Comets Militia: Down on the Farm – January 23rd, 2015



Welcome back to the weekly Utica Comets report, where we cover all of the latest activities of the Vancouver Canucks farm team the Utica Comets.  The Comets have had a lighter week with only two games on the schedule, and were only able to return to the Aud with a total of 1 of 4 points.  With both the NHL All-Star break and the AHL All-Star break soon beginning, the Comets look to have a short rest while Jacob Markstrom, Cal O’Reilly and Bobby Sanguinetti are in the AHL All-Star starting line up.

Read past the jump for all of your Utica Comets stats and information.


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Friday’s 1-2 Loss vs Milwaukee

[ Utica’s Game Review ]

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  • On their special “Pink the Rink” jerseys in this game, Utica did not run a spell checker on their jerseys so the first period features a “Cal O’Reily”.

Wednesday’s 2-3 SO Loss @ Milwaukee

[ Utica’s Game Review ]

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  • The Comets first shootout all year, and earned their first shootout loss.

The Players

Name Pos GP G A PTS +/- PIM PPG SOG SoG/G Sh%
16 Cal O’Reilly C 39 4 26 30 -3 6 0.77 53 1.36 7.55%
21 Dustin Jeffrey C 32 11 18 29 6 12 0.91 61 1.91 18.03%
24 Brandon DeFazio RW 38 13 12 25 6 37 0.66 97 2.55 13.40%
6 Bobby Sanguinetti D 32 8 11 19 16 6 0.59 62 1.94 12.90%
17 Nicklas Jensen RW 26 9 7 16 -6 12 0.62 74 2.85 12.16%
28 Alexandre Grenier RW 30 8 8 16 3 43 0.53 63 2.10 12.70%
10 Brendan Gaunce LW 38 4 12 16 4 11 0.42 72 1.89 5.56%
9 Hunter Shinkaruk LW 38 6 9 15 3 16 0.39 82 2.16 7.32%
3 Alex Biega D 35 3 11 14 4 14 0.4 63 1.80 4.76%
36 Wacey Hamilton C 31 4 9 13 4 25 0.42 42 1.35 9.52%
25 Darren Archibald LW 34 6 6 12 6 57 0.35 60 1.76 10.00%
15 Ronalds Kenins LW 35 5 7 12 6 23 0.34 59 1.69 8.47%
41 Will Acton C 27 5 5 10 -5 13 0.37 52 1.93 9.62%
8 Alex Friesen C 24 4 6 10 12 24 0.42 38 1.58 10.53%
4 Kane Lafranchise D 20 2 7 9 5 4 0.45 29 1.45 6.90%
37 Andrey Pedan D 25 0 8 8 3 93 0.32 39 1.56 0.00%
34 Carter Bancks RW 30 4 2 6 5 24 0.2 43 1.43 9.30%
40 Peter Andersson D 24 2 2 4 8 16 0.17 30 1.25 6.67%
2 Travis Ehrhardt D 22 1 3 4 3 16 0.18 20 0.91 5.00%
14 Mike Zalewski LW 20 1 2 3 -1 4 0.15 21 1.05 4.76%
29 Kent Huskins D 15 1 0 1 -2 2 0.07 9 0.60 11.11%
11 John Negrin D 15 0 1 1 2 0 0.07 12 0.80 0.00%
27 Tom Sestito LW 7 0 0 0 0 10 0 6 0.86 0.00%

The Goaltenders

1 Jacob Markstrom 17 1001:31:00 31 4 1.86 12 3 2 474 443 0.935
2 Joe Cannata 1 59:00:00 2 0 2.03 0 1 0 24 22 0.917
3 Joacim Eriksson 22 1311:26:00 52 0 2.38 12 5 4 604 552 0.914
  • Jacob Markstrom now leads the AHL in Save Percentage.
  • Joacim Eriksson is also above league average, and is 27th in the league in save percentage.

The Transactions

  • No
    Transactions this week

The Schedule

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The News

  • The Last Big Bear

    I hope the Canucks give the raw rookies some time to develop. They’re not lighting it up down there but it is a process. Let Hunter, Gaunce et al develop. We may get some gems out of the pile of prospects.

