New Season, New Faces for Monsters

The start of the 2016-17 season brought a slew of new faces to Cleveland. Twelve new faces, to be exact.

One of the new faces to the Monsters, Scott Harrington, was recalled by the Blue Jackets after the second game of the season, while goaltender, Michael Houser, was sent down to the ECHL affiliate, the Cincinnati Cyclones.

For a few players, Cleveland is a familiar place to play.

I’ve played here for several years now and got to know some of the home team fans. They probably heckled me when I was on the other team.

  • Aaron Palushaj – Cleveland Monsters’ Forward

Some players are in Cleveland to get their pro careers started. Others are in Cleveland to train and get in shape to make it back to the big show.

Scott Harrington came down to get into game shape before he can get in up there. He came down here to see if he fits into our group. That says something about what kind of pro he is.

  • Ryan Craig – Cleveland Monsters’ Captain

Whether it be moxie, spunk, finesse, or grit; each new player offers something different to the table.

Joe Pendenza (#2) – Center

Joe Pendenza signed a 25 game PTO with the Cleveland Monsters on October 24, 2016. 

Joe Pendenza NCAA
Joseph Pendenza spoke about the River Hawks’ play at the 2014 Frozen Fenway events.[Photo Credit: Rich Gagnon]

After going undrafted in the 2010 NHL Draft, Pendenza headed to UMass Lowell where he would rack up 49 goals and 61 assists over 152 games. While playing for UMass Lowell, he was named to the Hockey East All-Academic Team (2010-11) and the 2013 Hockey East All-Conference Second Team.

Pendenza would go on to sign a contract with the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL. For the next three seasons, he would bounce between the Admirals and the Cincinnati Cyclones (ECHL).

Blake Siebenaler (#4) – Defense

Blake Siebenaler was drafted 77th overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2014 draft. However, he didn’t sign a contract with the Jackets until June 1st, 2015.

Instead of heading to college, Siebenaler opted to join the Niagra IceDogs of the OHL. His best season was the 2014-15 season where he finished 2nd among IceDogs Defensemen in goals (12), assists (25), and points (37).

Siebenaler is an incredible tape-to-tape passer and a reliable two-way defender.

Keith Aulie (#6) – Defense

Keith Aulie was signed on October 18th, 2016 to a 25-game professional tryout contract. Played in two preseason games with the Jackets this year.

Aulie was let go from his PTO on October 31st, 2016. 

Aulie was drafted in the 4th round of the 2007 draft by the Calgary Flames.

After being drafted Aulie stayed with the Brandon Wheat Kings where for the next two seasons he donned both the “A” and “C” on his chest. He also helped lead the Wheat Kings into the playoffs two years in a row.

Keith Aulie
Keith Aulie. Photo Courtesy Bridget Samuels.

During Aulie’s first season playing for the Flames organization in 2009-10, he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs alongside Dion Phaneuf and Fredrick Sjostrom. He was immediately assigned to the Marlies but obtained an injury which cut his season short.

He stayed with the Marlies until February of 2012, when he was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Over the next three seasons, Aulie played for both AHL teams in the organization (Norfolk Admirals and Syracuse Crunch)and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Over 102 games played, Aulie tallied five goals, 12 assists, and 116 PIM.

During the 2014 Free Agency, Aulie signed a one-year contract with the Edmonton Oilers. Between the Oilers and their AHL affiliate the Oklahoma City Barons, Aulie played in 39 games scoring only 2 assists.

Aulie wasn’t re-signed by the Oilers and accepted a PTO with the Coyotes’ affiliate, the Springfield Falcons. After 7 games he was released from his PTO and headed overseas to play with HIFK of the Finnish Liiga.

In 23 games with HIFK, Aulie scored one goal and four assists.

Aaron Palushaj (#8) – Right Wing

Aaron Palushaj was signed by the Cleveland Monsters to an AHL contract for the 2016-17 season.

Palushaj was drafted by the St. Louis Blues in the 2nd round of the 2007 NHL Draft.

Hailing from Michigan, Palushaj headed to the University of Michigan after being drafted. Over two seasons, Palushaj scored 23 goals and 71 assists in 82 games. During the 2008-09 season, Palushaj scored 50 points, which put him atop the leaderboard for the team and the CCHA.

A year after signing a three-year entry-level contract with the Blues, Palushaj was traded to the Montreal Canadiens. Palushaj only spent a handful of games with the Canadiens over his four seasons in the organization.

