Ahoy, Mateys! While the Florida Panthers have been relatively quiet this summer when it comes to making moves with the big-league roster, the franchise has been a lot busier in regards to stocking its new AHL affiliate, the Portland Pirates.
Over the next few days, LBC will give you the skinny on the Portland's probable roster position by position starting with today's look at the goaltenders.
Mike McKenna: The Panthers made a solid move in inking McKenna to hold down the number one spot for the Pirates this season while acting as a mentor to young goalies Sam Brittain and Colin Stevens. The 32-year-old, drafted all the way back in 2002 by Nashville, was Portland's starter last season when the club was affiliated with the Arizona Coyotes, so signing him brings a little bit of continuity with the switch in NHL parent clubs. On top of that, McKenna posted a 27-18-6 record to go along with 7 shutouts and a career-best 2.24 GAA. The veteran keeper will take over from Dan Ellis as Florida's emergency option if either Roberto Luongo or Al Montoya goes down with an injury. McKenna doesn't have the NHL experience that Ellis did (just 22 games), but the longtime AHLer has really honed his game over the last few seasons and looks up to the task.
Sam Brittain: Brittain got off to a bit of a slow start as he embarked on his first pro season with the ECHL's Cincinnati Cyclones. When Ellis took over in Sunrise after the injuries to Luongo and Montoya, the 23-year-old from the University of Denver found himself on the Panthers roster as the backup. Brittain didn't get into any games, but practicing with the Cats seemed to help him take his game up a notch. Brittain was sent down to San Antonio after Brother Louie returned and went 4-2-1 with a sparkling 1.76 GAA. With Ellis cooling off as Luongo's backup at the NHL level, you could make the argument that Brittain (the hot hand at the time) should have opened as the starter in the Rampage's playoff loss to Oklahoma City. Ellis wasn't the reason San Antonio lost, mind you, but the sharper Brittain could have made the difference in what was a closely-contested series, despite the fact the Barons won in three straight. Based on his strong finish to the 2014-15 campaign, Brittain looks ready to be a full-timer in the AHL this year and see substantial playing time as McKenna's backup.
Colin Stevens: Niskayuna, NY native Colin Stevens was signed to an ELC by the Cats after finishing a four-year NCAA run with Union College. Stevens compiled a 53-24-6 regular season record with the Dutchmen. His best season came in his junior year when he went 28-4-2 with a 2.05 GAA to earn ECAC All-Conference First Team honors. Stevens would lead the Dutchmen to their first national Championship later that spring. After signing on with the Panthers, the 22-year-old was assigned to the Rampage, but did not see any game action. Unless Stevens can seriously outshine Brittain in training camp, look for him to start his pro career in the ECHL with the Cyclones.