Comets Militia Weekly Prospect Report - April 3rd, 2014

Josh W
April 03 2014 03:17PM

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Great Picture of a CanucksArmy Blogger via Utica Comets Fans Facebook

While the Canucks continue to slough towards a top-8 pick in the draft the Utica Comets are continuing to make their final push towards earning a playoff spot in their inaugural season. This weekend was very critical for points as they were playing back-to-back-to-back games with two against the Abbotsford Heat at home. 

But it's not just "playoff season" in the AHL -- The WHL and OHL are just starting their second rounds, the NLA and the SHL in Europe are well underway in their post season, and most teams have already been eliminated in the NCAA as we head towards the Frozen Four.

Read on to find out how your Vancouver Canucks prospects are performing in their respective leagues. And as always, feel free to follow me on Twitter @nuckprospects for the latest in prospect news. You're more than welcome to send me any feedback on anything prospect related you wish for me to cover in the future.

Utica Comets

Friday 2-1 OT Loss vs Abbotsford

The weekend started off great in their first game against the Abbotsford Heat. The Comets quickly dominated the game and ended up outshooting Abbotsford 17-9 in the first period alone. Final SOG were 44-30 in favour of Utica, with Friesen managing to get the Comets on the board (short handed) only 8 minutes into the first (assisted by Welsh).

But that was all the Comets could do as Joni Ortio stood on his head stopping everything else that came his way. It was a goal at the end of the second period with, what the referees determined was 0.1 seconds left, that allowed Abbotsford to tie it up. The Comets ended up going to OT where Street scored the winning goal against them with 2:19 left. 

The Comets thoroughly owned the puck this game but could not get the two points they desperately needed. That's how puck luck goes sometimes. DeFazio led the team with 10 SOG himself and the team set a new record for shots-for with 44. While Eriksson gave it his best, making 28 of 30 stops and earning a quality start, it was not enough though to earn them the win.

The PP went 0 for 2 and the PK went 2 for 2. Friesen earned the third star. Ferriero and Stuart, two key players for the Comets, are injured still and don't look to be coming back this season. Corrado was also not in the lineup for this one, thanks to his ill-advised and unnecessary call-up by the Canucks.

Saturday 7-2 Loss vs Abbotsford

Playing back-to-back games the Comets went right back to facing Abbotsford on Saturday night and boy did they get their teeth kicked in. The Heat completely and utterly dominated play the entire game; Utica looked tired and sloppy which is no excuse since Abbotsford also played the previous night.  

By the third period the Comets should have turned on score effects (but they didn't). They had a lazy forecheck and there looked to be little offensive effort. I even saw a few guys try to sneak onto the bench to avoid another -1 (okay, that part is a joke, obviously, since Alexander Ovechkin isn't a Comet). The only good thing I could notice was the Comets were denying Abbotsford access to their home plate and grade-A scoring chances were fairly even for both teams.

I don't even think the defense corps showed up to play with Sauve looking, to my eyes, the worst of the bunch. The Comettes had better on-ice skills than Sauve did on Saturday. Eriksson also looked bagged, which isn't all that surprising, since you PROBABLY SHOULDN'T PLAY YOUR GOALTENDER IN BACK-TO-BACK NIGHTS!! (then again, Ortio once again looked good, and he started the night before as well so what do I know, right?)

The Comets lost 7-2 with SOG in favour of Abbotsford 38-34. Biega and Welsh led the team with 5 SOG each, and they each had a goal apiece. Assists were given to Friesen (x2), DeFazio and Andersson. The second goal was another shorty and Friesen looked great setting up the first goal for Welsh.

The end of the game got physical with plenty of fights to go around. The PP went 0 for 2 (again) while the PK went 3 for 4. Two short-handed goals does look good.

Eriksson was terrible in this game, making 19 of 24 saves. He was pulled halfway through the game and Cannata came in for relief making 12 of 14 saves. One of those goals against was a penalty shot.

Sunday 3-2 Win vs Iowa

The Comets had a chance to salvage the weekend and at least earn a few more points when they played the Iowa Wild at home Sunday afternoon.

8 minutes into the game things didn't look great already as the Comets were down 2-0, but they managed to fight back and ended up winning 3-2 with SOG in favour of the Wild 34-24.