During the 2012-13 lock-out, Palushaj signed an AHL contract with the Hamilton Bulldogs to be able to continue to play during the lock-out. Up until a shoulder injury that December Palushaj led the Bulldogs with seven goals in 21 games.

By the time the lock-out ended, Palushaj was fully recovered and ready to get his NHL career going again. After training camp, the Canadiens assigned Palushaj to the Bulldogs. To get there he had to pass through waivers and Colorado scooped him up.

Palushaj played his first game as an Avalanche on February 11, 2013 and was promoted to their scoring line a game later. Even though Palushaj was playing the best hockey of his life, the Avalanche didn’t extend him a qualifying offer at the end of the season.

During 2013 free agent frenzy the Carolina Hurricanes signed Palushaj to a one-year 2-way contract and assigned him to their AHL affiliate the Charlotte Checkers. He would finish the season 3rd on the team in scoring with 22 goals and 36 assists over 68 games.

Palushaj headed to the KHL during the 2014-15 season where he played for Medvescak Zagreb and Avtomobilist Yeaterinburg. Over the course of 53 games played between the two clubs, Palushaj scored seven goals and 14 assists finishing with a +1.

Returning to America for the 2015-16 season, Palushaj signed with the Philadelphia Flyers organization and headed to Lehigh Valley where he scored 28 points over 57 games with the Phantoms.

Sheldon Brookbank (#17) – Defense

Sheldon Brookbank is currently on a PTO contract with the Cleveland Monsters.

Undrafted, Brookbank started his professional career with the Mississippi Sea Wolves of the ECHL and Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL). During the 2001-02 season, he would have a total of 8 goals and 22 assists over 68 games between the two teams.

The next season Brookbank would make a full appearance in the AHL and even have a decent showing in the Calder Cup playoffs with 4 points over 15 games. The Griffins made it to the Western Conference finals that year but were defeated by the Houston Aeros who would go on to win the Calder Cup Championship.

Sheldon Brookbank
(Charles LeClaire-USPRESSWIRE)

At the end of the Griffins’ Calder Cup run, Brookbank signed with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks and was sent directly to their AHL affiliate, the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks, for two seasons. While there he played in 134 games notching three goals and 20 assists.

At the end of the 2004-05 season, Brookbank was not re-signed and a few months later was picked up by the Nashville Predators and assigned to the Milwaukee Admirals.

During his two seasons with the Admirals, Brookbank played some of his best hockey ever. In the 2006-07 season, Brookbank led all defencemen in scoring with 53 points. This strong showing led Brookbank to be honored with the Eddie Shore Award and named to the AHL First-Team All-Star.

For the next seven seasons, he would bounce around the NHL playing for the New Jersey Devils, Anaheim Ducks, and Chicago Blackhawks.

During the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons, Brookbank played abroad in both the KHL and Liiga. He scored 4 goals and 7 assists in 73 games overseas.

Justin Scott (#20) – Center

Justin Scott was signed to a three-year, two-way Entry Level Contract by the Columbus Blue Jackets on April 15, 2016.

He has spent the past four seasons playing for the Barrie Colts of the OHL. In 251 regular season games, Scott notched 69 goals and 78 assists. Only one of those seasons he ended with a negative +/- rating which was during his first season. The Barrie Colts made the playoffs all four season. Scott scored 20 goals and 10 assists over the course of 42 playoff games. Twenty of those points were scored during Barrie’s 2015-16 playoff run where they were beaten by the Niagra IceDogs in the Conference Finals.

Scott is a blue collar player who never quits, never gives up, and never abandons ship. He’s willing to take on any role and do what it takes to make the team succeed.

Jacob Graves (#34) – Defense

At the beginning of July 2016, Jacob Graves was signed to a three-year, two-way Entry Level Contract by the Columbus Blue Jackets. He was assigned to the Cleveland Monsters on October 20th, 2016. 

Graves played in the OHL for five seasons. During those five seasons, he played with four different teams racking up 42 points and 452 penalty minutes. In 2015-16, Graves was an integral part of the London Knights Memorial Cup Championship team where he assisted 10 goals during their playoff run.

Graves is a gritty defenseman who is not afraid to throw down for his teammates. He also is good at setting up goals.

Frank Hora (#55) – Defense

Signed to a 25-game PTO at the beginning of the 2016-17 season.

Before coming to the Monsters, Hora played 3 seasons for the Kitchener Rangers.

He helped lead the Rangers to the playoffs twice and wore the “A” on his sweater during his final season.

