Monsters 10th Anniversary: Captains
Who are the past captains of the Monsters? Where are they now?
This weekend the Cleveland Monsters celebrate their 10th Anniversary.
Over the past ten seasons, there have been eight different captains.
Current captain, Ryan Craig, has been with the Monsters since they changed NHL affiliation from the Colorado Avalanche to the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Drafted in 2002 by the Tampa Bay Lightning, Craig is no stranger to success. As you may already know, he captained the Monsters to a Calder Cup Championship win in 2016. He led the Brandon Wheat Kings (2002, 2003) and the Wilkes Barre Scranton Penguins (2011, 2012) deep into the playoffs while captain.
Seven men came before Craig each bringing different qualities to the table. Who are they? Where are they now?
Mark Rycroft (2007-2008)
The first captain of the Lake Erie Monsters only played half of the season with the team. Over 30 games, Marky Rycroft notched one goal and six assists for a total of seven points.
On January 22nd, 2008, Rycroft was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Dry Campbell and Philippe Dupuis. He was then assigned to the Jacket's affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, where he would finish out the season. In 34 games with the Crunch, Rycroft scored three goals and 10 assists.
Rycroft was not extended a contract extension and signed with Dynamo Minsk (KHL) at the end of the season. However, he was released before playing a game with Dyanmo.
Currently, Rycroft is part of the Colorado Avalanche broadcast team on Altitude Sports. He has been there since October 2009.
Wyatt Smith (2008)
Wyatt Smith took over captain duties after Rycroft was traded to the Blue Jackets.
The Monsters inaugural season was Smith's only season with the organization. In 40 games, he tallied 35 points in the form of 17 goals and 18 assists.
At the end of the 2007-08 season, Smith was signed as a free agent by the Tampa Bay Lightning where he was immediately signed to the Norfolk Admirals. Smith didn't even make it to 19 games into the season before the Lightning traded him to the Coyotes. From there he was assigned to the San Antonio Rampage. Over the course of 53 games, Smith racked up 16 goals and 24 assists.
During the 2009 free agency frenzy, Smith signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins where he would become captain of the WBS Penguins. Although Smith had 48 points during the 2009-10 season, the Penguins did not extend an offer to Smith.
The Boston Bruins would pick him up to help out the offense and give a much needed veteran presence to the team. When Smith began to struggle with his job duties, the Bruins let him go before the end of the season.
Smith signed with ERC Ingolstadt of the DEL for the remainder of the season.
He is currently an amateur scout for the Vancouver Canucks.
The captain who succeeded Wyatt Smith at the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins was Ryan Craig.
Brian Willsie (2008-2010)
Brian Willsie took over Monsters captain duties for Wyatt Smith to start the 2008-09 season after signing with the Avalanche in the offseason. Fourteen games into the season, Willsie was called up to the Avalanche and stayed there for the rest of the season. Over 42 games, he notched one goal and three assists.
At the end of the 2008-09 season, Willsie re-upped his contract for one more year.
During the 2009-10 season, Willsie set a franchise record of 26 goals in a season. This record was broken by Andrew Agozzino during the 2014-15 season.
In July of 2010, the Washington Capitals signed Willsie to a two-way contract. The Capitals would assign him to the Hershey Bears. While there Willsie would notch 38 points and a career-high 30 goals.
Even though Willsie proved to be a strong presence on the ice, the Capitals eleceted to not extend his contract into the 2010-11 season. The Montreal Canadiens felt they could use him and signed Willsie to a one-year contract. He spent the season as an alternate captain for their farm team, the Hamilton Bulldogs, where he led the team in points (44).
At the end of the season, Willsie would give hockey on the other side of the ocean a shot. Willsie would play overseas from 2012-15 playing for TPS, Kioten Flyers, KHL Medvescak Zagreb, and Orebo HK.
Willsie retired from playing professional hockey at the end of the 2014-15 season.
On July 20th, 2015, the Colorado Avalanche announced they hired Willsie to work in the team's player development department.
Elite Developmental Hockey
Before heading overseas in 2012, Willsie and former teammate, Chris Hajt, founded Elite Developmental Hockey.
The goal of Elite Developmental Hockey is to “inspire, educate, nurture, and mentor the youth of Guelph and surrounding areas by offering all-inclusive hockey training that's second to none”.
David Liffiton (2010-2012)
David Liffition signed with the Colorado Avalanche as a free agent during the 2010 free agency frenzy. During the 2010-11 preseason, Liffiton was assigned to the Lake Erie Monsters where he would spend the next two season as captain. In 83 games with the Monsters, Liffiton tallied four goals and eight assists.
In September of 2012, Liffiton headed overseas to play for Milano Rossoblu.
Liffiton spent last season with the HC TWK Innsbruck of EBEL scoring one goal and three assists in 53 games.
Blue Jackets Connection
Liffiton scored his first NHL goal against the Blue Jackets' Steve Mason. He was filling in for an injured Adam Foote.
Bryan Lerg (2012-2014)
The Colorado Avalanche signed Bryan Lerg to a one-year, two-way contract at the start of the 2012-13 season. Due to the lockout, Lerg was assigned to the Lake Erie Monsters where he was named captain. Unfortunately, after playing in 28 games, Lerg suffered a season-ending injury. Bryan Sutherby would take over his duties for the remainder of the season.
At the end of the season, Lerg was signed to a one-year contract extension. Lerg started the 2013-14 season off strong tallying 27 points over 35 games. However, he received another injury that kept him at bay for most of the season.
Lerg would then go on to sign a one-year, two-way contract with the San Jose Sharks for the 2014-15 season. After training camp, Lerg was assigned to the Worcester Sharks and named captain. During the next two season in the Sharks organization, Lerg played in 140 games notching 35 goals and 58 assists.
He currently plays with the Rogle BK of the Swedish Hockey League.
Brian Sutherby (2013)
In the middle of the 2012-13 season, Monsters captain, Bryan Lerg, suffered a torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament. Brian Sutherby stepped in to fill the roll. In 25 games with the Monsters, Sutherby tallied one goal and one assist.
The 2012-13 season was Sutherby's last season playing hockey. In 2014, he accepted a job with the Washington Capitals as a professional scout.
Bruno Gervais (2014-15)
In the last season of the Monsters' affiliation with the Avalanche, Bruno Gervais was named captain of the team.
He signed as a free agent with the Avalanche during the 2014 free agency frenzy. In 71 games with the Monsters, Gervais scored 3 goals and 10 assists.
Gervais has been playing with Eisbaren Berlin (DEL) for the past two seasons.
Camp Elite Bruno Gervais
Five years ago, Bruno Gervais created a camp to help defenders grow into their position.
The motto of the camp is:
“Every day you have a choice to make
Remain at the same level
Push your limits