    I’d like to see the Canucks deal their bottom 6 vets (Higgins, Hansen, Richardson, Burrows) and call up the likes of Defazio, Grenier, Jeffrey and O’Neill.

    • The Last Big Bear

      That makes zero sense. You want to play three guys signed for AHL depth and one prospect in our bottom six in a year that we are at least competitive? I would sort of understand if you’re arguing that giving ice team for our prospects is the goal but this seems like a useless strategy. And what is it that you think those vets would get us? Who would give us more than a 4th for any of those players given the term and cost involved? If we were saddled with Clarksons I suppose I’d get it but our problem isn’t the bottom six — it’s an aging 1st line and an inconsistent goalie we’re locked into for two more years. Trading bottom six players isn’t going to solve that nor help our prospects develop faster.

      • Fred-65

        Gotta disagree completely with you here. The team will get younger and you’re unloading contracts and finally dismantling the tired old core.

        The players I named aren’t likely to be in our top 6 but would be fine on the bottom 6. Grenier might be something and DeFazio might be a solid line 3, maybe 2, type guy.

        What would those vets get us? It all depends on how we dealt them. Perhaps they’re packaged with Kassian or a goalie etc. Alone, each may bring back a 2nd or 3rd round pick. Maybe a 4th. If Dorsett got NYR a 3rd then these guys could bring the same. I’d be fine with more picks.

        So, you think we’re competitive? Really? I would like to get your definition of competitive. As I see it, the team MAY barely make the playoffs. IF they make the playoff then they will be bounced in round 1. No thanks. I’m tired of that BS. I’d rather be sellers at the deadline and maybe fleece a desperate team who could contend for the Cup.

        I think you and I also may have a different opinion of the state of the Canucks. They’re my team for sure but I am thinking the team is a LONG way from contending for the Cup. At least 5 years. How many prospects project to be line 1 stars? Maybe Virtanen? Maybe Hunter one day?

        Moving aging assets for more picks/players gives us a BETTER chance of landing a quality player.

        Let me add one other point. I’d be more than happy if we could deal Hamhuis for our line 1 centre of the future. Any Cup contender would love that guy and would likely deal a top end talent. Again, I have to look at the Forsberg deal or the Seguin trade…hopefully Benning can make something like that happen.

        • Fred-65

          Competitive means we’re in the hunt for the playoffs. What would your definition be, that we’re challenging for the President’s Trophy? I don’t disagree that I see little point in making the playoffs and getting trashed AND missing out on a better pick but I don’t see how your plan somehow gets us on a different footing other than the mediocrity NM00 likes to reference so often — there’s no way we’re on a full tank mission like EDM or BUF and we’re unlikely to fall off the cliff like TO either.

          You’re missing my point — I’m not arguing that the Canucks are good. It’s not about having a rosy view of their prospects (in terms of wins or bodies). They have a solid but not spectacular first line, an inconsistent 2nd, a 3rd that is beset with injuries every time it gets going, a 4th that is basically training wheels for Horvat, inconsistent goaltending, and a tire-fire of a D beyond the first pairing. Plus a threadbare prospect cupboard.

          But your plan does nothing to remedy any of this. Why would it possibly make sense to swap out bottom six Fs for draft picks that would pan out most likely as…bottom six Fs (in 5-7 years at our rate of development)? I have had serious misgivings about having Horvat here rather than in junior but if it is to happen I actually think the way we are doing it makes sense — put him in between two defensively responsible wingers with a bit of skill that can cover for him and show him a good work ethic. You really think it would improve by having career AHLers who haven’t made it to the show yet on his wings and him try to carry them? Or have a 3rd line that gets crushed night after night? Our problem is secondary and tertiary scoring — how are O’Reilly or DeFazio or Jeffrey going to improve that?

          I think you’re massively overvaluing our vets — even packaging them with Kassian (which means selling low and does nothing to increase youth) doesn’t take into account their contracts and unmovability.

