Fuel season in review: The forwards

This is one of a series of stories about the Indy Fuel’s 2016-17 season. 

As the Indy Fuel finish the 2016-17 season, it’s time to look back at the players who finished the year with the team and look ahead to 2017-18. A reminder that all ECHL players are on one-year contracts. Players who are veterans have the option to become free agents over the summer. Up to eight non-veterans can be tendered and the Fuel can retain their rights for one year. All players on AHL contracts can become free agents as soon as their deals expire. Those on NHL contracts are a bit more complex, as their free agency status is governed by the NHL’s CBA. Three forwards – Michael Neal, Kenny Ryan and Josh Shalla – enter the offseason with veteran status, as does defenseman Zach Miskovic.

Nick Bligh

  • Contract: ECHL (Fuel)
  • 2017-18 status: Tweener (41 ECHL games, 1 pro season)
  • 2016-17 stats: 28GP, 12-10-22, 2 PIM with Fuel; 41GP, 15-13-28, 4 PIM overall
  • Another February acquisition, Bligh slotted into the Fuel lineup and his high-energy play made a big impact, as he scored at nearly a point-a-game pace. Bligh came from Adirondack in a trade, and became a strong asset. He gave the Fuel a versatile player who could play center and wing, a hard skater who was a menace on the forecheck, and a player who could finish around the net and make plays. Bligh tallied his first career hat trick on April 4 in a win over Quad City. He had six multi-point games with the Fuel.

Bryn Chyzyk

  • Contract: AHL (Rockford)
  • 2017-18 status: Tweener (30 ECHL games, 2 AHL games, 1 pro season)
  • 2016-17 stats: 30GP, 5-7-12, 12 PIM with Fuel
  • Chyzyk came to the Fuel after a tremendous four-year career at North Dakota that finished with an NCAA championship. His speed was evident and key for the Fuel as he tallied 12 points in 30 games. Chyzyk primarily played wing, but also had success sliding over to center if needed. He split the year between Indy and Rockford, but missed much of the latter part of the season with an injury. He is an AHL free agent this offseason.

Kenton Helgesen

  • Contract: NHL (Chicago)
  • 2017-18 status: Tweener (81 ECHL games, 2 pro seasons)
  • 2016-17 stats: 12GP, 1-9-10, 6 PIM with Fuel; 50GP, 4-19-23, 19 PIM overall
  • Helgesen was assigned to the Fuel after being acquired in a trade by the Chicago Blackhawks at the NHL trading deadline. He provided strong playmaking ability in his 12-game stint in Indy, with 10 points in those games, and also an even +/-, his best production on a point-a-game basis in his junior or pro career. He is a restricted free agent at the end of the season, meaning Chicago has the right to match an offer for him if the Blackhawks choose to tender him. If they do not tender him, he will become an unrestricted free agent.

Woody Hudson

  • Contract: ECHL (Fuel)
  • 2017-18 status: Rookie (11 ECHL games, 1 pro season)
  • 2016-17 stats: 11GP, 1-2-3, 7 PIM with Fuel
  • It took all of one period Woody Hudson to become a fan favorite – or, for those who remembered his two years in Indy with the Indiana Ice, to resume that status. He’s a big, hard-hitting winger who can drop the gloves, play a physical game, but also finish around the net. His boundless energy and joy in playing hockey is also evident. Having been a captain of his junior team, he’s got strong leadership ability that can develop as he becomes a full-time pro. His ability to play that heavy game clears up space for playmakers on his line, which found an offensive groove after his arrival. He came to the Fuel after tallying five points in 33 games for St. Lawrence University this past season. He’ll likely be another priority for the offseason.

Jake Marchment

  • Contract: AHL (San Jose)
  • 2017-18 status: Tweener (58 ECHL games, 4 AHL games, 1 pro season)
  • 2016-17 stats: 12GP, 5-3-8, 9 PIM with Fuel; 58GP, 16-21-37, 40 PIM overall in ECHL.
  • Marchment had a solid rookie year in the ECHL, tallying 29 points with the Allen Americans and eight in 12 games with the Fuel. Again, he was a late-season acquisition who helped give the Fuel three solid scoring lines, coming from the Allen Americans in what essentially was a rights swap for Tyler Barnes, who was under contract to the Fuel’s AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs. He primarily played right wing with the Fuel, but could also play center. Marchment is a big forward at 6-4, 220 who can play a heavy game. As a 21-year-old player, he is one of the younger players in the ECHL and developed nicely. With his size, he’ll likely be someone who could seek another AHL contract next season, but was a good fit in Indy. He is an AHL free agent.

