Mike Egener's NHL draft class included the likes of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Jeff Carter, Dion Phaneuf and Mike Green. All of them lined up for the shooting-velocity competition at the 2002 CHL Top Prospects game, and none could top the speed of Egener's slap shot.
Except for one player.
"David Liffiton," the Reign defenseman recalled. "He plays in the American (Hockey) League right now."
It's a shame that Egener cannot remember the speed reading churned out by the radar gun that day, back when he was 18 years old. The greater shame for the Reign is that Egener, now 25, has not utilized his slap shot more often this year until recently.
He used his dangerous, low, line-drive shot to score goals in three consecutive games before being blanked by Bakersfield on Sunday. His six goals on the season are already the most Egener has scored at any level.
"Mike's getting a lot of shots; (Friday) night he had five shots on net," Reign coach Karl Taylor said. "You shoot the puck that often, you're going to get opportunities. It's going to hit a body, it's going to go in off someone."
Egener said he never consciously decided to shoot more. But he's probably been helped by additional ice time, along with blue-line partner Andrew Martens, since defenseman Shawn Germain elected to have season ending surgery two weeks ago.
In the six games since - all Reign victories - Egener has three assists to go along with the three goals. "They're just starting to go in now for me," he said. "It's weird how it happens. They all go in at once, you know? I think now maybe you notice a little bit more because they've been going in."
Considering how hard he was shooting seven years ago, it seems odd that Egener would need much practice this season to hone his craft. But, as he noted, "the more you shoot the puck, the better you're going to get at it. That's helped out, the more we've been able to practice."
Taylor also pointed to Egener's newfound confidence.
"He's getting it through, he's getting confidence and guys aren't blocking it," the coach said. "We tell our D-men you've got to get it past the first layer, and then you'll have a successful attempt.
"He's got a really good shot. He can really unleash it."
New (old) role for Voce
Tony Voce shared the team lead with five shots on goal in Saturday's 3-1 victory over the Utah Grizzlies.
Three or four came short-handed - not bad for a player who only began killing penalties in mid-February, a move necessitated by injuries at other positions.
"He's been awesome. He's doing a great job on it," Taylor said. "That's disappointing that I didn't use him sooner because he's really good at it. I should have had him doing it sooner; that's on me. But he's doing a heck of a job."
In fact, the role is nothing new for Voce, who is in his ninth professional season and said he's killed penalties everywhere else he's played.
"I've done it all my career," he said. "It's just playing the angles, then I see a chance to go, I've been going. They're kind of on their toes a little bit, because they're playing offense. ... It's been going good for me. I like it."
Last week was a good one for former Reign forwards Geoff Walker and Dwight King with the AHL's Manchester Monarchs. Each had three points in three games, with Walker posting a goal and two assists and King three assists.
Former Reign defenseman Colten Teubert posted a goal and two assists in four games last week for the Western Hockey League's Regina Pats.
Goaltender Kellen Briggs posted his 19th victory of the season for the Dresdner Eisl wen on Friday, which ranks sixth in the 2nd Bundesliga, the second-best league in Germany. Playing in the same league, defenseman P.J. Atherton picked up assists in back-to-back games for the Hanover Indians.