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AHL Casto brings experience to Sound Tigers defense

September 26, 2018

BRIDGEPORT — Fellow Minnesotans told Chris Casto good things about the New York Islanders organization. He signed with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, a deal that both sides hope will prove beneficial all around.

“We’ve been in contract over the summer,” Casto said Tuesday after his second day of Sound Tigers training camp at Webster Bank Arena.

“We had a good relationship. I’ve played with Helgy (Seth Helgeson), (Nick) Leddy, (Kieffer) Bellows. They gave a good recommendation.”

Casto brings experience to what, aside from Helgeson, is still a pretty young defense corps. He begins his sixth pro season, and he does it without counting as a full-fledged AHL veteran, valuable since Bridgeport could run up against the league’s veteran limit for one of only a few times in team history.

“Listen, I’m excited,” Bridgeport coach Brent Thompson said. “He’s an experienced guy. He can move the puck. He can skate. He has that size (6-2, 209) and the hockey sense.”

Casto describes himself as a shutdown defenseman, but not the guy who will bowl people over in front of the net: Like Thompson said, he’s a guy who can skate. Casto said he models his game a bit after the Islanders’ Leddy, another 1991-born defenseman, who has more offensive flash.

He played his first four pro seasons with the Providence Bruins, then last season with the Chicago Wolves after signing last summer with the NHL-expansion Vegas Golden Knights. He has 306 AHL games under his belt.

“I think that’s probably a little bit why I’m here. I’ve been around for a while. I feel great calling myself old, but,” Casto laughed. “Yeah, hopefully Helgy and I can help usher these young guys into (improving).”

Bridgeport’s defense includes plenty of young options, and even the ECHL affiliate in Worcester, Mass., should have talented defensemen down from Bridgeport if everyone’s healthy.

That’s always a big “if.”

“Any time you go into a season, you can’t have too many defensemen,” Bridgeport general manager Chris Lamoriello said. “Certainly we’ve seen that with the numbers of injuries that unfortunately both (the Sound Tigers and Islanders) have had.

“It’s going to be a competitive group. Ice time is going to be something they’re all competing for.”

Helgeson joined the Sound Tigers on Tuesday after clearing NHL waivers. So too did forwards Mike Sislo and Steve Bernier and goalie Christopher Gibson. Tanner Fritz also cleared but remained up with the Islanders.

With 37 in camp, the Sound Tigers split into two groups for Tuesday’s practice. They learned that they’re only preparing for one exhibition game: Friday’s game at Hartford was canceled. Saturday’s remains on for 1 p.m. at Trinity College’s Koeppel Community Sports Center.

HAGGERTY SIGNS: The Pittsburgh Penguins signed Stamford native Ryan Haggerty to a two-year contract Tuesday. Haggerty had been on an AHL contract with the Penguins’ affiliate in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., where he has played the past two seasons.

mfornabaio@ctpost.com; twitter.com/fornabaioctp; blog.ctnews.com/fornabaio

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