BY MIKE MASTOVICH
Add two players. Subtract two prospects.
The Johnstown Chiefs bolstered their defense via two trades this week, but now must fill a void after two highly-touted prospects declined to report following assignments by the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning.
“We lost two real good forwards,” said Chiefs coach Frank Anzalone, who currently has 16 players for Saturday’s opening of training camp. “Right now we only have eight forwards. But we’ve picked up two defensemen and we’re at six defensemen right now.”
The new defensemen are Bryan Nathe, acquired from Dayton for financial considerations on Tuesday, and Andrew Martens, obtained from Florida for financial considerations on Thursday.
The no-shows are 118-point scorer David Desharnais, who will return to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League as an overage player, and Kelly Czuy, a free agent who signed with the ECHL’s Las Vegas Wranglers.
Neither player was property of the Lightning, though both had attended AHL training camp in Springfield, Mass., and were assigned to Johnstown after failing to stick with the Falcons.
Desharnais ranked third in scoring on the Chicoutimi Sagueneens last season, 12 points behind 130-point man Maxime Boisclair, another Lightning prospect assigned to Johnstown. The 5-foot-7, 177-pound Desharnais had 78 goals and 178 assists in 201 games overall with Chicoutimi.
Czuy played at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks and briefly with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose.
“I don’t know what to say about it,” Anzalone said. “It’s disappointing because Tampa invested a lot of time, effort and probably money into both players. They were very loyal to them. At the end of the day, how can you turn your back? Some kids do. Some agents do. It’s something that probably would be better if you do this on Aug. 10, not Oct. 5.”
Nathe, 23, played the past two seasons with Dayton. He had two goals and 17 points last year and six points in 2004-05.
“Nathe wanted a change of scenery,” Anzalone said. “He’s coming and we’re hopeful he’ll have a good year. We’ve been able to upgrade a little at that position. We’ve been assigned four defensemen by Tampa. We’re trying to make our team as good as it can be.”
Martens, 25, played NCAA hockey with Bemidji State University, scoring 11 goals and 40 points in 101 games. He appeared in five regular season games for the ECHL’s Greenville Grrrowl, registering an assist, and played six postseason games, with one assist.
“Martens went to the Florida Panthers rookie camp and played pretty decent,” Anzalone said. “The Florida Everblades (Panthers’ affiliate) in our league have an overload of players. His agent made it a point to (NHL) Florida that he wants him to have a place to play. We feel we have a good player who wants to come here.”