          This plan is the worst of making a move for the sake of making a move. Would do nothing to improve the team. Rearranging hand towels on the deck of the Titanic’s not going to get it done Ted. We need less prols in steerage and more of the fancy people in first to get this ship moving again.

          • Fred-65

            I think we’re going to have to agree to completely disagree. I’m working on the premise we’re barely a playoff team and if we get in then we’re getting stomped in round 1.

            Next, I say let’s deal the vets and get SOMETHING for them. I agree the chances of getting a superstar with a 3rd round pick are not great but there’s a chance. An even better one with a 2nd round pick. I’m fine with taking that and going with it.

            I will also say there are some GM’s that will be desperate to add a little something to give their team the edge. The Canucks may get the chance to fleece someone of a blue chip prospect.

            I don’t think the drop-off would be huge if we dealt Higgins and replaced him with a prospect. Same with most of the guys I mentioned before.

            I would prefer a full rebuild instead of being in the middle.

            Management should ask Hamhuis about waiving. I can’t see it but Hammer could bring us back a good player. I would also see what Vrbata could bring back. If it isn’t a huge return (as in over market) then don’t make the deal. If a desperate team is out there then take advantage of them.

            I really don’t know what your logic is in keeping aging vets. I don’t. How long do you think the vets can perform at this level? Most of our core is trending down and fast. What would be your plan with the team for the remainder of the season and the future?

            I have no interest in seeing this team get slightly better year after year. We’re a LONG way from contending so I’d like to accelerate the process. I want the team to be legit contenders again; not concerned about the President’s trophy but want a team where a deep playoff run is a reality.

          • Fred-65

            I’m not wedded to these veterans nor to the idea that a slow death spiral is appealing. But gut rebuilds are rarely successful unless you really can land generational talents at the top end of the draft (EDM being an obvious exception to this rule). And we’re nowhere near one; we’re not Buffalo-bad and haven’t stockpiled high picks in deep drafts like they have. You might well be right, some contending team might get dumb and ship us a prospect or two at deadline as we did for Roy or Washington did for Erat. The Erat deal is in the Seguin category of stupidity but ours is probably more in the ballpark, a decent prospect and a low-second — however these deals were for (supposedly) offensively creative forwards and ones that were top six. I’d have a hard time imagining Higgins and Burrows as more than 3L on a good team and certainly not Hansen. Vrbata and Hamhuis I’ll give you can probably fetch more.

            But one of the big knocks against the Edmonton model (or the disaster that was Utica last year) is that if you fill your roster with terrible players and do nothing to support them you’re going to lose (and a lot) and that is not a conducive environment for developing your players. Part of what people are bitching about is that our AHL team has too many journeymen/career AHLers who are taking playing/development time away from our prospects (or that our prospects aren’t good enough to take the ice away from them). But last year the argument was that we were throwing the prospects into roles they weren’t ready for — and this year with so many of them in first year as a pro situations the team went out and signed vets at the AHL level to provide that better environment.

            I continue to think that the best model for drafting and development is Detroit, not Edmonton or Buffalo. They haven’t turned around and shipped off their vets, their top players are a mix of late 30’s stars and young players (most of whom are 2nd round or later picks) they developed in-house. We’re a long way off from being an organization like that but it’s them and their strategy we should be emulating. I think getting rid of vets for the sake of getting rid of them — when the return is likely to be underwhelming (and I think there’s no way we get as high as a second for any of them given their salaries) — doesn’t make sense.

          • Fred-65

            Not for a second did I suggest gutting the team. We have the Sedins, Matthias, Edler, Dorsett etc. I didn’t suggest moving all of those named players either. I’d be happy if they dealt a few away. The key is to deal assets away and not let them walk away for nothing or leave at the end of their career.

            I think your delusional if you think the Erat and Seguin deals are one-offs. Those types of deals are not impossible. I don’t think we’ll swing a deal like that anytime soon but you never know. Teams who think they’re contenders can become desperate.

