As college and juniors season came to an end, the Cleveland Monsters picked up five new players.
The first to come to the Monsters was forward Sam Vigneault on March 16th. After a standout Junior season at Clarkson University, the Columbus Blue Jackets signed Vigneault to a two-year entry level contract beginning 2017-18. The Monsters would also sign him to an AHL tryout contract.
Over the course of three seasons at Clarkson, Vigneault tallied 75 points in the form of 30 goals and 45 assists. Two years in a row he led the team in points.
The next set of additions came on March 22nd in the form of defender Scott Savage and forward Hayden Hodgson. Both were signed to Amateur Tryout Contracts.
Savage played four years at Boston College notching 71 points in 154 games. There's no doubt he was a defender who could make plays happen.
Hodgson spent the past five season playing the OHL for the Erie Otters, Sarnia Sting, and Saginaw Spirit. While playing for the Spirit in the 2016-17 season, Hodgson tallied 38 goals and 28 assists over 67 games.
On March 30th, the Columbus Blue Jackets community was buzzing with anticipation for the newest addition to the Monsters, Gabriel Carlsson. Drafted in 2015 by the Jackets, Carlsson has been a solid defender in the Swedish Hockey League. In 92 games, he tallied 15 points and posted a +15.
The final addition came on April 2nd when the Blue Jackets assigned forward Kole Sherwood to the Monsters. Over the course of 123 games in the OHL, Sherwood posted 119 points in the form of 45 goals and 74 assists.
I sat down with Eli Mooneyham of “NEO Sports Insiders” to discuss the new guys on the team and how they are fitting in.
Elaine Shircliff: As the college and Juniors seasons came to an end, the Monsters added five players to their roster. Hayden Hodgson, Sam Vigneault, Scott Savage, Gabriel Carlsson, and Kole Sherwood are the new additions. The only one to not play a game yet is winger Hayden Hodgson. Why do you think that is?
Eli Mooneyham: Well, it's probably just a depth “problem”, if you'd like to call it that. Hodgson is a right winger, which means there's 16 forwards on the team after the recall of Sonny Milano. The yeam has been clicking offensively as of late and I'm sure they were just trying to keep things the same. Now with Milano heading up to Columbus, we might see Hodgson share time with Sherwood and Miles Koules when he returns from injury.
ES: My thoughts exactly. The Monsters have been lucky in the offensive area as of late. Not only are they finally clicking but three key players (Scott, Moutrey, and Broadhurst) just came back from injuries.
Scott Savage had a pretty decent start to his professional career. On paper he is 0-0-0 but on the ice the potential is there to be a top notch defender. I like Savage's work ethic and he plays well with Yevenko. Even though he has only played three games since signing an ATO with the squad, what are your thoughts?
EM: Savage is an interesting piece to the Monsters' backline equation. At times, he's such a presence for Cleveland. Other times, he looks like a rookie. For every time he locks down a forward for an extended period of time, there's moments where he looks lost on line changes. With Gabriel Carlsson making his presence felt in the first two games he's played in, Savage will probably see less time.
ES: Speaking of Carlsson, you traveled to Chicago this past weekend and were able to see him play live. Watching from home, Carlsson seems like he's making a case for himself on the team. He seems to know how to watch a play form from the other end of the ice and is adjusting to the rink size quite well. What is your assessment of Carlsson after seeing him play live?
EM: Absolutely impressive. Carlsson will probably get to play next to Oleg Yevenko on the back line and rightfully so. He's the right kind of defender – one that stays with his assignment and doesn't give them room to breathe, as well as an enforcer of sorts by not letting any funny business take place in the crease. Throw in the fact that he has tremendous offensive ability in terms of pinpoint passing and a willingness to shoot the puck and I'd say Carlsson is an excellent talent who can continue to grow.
Carlsson might even be able to move up a line if his play continues like this. But for now, him and Oleg on a line together is perfect. Cleveland can really do damage with that back line.
ES: It's nice that Madden now has options for defensive pairings.
Sam Vigneault is one who has impressed me. I didn't know much about him and wasn't sure what to expect. He blew me out of the water on Saturday with his two points against Chicago. I like Vigneault on the line with Milano and Hannikainen. He knows how to keep up with them and communicate with them. Where do you see Vigneault fitting the rest of the season? Now that Milano has been recalled by the Jackets, who else would fit on the line with Vigneault and Hannikainen?
EM: To answer the first question, he'll be a nice option to have on the second or third line. Vigneault isn't necessarily a game-changer but he definitely does perform to the expectations of his role. I could see Coach Madden putting Kole Sherwood on that line with Vigneault and Hannikainen. Sherwood is an explosive scorer and can help try to fill the void left by Milano. The thing that made that line work was the fact Vigneault had two guys he could distribute the puck to and feel good about their chances to score based off of their playmaking abilities. Sherwood has proven he can do that in other leagues. We'll see if he can do it in the AHL. If so, that's who takes Milano's spot.
ES: I'm glad you mentioned Sherwood. In fact, you answered my question about where he will fit on the Monsters. I've been watching Sherwood play since I was an intern for the Ohio AAA Blue Jackets in the Fall of 2013. It's been wonderful watching him grow as a player over the past few years. It's nice to see Sherwood excel at the things he was already good at when he was playing for the U16 OBJ. One of those skills is severely underrated and that's being able to clear the puck during a line change. I hope Sherwood brings the magic and fire he had in the OHL this year to the Monsters.
With the combination of skill and drive the newer guys bring to the table, I think the Monsters will be able to get in the playoffs sooner than later.
Eli Mooneyham covers a variety of sports for “NEO Sports Insiders”.
You can find him on twitter at @Eli_Mooneyham where he provides witty commentary during Cleveland Monsters home games.
Eli and I did another round table type discussion a few weeks ago involving the playoffs. You can read it here.