Phase 1 of the Southern Professional Hockey League's expansion draft came to a close over the weekend, leaving the newly formed Augusta RiverHawks in position to lock in their first round of player signings.
Each SPHL team had to turn in its list of 13 protected players by the weekend, leaving at least five from each squad unprotected. Those remaining names made the list that arrived in the inbox of RiverHawks general manager Gilles Richard on Tuesday morning.
"I've got the names and where they're from," he said. "I can contact anybody on the list."
The list of unprotected players came from the league's seven other teams, and SPHL commissioner Jim Combs said the RiverHawks have an opportunity to build a strong team with the 48 players made available to them. Eleven players are considered league veterans.
"As I started to look through the list, I said, 'There's some pretty darn good players on here,'" Combs said. "The draft itself is pretty non-eventful. We give the team plenty of time to contact the players."
The team has until May 15 to make its selections, a time span that Richard said will allow the RiverHawks to contact several players and find out if they're willing to help build a team in Augusta.
The RiverHawks can select up to six players in the draft but no more than two from a single team. Those who remain undrafted could still sign a tryout agreement with the RiverHawks for a spot on the training camp roster, if the team makes an offer.
The selections could be made without the benefit of a head coach in place, which Richard said is a fact he's not too concerned with considering the list of hockey-savvy staff and advisers the RiverHawks have hired.
"I'm familiar enough with the league and can reach out to my network of guys and talk to their old coaches," Richard said. "These players we draft are just a percentage of the guys who are going to be in camp."
The RiverHawks' training camp will open the second full week of October, and Richard said the team has secured the rights to hold tryouts in James Brown Arena.
The RiverHawks will play a home-and-home exhibition series Oct. 15 and 16 against the Fayetteville FireAntz. The season opener will take place Oct. 22 at James Brown Arena.