Courtesy of @BrendanMBurke
Vancouver, fans are holding their breaths to see which players are going to
survive the final cuts at training camp and make the Canucks roster, with much of the focus being on young players like Bo Horvat, Nicklas Jensen, Hunter Shinkaruk and … Cal O’Reilly? But down in Utica, AHL training camp has
officially begun today as 37 players took to the ice. The AHL does not have roster limits, such as
in the NHL, but you can only dress 18 players a game. As per UticaComets.com the training camp roster contains:
Darren Archibald, Carter Bancks*, Matt Caria*, Brandon DeFazio, Dane Fox, Alex
Friesen, Brendan Gaunce, Alex Greiner, Wacey Hamilton*, Dustin Jeffery, Eric
Kattelus*, Patrick Kennedy, Ronalds Kennins, Kellan Lain, Stefan Legien*, Alex
Mallet, Cam Reid*, Lane Scheidl*, Curtis Valk*, Mike Zalewski, Steve Zalewski*
Peter Andersson, Alex Biega, Jeremie Blain, Ben Blood*, Adam Comrie*, Travis
Ehrhardt*, Spencer Humphries*, Kent Huskins, Kane LaFranchise, John Negrin,
Bobby Sanguinetti, Henrik Tommernes,
Goalies (5): Joe
Cannata, Tony Capobianco*, Jacob Markstrom, Joel Martin*, Joacim Eriksson
(Asterisks indicate the player has been invited on a Professional Try-Out (PTO))
Continue past the jump to meet these Utica Comets hopefuls.
Many of these players you already know from the various
coverage around the Smylosphere. Players that are Canucks property have previously been covered in extensive detail so I won’t focus
on those players as much as the new faces.
Brandon DeFazio, 26
yo – Played on the Comets last year in the top-six and saw plenty of
special teams time. He put up 34 points
in 76 games, one of the few Comets to play every game.
Darren Archiblad, 24
yo – Fan favourite in Utica because he’s big, hits hard, scores a lot, and has done lots of work with local charities. Last season he scored 3 points in the NHL
over 16 games, and put up 22 points in 59 games with the Comets.
Dane Fox, 20 yo –
After putting up 107 points in the OHL in 67
games as an over-ager last year, much is expected of the young sniper. He didn’t stand out during the Canucks camp
and was sent to Utica in the second round of cuts.
Alex Friesen, 23 yo –
Friesen started off the AHL season last year quite slowly, but in the last
twenty games of the season he scored at nearly a point-per-game clip. He will have to continue to produce offense more consistently in the AHL if he wants to make the NHL, and showed some flashes during Canucks training
Ronalds Kenins, 23 yo
– The Latvian Olympian signed as free agent with the Canucks in the summer of 2013. He had
contractual obligations with Zurich in the Swiss-A league last year where he put up 25 points in
39 games. Will be worth
seeing how he adapts to North American ice.
Mike Zalewski, 22 yo
– Canucks signed Zalewski as a free agent last spring when he left NCAA
early to go pro. The signing seems more
like it was for marketing to play up the local boy than it does a player with
offensive talent. Last year he scored 26
points in 35 games with RPI of the ECAC.
Carter Bancks, 25 yo
– Spent the last two seasons with the Abbotsford Heat putting up 11 points in
72 games. He was invited to the Canucks
training camp but was among the earliest cuts.
Eric Kattelus, 27 yo
– Another Comets invitee who spent the last few seasons split between
Kalamzoo Wings and the Chicago Wolves.
Last year he put up 35 points in 37 games in the ECHL and the season
before saw him score 13 points in 39 games in the AHL.
Lane Scheidl, 22 yo –
Lane is another Comets invitee on a PTO, while he does not have a Medicine Hat
connection he did play for the WHL’s Regina Pats. Last
year was split between AHL’s Worcester Sharks (5 points in 23 games) and ECHL’s
Ontario Reign (5 points, 7 games). He’s also listed as a LW/D.
