By ROY LANG III, Journal Sports
Despite temperatures still hovering near 100 degrees, the ice at George’s Pond at Hirsch Coliseum is fresh and ready for another season of Shreveport Mudbugs hockey.
The Mudbugs can protect just 24 players and will carry barely more than that during the 2022-23 season, but more than 80 players will attempt to make that squad when training camp begins Saturday.
Shreveport aims to reboot following a tumultuous 2021-22 campaign. In defense of their 2020 North American Hockey League Robertson Cup, the Mudbugs were forced to climb out of a massive hole just to qualify for the postseason – which they’ve done every year as a developmental junior franchise. However, Shreveport was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.
Now, Jason Campbell and his staff are tasked with replacing roughly half the roster.
One of the newbies with an eye on a Mudbugs sweater is 17-year-old Kason Muscutt, son of general manager Scott Muscutt, the original Mudbug and a former coach of the franchise.
“I don’t look at him like a Muscutt,” Campbell said. “He’s practiced with us a lot in previous years and I’ve seen a lot of development from him just in the past year. He’s been rewarded for all the work he’s put in.”
It would be hard to imagine a better example of the impact made by Shreveport’s hockey franchise over the past two decades than if Kason Muscutt were to make the roster. But marketing isn’t the goal.
“He’s coming in as an undrafted, untendered free agent with a chip on his shoulder,” Campbell said. “He’s going to get a fair look like everybody else.
“There are a lot of different scenarios in play here, but the main thing for him, or any young guy – ‘Am I going to develop enough in the role the team sees me in?’”
In addition to sweeping changes on the ice, Shreveport made one behind the bench, too. Michael Hill, a part of three junior hockey championships during his coaching career, will serve as the Mudbugs’ associate head coach.
“He’s everything I’m not,” Campbell said. “He’s extremely organized. He has a library full of videos and practice plans and drills. He’s young and he has a good eye for the game. He wants to be heavily involved and that’s what he’s going to be.”
Training camp includes practices, scrimmages, and player appearances and runs through Aug. 20. Then, Campbell and his staff will make significant cuts prior to preseason games in North Richland Hills, Texas, and Springfield, Ill.
The 2022-23 opener is slated for Sept. 14 against the Minnesota Wilderness at the NAHL Showcase in Blaine, Minnesota. The first game at The George is set for Sept. 23 against Amarillo.
Contact Roy at RoyLangIII@yahoo.com
Photo by DEREK CONSTANTINO