Because the ECHL is primarily a developmental league with just four veterans allowed on the active roster, rookies play a key role. They also help with the salary cap as teams can sign great players at a low cost. The maximum rookie salary for 2020-21 per the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is $575 per week.

 

– Here are some examples of rookie contributions from the shortened 2019-20 ECHL season:

3 of the top 4 goalies in save percentage were rookies

4 of the top 11 in scoring by defensemen were rookies

3 of the top 8 in points per game (minimum 20 games) were rookies

 

– These rookies led all players in 2019-20:
 
#1 – Assists (44), Tyler Sheehy, Allen 
#1 – PIMS (164), Kyle Haas, Fort Wayne 
#1 – Power play goals (11), Tyler Coulter, Rapid City 
#1 – Shooting % (30%), Gregor MacLeod, Toledo 
#1 – Save % (.932), Billy Christopoulos, Toledo
 
 
 
– Here are stats from 2018-19:
 
29 of the top 100 scorers were rookies
6 of the top 13 in scoring by defensemen were rookies
6 of the top 15 goalies in save percentage were rookies
 
 
– Allen has had its share of great rookie seasons. None better than last season when Tyler Sheehy led the Americans with 70 points (15 more than any other player). Tyler tied with Alex Breton for the league lead in assists (44), was #3 in points (70), and #1 in points per game (1.49). For his effort Sheehy was named the ECHL Rookie of the Year and finished runner-up as the ECHL MVP. Tyler recently re-signed with the Iowa Wild (AHL). Given the AHL is not starting their season until February 5, there is a chance Sheehy will be assigned to Allen to begin the season.
 
 
– Alex Lavoie just signed with Allen after spending the last four seasons playing in Europe. When Alex played for Allen as a rookie in 2013-14 he led the Americans in scoring with 76 points (25G, 51A) and was the CHL Rookie of the Year. Another rookie in 2013-14, Spencer Asuchak, finished #3 on that team in scoring with 56 points (21G, 35A). It was the season the Americans won their second CHL championship. 
 
 
– I want to highlight three Allen rookies coach Martinson has signed for the 2020-21 season, Jared Bethune, Zane Franklin and Nolan Kneen.  
 
 
 
Jared Bethune

 

 
JARED BETHUNE – Jared is a rookie even though he played for Allen in 2017-18 after he finished his junior career and before he started his college career. A rookie as defined by the ECHL CBA is less than 25 pro games. Bethune’s road to Allen for the 2020-21 season is a long and winding one. He was born and raised in Fort Frances, Ontario, and moved to Warroad, Minnesota at the beginning of the eighth grade. Warroad is a small town of less than 2000 on the Canadian border that is a legendary hockey town. T. J. Oshie of the NHL Washington Capitols played high school hockey in Warroad. Bethune was a star in Warroad, scoring 84 points (31G, 53A) and was +87 as a junior and committed to play hockey at the University of Minnesota – Duluth (UMD). However, he walked away from his last year of high school and commitment to UMD to play junior hockey in Canada in the Western Hockey League (WHL). The first year in the WHL as a 17 year old didn’t go as expected as going from high school to Canadian junior hockey is a difficult transition. He ended the season with 20 points (6G, 14A) in 61 games and had a plus/minus of -23. He went from a sure NHL draft choice prior to the season to being undrafted. Always known as a hard worker, Jared improved every year in the WHL and by his final season he scored 69 points (21G, 48A) to lead his team. After finishing his junior career in 2017-18 Bethune signed an amateur tryout contract with Allen and played in nine regular season games and seven playoff games scoring six points (1G, 5A). After the season Jared decided to go to college and has played the last two seasons for Queens University. In his first year at Queens University (2018-19) the team won their first Ontario University Association championship in 38 years.
 
What Allen will get from Jared Bethune is a bigger, stronger and more mature version of what they saw in 2017-18. A 23 year old power forward that is 20 pounds heavier (205) than when he last played in Allen. A guy who is willing to go into the corners to create opportunities for his linemates who also has the ability to score himself.


