Well, here we go again. It's opening day on the road in Ann Arbor Saturday against the Team USA NTDP U18 squad. If this sounds familiar we opened on the road against them last season. This is where the similarities end. Last season we had a lot of issues going into opening weekend, an extremely inexperienced defense, starting a back-up goalie who we had already rode the entire preseason, not to mention the distraction of waiting to know if Nathan Walker was returning. This year we have a couple returning defensman as well as another USHL veteran we traded for. This year we have two goalies competing for the starter role. And believe me, there is no questions on who is going to fill the net this season as we have a plethora of talented forwards. The only question, in my mind, is which team is more prepared heading into the gate. We only played two games all preseason and a scrimmage against a NAHL team. The U18 team played 4 USHL preseason games plus most of them have played with each other since last season. I think this is definately and advantage for the NTDP.

Well, the official final roster has finally been released and I managed to get the it and the affiliate list updated, sort of. I'll update official jersy number, height and weight later. I also plan on adding college commitments. I'm still a little confused, traditionally the rosters are 23 man and I'm showing 24 from the Phantoms. The USHL lists show Lukas Craggs as an affiliate and not on the full roster. That confusion aside, we now know who's going to be in Ann Arbor on Saturday.

I guess I'll start with the people who won't be with the team. The biggest surprise, Zach Evancho did not make the final cut. I thought Evancho looked to have improved, especially on the PK. But this is probably the most competitive group of forwards that coach Noreen has ever had to cut from. He was picked by the Lone Star Brahmas of the NAHL in their 2014 draft, that's a very likely landing point for him. After playing 108 regular season games for my favorite team I wish him the best of luck and really hope he finds a new spot quickly. Also cut were forward Ludvig Larsson and defenseman Chris MacMillian. I thought Larsson, the brother of former Phantom captain Alfred, had a good chance. He played some smart hockey and had good vision. MacMillian was a large, aggressive blueliner I thought could have made an impact (literally) as well. Both shouldn't have much trouble finding a slot somewhere. Both were import players. Also not finding a spot was '94 defensman Alex Carle who made the roster last season but fell to injury early in the season. I can only suspect he wasn't ready to play yet.

We all know the story from last year. Sean Romeo was supposed to backstop the Phantoms to the playoffs and a shot at the championship. After his play in 12-13, who would have thought otherwise? But a groin injury knocked him out of the lineup for preseason and for a good portion of the 13-14 campaign. Even when he was in the lineup, he rarely looked 100%. Jake Moore would be called upon to bear the entire workload of preseason and most of the beginning of the regular season. An almost all rookie defense led to Moore getting battered and bruised and eventually yielding his duties to Colin DeAugustine, who proved he both could and should play in the USHL. Now Romeo has moved on and there is a gap to fill, so will DeAugustine automatically be the guy?

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