In 188 games, Hora scored six goals and 63 assists. He also finished his time in the OHL with a +10 rating.

Jordon Maletta (#64) – Center

Jordan Maletta was signed by the Columbus Blue Jackets on March 21st, 2016 to a three-year, two-way Entry Level Contract.

After not being drafted in the 2013 draft, Maletta put his nose to the grindstone and lit up his final three seasons in the OHL with the Niagra IceDogs scoring 151 points over the course of 195 games. The IceDogs made the playoffs three times during that time frame. Maletta played in 35 playoff games tallying 23 points. The IceDogs made it to the Memorial Cup in 2016 but were swept by the London Knights.

Jordan Maletta
Jordan Maletta of the Niagara IceDogs. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images

At the end of the 15-16 season, Maletta was the second leading scorer on the team with 59 points. He also led the club in game-winning goals (7) and goals (34). Also, named Eastern Conference-best player on the face-off.

Maletta is another player who is moldable and will do what it takes to help the team win. A leader on and off the ice who will take many young guns under his wing and help guide them along the way. Hard accurate shot and strong on the faceoff and penalty kill.

Dante Salituro (#96) – Center

The Columbus Blue Jackets signed Dante Salituro to a three-year, two-way Entry Level Contract on July 1st, 2016.

Salituro spent four years in the OHL playing for the Ottawa 67s where he shined the brightest during the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons. During the 2014-15 season, Salituro tallied 78 points over the course of 68 games and scored 10 points in the first round of the playoffs. He would go on to don the “A” on his sweater for the 2015-16 season. Over 65 games, he scored a whopping 83 points in the forms of 38 goals and 45 assists.

Salituro can easily glide through traffic to create scoring opportunities for him and his teammates. He doesn’t have quite the speed of a guy like Sonny Milano but can skate with the best of them.

Michael Houser – Goaltender

Signed at the beginning of the season by the Monsters to an AHL standard player contract (SPC). After the first two games of the season, Houser has been playing in the ECHL for the Cincinnati Cyclones. 

The Youngstown, Ohio native went undrafted in the 2010 draft.

Played three years in the OHL for the London Knights. The most notable being the 2011-12 season when he was named OHL First Team All-Star, OHL Goaltender of the Year, Red Tilson Trophy, and CHL Memorial Cup All-Star Team. (stats for the three years and the 2011-12 season)

The Florida Panthers took note of Houser’s success and invited him to their training camp in 2012. At the end of camp, the Panthers signed Houser to a 3-year, 2-way Entry Level Contract. Houser spent those years bouncing between the Panthers AHL affiliate, San Antonio Rampage, and the Cincinnati Cyclones (ECHL).

At the beginning of the 2015-16 season, Houser signed an AHL contract with the Ontario Reign.

Scott Harrington – Defense

Played the first two games of the season with the Cleveland Monsters before being called back up to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Scott Harrington was drafted in the second round of the 2011 NHL Entry draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins from the London Knights.

After being drafted, Harrington spent two more seasons with the Knights before being called up to the Penguins AHL affiliate, Wilkes-Barre-Scranton, during their 2012-13 post-season run. He wouldn’t see NHL ice time until the 2014-15 season when he was called up for 10 games during the middle of the season. During this time Harrington didn’t make a strong showing and was sent back down.

On July 1st, 2015 Harrington was involved in the blockbuster trade of the season when Phil Kessel, Tyler Biggs, and Tim Erixon were sent to the Penguins for Kaspari, Scott Harrington, and Nick Spaling.

Due to injuries, Harrington only played 32 games between the Maple Leafs and Marlies. Realizing they needed a bit more depth and a healthier player the Maple Leafs sent Harrington to the Blue Jackets in return for Toronto native Kerby Rychel.

Harrington is a two-way defenseman with excellent leadership skills.

While a lot of the new players come from different walks of life and different teams, they all seem to be fitting together quite well. The chemistry in the locker room is starting to translate onto the ice.

We have great commroderie in the room, from the coaching staff all the way down to the players. We really care for each other in the short period fo time since I’ve been here. I think when we have a group like that it makes it more fun to win and a lot easier to win.

  • Aaron Palushaj – Cleveland Monsters’ Forward

At the end of the day, each of these players are in Cleveland to do one thing and that is to win. As long as they all stay on the same page about winning and how they are going to win, the Monsters will be just fine.

It’s been great. Coach has been great. All the new guys have been awesome. We all want to do the same thing and that’s win.

  • TJ Tynan – Cleveland Monsters’ Assistant Captain