Check out this video from a skills competition when Bethune was 10:

 
 
 
 
 

 

Zane Franklin

 

 
ZANE FRANKLIN – Franklin is another small town guy growing up in Marwayne, Alberta, an agricultural and ranching community of about 600 just 13 miles from the western border of Saskatchewan. He started playing hockey when he was four because as he says it, “There wasn’t a lot else to do.” Zane is another of a long line of Western Hockey League players Steve Martinson has recruited over the years. Franklin is a combination of elite scorer, gritty player and leader. At 5’9″ 200 pounds his skill and grit made him the most popular player on his team. One quote I saw about him was, “Franklin is a pain-in-the-ass player that every team in the league would love to have.” He was also the captain of his team (Kamloops Blazers) last season. 
 
Zane has always been an offensive weapon. As a 15 year old (2013-14) he had 89 points (47G, 42A) in just 27 games. In 2019-20, his final WHL season, he finished tops on his team and #4 in the league in scoring with 91 points (29G, 62A) in 63 games. 
 
If there is a player from the Allen Americans past that the 21 year old Franklin may remind you of a little bit, based on his style of play, it would be Darryl Bootland. 
 
Here is a Zane Franklin highlight reel:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Nolan Kneen
 
NOLAN KNEEN – The third rookie Steve Martinson has signed is another WHL product. Kneen is 21 years old and stands 5′ 11″ and 180 pounds. The right shot defenseman played in 310 games in his WHL career and totaled 139 points (28G, 111A). He was an alternate captain of his team (Saskatoon Blades) last season and is the type of defensman Steve Martinson recruits from the WHL. A physical player who is hard to play against, has offensive skill and can jump into the play. His Saskatoon coach describes Nolan this way, “He is a throwback, he is physical, he gets in a tussle here and there, he provides offense for our group and he has been good in the dressing room.” 
 
Here is a video of Kneen from a few years ago that covers where he is from and how he plays. They refer to pressure of being a high draft choice. Nolan was drafted #3 overall in the 2014 WHL Bantam draft by the Kamloops Blazers. He played for Kamloops for four season before being traded to Saskatoon in 2018-19. 
 

 

– So there you have some info on the Allen rookies. Here are a few other tidbits about the group. 
 
– The “K” in Kneen is silent
– Franklin and Kneen were teammates in Kamloops for part of the 2018-19 season.
– Bethune’s coach in Prince George (WHL) for two seasons was former Allen assistant coach Richard Matvichuk.
– Nolan Kneen’s grandfather (Brett Kneen) played Junior A in the 1960’s and was drafted by the New York Rangers.
– Jared Bethune is a member of the Couchiching First Nation
– Zane Franklin cleaned up when his team (Kamloops Blazers) announced its team awards after the season was canceled because of COVID-19. The Blazers captain won awards for inspirational leadership and ability, best plus/minus, top scorer, three stars and shared the MVP award.
 
 
 
 
There will most likely be more than three rookies play for Allen this season. The Iowa Wild have several rookies on their roster who could see time in Allen. It is unknown with the AHL not scheduled to start playing until February 5 what arrangements will be made for sending NHL/AHL contracted players to ECHL teams. With the ECHL starting play before the higher leagues there are cost and other issues that may limit how many players are assigned to ECHL teams. Some of the rookies on the Iowa Wild roster include the following names which could see time in Allen at some point in the 2020-21 season. The type of contract these rookies have signed could impact the likelihood they get assigned to Allen.
 
Kameron Kielly, Forward – two way AHL/ECHL contract
Phil Beaulieu, Defenseman – two way AHL/ECHL contract
Josh Maser, Forward – one way AHL contract
Hunter Jones, Goalie – NHL entry level contract
 
 
 
DID YOU KNOW: Here is the top scoring rookie for each season since the Allen Americans joined the ECHL:
 
2019-20:  Tyler Sheehy, 70 points
2018-19: Braylon Shmyr, 44 points
2017-18: J.C. Campagna, 35 points
2016-17: Jake Marchment, 29 points
2015-16: *Eric Roy, 30 points
2014-15: *Justin Baker, 39 points 
 
*Defenseman