The goals were credited to Pelletier, Welsh and DeFazio, while the assists were given to Corrado (x2), O'Reilly and Pelletier (x2). 

The Comets could have used more of Corrado this weekend. He made it back to Utica just in time for the game. He skated in warm up with the Canucks on Saturday night, but by 10 pm PST he was on a flight to JFK airport in NY. He took a cab to La Guardia and then flew to Syracuse, driving to Utica to make it in time for the Comets warm up with the start of game at 3pm Eastern.

Cannata got the start in this game and he played good enough, making 32 of 34 stops and earning a Quality Start. 

Blomstrand, Canucks Army's Top Prospect, got to play in this game with his call up. He earned 2 PIM (which lead to a goal against) and a -1 on the night.

The PP went 1 for 3 and the PK went 4 for 5. The Three Stars went to Pelletier, Corrado and DeFazio.

Players Performance

Players stats who have played at least one game with the Comets, (X) indicates not currently on the active roster, so far are:

# Player POS AGE GP G A PTS PPG SOG SOG/G +/- PIM SH%
17 Nicklas Jensen (X) C 20 51 15 5 20 0.39 141 2.76 -4 24 10.6
78 Benn Ferriero R 26 54 19 20 39 0.72 145 2.69 -19 42 13.1
24 Brandon DeFazio F 24 67 15 14 29 0.43 175 2.61 6 90 8.6
10 Colin Stuart L 31 54 17 8 25 0.46 139 2.57 -2 38 12.2
28 Alexandre Grenier R 21 59 17 18 35 0.59 139 2.36 -8 48 12.2
25 Darren Archibald L 23 50 10 12 22 0.44 111 2.22 -1 89 9
23 Pascal Pelletier C 30 60 15 40 55 0.92 120 2.00 -6 48 12.5
7 Henrik Tommernes D 23 48 4 12 16 0.33 87 1.81 -15 12 4.6
3 Alex Biega D 25 65 3 16 19 0.29 115 1.77 4 49 2.6
15 Jeremy Welsh C 25 40 4 6 10 0.25 70 1.75 -9 12 5.7
26 Frank Corrado D 20 55 5 11 16 0.29 87 1.58 -7 42 5.7
4 Yann Sauve D 23 58 0 11 11 0.19 90 1.55 -18 59 0
16 Cal O'Reilly C 27 43 3 32 35 0.81 63 1.47 1 6 4.8
12 David Marshall D 21 57 1 3 4 0.07 66 1.16 -3 40 1.5
19 Kellan Lain C 24 54 7 8 15 0.28 61 1.13 -1 113 11.5
44 Patrick Kennedy F 25 31 0 2 2 0.06 31 1.00 -3 8 0
11 John Negrin D 24 14 0 1 1 0.07 14 1.00 1 8 0
8 Alex Friesen F 22 45 3 8 11 0.24 43 0.96 2 30 7
40 Peter Andersson D 22 49 1 11 12 0.24 40 0.82 1 16 2.5
29 Kent Huskins D 34 56 3 6 9 0.16 45 0.80 1 29 6.7
21 Ludwig Blomstrand L 21 7 0 0 0 0.00 5 0.71 -1 2 0
22 Ray Kaunisto L 27 12 1 0 1 0.08 8 0.67 0 2 12.5
27 Alex Mallet C 21 51 1 3 4 0.08 29 0.57 1 31 3.4

Goalies so far:

# Goalies GP Mins W L SOL SO GA GAA SVS SV%
30 Joacim Eriksson 46 2647:41:00 21 21 2 4 116 2.63 1201 0.912
35 Joe Cannata 25 1300:43:00 9 11 1 0 63 2.91 588 0.903
34 Mathieu Corbeil 3 116:33:00 0 1 1 0 6 3.09 54 0.9

Transactions:

  • Jeremie Blain reassigned to Utica
  • Frank Corrado recalled by Vancouver
  • Frank Corrado returned on loan to Utica
  • Mike Aviani signed to PTO

AHL Thoughts:

