Pittsburgh Hockey Digest

Hockey's Headwaters

Hockey’s Headwaters: 17 players with local ties make minor-league protected lists

Former Robert Morris forward Daniel Leavens skating with the Wheeling Nailers in 2017. -- JENN HOFFMAN

The protected lists for the 2018-19 for the ECHL and Southern Professional leagues came out last week, and 17 players with local ties had their rights reserved for the 2018-19 season.

In the ECHL, the Allen Americans protected Cheswick defenseman Miles Liberati, the Idaho Steelheads protected right winger Henrik Samuelsson, the son of former Penguins defenseman Ulf Samuelsson, the South Carolina Stingrays retained the rights to center Patrick Gaul and the Tulsa Oilers held onto Butler native and former Michigan State goaltender Eric Hildebrand.

There were also a slew of former Robert Morris Colonials that had their rights retained by ECHL clubs. Adam Brace (’13) was protected by the Reading Royals, despite Brace spending all of the 2017-18 season in Europe. The Royals also retained 2015 defenseman Chase Golightly. Winger Scott Jacklin (’15) and defenseman Tyson Wilson (’16) were reserved by the Brampton Beast. The Manchester Monarchs held on to forward Zac Lynch (’16). The Rapid City Rush locked down their pair of Colonials: defenseman John Rey and winger Daniel Leavens (’17). Former Colonials captain Rob Mann (’17) was retained by the Utah Grizzlies.

All three 2018 alums in the ECHL were playing for the Greenville Swamp Rabbits, and Spencer Dorowicz, Timmy Moore and Robert Powers all had their rights reserved by the North Carolina club, which is an affiliate of the New York Rangers.

Pittsburgh native and defenseman Travis Jake had his rights retained in both leagues: by the Jacksonville Icemen of the ECHL and by the the Fayetteville Marksmen of the SPHL. The other local representative on the SPHL reserve list is Lower Burrell forward Zach Tatrn, who was protected by the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgz.

In the ECHL, the protected lists are just the first step in the offseason process. The clubs must cut down to 20 players and submit season-ending rosters on June 15. Clubs may then begin to re-sign players. Players left unsigned by July 1 can be given a qualifying offer, which will retain their rights for the team throughout the season in most instances. Each team can make eight qualifying offers.

In the SPHL, a position on the protected list means that club retains the player’s rights throughout the upcoming season.


Pittsburgh native Parker Milner has signed on for another season at the American Hockey League level. The 27-year-old netminder signed a one-year contract extension with the Hershey Bears, the top minor-league affiliate of the Washington Capitals.

Milner has spent each of the last two seasons in the Capitals’ organization, splitting time between Hershey and South Carolina in the ECHL. In 2017-18, he played in six AHL games with a 3.81 goals-against average and an .865 save percentage. In 38 ECHL games, he posted a 1.86 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage.


Former Pittsburgh Hornets right winger Cody Freeman will have a third European home in as many seasons in 2018-19. The Canisius College alum has signed to play for Chamonix of the French Ligue Magnus, the top league in that country. He played for Cholet in FFHG Division 1 last season, the top minor league in France.

Freeman spent the 2015-16 season in Germany and played in the 2014-15 season with the Columbus Cottonmouths of the SPHL. Last season in Cholet, he scored 19 goals and recorded 16 assists in 25 games. He led the team in goals and tied for the team lead in points.


For the second consecutive summer, former Robert Morris forward Joe Harcharik will be playing in Australia for the Newcastle Northstars. Harcharik spent the 2017 summer with the Northstars, when he scored 20 goals and 24 assists in 26 games down under before joining his Neumarkt/Egna club in the Alps Hockey League for the 2017-18 regular season.

So far this summer, Harcharik has played nine games and has five goals and three assists.

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