Ian Clark's On Hockey: Monarchs' roster takes shape
Andrei Loktionov of the Los Angeles Kings is shown during the first practice of the season for the Manchester Monarchs. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)
After helping the Los Angeles Kings win the Stanley Cup, a trip back to Manchester wasn't exactly what a trio of players had in mind.
But with the NHL locked out, Jordan Nolan, Andrei Loktionov and Slava Voynov were assigned to the AHL affiliate in Manchester. Just wanting to play hockey, Nolan and Loktionov arrived in town this past week to report to Monarchs training camp. Voynov, however, did not and his status remains a mystery.
It was rumored that Loktionov might opt to go play back home in the KHL in Russia and that could be where Voynov ends up. But for now, the 22-year-old Loktionov, who played in 39 NHL regular season games and two playoff games, is here and he wants to play hockey.
“Here, I just I need to play my best game,” Loktionov said. “I played 30 games. I think it's good for me to take it step-by-step, one game, then 20 games, then 40 games. Hopefully I will play this year a full season.”
Nolan echoed Loktionov's thoughts about playing as well as he can in Manchester in an effort to be ready when the NHL gets back to the ice.
“Hopefully, the lockout isn't too long and I'm playing well and things work out. I'm just looking to play the best hockey I can down here and not worry about the lockout,” Nolan said. “I'm excited to be here and excited to be able to play this season. I'm looking forward to helping the team out.”
Nolan logged 26 regular season games last year and came on strong in the postseason, playing in 20 playoff games with a goal and assist. But despite the experience of winning a Stanley Cup, Nolan shrugged off any thoughts of taking on a leadership role in Manchester.
“We have our leaders back from last year. I'm just looking to help out any way possible. It's good for me,” Nolan said. “I only played 46 total games in the NHL so it's not like I'm a seasoned veteran up there or anything.”
Modesty aside, Nolan's name will be engraved on the Stanley Cup and he got to spend a special day with the prized possession in his hometown of Garden River, Ontario, a First Nation community.
“It pretty special to bring it back to our community. We're a big hockey community,” Nolan said. “There were about a thousand people there and everyone was excited to see the Cup. We had a parade and pictures and autographs for a few hours. We had a good time and enjoyed the day and it's something I'll never forget.”
Though his name won't be engraved on the Cup (due to number of games played), Loktionov did get to experience a similar day in his hometown of Voskresensk, near Moscow.
“It was a big party in my city,” Loktionov said. “Probably a couple thousand came out to see the Cup, touch the Cup, get pictures with the Cup.”
Not a bad way to spend the summer. But it's back to work now as the Monarchs will play three exhibition games next weekend (starting Friday at St. Anselm against Bridgeport at 6 p.m.) and open the season Oct. 12 at Providence.
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ROSTER NOTES: The Monarchs have added a couple of players for insurance purposes, at least for now. Defenseman Mike Matczak and goalie Peter Mannino are on the training camp roster.
The Monarchs are thin right now at defensemen with Voynov not reporting. The makeup of the blue line should be a strong point of the team with veteran leaders like Thomas Hickey and Andrew Campbell, experienced players like David Kolomatis and Andrew Bodnarchuk and rising stars Jake Muzzin and Nick Deslauriers.
“Everyone is kind of waiting to see what happens with Slava, whether or not he shows up,” Campbell said. “But with or without him, we're very deep. A lot of experience and a lot of guys who know what to do at this level. It will definitely be a strength of our team.”
Matczak played at Yale and logged four games with Adirondack in the AHL two season ago. He played 61 games with Kalamazoo in the ECHL last year, scoring 11 goals and 24 assists.
Mannino, meanwhile, bounced around last season, playing with Portland and St. John's in the AHL, one period with Winnipeg in the NHL and 22 games with Chicago in the ECHL.
Martin Jones is the clear No. 1 in goal in Manchester and J.F. Berube is expected to be the backup, but questions remain as to whether or not he is ready for the AHL. Mannino adds an insurance policy in case Berube needs more ECHL seasoning.
Ian Clark covers pro hockey for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.