Evan Mosey

  • Contract: AHL (Rockford)
  • 2017-18 status: Tweener (9 ECHL games, 41 AHL games, 137 games in Europe, 4 pro seasons)
  • 2016-17 stats: 9GP, 3-1-4, 6 PIM with Fuel.
  • Mosey saw a handful of stints with the Fuel and provided a steady, versatile game – even playing defense when called upon. He was signed by Rockford in the offseason and spent much of the year with the IceHogs, with nine points in 41 games in the AHL. He brings a bit of a veteran presence to the dressing room, despite this having been his first North American pro season. He is a Chicago-area native, and is an AHL free agent this summer.

Michael Neal

  • Contract: ECHL (Fuel)
  • 2017-18 status: Veteran (421 ECHL games, 22 AHL games, 31 games in Europe, 8 pro seasons)
  • 2016-17 stats: 21GP, 11-12-23, 25 PIM with Fuel.
  • Neal joined the Fuel in February after his season ended in Germany, and immediately became a critical contributor. The veteran produced at a point-a-game pace – the best stretch of his career – and extrapolating his stats over a full season, would score 35 goals. His addition helped the Fuel develop three lines who were a threat to score. His +4 rating also tied for the team lead. A player with size and skill, Neal had a fantastic finish for the Fuel. In his final 12 games for the Fuel, he had 20 points and tallied multi-point games in eight of them, including a trio of three-point outings. Neal is an elite ECHL player who thrived with the Fuel, especially in developing chemistry with Matt Rupert, who also went on a goal-scoring tear at the end of the season. He also set a Fuel record with two shorthanded goals in a March 12 game against Allen, and followed with a hat trick the next week.

Matt Rupert

  • Contract: ECHL (Fuel)
  • 2017-18 status: Tweener (125 ECHL games, 2 AHL games, 3 pro seasons)
  • 2016-17 stats: 72GP, 21-16-37, 59 PIM
  • Signed as a free agent in the offseason, Rupert does everything for the Fuel. Primarily playing right wing on the team’s energy line, he scored 21 goals and was one of three 20-goal scorers on the team. He had been a big scorer in junior – he posted back-to-back 30-goal seasons with the OHL’s London Knights. Coach Bernie John describes Rupert as a player who does a lot of little things the right way, while also heaping praise on the London program for teaching players to do just that. Rupert also was one of the team’s top penalty killers and played in all situations. He’s a great asset in the ECHL – a character guy who can play in all situations, a fierce forechecker who can also score goals. Rupert was the only player to play in all 72 games this season for the Fuel, and earned the respect of his teammates by being named an alternate captain during the year while being one of the team’s youngest players – a 22-year-old second-year pro. Expect re-signing him to be a priority for coach Bernie John in the offseason.

Kenny Ryan

  • Contract: ECHL (Fuel)
  • 2017-18 status: Veteran (78 ECHL games, 247 AHL games, 6 pro seasons)
  • 2016-17 stats: 26GP, 7-13-20, 10PIM with Fuel; 44GP, 13-20-33, 28PIM overall in ECHL.
  • Ryan was another late-season acquisition. who came via trade from Reading. He began the year in Cincinnati and came to the Fuel after a stint in the AHL with San Diego, where he had three points in eight games. He was a solid playmaking center with the Fuel and often centered the team’s top line with Josh Shalla and, at the end of the season, Woody Hudson. Ryan had a hat trick on March 19 against Quad City, and finished the year with points in eight games in a nine-game stretch – with six goals and seven assists in that time. A skilled, speedy playmaker, he again was a solid fit with the Fuel. He filled one of the Fuel’s four veteran spots at the end of the season.

