Falcons announce three new hatchlings

Jonathan Willis
July 21 2008 08:59AM

When you’re a professional hockey player with hopes and dreams, it’s a bad sign when the ECHL website is the place announcing that you’ve been signed to a contract. Cleve Kinley, Kelly Czuy and Hans Benson have all signed AHL/ECHL contracts with the Sprinfield Falcons, and I imagine that they will spend the majority of their seasons with the Stockton Thunder.

All three players are still young enough to have some upward mobility (Kinley is 24, Czuy 25 and Benson turns 25 before training camp), and Kinley and Czuy both are ex-college players. Kinley had his first professional season last year, splitting time between the Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit’s AHL affiliate) and the Texas Wildcatters in the ECHL. At one point, Kinley looked like he might develop into a puck-moving defenceman with nice upside (in 2004–05 he scored 29 points in 36 games). He’s been listed as a good skater, but his last two seasons in college featured diminishing numbers and in his final season, as a 22-year-old, he scored only nine points in 31 games.

Last season, however, Kinley showed up nicely in the ECHL; after putting up 34 points in 60 games (good enough to join the all-star team, similar to Ryan O’Marra) he scored five times and had eight assists in nine playoff games. Unfortunately for him, he just signed a contract with an organization filled to the brim with young, offensive defencemen (Chorney, Hrabal, Bisaillon and Wild will all play for Springfield this season).

Kelly Czuy was a grinder with some scoring touch for most of his college career; like Kinley his best college season was his second (29 points in 36 games) and things got bumpy from there (in his final season he posted only 18 points in 36 games). Last season he put up 28 points and 73 PIM’s in 55 ECHL games, but he improved in the playoffs, with 17 points in 21 games. He’s got nice size, but at this point, a lengthy career in the AHL or Europe would be a pretty major achievement.

Hans Benson might have the best shot at an NHL career out of this group. Looking at his career statistics, one thing stands out: PIM. In 2007–08, he was only dressed for 44 AHL games, and managed 265 PIMs, and 25 fights. For a review of his 2007–08 season in pugilism, HockeyFights.com has a complete listing.

Nothing to get excited about here; Kinley’s the best player, while Benson is the only one with an NHL-level skill.

—Jonathan Willis is the owner of Copper & Blue, a blog dedicated to all things Oil, and a frequent contributor to OilersNation.com.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 Wanye Gretz
July 21 2008, 09:21AM
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I know a few ex WHL players who are playing over in Europe and making a very nice living while doing so. I think the AHL is going to have to ultimately start raising pay packages, to compete with the European Teams, who offer tax free compensation packages paid in Euros.

As appealing as $45,000 to sit in Albany is, $75,000 tax free to play in Switzerland might start watering down players with minor league contracts.

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#2 Brian Fellows
July 21 2008, 11:12AM
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I actually agree with Wanye. My cousin played a year in Germany and they gave him a free Audi,a free apartment and a healthy tax free salary. Loved it over there till he got hurt. Probably wouldn't have made the ECHL if he stayed in North America...

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#3 Jonathan
July 21 2008, 05:52PM
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As appealing as $45,000 to sit in Albany is, $75,000 tax free to play in Switzerland might start watering down players with minor league contracts.

Absolutely. If I were a professional hockey player, the only thing that could induce me to play in the North American minors would be the shot at NHL action.

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#4 1011011
July 21 2008, 06:42PM
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How are the Falcons supposed to do this year? I must confess I know very little about them, but I wouldn't mind learning...

I know that Schremp is a stud, and getting Brule (assuming he doesn't make the Oilers, and plays another season in the minors) would be a potential shot in the arm. Beyond that, educate me interwebs!

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#5 Jonathan
July 22 2008, 07:09PM
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How are the Falcons supposed to do this year? I must confess I know very little about them, but I wouldn’t mind learning…

It's hard to keep track of which AHL teams are supposed to be good, and there are way more variables (who makes the parent NHL team, unknowns coming in and performing at a high level, etc.) but I think it's safe to say that Spingfield will at the very least be in contention for a playoff spot, and possibly even better than that.

All of Schremp/Brule/Potulny will help, if in the AHL, as will recent signing Bryan Lerg and improvements from Trukhno, Goulet, O'Marra and MacDonald, all of whom are capable of better seasons.

The defense should also be better, despite the loss of Allan Rourke, with puck-movers Chorney, Hrabal and Wild joining the team, Bisaillon returning from injury, and continued improvement from Theo Peckham and Bryan Young.

If Devan Dubnyk can survive as a starter, this should be a decent team. Also, I've heard nothing but good things about their new coach, Jeff Truitt.

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