  • The Utica Comets statistics took a nose dive this weekend, especially due to Saturday's game. On the year the Comets have been outscored 162-194 (-32 goal differential) and outshot 1942 to 2001 (-59). A rough possession estimate puts them at 49.25%.
  • From a PDO perspective the Comets continue to be below 100% with a 7.9 Sh% and a 90.7 Save% gives them a 98.6% PDO. Eriksson's numbers have nose-dived again going back down to .912 (he was .916 on the year). Isn't it coincidental that his Sv% drops always from the second of back-to-backs?  Cannata has improved his Sv% now to .903 on the year.
  • Special teams keep on keepin' on. The PK went 9 for 11 this week dropping them to 25th place with a 79.64% kill rate, while their PP went 1 for 7 keeping them steady at 20th place good for 16.23% efficiency.
  • Fun Fact I learned #1: "Since Jan. 18, the Comets have been the AHL's third highest producing team with 39 points, courtesy of an 18-8-3 record. Utica, which trails just St. John's and Chicago in points during that span, has moved into sole possession of 11th place in the Western Conference, five points shy of the final playoff position with two games in hand."
  • The last point is from the pre-gamer on Saturday night. Coincidentally that date is around the same time that Jensen started producing and Eriksson started to really settle in.
  • Looking at their playoff push the Comets are in 11th place with 68 points. They have 2 games in hand on 8th place and are 7 points behind. It is possible for the Comets to grab that last spot, but still a longshot at best.
  • SportsClubStats also produces odds for AHL teams to make the post-season. Currently the Comets are sitting with a 1.6% chance which dropped a lot after this past weekend. They will need ~83 points to have a highly likely chance of making the playoffs which requires the Comets going at least 7-0-2.
  • Hockey can become a game of 'what ifs' but despite that, random chance plays a large role. With Corrado missing those two losses the Comets might have came out of the weekend with a much needed extra point or two. The worst part is that Corrado didn't even get a chance to play for the Canucks. 
  • Nicklas Jensen continues to play in the NHL and this week he saw a smaller role and less production than the week before. I'd imagine that he's somewhere in between. Right now he is averaging 15.7 min/game, has 6 points in 12 games and his Sh% still remains high at 14.3%. His Cf% rel is a positive +4.0%. He's still fitting in with the Canucks and playing in the top 6 doesn't hurt.
  • Fun Fact I learned #2: Utica and Rochester, maybe a 1.5-2 hour drive apart play each other 10 times in the season. Utica and Abbotsford, 5,000 km apart play each other 12 times in the season.
  • I was at the game on Saturday night and I must say: I saw Friesen play in November and seeing him now he has made a huge jump in development. It's too early to say now if it is just the increased TOI with injuries but he's getting noticed out there. I'd say he's overtaking Mallet on the prospect list.
  • Brandon DeFazio was nominated "Man of the Year" by Utica for all of the charitable contributions he makes to the community. Read more from the Utica Comets press releases.
  • With 9 games left in the schedule the Utica Comets look to face their last back-to-back-to-back of the season. On Friday the Comets will face Toronto at home. Saturday the Comets make the 45 minute trek West to Syracuse and then up North to play Toronto on Sunday. Canucks fans in Toronto should try and get out to that game and support your farm team.
  • Don't forget to vote for Audie for AHL Mascot of the Year. Currently he sits in fourth.
  • The Utica Comets have signed Spokane Chiefs over-ager Mike Aviani to an Amateur Tryout Contract (ATO). At this time of year AHL and ECHL teams are handing out ATO like they are candy. Having discussed with Brendan Burke (The Comets play-by-play man) I learned that this is quite common. It only covers the costs of players basic living expenses but allows teams to evaluate them while giving the players a foot in the door. It is also useful as if a player has an ELC they can be signed to an ATO with their AHL affiliate without burning a contract year. Great for asset management.
  • I find the Mike Aviani signing interesting as I am always thinking of the Comets in the big picture.  Vancouver Canucks run the Comets Hockey Operations and Spokane is well within their area of operations. I would guess that Vancouver scouts saw something in him and management wants to give him a further look with Utica. But looking at his numbers I doubt we will ever see him in the NHL.
  • Mike Aviani is an over-ager and never saw much success in the WHL till his OA year which is usually not a good sign. Looking back to his 16/17/18 yo seasons he barely reached over .6 PPG as an 18 yo centre.  Not a good indicator for NHL success. This year he earned 81 points in 69 games, the first season to go over 1.00 PPG.  He could provide some depth to Utica so we will have to watch him in the remaining 9 Comets games. His usage chart from Spokane is below and the Utica Comets press release can be found here.