Brendan Gaunce, 20 yo – Gaunce is the
Canucks 2012 first round pick and is in his first year of eligibility to play
in the AHL. He’s big, listed at 6’2”,
205 lbs, but since being drafted his scoring has plateaued. Fans are hoping to see much from his this
year but there’s a remote chance he could be sent back to the CHL and play with Connor McDavid and the Erie Otters.
Dustin Jeffrey, 26 yo
– Signed to a deal with the Canucks, Jeffrey was demoted on the last round of
waivers with a number of other players.
Canucks Army covered him when he first signed. Jeffrey has played with a number of AHL teams
since finishing in the OHL in 2007-08, including Desjardins’ Texas Stars last
year, where he scored 10 points in 21 games.
Wacey Hamilton, 24 yo
– A new faced invited to Utica that did not see the light of day in
Vancouver. Hamilton is listed as a
“Forward” who shoots left and spent the last three seasons with Binghamton. Before that, he spent four years in Medicine Hat, playing with Linden Vey under coach Willie Desjardins.
Last season he scored 20 points in 63 games with the baby Sens.
Curtis Valk, 21 yo –
The undersized free agent who was one of the best player in the Canucks
prospect tournament and continued to score in training camp. He’s looking to earn a contract after putting
up back-to-back 45-goal and 90-point seasons in Medicine Hat.
Kellan Lain, 25 yo – Signed
as a free agent out of NCAA, the Canucks are hoping this defensive forward can
develop into an NHL player, but he’s starting to hit the average peak player age. With 19 points in 63 Utica games last year,
nothing goes in the net, on either end,
with him on the ice.
Steve Zalewski, 28 yo
– Brother of Mike Zalewski, he may be starting to go well past his prime, as his recent offensive numbers aren’t that impressive.
Last year, he tallied just 11 points in 31 games in the Finnish Liiga with Lukko, though he does have a career AHL pts/GP of
Matt Caria, 26 yo – Played
four years at Lakehead University alongside Kellan Lain. His last season there saw him put up 37
points in 25 games. Last season he spent
in the ECHL playing with Kalamazoo where he put up 34 points in 66 games.
Cam Reid, 23 yo –
Signed to a PTO with Utica, he also has a contract with the ECHL’s Reading Royals where he will likely spend the next season.
Last season he played 36 games in the Central Hockey League, scoring 23 points.
Alex Grenier, 23 yo
– Appearing to be a late bloomer in hockey, Grenier has had a very interesting
development path. He hopes to
improve on his 39 points in 68 points with Utica last year. He was one of the best prospects with the
Comets in the 2013 season.
Alex Mallet, 22 yo
– Coming off a very disappointing Utica season where he scored only 5
points in 59 games. The former 2nd round pick is going to have to find a new gear this year if he wants
to ever make it to the NHL.
Patrick Kennedy, 25
yo – Was a depth player for the Utica Comets, signed part way through the
year last year and played a fourth line role.
He scored 5 points in 40 games.
Stefan Legein, 25 yo
– Legein is a bit of a unique invitee for the Comets in that he is not from
Medicine Hat. He has spent his playing
career in the AHL with the last season split between the Marlies (3 points, 7
games) and in Sweden in the Allsvenskan (9 points, 22 games).
Kent Huskins, 35 yo
– By far the oldest player on the roster, Stanley Cup Winning Defencemen Kent
Huskins brings the leadership and “know how to win” to the Comets locker
room. He was also pretty good in the
top-4 last year, often playing with Frank Corrado.
Peter Andersson, 23
yo – Was a decent defencemen who often played in Utica’s top 4 last
year. He could potentially be a 7th
defencemen on some teams right now but is deep on the Canucks depth chart.
Tommernes, 24 yo – Tommernes
performed fairly well in Utica last year and, like Andersson, might be a 7th
d-man on another team. He will have to
start looking to improve if he wants a permanent NHL position.
Kane Lafranchise, 26
yo – Lafranchise was signed to the Comets this summer and will likely end
up back in the AHL this year. He spent
last season split between the Abbotsford Heat
(34 games, 13 points) and the ECHL (14 games, 6 points).
