Taylor Vichorek's size makes him tailor-made for professional hockey's big time.|
Lucky then for the Quad City Mallards that a couple of upper-level teams were unable to find room for the 6-foot-8, 250-pound defenseman.
The local Central Hockey League squad officially signed Vichorek on Wednesday, just hours after greeting his arrival at Moline's i wireless Center following a 5-3 comeback victory Tuesday night over Bloomington.
The 23-year-old Minnesotan played 68 games as a rookie last season for Trenton in the ECHL.
Vichorek spent time in the Triple-A AHL camp in St. John's this fall but ended up back in Trenton, where he was released after three games because of the return of some contracted players back from two-way deals in the NHL.
The Mallards' CHL foes in Tulsa also had to pass on Vichorek while QC was in Oklahoma last weekend.
"Fortunately, Tulsa couldn't fit him in there," under the CHL's salary cap, QC coach David Bell said. "(Tulsa coach) Bruce Ramsey did all of the leg work on him and was nice enough to give me the heads up he was available, and I got him in here.
"He's a big, strong, mean defenseman who plays pretty hard. He had a good year last season in Trenton, and he's going to very much help our (defense) and (penalty-killing unit)."
The Mallards dropped their defensive average to 3.78 goals allowed-per-game Tuesday to improve to ninth in the 14-team CHL.
Worse yet, despite stopping 3-of-4 Bloomington power-play chances, QC ranks third-from-last in penalty killing, allowing seven power-play goals in 31 chances thus far this season.
"Those kinds of bodies don't fall off trees too often," Bell said of Vichorek. "That's what we're lacking.
"As an example (Tuesday), we got run around in our own end late and we just need a guy to calm things down. At the end of the game, he'll be a real nice fixture in front of the net clearing bodies away (from QC's goalie).
"(Captain Darren) McMillan and (fellow defenseman Bobby) Preece have done an admirable job, but they're getting so much ice time, I needed to get them some help. This guy is going to do that."
Vichorek recorded an ECHL-leading 27 penalty minutes during his short stay with Trenton earlier this season. He had 95 penalty minutes and a plus-8 on-ice ratio after scoring 15 points, including four goals, last season.
Best yet? The Mallards did not need to release anyone to make roster or salary-cap room.
"The pieces are slowly coming together," said Bell, who added rookie defenseman Justin Hofstetter on Monday.
"We've gotten better defensively. I thought Hofstetter was very composed with the puck (Tuesday), very calm and made some smart decisions. I like what's he's doing, and (fellow defenseman Jared) Lavender has been good since he came in (on a trade last month)."
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