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2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Black Aces

John Saraya/Cleveland Monsters

It’s that time of year again when the Black Aces make an appearance.

What are Black Aces you say?

Well, when NHL playoff season rolls around the roster expands. NHL teams will call up a few guys in case of injuries and demotions. Not every AHL player is worthy or ready.

Here are the list of Cleveland Monsters who I think are 100% ready to take on NHL playoffs at a moments notice.

Forwards

Zac Dalpe

Zac Dalpe is unarguably the best pick up by the Blue Jackets organization at the 2017 NHL trade deadline. In 18 games with the Monsters, Dalpe has tallied eight goals and four assists.

When Dalpe isn’t scoring goals, he is setting up plays and stealing pucks from the opposition. The average player would see there is no possible option to score a goal. So, they tend to clear the puck or pass it off to the next guy. Dalpe sees beyond all of that. Multiple times this season he has turned absolutely nothing into a set up for a play which turned into a goal. Dalpe’s mind works like Matt Damon’s in “Good Will Hunting”.

Dalpe could replace just about anyone who may go down on the Jackets offense.

Vitaly Abramov

I know this one is a bit off the wall. However, Vitaly Abramov has already proven he can handle playoff hockey with grace.

In a high-intensity game where guys were running at him left and right, Abramov walked away with two points.

His speed, work ethic, and passion would be a great replacement if Cam Atkinson goes down.

Jordan Maletta

In Sunday’s shootout thriller against the Grand Rapids Griffins, Jordan Maletta proved he could hang with the big boys.

Also, Maletta proved nothing could rattle him. A line brawl erupted in Sunday’s game after an egregious slash to Maletta’s calf by Hicketts. He could have let that negatively affect the rest of the game. Luckily, Maletta used this atrocity to fuel his fire. In the third period, he beat Hicketts in a footrace to the net to give the Monsters the lead.

The Jackets need a man like that in their reserves.

Nick Moutrey

Nick Moutrey has been on fire since coming back from his injury. While his stats are not off the charts, Moutrey’s presence brings a lot to the ice.

Moutrey can both calm down and ignite a situation at any given time.

If one of your big body protectors like Scott Hartnell goes down, Nick Moutrey is the man you want to step in to handle business.

Defenders

Dean Kukan

Dean Kukan is one of those players who flies under the radar. John Madden has worked hard to get Kukan to realize he has a lot to offer the team and the sport of hockey.

Over the past 12 games, Kukan has notched nine points. Three of those points came on March 28th against the Charlotte Checkers.

He is also one of the more level-headed players in the league. It took a 103 games worth of opponents trying to fight him before the gloves were finally dropped.

With Kukan’s propensity to score goals and ability to stay cool during the heated moments, he would make a great replacement if someone like Seth Jones goes down.

Goaltender

Anton Forsberg

Anton Forsberg is an elite goaltender. He has played 50 games with the Monsters this season posting a record of 26-16-4. Four of those wins were shutouts.

The best part about Forsberg is he never quits on the team. The Monsters have made a few key comebacks due to this never give up attitude.

However, I feel bring up Anton Forsberg to more than likely sit for the NHL post-season would be a disservice to both Forsberg and the Monsters. I understand the AHL is there to help serve the NHL. I just don't like knowing an elite goaltender will be brought up to sit in the pressbox until the unlikely occasion that both goalies go down with an injury. Granted this is Columbus and they keep proving that anything could happen; good or bad.