Hockey • Return of premier defenseman Stoflet expected to boost Utah's season.
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West Valley City • October predictions are usually worthless in the ECHL.
Shifting rosters because of inevitable call-ups and injuries make it next-to-impossible to guess how a team will navigate the torturous six-month journey through the regular season.
For now, however, Kevin Colley is smiling.
As the director of hockey operations and head coach of the Utah Grizzlies, Colley has assembled what one of his players calls "an All-Star team" prior to Friday night's season opener at Idaho.
Colley, in his fifth season with the club, admits expectations are high.
"It's an exciting time," he said. "It's been great to work with this group [in training camp]. Guys are emotionally involved very professional.
"I'm honored to be part of this group right now. How long it all stays together, nobody knows. But we'll enjoy it while we can."
One reason for the optimism?
Evan Stoflet, called one of the league's premier defensemen by Colley, is back.
Stoflet played for the Grizzlies for a season and a half between 2008 and 2010. He has also spent considerable time in Utah since his father accepted a job-related transfer from Madison, Wis., in 1996.
"It's nice being familiar with the area and with coach Colley," he said. "I know what his goals and aspirations are."
Stoflet split last season between the ECHL's Elmira Jackels and a team in Denmark.
He describes Copenhagen as "a beautiful city where everybody speaks English, so there was no language barrier. And the league was good.
"Unfortunately I got stuck with a not-so-great organization. : But in terms of a life experience, it was awesome."
After the season, Stoflet's future was uncertain. That's when Colley reached out to him, partly because the Grizzly boss has always regretted trading Soflet to Bakersfield nearly three years ago.
"As soon as I moved him, I had a bad gut-feeling about it," Colley said. "He's very mobile, gets up and down the ice very quickly and has a good shot. He's 28 now, too. So he brings a lot of leadership, which we are looking for."
• Utah opens the 2012-13 ECHL season Friday night at Idaho.
• The Grizzlies' home opener is Saturday against the Steelheads.