at the newly-opened Buffalo Wild Wings, where the Jackals announced the signings and a new affiliation with the National Hockey League’s Anaheim Ducks through the American Hockey League Syracuse Crunch.
    “The one thing I stuck to with my recruiting this year was, I want young guys. I want a young team, I want hungry, I want determined,” Cameron continued. “This league is such a grind and I’ve found with the older players, as the season goes on, older players are sometimes harder to motivate. Young kids will see a guy go up to the American Hockey League and work hard to every night to be the next guy.
    “The opportunity is there, all they have to do is put the work in.”
    Two players whose return looks less likely are the Donati brothers, who rewrote the franchise single-season scoring records and led the ECHL in scoring. Tyler Donati was named the league MVP, while Justin Donati was named to the ECHL All-Star game. Both combined to form the most dangerous line in the ECHL.
    While the Jackals still have signing rights in the ECHL, Elmira’s influence doesn’t span across the Atlantic Ocean.
    “Nothing with them yet. I think they’re still still hoping to get that elusive American League contract and it hasn’t happened as of (Monday). I think Europe was probably an option for them,” Cameron said. “Players will be leaving for Europe in a week, so I’m not sure that will pan out right now. We retain their rights in (the ECHL).”
    Jackals general manager Robbie Nichols didn’t appear terribly concerned Tuesday. After all, with the Donatis, the Jackals were ousted in the first round of the Kelly Cup playoffs by the Cameron-coached Florida Everblades.
    “They’re great players. Malcom is putting a winner team together. We would like them to be part of that team, but the teams he’s had in the past are just that: Teams,” Nichols said. “We want all 20 to be strong, we don’t want two players way ahead of the rest of the guys. We would really like to have them back, if it falls into place, great, if it doesn’t we’ll have other (Donati-like) players. Someone will step up and take their place if they don’t return.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Aside from his signings, Cameron and Nichols were genuinely excited about joining forces with Anaheim for dual NHL affiliations, having been aligned with the Ottawa Senators for four years now.
    Anaheim made Syracuse its AHL affiliate in March, after the Crunch were under the Columbus Blue Jackets umbrella since 2000. The Jackals had been an official partner with the Crunch through the Blue Jackets off and on since 2000, but that relationship failed to gain traction. In just a week of working together, there’s a noticeable difference.
    “Just right away, communication has been so much better. When we were with Columbus, we made calls to Columbus and wouldn’t get returned calls,” Nichols said. “One year they sent eight players and (former coach Steve Martinson) kept two of them – six of them couldn’t play at our level. Anaheim and Ottawa are quality NHL franchises and I think it’s going to be great for us and great for them.”
    Bob Murray, executive vice president and general manager of the 2007 Stanley Cup champion Ducks, said in a release, “We are thrilled to be entering into a formal affiliation agreement with Elmira. With ideal proximity to Syracuse and a premier facility in First Arena, Elmira will be a key partner in the development of our young players.”
    Anaheim had been affiliated with the Bakersfield (Calif.) Condors of the ECHL.
    With two affiliates – one an hour-and- a-half north, the other 45 minutes to the east – Elmira is sure to get a plethora of talent coming through town. However, some of that talent won’t be coming back when called up the AHL.
    “That’s what we’re here for. As an ECHL franchise, we’re here to groom players and get them ready for the American League and the National Hockey League,” Nichols said. “You can’t avoid that. Players will want to sign in Elmira because they know they’re going to get a chance to get called up.”
    As for proven commodities, Turner brings back the second-best plus-minus rating during the 2009-10 ECHL season in addition to his 6-3, 220-pound frame, while Anderson will enter his sophomore pro season after posting 24 points (seven goals, 17 assists) in just 38 games with the Jackals. Ryan comes to Elmira from the rival Reading Royals, the Los Angeles Kings 2006 second-round pick had nine points in 32 games and four assists in seven AHL games in Toronto. McBride, a second-year pro center, scored 12 goals to go along with 13 assists in 38 games with the Alaska Aces last season, and was a point-a-game-guy in the playoffs.
    Cameron said more signings will be coming as early as next week, and all will fit his mold.

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