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With the 2012 AHL season rapidly approaching, it's time to start looking at the roster in Rochester, and today we start in net.
The Rochester Americans season is set to open this Friday at the Blue Cross Blue Shield Arena against the Syracuse Crunch. With that in mind, let's take a look at the yet-unsettled goaltending situation that's brewing down the I-90.
The Amerks have a definitive starting netminder in returning hero David Leggio. Leggio was voted team MVP by the Amerks last season, and helped spark a second half run with a nice hot streak of his own. However, Leggio seems like more of a career AHL goalie than the future hope in Buffalo; he's not athletic enough to make the incredible save and he doesn't have the prototypical size for an NHLer at just 6'0'' tall. Nevertheless, he's the clear #1 in Rochester for the foreseeable future, especially considering that his main competition comes from two rookies.
Connor Knapp is a massive rookie hailing from Miami University. At 6'5''. 215lbs, Knapp looks more like a linebacker than a goalie, but that big frame is his biggest weapon. The 2009 sixth rounder still needs to improve on his quickness - as you could imagine a 215lbs netminder would - but working with Predator goalie coach Mitch Korn over the past few summers can't hurt, as Pekka Rinne will attest. I would anticipate Knapp being named the #2, at least to start the season.
Which would leave Nathan Lieuwen as the odd man out. Lieuwen is another large prospect, standing 6'5'' and 195lbs, and has played the last few seasons for the Kootenay Ice of the WHL. He's got good technique and major junior experience, so I wouldn't surprised to see the Amerks choose him over Knapp, but if Lieuwen does get sent to the ECHL, it just means more playing time for the 2011 sixth round choice.
Whichever rookie he Amerks choose, he'll serve as the backup to Leggio barring an immediate collapse. Ryan Miller's contract only lasts for a few more years - might one of these rookies be the heir to the blue and gold throne?