            Also, not for a second, did I suggest rushing prospects and putting them into roles they’re not ready for. O’Reilly, DeFazio and Jeffrey have been around. I think they could be slight drop off from Higgins, Richardson and maybe Hansen (I do like Hansen and think he’s still an excellent line 3 player). Give Grenier and Jensen a look too.

            Yeah, I think you might be misreading so you can make some points you like. Dealing away Richardson, Higgins, Hansen, Lack/Markstrom and perhaps Burr, Vrbata and Higgins (a couple of these guys or so) is not gutting a team. Not at all.

            So, no, not gutting a team if you deal away 2 or 3 of those guys. It also sounds like the team is tired of Kassian so package him with one of those guys and you should be able to get a solid player.

          • Fred-65

            I was going to answer but we’re just going in circles. I still don’t think the idea of trading away bottom six players to bring up AHL players makes sense nor will it improve us long-term but I suppose time will tell if that’s a strategy the Canucks adopt. I hope they do not and engage in a more systematic and meaningful rebuild.

          • Fred-65

            Yeah I agree. Like I said, agree to disagree on this one. I am all for getting assets for aging vets that are in a decline. I agree dumping them all would be a problem. Moving a few and getting something in return is key.

            Our farm system is in decent shape but we’re lacking our #1 centre of the future and there isn’t a lot of top line talent coming up. Our D prospects are also lacking a future star. How would you remedy this? Continue to wait for picks to develop? Go after free agents? Me, I’d do both and try and make some deals. I am not into waiting 5 or so years before we’re a contender again.

    • Larionov18

      If we’re moving depth players we need to have strength in that position to do so. Otherwise, it’s just a series of sideways moves from a position of weakness with the risk of having a negative effect on team chemistry.

      I agree with PB, you aren’t going to get much in return if you trade them and a group of AHL plumbers doesn’t come anywhere near replacing them. It’s a tanking strategy.

  • Fred-65

    Frankly I’m with Ted in some ways. There are no prospect players in Utica thats are lighting it up. If you look at the players that are carrying Utica none of them are prospects but life time AHL’ers. If how ever you look at other farm teams that’s not the case. It’s nice to see Utica leading the pack but better they are a mid league team with more prominent prospects. I looked at the stats for Manchester and what jumps out is the fact their top scorers are 21 years old…..Utica top scorers are 27, 26, 25 and 26 Jensen is the highest in points and he’s 21 and a minus -6.

    I’d like to see our prospects leading the team not bringing up the rear.

    To make it to the NHL and have an impact you should be putting up good numbers in the AHL

    Here’s the flaw for Ted who the heck warrants a call up

    • andyg

      Call ups? I think I’d be fine with calling up a DeFazio and O’Reilly. Jensen might be another. I’d like to give Grenier a look. Jeffrey as well.

      Horvat should be ready to move up to the line 3 centre role.

      Have you guys seen the production from Higgins and our other line 2 guys? Yeah, there isn’t any. I don’t think that would be tough to replace. Higgins still has his D game and we’d miss that but he is aging and declining. The vets I noted are not that tough to replace. The only guy that I’d miss and might be tough to replace is Burr.

      • Fred-65

        Nick Shore 21 years old ( same age as Jensen ) 20 + 21 in 37 games that’s 2 point behind the veteran O’Neil who is 26 but is then followed by a 22 year old and another 21 year old. I guess I could have been meticuluous and listed them all but I generalized. Manchester top 4 are 26, 21,22 and 21. Uticas top 4 are 27, 26, 25 and 26…see the difference

        Good comments on Misconduct today about Higgins and his over all game remaining good… still I have to think he’s has to be the next candidate for the press box. One trouble is making room on your roster…..who are you willing to waive to bring up DeFazio who has been up already and done very little with his chnace

  • wojohowitz

    For sure the individual stats put up are disappointing (especially Shinkaruk) but the story about TOI explains a lot. Coach Green wants to win and plays his vets. I`d assume the young guys had that explained to them; `Not this year kids – learn the ropes and go into the next training camp fully prepared`, and they have accepted their situations.

    What about Nic Jensen? The Nucks want more from this guy but he might not have anymore to give. They better be careful with him – he could pull a Tomnernes and go home or turn into an all star with another team.

