As the Albany Devils have recovered from injury and illness in the first half, spots in the lineup have been harder to find.
One of the Devils still searching is Myles Bell, a 6-foot-1, 220-pound rookie right wing who earlier this week was named an ECHL All-Star for his performance in 24 games with the Evansville Icemen.
“Obviously, if you get called up, you hope to get in the lineup and show you belong, but it’s not really my call,” Bell said. “But being up here is good, getting experience in practice with bigger, stronger, faster players. The pace and execution is better than it is in the East Coast league. Passes are always on the tape, and guys are where they’re supposed to be.”
Bell was assigned to Evansville in late October and remained there until being brought back to Albany in time to play in the Dec. 11 game at Hartford, a 3-2 loss. He also played in the Dec. 14 overtime win (4-3) against Lehigh Valley in Atlantic City, N.J. In both games, he put one shot on goal, no points and a zero plus-minus rating.
He was sent back to Evansville for a couple of weeks, then brought back before the Dec. 30 game against Providence, but was a healthy scratch for that game and the six that have followed.
“We brought him in, and then our numbers changed,” Albany coach Rick Kowalsky said. “We got some guys sent down. We’ve used him a bit. Everybody has things they need to work on in their game, and I think Myles has got to get in a little better shape, which we’re working on. He’s got to work on his foot speed a little bit, and on his defense.”
With Evansville, he has eight goals and seven assists, along with a minus-eight.
Bell began his junior career as a defenseman for three seasons with the Regina Pats in the WHL, totaling 18 goals, 46 assists, 122 penalty minutes and a minus-17 in 135 games. He then played three seasons with the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets and was moved to forward. In 192 games, he had 95 goals, 116 assists, 174 PIM and a plus-49. In 19 postseason games, he added nine goals and six assists.
“I wasn’t too much of a defensive defenseman in the first place,” Bell said. “It freed me up a little bit, and I didn’t have to worry about defense quite as much, which was a lot of fun on a high-scoring team.
“I know it was really good. We scored a lot of goals, so it made it a little easier to eat the occasional minus.”
Although he isn’t getting into games with Albany, he can still use his time here to his advantage. Sooner or later, and possibly sooner, he will have to get into a game.
“I think getting up here and practicing at this pace and being pushed by American League and NHL depth guys, I think, certainly is good for his development,” Kowalsky said. “With that being said, you don’t want to let it go too long without him playing. I think that’s what the East Coast league is good for. Those little things, we can help him with here, but he’s also going to need to play. If we don’t have an opportunity to put him in the lineup, then at the end of the day, it’s better for him to go down and play.”
Bell said if he’s going to be a healthy scratch for Albany’s game in Newark against Bridgeport, which is the same night as the ECHL All-Star Game, he’d like to be sent down to play. He said, though, as long as he is making progress toward playing time in the AHL, he doesn’t really care where he is.
“I think it comes down to healthy bodies, first and foremost,” Bell said. “When I do get my chance, I have to make a good impression, whether it be by scoring a goal or getting involved, physically. When the chance does come, I have to take advantage of it.”
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