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.