When Augusta Lynx coach Bob Ferguson takes a look at the team's training camp roster, one thing jumps out at him.
"Youth, definitely youth. We're going to be a very inexperienced team to begin with," he said. "We've got a lot of first- and second-year players. That's kind of a good thing and a bad thing.
"There definitely is a lot of new faces."
Ferguson is hoping the next two weeks of camp and the Lynx's three preseason games will go a long way in getting the team ready.
Training camp for Augusta's 10th anniversary season opens today with the team's first on-ice practice session scheduled for 10:30 a.m. at Augusta Ice Sports Center.
"The hockey clock says it's time to get going, so I'm anxious to get started," Ferguson said. "I'll be interested to see what we've got on the ice. I like the make-up of the team on paper, so we'll see."
Only a handful of returners, such as Louis Goulet, Ken Scuderi, Jason Platt and goaltender Nathan Marsters, have more than a couple years of experience. They'll be relied upon to lead - and be patient with - a large number of talented, but green, players.
"I think the key word this year is going to be patience," Ferguson said. "It's a very talented group. There's no doubt we can be a very good team. How long it takes will be the key."
The third-year coach said he doesn't know when Augusta will receive any players from its affiliation with the Anaheim Ducks of the NHL and the Portland (Maine) Pirates of the AHL. Each of those teams has been decimated by injuries, slowing the trickle-down effect.
"It's kind of status quo right now," Ferguson said. "Last year I think we opened up the door to the locker room (at camp) one day and there were eight new guys that had come down. I don't expect that to happen this season."
Ferguson said a player to watch will be forward Aaron Slattengren, who had a strong second half last year for the Lynx. He scored all of his 21 goals after Christmas.
"If he picks up where he left off, there's no doubt he'll be one of our main players," Ferguson said.
The start of camp also is significant in the players who aren't here. High-scoring forwards Ryan Lang, Jamie Johnson, Brian Passmore and Mike Erickson are just a few players who decided not to return to the ECHL.
Marsters (6-4, 200) will begin the season as Augusta's primary goaltender. Entering his fourth professional season, Marsters has spent some time with the Lynx and in the AHL in two of the past three seasons. He was 7-6-2 last season for the Lynx while battling some injuries.
Goulet (5-10, 185), who served as a captain last season and is a perennial fan favorite, tied for the team lead in goals scored last season with 26. He will be asked to produce again, and help his fellow returners lead by experience.
"We are going to have to rely on Louis and some of the other guys that have been here for leadership, with a lot of young guys just starting out their careers," Ferguson said.
The Lynx will hold camp sessions today through next Wednesday before playing host to the Gwinnett Gladiators in a preseason game Oct. 11 at Augusta Ice Sports Center. Augusta also will play at the Columbia Inferno and at the South Carolina Stingrays in preseason games.
Augusta opens the season Oct. 19 at James Brown Arena against the Texas Wildcatters. Tickets are on sale.
Call (706) 724-4423 for tickets or for more information. All camp practice sessions are free and open to the public.
Reach Steve Sanders at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.