Season Look Back: Forwards
The Cleveland Monsters 2018-19 campaign began with 12 returning forwards, allowing a mix of players to take the ice. Six skaters made their Cleveland debut throughout the season with many franchise and personal milestones hit - but it was the comradery that made the biggest impact. With a large group of seasoned veterans and up-and-coming rookies, the puzzle pieces all fell together to eventually help push the Monsters to their third ever Calder Cup Playoff appearance.
Most notably among the veterans were Nathan Gerbe and Zac Dalpe. Gerbe began October with a ‘C’ added to his jersey after being named the ninth captain in Monsters franchise history. The 31-year-old returned to Cleveland, filling an open leadership role to guide along newer players. While Gerbe was sidelined with a season-ending injury at the beginning of February, he kept up with captain duties by still attending practices and games to be there with the team.
Dalpe was an obvious presence on the ice, setting several franchise records including most goals in a single season and earning a contract extension through the 2020-21 season. The 10-year AHL pro’s line was a consistent stop for rookies and newer faces with the results translating into improved on-ice games for everyone involved.
Rookies Kole Sherwood and Derek Barach proved to benefit from the leadership and guidance of veteran teammates. Sherwood solidified his position in the Monsters' lineup a few months into the season and finished leading all rookies in goals, points and shots. The 22-year-old earned call ups to the Columbus Blue Jackets, with his NHL debut made on February 16.
Barach was a late addition to the Monsters, signing a PTO in mid-March. The rookie from Mercyhurst University showcased his offensive abilities and consistently found himself on lines with veterans like Dalpe. Barach's addition helped spark the flame that eventually saw Cleveland in the post-season and earned an AHL contract for the 2019-20 season.