Screen Shot 2014-04-02 at 11.32.13 PM

Mandatory Readings

OHL

Name Position DOB Age Team GP G A P PPG +/- PIM
Bo Horvat C 1995-04-05 18 London 4 4 4 8 2.00 5 2
Dane Fox C 1993-10-13 20 Erie 6 6 6 12 2.00 5 6
Brendan Gaunce C 1994-03-25 20 Erie 6 4 6 10 1.67 4 8
Cole Cassels C 1995-05-04 18 Oshawa 4 2 7 9 2.25 0 6
Miles Liberati D 1995-06-21 18 North Bay 7 0 1 1 0.14 -1 6
Evan McEneny D 1994-05-22 19 Kingston 7 1 1 2 0.29 1 6
Jordan Subban D March 15, 1995 19 Belleville x x x x x x x

  • In the OHL the playoff race continues as the second round began on Wednesday night. The London Knights have been matched up with the Guelph Storm while the Erie Otters will be facing the Soo Greyhounds. In the West Kingston saw a Toronto-style collapse having been up 3-1 in the series before winding up losing. North Bay, meanwhile, advanced to face Niagara while Oshawa will play Peterborough.
  • Erie is the first OHL team to play a game in the second round and currently they are leading the Soo 1-0. Gaunce earned 2A, +2 and 2 PIM in this one game while Fox earned a +1.
  • In the last three games of Kingston's series McEneny scored 1 goal and 1 assist while earning a -1 and 2 PIM. It would not be surprising to see him earn an ATO with the Utica Comets for the rest of the season. 
  • Miles Liberati played in the remaining seven North Bay games earning 1 assist.
  • Both Bo Horvat and Cole Cassels had the week off, waiting for their 2nd round matchup to get underway.

WHL

Name Position DOB AGE Team GP G A P PPG +/- PIM
Hunter Shinkaruk (IR) L 1994-10-13 19 Medicine Hat x x x x x x x
Anton Cederholm D 1995-02-21 19 Portland 4 0 0 0 0.00 0 2

  • In the WHL the Playoffs are about to start with the second round. Portland, the number 2 seed, has been matched up with Victoria Royals, the number three seed. Both teams swept their first round opponents. Meanwhile, Medicine Hat will be facing the Kootney Ice.
  • Portland has not played a game in the last week so Cederholm has not had any new activity.
  • Right now Shinkaruk wishes he could be helping the Tigers.

NCAA

Name Position DOB AGE School GP G A P PPG +/- S S/G Sh% PIM
Ben Hutton D 1993-04-20 20 Hockey East / Maine 35 15 14 29 0.83 8 119 3.40 12.61% 8
Jeff Costello LW 1990-11-20 23 Hockey East / Notre Dame 41 13 9 22 0.54 8 125 3.05 10.40% 73
Joseph LaBate F 1993-04-16 20 Big 10 / Wisconsin 35 12 10 22 0.63 -2 94 2.69 12.77% 16
Patrick McNally D 1991-12-04 22 ECAC / Harvard 18 1 7 8 0.44 -5 33 1.83 3.03% 10
Mike Zalewski F 1992-08-18 21 ECAC / Rennsselar 36 12 9 21 0.58 6 65 1.81 18.46% 11
Mike Williamson D 1993-09-05 20 Big 10 / Penn State 25 2 4 6 0.24 -3 42 1.68 4.76% 34
Matthew Beattie F 1992-12-14 21 ECAC / Yale 21 4 2 6 0.29 4 29 1.38 13.79% 17

  • Notre Dame played one more game on Saturday in the NCAA Regional Semifinals against St. Cloud State. They ended up losing 4-3 and despite his best efforts Costello was only able to walk away with 5 SOG.
  • Last Friday night University of Wisconsin played North Dakota in the NCAA Midwest Regionals losing 5-2.
  • All other universities are finished for the season and did not play this week.
  • The awards and recognition keep coming in for Hutton's great year. Today he was named New England's Best Defencemen

