The Cleveland Monsters played four games in seven days last week going 2-2-0-0. During this home stand, the Monsters struggled to find themselves against the Rochester Americans (L 4-2) and Binghamton Devils (W 3-0, L 4-0) . By the time Tuesday rolled around, the Monsters were able to show off their offensive skill and speed in a huge 6-2 win over the Grand Rapids Griffins.
Despite the rough week, six players stood out a little bit more than the rest. So, I put them into three different categories to shine some light on why these six players should be talked about. Some of the players on this list are not the best based on the stats which are readily available to the public. However, many of them bring something extra to the game in such a way that if they weren’t playing they would be sorely missed.
The Swift Playmakers
During the barrage of call-ups and injuries, Trey Fix-Wolansky and Calvin Thurkauf have been consistently positive for the Monsters. They have no problems getting in the corners to get pucks, shooting their shot, setting up plays, and putting points on the board. Plus, neither will allow anyone to push them around. Despite their ability to score and play at a fast pace, the Columbus Blue Jackets have yet to give them a shot on NHL ice.
Steve Johnson and Maxime Fortier are great examples of taking what is given and using it to your advantage. Both Johnson and Fortier spent a big chunk of the first half of the 2019-2020 season playing in the ECHL. Currently under contract with the Jackets, Fortier was assigned to the Jacksonville Icemen at the beginning of the season. While Johnson started the season for the Wheeling Nailers on an ECHL only contract. When the injuries started to pile up for the Monsters and Jackets, Fortier was called up to Cleveland and Johnson signed a PTO with the club.
Over the past few weeks, the two have grown into solid and consistent players. They are strong when it comes to the fundamentals of the game and embrace who they are as players. Fortier, a noted winger, has been thrust into the role of 4th line center with Brett Gallant and Bryan Moore as his wings. In this new role, Fortier has excelled at winning faceoffs, breaking up passes, and quarterbacking plays. On the other end of the ice, Johnson has been paired with veteran defender Dillon Simpson who has taken the time to work with Johnson and get him acclimated to the speed of the AHL. Johnson has been incredibly sound in his decision making on the ice. Newer defensemen tend to struggle with being able to read their opponent. Johnson, on the other hand, doesn’t leap into action for the sake of leaping into action. He’s been able to read each and everyone of his opponents quite well. This ability to read what could be coming next has been very valuable to the netminders on the team.
The Comeback Kings
Gabriel Carlsson and Adam Clendening are the cream of the crop when it comes to defenders at the AHL level. However, on Sunday afternoon they seemed to fall to pieces. Typically the first pairing excels at reading situations, chasing down the opposition, setting up plays on special teams, and creating turnovers. In Sunday’s loss to the Binghamton Devils, they turned over multiple pucks, struggled to chase down breakaways, and misread multiple situations. At the end of the game, Clendening had a -4 and Carlsson had a -3. Not exactly a ringing endorsement from a stats perspective for the first pair.
By the time Tuesday rolled around, Carlsson and Clendening were playing the best hockey of their lives. Clendening stuck to the fundamental aspects of the game which allowed him to set up multiple successful plays including assisting two goals for the Monsters. While, Carlsson put his offensive prowess on display giving the Monsters their first goal of the night. After posting a +5 rating, Carlsson earned a much deserved call-up to the parent club.