The Toledo Walleye officially have set their roster for the Kelly Cup playoffs.
The team will have 22 players on the postseason roster, when the ECHL playoffs start Friday. The Walleye, who will face the Indy Fuel in the first round, will start the postseason with 12 forwards, eight defensemen, and two goaltenders.
“I like our team a lot right now,” Watson said. “There's going to be tough sit-outs. There will be guys that deserve to be in this lineup that are not in the lineup. They don't deserve to be sitting out. They deserve to be playing. But that is what happens when you are part of a very good team with a lot of depth. That is why I think we can go on a good run here.
“We have a good mix of everything.”
Toledo claimed the top seed in the Western Conference and earned home-ice advantage through the first three rounds of the playoffs by capturing the Central Division and conference regular-season titles.
The Walleye (50-17-5) and Fuel (36-30-6) will square off in Game 1 of the best-of-7 series at 7:35 p.m. Friday at the Huntington Center.
The forwards on the Walleye's active roster are Kyle Bonis, Connor Crisp, Austen Brassard, Tyler Barnes, Christian Hilbrich, Shane Berschbach, Dylan Sadowy, Colin Jacobs, Mike Borkowski, Charlie O’Connor, Mike Embach, and A.J. Jenks.
Pat Nagle and Angus Redmond will be the team's goaltenders in the postseason.
The list also includes eight defensemen: Simon Denis, Kevin Lohan, Trevor Hamilton, Jared Wilson, Ryan Obuchowski, Kevin Tansey, Beau Schmitz, and Patrick McCarron.
But only 10 forwards, six defensemen, and a goalie will start in each game in the playoffs.
Bonis, who ranks second on the team in scoring with 51 points in 67 games, said Watson's difficult decision on which players to sit bodes well for the potential for a deep playoff run.
“It speaks to what we have here,” Bonis said. “The guys that will sit out don't deserve to sit out. There is not one guy who won't work as hard as possible in practice. We will need every single person in that room and we're ready for that.”
Defenseman Parker Reno is on the injured reserve list and is not eligible for the playoffs. Defenseman Kevin Gibson also has been released.
The most notable absence from the roster is captain Alden Hirschfeld, who suffered a knee injury early in November and will not play again this season.
Three players who currently are with Toledo's American Hockey League affiliate in Grand Rapids also are listed on the playoff eligible list. Forwards Zach Nastasiuk and Luke Esposito as well as defenseman Vili Saarijarvi could join the team later in the playoffs, although Nastasiuk is the only one who likely would rejoin the team.
“There is one available spot,” Watson said.
Rookie goaltender Matej Machovsky, who played in 21 games for the Walleye before a promotion to Grand Rapids, is not on the eligible list. Watson said Machovsky requested to be left off the list. Machovsky, who is from the Czech Republic, went 11-9-1 with a 2.03 goals-against average with the Walleye.
“He requested not to be on it through Grand Rapids,” Watson said. “He is either going to stay there as a third [goaltender] or go home. It's his right. It's his personal thing. I don't know what he has going on contract-wise. I don't know if he's signing back home. So we left him off the list.”
Machovsky had signed a one-year contract with the Detroit Red Wings and likely will sign with a team from his home country next year.
Machovsky's last appearance at the Huntington Center came in a memorable game Feb. 10 against Kansas City. A melee broke out and Machovsky squared off in a fight with Mavericks goalie Mason McDonald. Machovsky played two more games for Toledo on the road and lost both.
Watson said he is more than comfortable moving ahead with Nagle and Redmond. Nagle led the ECHL in wins with 37, one shy of a league record.
“We have two good goaltenders and Nagle is our guy,” Watson said. “He's our No. 1 and we will roll with him.”
ECHL rules mandate that every roster must consist of a maximum of 23 players with a 20-man active roster and a three-man reserve list. The team will be required to move two players from the active roster to the reserve list before Friday's first game.
Toledo's roster will include seven players that have played in the higher-level American Hockey League this season. Sadowy, Borkowski, and McCarron have all played for the Walleye's affiliate in Grand Rapids, while Denis (Hartford), Barnes (Cleveland), Hilbrich (Chicago), and Bonis (Iowa) also spent time in the AHL this season.
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