John Negrin, 25 yo
– Negrin did not have a great season last year as he got a concussion in the
Comets training camp that kept him out for most of the season. He played in 16 games and notched 1 assist. It will be interesting to see how the one-time Calgary Flame plays
Ben Blood, 25 yo –
Blood spent the last few years in the Senators system but never was able to
produce any numbers of note. Last season he put up a career
high of 3 points in 54 games and saw two games in the ECHL.
Alex Biega, 26 yo – Biega
was the Comets best defencemen in every category last year. He is looking to lead the defence corps down
in Utica and if he’s lucky, to get a call up to Vancouver.
Sanguinetti, 26 yo – Sanguinetti may be challenging for a
top-4 position as his fancystats
have been very positive. He could even
see a call up to Vancouver if there’s an injury.
Spencer Humphries, 22
yo – The Canucks are keen on this young defencemen and must see something
in him. He was invited to the Canucks
camps and then invited to Utica after being cut. I’d be surprised to not see him in Utica.
Adam Comrie, 24 yo –
Comrie is on a PTO with Utica looking to earn a contract as well. He had signed an ELC with Florida in 2010 but
was not able to see full-time AHL duty. He spent last season with the Worcester Sharks, scoring 19 points in 56 games.
Jeremie Blain, 22 yo
– This young defencemen signed an ELC with the Canucks in the summer of
2013 but due to the depth of d-men he spent the year in the ECHL where he put
up 15 points in 25 games. He’s looking
to try and secure a permanent AHL position this year.
Travis Ehrhardt, 25
yo – Ehrhardt strikes me as a very unique invite to the Utica camp. Ehrhardt was never drafted a spent a number
of years in the AHL with last year split between 8 games in St. John’s (1 goal,
0 assists) and Norway for 14 games (4 points).
Jacob Markstrom, 24
yo – I am still very high on Markstrom
and think he has NHL potential. He’s
still young for his position, has put up good numbers everywhere he has played
before the NHL, often finishing with a save percentage over .920. There
could be a second “goaltender controversy” this year with Joacim Eriksson also assigned to Utica.
Joacim Eriksson, 24 yo – Utica’s primary goaltender for most of last season posted a decent 0.911 save percentage after a slow start to the season. Will battle with Jacob Markstrom for playing time, but given what Vancouver has invested in Markstrom and his stellar AHL track record, Ericsson looks likely to serve as the Comets backup.
Joe Cannata, 24 yo –
This ex-NCAA goalie posted a .925 save percentage in his last season with Merrimack College. Since then, he has not performed that
well in pro hockey. He was chosen as the starter for
Utica at the beginning of last season but was usurped by Eriksson within four
games. Cannata could potentially be
playing in the ECHL this year.
Tony Capobianco, 24
yo – Capobianco finished up in the NCAA last year with Canisius College
where he finished with a .913 save percentage in 30 games played. He also got a three game stint with
Adirondack putting up a .906 save percentage.
Interesting PTO invite, but not overly promising.
Joel Martin, 31 yo
– I don’t expect Martin to stick around as he’s been a career ECHL goalie who
has never put up any impressive numbers.
Opening Night Roster
Looking at who the Comets have invited, we can start to get an idea of who will be on their roster on opening night. But, the AHL is very fluid and changes in the NHL can quickly change the dynamics of the farm team. There are a still a few players who could be cut from the Canucks which will alter the entire Comets landscape, such as Hunter Shinkaruk, Nicklas Jensen, Cal O’Reilly, and Frank Corrado.
Looking at what we currently know, we can see that the Comets are thin at right wing, but players could move over from centre or possibly the left wing too. The defence corps actually looks fairly strong while a combination of Markstrom and Eriksson are likely to provide strong goaltending. With some luck and big offensive years from the Canucks’ young prospects, the Comets could be one of the AHL’s better teams in 2014-2015. They were only 2 points out of a playoff spot last year and were right in the mix until the end.