Josh Shalla

  • Contract: ECHL (Fuel)
  • 2017-18 status: Veteran (263 ECHL games, 58 AHL games, 5 pro seasons)
  • 2016-17 stats: 48GP, 22-20-42, 20 PIM with Fuel; 71GP, 32-28-60, 36 PIM overall
  • Acquired in a December trade with Wheeling, Shalla instantly gave the Fuel a dynamic offensive presence and was a big part of their arc from a team that struggled to score goals early in the season to one that found a strong offensive groove late in the year. Shalla particularly shone in the Fuel’s games with Fort Wayne, against whom he tallied a four-goal game in December and registered a point in every contest. He had 11 goals and four assists in eight games against the Komets this season with the Fuel. Coach Bernie John describes him as a scorer and a player with tremendous offensive skills and instincts, and he had a strong impact up front. He had four three-point games (or more) in his 48 games with Indy, and tied Alex Wideman for the team goal-scoring lead. He also became an alternate captain with the squad. He transfers into veteran status this offseason, he’ll be an asset to any ECHL team who signs him, and he enjoys playing in Indy. He could be a strong candidate to fill one of the four veteran spots this year.

Alex Wideman

  • Contract: ECHL (Fuel)
  • 2017-18 status: Tweener (128 ECHL games, 11 AHL games, 3 pro seasons)
  • 2016-17 stats: 70GP, 22-33-55, 26 PIM
  • Wideman was named the team’s MVP for a reason this year. The small, quick forward was a strong playmaker and also a lethal finisher around the net. He led the team in goals (22), assists (33) and set the Fuel’s team record for points in a season with 55. On a points-per-game basis, it was Wideman’s best season – junior, college or pro.  The St. Louis native played in 70 of the 72 games in Indy in his second ECHL season, and his second full season. He played his rookie year on an AHL deal with the Binghamton Senators – where he was a teammate of his brother Chris, who is now a big part of the Ottawa Senators’ defensive corps. Wideman is a dynamic player capable of playing center and wing, and an outstanding player at the ECHL level. Re-signing him will likely be a priority for Bernie John this offseason.

Paul Zanette

  • Contract: ECHL (Fuel)
  • 2017-18 status: Tweener (78 ECHL games, 20 AHL games, 153 games in Europe, 6 pro seasons)
  • 2016-17 stats: 19GP, 3-6-9, 0PIM with Fuel; 52GP, 12-17-29, 16PIM overall
  • Zanette returned to the ECHL after playing five seasons in Europe, and ended up returning to the Blackhawks system after a midseason trade with Greenville. A playmaker, he often centered the Fuel’s second scoring line with Alex Wideman on his left wing and tallied nine points in 19 games. Zanette’s time with the Fuel was limited a bit with injuries, but his experience and ability was evident. The 2017-18 year will likely be his last season before becoming a veteran.

Other players

Austin Hervey

  • Another Indiana Ice alum to join the Fuel, Hervey joined the team after a solid senior season at Adrian College, where he had 14 points in 28 games. He had a goal and an assist in five games for the Fuel, with his high-energy forechecking game fitting well into the pro ranks. He was released on the last day of the season due to his status as a player on an amateur tryout offer, but played very well in his tryout and could be a future option.

Filip Rydstrom

  • The big, physical forward from Sweden played in two games with the Fuel late in the year, and had two assists in a win over Quad City on April 4. He signed an amateur tryout offer, leaving the USHL’s Omaha Lancers to do so. He was released on the last day of the year due to his ATO status, and becomes a free agent, but he played well in his tryout and could be an option for the future.

Kevin Lynch

  • Lynch had 11 goals and 24 points in 35 games with the Fuel and was one of their major offseason acquisitions. He left the team in mid-year to sign an AHL contract with the Syracuse Crunch, and played well there with 18 points in 37 games. Lynch will become a veteran this offseason, and will assuredly have a home in either the ECHL or AHL. He was an alternate captain with the Fuel and one of their top players before moving on to Syracuse.

Cody Sharib

  • Sharib played just three games with the Fuel this season, suffering an upper body injury in the preseason and re-injuring it upon his return in November. He was unable to return to the lineup afterwards. His absence was felt early in the season, as he brings a skill set that’s unique in the ECHL – a power forward who can score 25 goals a season.

 

Ryan Keller

  • Keller played part of his rookie season with the Fuel and had six points in 35 games. He had a strong stretch in December, but was waived in the late season as the Fuel began to develop forward depth. He returned to the Peoria Rivermen of the SPHL, for whom he started the year. He had 13 points in 19 games with Peoria.