The Aces' "futures'' in Hughes trade turns out to be third-year center Jean-Michel Rizk

Doyle Woody

The Alaska Aces on Friday received the return from their recent trade of center Bobby Hughes to the Fort Wayne Komets, but they still have work ahead to truly reap a reward.

The Aces received the ECHL rights to center Jean-Michel Rizk as the "future considerations'' in the Hughes trade, which was announced Monday.

Still, the Aces must sign Rizk, a third-year pro who Alaska coach Rob Murray said he spoke with on the telephone for the first time Friday.

"I think, as anybody is in this situation, he's a little shocked he got traded,'' Murray said. "Now, the job is to convince him that this is where he wants to be. I've got to negotiate with him.''

Rizk last season delivered 19-14--34 totals and a minus-4 rating in 66 regular-season games with Fort Wayne, which did not make the playoffs. He also played five games for the Norfolk Admirals of the American Hockey League. Two seasons ago, the right-handed pivot earned 20-11--31 totals in 55 games with Fort Wayne, then in the Central Hockey League, and lit up the postseason with 7-7--14 totals in 18 games to help lead the Komets to the Presidents' Cup.

Rizk is a former seventh-round draft pick of the NHL's Minnesota Wild, and though he is 27, he is still young in his pro hockey career. That's because he played four seasons of Canadian college hockey at Wilfrid Laurier University after he prepped with five seasons in the major-junior Ontario Hockey League.

"From what I'm told, talking to people, he's a guy who can play,'' Murray said.

Murray said he talked to Norfolk coach Trent Yawney, the former NHL defenseman and NHL head coach, and Yawney told him he used Rizk to kill penalties when Rizk was twice promoted to Norfolk last season. Rarely do AHL coaches give short-term call-ups from the ECHL such responsibility.

"To me, that speaks to his intelligence as a hockey player,'' Murray said. "Hey, he went to four years of college.''

The Aces traded Hughes, their second-line center, when he indicated he wanted to be closer to his home and family in Ontario.

Hughes' career was all but on the scrap heap before Murray took a chance on him. Once Hughes got fit and healthy, he became an important player for the Aces, most significantly in the postseason, when he led them in all scoring categories with 9-8--17 totals in 11 games. That stretch came after he went 15-24--39 in 59 regular-season games, stats fairly comparable to Rizk's regular season numbers with Fort Wayne.

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