Posted: 10/07/2009 10:07:29 PM PDT
ONTARIO - David Walker, Andrew Martens, Shawn Germain, Chad Starling and Dan Knapp took the easy route to a contract with the Reign: they played well enough here last year to be asked back.
If all five survive the training camp cuts as expected, the Reign's defense will have a familiar look.
"We're happy to get the guys back," coach Karl Taylor said, "and the three new guys we've added we're extremely pleased with so far."
Among the newcomers, Mike Egener took the longest road to get here. At 6-foot-4 and 216 pounds, the 25-year-old looks bigger and stronger - and carries a harder shot - than a typical ECHL defenseman.
That's because he isn't one.
Drafted in the second round, 34th overall, in 2003 by the Tampa Bay Lightning, Egener is here to resurrect a hockey career he voluntarily put on the shelf a year ago. After splitting the 2007-08 season between the American Hockey League and ECHL, he landed in training camp with the Boston Bruins.
But following his demotion to the Bruins' AHL camp in Providence, R.I., Egener found he simply wasn't enjoying the game any more.
"I needed to step away," he said. "That allowed me to really evaluate things and let me appreciate hockey."
After playing 27 games in Sweden for a handful of teams, Egener is trying to work his way up the ranks in North America.
As for his game, he called himself "a mobile defenseman that can make a good first pass and bring some defensive awareness."
Egener's offensive awareness could be critical to a team that doesn't have two prototypical power play-quarterback types.
There's one, Martens, who led all Reign blueliners last season in assists (24) and points (31) despite a pair of midseason AHL call-ups.
Should Martens find himself back in Manitoba - where he spent training camp - or any other AHL city, the offensive burden will be spread out.
Newcomer Cameron Cepek was the second-leading scorer for the WHL's Prince George Cougars last season, with eight goals and 45 points in 69games. A native of Huntington Beach, Cepek was selected in the seventh round of the 2007 draft by the Montreal Canadiens.
Among the returners, Germain posted three goals in seven playoff games last year, Knapp gained some experience on the power play, while the veteran Walker set career highs with seven goals and 28 points.
Newcomer Brian Kilburg (6-3, 215) and the veteran Starling (6-6, 220) project as pure defensive-oriented defenders with size.
The Reign were at their best in their own zone last season, helping the team claim the Pacific Division crown despite scoring the fewest goals in the ECHL. By bringing back five of them, Taylor gave a vote of confidence that his defensemen can do it again.
"We're still going to be known as a defensive team," he said.
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