ECHL

ECHL Position DOB AGE Team GP G A P PPG +/- SOG S/G PIM
Blomstrand LW 1993-03-28 21 K-Wings 40 12 11 23 0.58 6 95 2.38 12
Pacan RW 1991-03-31 23 K-Wings 59 11 30 41 0.69 14 110 1.86 26
Myron F 1992-08-16 21 Kwings 9 0 2 2 0.22 -3 16 1.78 7
Blain D 1992-03-19 22 K-Wings 25 3 12 15 0.60 16 44 1.76 47
Guimond D 1991-03-28 23 Ontario 28 1 10 11 0.39 1 35 1.25 8
        Gwinnett 31 1 6 7 0.23 -14 66 2.13 12

  • Because of his call-up to Utica Blomstrand did not play an ECHL game this week.
  • David Pacan in two games with Kalamazoo scored 1 assist, earned a -2, 4 SOG and 2 PIM.
  • A disappointing week for Sacha Guimond as in 3 games he earned a -2, 1 SOG and 2 PIM.
  • No games for Wes Myron (IR) or Jeremie Blain (AHL) this week.

Goalies Team DOB AGE Position GP Min GA GAA W L OTL SV SV%
Mathieu Corbeil ECHL Gwinnett 1991-09-27 22 G 6 312 18 3.46 2 3 0 133 0.881
  ECHL Wheeling     G 6 331 14 2.53 3 1 1 143 0.911
  CHL St. Charles     G 6 236 21 5.35 0 2 1 103 0.831

  • Another week of no action for Corbeil, that's been 4 weeks now without a game.   He's still listed on the roster so I can only assume they really don't want to play him.

Europe

Name Position DOB AGE Team GP G A P PPG +/- PIM
Anton Rodin W 1990-11-21 23 SHL Brynas 47 12 23 35 0.74 -11 38
Ronalds Kenins LW 1991-02-28 23 Swiss ZSC 39 8 17 25 0.64 15 40

  • No more action for Anton Rodin this year, Brynas was eliminated last week by Farjestad BK. 
  • While ZSC is in the second round of the NLA playoffs, currently winning 2-1 vs Geneve, Ronalds Kenins has not play a game this week.
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I am a Van Fan in Bytown. Living in Ottawa for work, I research Sports Analytics and Machine Learning at the University of Ottawa. I play hockey as well as a timbit but I compete in rowing with hopes of 2016 Olympic Gold. Follow me on twitter at @joshweissbock and feel free to give me a shout.
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#1 bobby
April 03 2014, 03:27PM
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Gaunce looks like a bit like Cam Charron. That's all.

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#2 Char Richo
April 03 2014, 05:02PM
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@bobby

I was just thinking that Gaunce looks like Cory Monteith. But that is not hockey related. Other than Monteith was a big Canucks fan.

Thanks for the wrap up Josh! I look forward to these :)

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#3 islander
April 04 2014, 02:13PM
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Horvat just doesn't seem to have the skating ability at this point to keep up the pace in the NHL.Even in junior he looks like he is plodding out there at times. He should play in the AHL for a few years at least.

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#4 Drams
April 04 2014, 06:54AM
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Why did Zalewski get one of the 50 contract spots for the next two years? Is he really going to play for the Canucks?

I agree with your assessment of Aviani, heck if it wasn't for Holmberg Aviani might not have been as productive as he was this year.

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#5 jung gun
April 04 2014, 11:09AM
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@Drams

He's going to play in the A, most likely, since he's probably unprepared to make the jump from NCAA to any sort of NHL duty. It was a depth signing that improves the affiliate, much like Fox will end up being (unless he surprises). The signing gives Utica a lot of depth at centre, I think. If I remember correctly, they've got Gaunce, Shroeder (if he signs), Dalpe (if he signs), Pelletier, Lain, and now Zalewski. Even if Shroeder and Dalpe don't sign, that's still four centres that're probably capable AHL players, which provides the Comets with a solid lineup, at least through centre. Preferably, I'd want Dalpe to sign, and not Shroeder, just because of his size and injury record. They have comparable speed, but Dalpe has a better shot, while Shroeder has better IQ and playmaking abilities. Anyway, all that aside, I think the Comet are going to be a much stronger team in the coming few years and might be able to push through a few playoff rounds with the developing clout they'll have.

