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December 19, 2014

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Take 5: Five players to watch as Las Vegas Wranglers open new season

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Stephen Sylvanie / Special to the Sun

A fan wearing a Mike Madill jersey sits in the audience as Madill (center) fields questions with Wranglers team owner Gary Jacobs, left, and general manager Billy Johnson during a press conference announcing Madill being appointed head coach in April 2013.

Wranglers New General Manager

Mike Madill shakes hands with team owner Gary Jacobs, right, to the applause of team staff members after signing the contract making him the new head coach on Friday at the Orleans Arena. Launch slideshow »

First-year Las Vegas Wranglers coach and general manager Mike Madill listed all of the things he had to learn on the fly.

The tasks included finding housing for players, arranging work visas and, probably most important, finding the right players. The Wranglers’ season starts at 7:05 p.m. Saturday at the Orleans Arena against the visiting Utah Grizzlies.

“The hardest part is keeping things organized,” said Madill, who last season was a Wranglers defenseman. “Maybe that’s the GM side of it. The coaching side, the adjustment might not be as crazy.”

Count defenseman Charlie Cook as someone who doesn’t think it will take long for Madill to adjust.

“He’s a natural leader,” Cook said. “He’s charismatic. He has the respect and trust of the team.”

Cook is expected to be one of the players who will make Madill’s adjustment a little easier. Here are some others:

    • Las Vegas Wranglers forward Chris Francis (12) battles for position with Colorado defender Jake Marto during the second period of an ECHL game Oct. 27, 2012, at the Orleans Arena.

      Las Vegas Wranglers forward Chris Francis (12) battles for position with Colorado defender Jake Marto during the second period of an ECHL game Oct. 27, 2012, at the Orleans Arena.

      Forward Chris Francis, 5-foot-9, 190 pounds

      Chris Francis returns to his hometown for another season and is expected to take on a bigger scoring load with the departure of Eric Lampe.

      It shouldn’t be too difficult for the ECHL All-Star. Francis scored 21 goals and had 27 assists last year.

      “He’s one of the guys if you say, ‘Franny, go do something,’ he’s going to do it,” Madill said. “We’re lucky to have him as long as we can have him.”

    • Adam Huxley, right, gets an open left to the face of Cody Carlson as the two players fought during the first period March 23, 2013, at the Orleans Arena.

      Adam Huxley, right, gets an open left to the face of Cody Carlson as the two players fought during the first period March 23, 2013, at the Orleans Arena.

      Forward Adam Huxley, 6-foot, 198 pounds

      Adam Huxley isn’t going to wow anyone with his offensive numbers, but he has carved out a fine role as the team’s enforcer.

      He led the team last year in penalty minutes (231), but Madill is confident that Huxley will find an offensive rhythm and contribute as a player-coach.

      “He’s pure energy,” Madill said. “On and off the ice, it’s very valuable to get a guy who knows his role and knows what he’s good at, and shows up like it’s the last night of the playoffs.”

    • The Las Vegas Wranglers' Adam Hughesman keeps his eyes on a deflected puck during the second period Feb. 19, 2013, at the Orleans Arena.

      The Las Vegas Wranglers' Adam Hughesman keeps his eyes on a deflected puck during the second period Feb. 19, 2013, at the Orleans Arena.

      Forward Adam Hughesman, 5-foot-11, 184 pounds

      It is uncertain whether Adam Hughesman will be ready for the season opener — he had surgery on his knee during the summer — but that isn’t stopping Madill from thinking long-term for his second-year forward.

      Hughesman scored 13 goals in 68 games last season, but it’s his potential to score 50-plus goals, which Hughesman did in the Western Hockey League, that has Madill excited.

      “He’s a machine,” Madill said. “When I talked to him, I told him, 'There aren’t a lot of guys who can score 50 goals in any league. That’s what I want you to do.’”

    • Eddie DelGrosso with the Las Vegas Wranglers.

      Eddie DelGrosso with the Las Vegas Wranglers.

      Defenseman Eddie Del Grosso, 5-foot-10, 198 pounds

      Eddie Del Grosso is a new face that isn’t quite so new. He had a stint with the Wranglers in the 2010-11 season and was the first Las Vegas native to play with the team.

      Last season, he played in the Netherlands, helping his team to a championship. He scored 19 goals and had 33 assists.

      “Having guys that have won championships is great to have,” said Del Grosso, who graduated from Centennial High School in 2003. “I think being a veteran guy and playing all over the place and bringing that in is a big thing for us.”

    • Las Vegas Wranglers defenseman Charlie Cook helps a young fan skate along the ice at the Orleans Arena as the team invited fans to join the players on the ice after the game on Dec. 31, 2012.

      Las Vegas Wranglers defenseman Charlie Cook helps a young fan skate along the ice at the Orleans Arena as the team invited fans to join the players on the ice after the game on Dec. 31, 2012.

      Defenseman Charlie Cook, 5-foot-11, 184 pounds

      With Madill behind the bench, the role of veteran leader on the back line falls to Charlie Cook.

      Cook was a steady influence for the Wranglers last season, playing in all of the team’s games and providing a veteran presence in the locker room.

      “I enjoy my role on the team being one of the older guys. It seems like a good fit right now,” Cook said. “I was taken under the wing of many great veterans, so I hope to return the favor.”

    Paul Delos Santos can be reached at 990-2416 or mail to [email protected] Follow Paul on Twitter at twitter.com/pauliedelos.

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