The Syracuse Crunch finished their pre-season series against the St. John's IceCaps Sunday, taking two of the three games played. Their two victories secured them the Mary Brown Cup for the second year in a row, something the team will surely be proud of, if even for just a day. Chances are, these immediate feelings of victory will be just a taste that will leave those who make it past the Crunch's own looming roster cuts wanting more.
They'll have that chance for more very, very soon.
With the final cuts from Tampa Bay on Sunday, the Syracuse Crunch's roster stands at 28 (including three players who need to clear waivers by noon Monday). Obviously, some cuts will need to be made before Syracuse gets their season started up at Binghamton this Saturday.
As of right now, the Crunch's roster holds the following players:
-Dana Tyrell (will need to clear waivers)
-Mike Angelidis (will need to clear waivers)
-Matt Taormina (will need to clear waivers)
-Carl Nielsen (will probably be played at forward)
Some of these players will be bound for ECHL-land, probably sooner rather than later. The Crunch has been given Tuesday off from practice to go apartment hunting in Syracuse, and I'm sure guys who won't be sticking around will be told before they get to that point. The team will then gather back for the rest of their training camp Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
Without seeing any of these guys play, it's hard to make a guess at who will be staying and who will be cut. The Crunch has had the entirety of their training camp in St. John's, so access to the game was limited. What coverage there was available was from the IceCaps side of things and didn't focus on Syracuse.
However, it's obviously easy to spot many of the guys who will be sticking around. Brown, Connolly and Tyrell are sure to be slated for big leadership positions on the team, especially with the Top Gun line of Richard Panik/Ondrej Palat/Tyler Johnson making Tampa. Angelidis has already been given back his roll as captain, so there will be a sense of familiarity in that area. Both Neilson and Paradis are fan favorites who add toughness to the bench.
Kucherov is expected to have a huge year in the AHL, as are Namestnikov and Richard. Paquette will be looked to as a shoe-filler for those who go up to Tampa when recalls strike. Walker and Rankin were signed during the off season to give Syracuse an extra vet boost.
Korobov should easily be one of top four defensive players in Syracuse, along with Cote, Mormina, and Taormina. Nesterov has proved to have a deft hand during pre-season, and will probably stick. Witkowski and Sergeev both saw action with Syracuse during the AHL Calder Cup playoffs, so I'd imagine both might have a chance at sticking around.
Syracuse actually has quite a few defensemen at camp, even with Nielsen potentially playing at forward, so some of them will just have to go. It'll be a hard choice, for sure, but an important one. Brian Lee is still on IR in Tampa, Andrej Sustr and Mark Barberio have all stuck with the Lightning, and with Radko Gudas also in the NHL now, the Crunch's blue line has some significant holes that need filling.
Finally, the Crunch is obviously set at goalie with returners Desjardins and Helenius. But, with recently drafted Kristers Gudlevskis down in the ECHL for now, all may not be what it seems there. I tend to agree with Raw Charge writer Clare Austin on him. Although being in that league will help him adjust to the North American game, he's probably way too good for the ECHL. Tampa Bay has proven that it isn't afraid to shake things up if they feel they need to (see their trade of Dustin Tokarski last year), so what happens at this position might be one of the season's most interesting story lines.
All in all, the Crunch's roster looks just about as solid as it's ever looked at this point in a non-NHL-lockout year. I think TampaCuse fans have a lot to look forward to this season, and I can't wait for it to get started!