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#6 jung gun
April 04 2014, 11:24AM
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General question for the community: what do you all think about the possibility of Horvat being Kes' LW next season? From watching highlights and clips of his games, he displays pretty high intelligence and anticipation, as well as a crisp, quick pass that seems to find seams. If either Burrows or Kassian is on the RW of that line, I can see potential for both a defensively responsible line that's capable offensively. It might not usher in another 70+ point season for Kes, nor bring Kassian's game to a 55 point level, but it could develop into that sort of line within a couple years. It would also free up Kes to take draws on only his strong side, switching duties with Horvat whenever suitable.

I've heard counterarguments to bringing Bo up from juniors, but I'm not sure they're all that strong, considering overage seasons are generally easy for talented players, not to mention untalented players, and not very indicative of future success - hello, Top Sixtito. Also, he isn't eligible to play in the A, so he'd either have to make the jump, play in juniors, or go overseas, which might be a reasonable option, but seems to labour development because of the adjustments to style - playing tendencies, ice size - which to me suggests that he would be better suited to play in the NHL with talented pros. Obviously, in an ideal world, he'd play for at least another year with the Comets, but that isn't an option this year, so this is an option I see as feasible.

As another option, we could dip into the free agent pool, and I'd offer suggestions, but I know very, very little about what's available this summer. Does anyone else know what options we'll have?

I also think that Mattias is a solid 3rd line centre between Higgins and Hansen, making a reasonably fast, hard hitting, semi-skilled line that can cycle down low, apply some pressure, wear down defensemen, and pop a few goals in by crashing the net and making plays from behind it, which is why I don't think Horvat should be the centre for any kind of Preparation - H line. That's because the minutes would be limited, the players are less skilled, and he could be better utilized to develop his offensive upside.

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#7 Drams
April 04 2014, 11:44AM
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@jung gun

I agree he's going to the AHL. But why didn't Utica sign him and let the Canucks sign him after the few years of seasoning he needs.

There is a risk that Schroeder and Dalpe don't clear waivers. So if the Canucks can sign O'Reilly (I doubt he'll accept an AHL contract again) and Pelletier (is he playing wing this year?) you'll still have pretty good centre depth. O'Reilly, Gaunce, Lain, Friesen and then C/W Pelletier, Zalewski

Would like to see these forwards for Utica next year: Pelletier - Gaunce - Fox Shinkaruk - O'Reilly - Grenier de Fazio - Lain - Stuart Kenins - Friesen - Zalewski extras? Mallet, Costello

I'd have Horvat play with the Canucks next year and let him go to the World Juniors (if he's eligible)

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#8 jung gun
April 04 2014, 12:01PM
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@Drams

I'm not sure about the procedures involved in signing players out of NCAA for AHL teams, but it could be the case that all signings have to go through the NHL organization, if the AHL team is owned by its affiliate. But, I'm not sure, and you bring up a good point. It seems like a stupid, limiting move if the other option was available.

Schroeder and Dalpe wouldn't have to clear waivers at the beginning of next season if they're assigned to the AHL before the regular season. One-way contracts simply mean that they have to stay in their assigned league from the beginning of the season to the end, except perhaps in the case of call-ups due to injuries, although I'm not sure if that's one-directional, requires clearing waivers both ways, or what. Pelletier has been playing centre this year according to the prospect reports That's Offside's been producing.

I like the forward set-up you've described, especially the potential top 6. If one of Dalpe or Schroeder makes it to the AHL next season, I'd like it even more. Ideally, I want L1 - Shink, Dalpe/ Schroeder, Fox; L2 - Pelletier, Gaunce, Grenier, and then the third and fourth lines can be juggled according to needs of the team. The only qualm I have with the lines I just described is the possible chemistry between Fox and Gaunce. It might be useful to keep them on the same line, which would make their transition easier (most likely). However, as a counter to that, it might lessen their individual impacts and make them like a co-dependent old, married couple that's afraid of being alone so they stick out, bitter and decrepit, until they waste away at their end of days. I'd hate to see that.

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#9 Austin Wallace
April 04 2014, 12:50PM
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Not the most exciting interview, but that's ok.

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#10 Ted
April 04 2014, 07:17PM
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islander wrote:

Horvat just doesn't seem to have the skating ability at this point to keep up the pace in the NHL.Even in junior he looks like he is plodding out there at times. He should play in the AHL for a few years at least.

That's awesome. You can provide excellent scouting reports and suggestions from your computer. I am sure your opinions are highly sought after by many NHL teams.

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