Tri-City Americans

Americans excited about newcomers

KENNEWICK -- The Tri-City Americans have a good mix and veterans and fresh faces on the ice this season, and coach Jim Hiller will get a good look at the team as a whole this weekend at the Everett Tournament.

"This is always the most optimistic time of the year," Hiller said. "As a group of coaches, we are extremely pleased, not only with the veterans, but with the young guys who will come in and play an important role with the team."

Tri-City will play Everett at 7 p.m. today and Portland at 3 p.m. Saturday. All games are at Comcast Arena.

The Americans have two new faces in goal in Ty Rimmer and rookie Eric Comrie, new blood on the blue line and two European players -- dynamic Swedish forward Malte Stromwall and Czech defenseman Michal Plutnar -- after having none after the overage deadline last year.

"I haven't thought a lot about them, but I'm comfortable with them," Hiller said of his goalies. "Goaltending is funny, it can go up and down with the quality of chances the see. We know them as players and the skills they have. Both are good athletes and are fully committed."

Rimmer, who came over in a trade with Prince George that sent overage goaltender Drew Owsley to the Cougars, said the Americans are a good fit for him.

"It has been great so far," said Rimmer, who also has played for the Brandon Wheat Kings. "It's a new experience and the guys have been welcoming. I've been in a couple of other organizations and this is the best run one. I'm happy to be here."

A native of Edmonton, Alberta, Rimmer knows great things are expected of himself and Comrie to continue the quality of goaltending that has been established by the likes of Olie Kolzig, Brian Boucher, Tyler Weiman, Carey Price, Chet Pickard and Owsley.

"It's a great honor that the organization has chosen me to be part of the goalie history here," Rimmer said. "I'm looking forward to showing what I can do."

The Americans picked up Strmwall and Plutnar in the 2011 CHL import draft. After a week of practice, Hiller likes what he sees.

"Speed, skill and tenacity, Malte embodies all three of those," Hiller said. "How long it will take to adjust to a different style of play is to be seen. Michal is the surprise of the camp. He has adjusted real quick. They are both only 17, and to have both the quality they are, they aren't just one-year guys."

Stromwall, from Lulea, a coastal town in northeast Sweden, has been paired on a line with veterans Adam Hughesman and Brendan Shinnimin.

"He's a great kid," Shinnimin said. "He is a skilled player with a great set of hands. He will benefit us pretty well. Even though he is a smaller player, Malte makes up for it with his skill. Watching scrimmage, he has undressed a few guys. He's a real eye opener."

Strmwall said he was nervous the day before he came to the United States, but now he's just excited to be here and play hockey.

"I am proud to be here," Stromwall said. "They take good care of me. I like the weather, it is very warm."

He also likes his teammates and is ready to add his skills to the top line.

"They (Shinnimin and Hughesman) are very skilled players," Stromwall said. "I can use my speed to score and I can make some nice passes."

Defensively, the Americans added Plutnar, 2009 bantam draft picks Justin Hamonic and Riley Guenther, and picked up Mitch Topping in a trade with Victoria.

"We were really uncertain when the season finished what we would look like come September," Hiller said. "(General manager) Bob (Tory) has done an excellent job restocking with a mix of young guys and experience. It is the most competitive position right now."

A bonus player for the Americans this season is forward Mackenzie Royer, who Tory picked up as a free agent after Moose Jaw dropped him from their list.

Royer, 19, played two-plus seasons for the Calgary Hitmen and a handful of games in Moose Jaw before he was sent down to Camrose (Junior A).

"That was hard," Royer said. "It made me think a lot about my future in hockey. I told Bob I'd come down here and work my hardest. He told me they needed a guy to fit a certain role. We will see how I fit in at the end of the Everett Tournament.

"This is a winning team with a lot of experience. I think this team can go far and I'd like to be a part of that."