    I was never a fan of Gaunce. Getting cut twice from the WJC team showed how slow he was but he has really grinded it out and he looks to be a solid third line NHL winger when he gets his chance, just not the all star goal scorer you would hope from a first round draft pick. Hard work and dedication will work for him.

    Dane Fox is a talented player but he came with a party animal reputation so his road to the NHL is tougher. A full year in Kalamazoo and then maybe the Comets but only if he shows himself to be dedicated and serious.

    • Fred-65

      I don’t think that’s a really fair comparison. Shore isn’t a raw rookie and also came up through the US college system, so he was a little older coming into the league. He’s got 2 years on our raw rookies. Jensen might be a comparable, and is still younger by 5 months.

      • Fred-65

        5 months…5 months you’re hanging your position on a 5 month difference. Jensen for one should be hitting his stride in the AHL this is his second year, understands the pro game ( or should ) and should be displaying more finish. Quite honestly Benning must surely be concerned right about now with his prospects, Virtanen is not lighting up the Dub, Jensen is not lighting up the AHL and from all reports the flashes of briiliance that made Gillis/scouts select Shinkaruk are no longer evident. The good news is Green figures Pedan will make it to the NHL as a 5-6 “D” and he’s getting 20 TOI/G

        Green :-

        ““You don’t ever like to see a guy get hurt, like Tinordi did,” said Green. “It was two big guys trying to spark their team. Pedan is one of those guys who’s got the makings of a real good stay-at-home defenceman who’s really hard to play against.

        “Most nights, he’s a 20-plus-minute guy for us. He’s a real good skater for a big guy and has a bullet of a shot. Hopefully, in another year you’ll be able to say this guy’s got a chance to be a real good No. 5 or No. 6 defenceman who’s hard to play against.”

        • Fred-65

          Cripes no, I’m listing him as a comparable but pointing out that he’s still a little younger and actually born a hockey year after. In young hockey player terms birth year can mean the difference of an entire year, as in the jump from Bantam to Midget. He also has more NHL experience by this age than Shore, so he might even be ahead. Either way, a better comperable than the guys that are 2 years younger.

          It’s Gaunce and Shink I think you need to take a step back and look at age and perhaps be a little patient as they mature and learn the pro game. It’ll be the same with Virtanen. I like the idea of easing them into things for all of the obvious reasons. It just makes better sense than expecting everything all at once because it seldom happens that way.

          • Fred-65

            Shinkaruk deserves a break since he missed last season because of a hip injury. It’s tough to miss a year of Junior then be thrown into the mix playing against men.

            Jensen on the other hand needs to score to be a difference maker. If he doesn’t start to play physically in the near future he will be a bust. He played 6 good games with the twins, but if he needs All Stars to play with him to make a difference??. BOOM

          • Fred-65

            I think Jensen gets a good chance soon, based on nothing but how I feel. But if we trade a forward for defence or trade to shed some salary, it opens up a spot for somebody to take a step. We’re getting to the point where it’s probably best to know what we have with him in terms of his NHL game.

  • Fred-65

    Love to see the Canucks make a push to get him. Not in favour of Benning holding onto guys like Hunter and Jennsen if they could be packaged with Kassian to land Lucic. Kassian, Hunter and this year’s first pick for Lucic? I’d think about it if I am the Boston GM. I’d drive the Canucks players to the airport if I am Benning.

  • Fred-65

    The most interesting part of the article was the goalie situation.

    Lack is a UFA and Markstrom doesn’t want to resign with the Canucks?.? Something has to be done. Will Lack accept a contract to back up Miller for 2 years and will any team trade for a AHL Allstar?

    Hopefully Benning can sign Lack before the trade deadline or package him with Kassian and a young player for a top six forward with grit

  • Fred-65

    Jensen played last year in the AHL and the year previous to that in the SEL. He has to understand the life of a pro by now. He’s been playing against men for almost 3 years. I honestly expected more than 9 goals at this point in his career. You have to be wondering…. just a little about his development curve.

    Gaunce and Shinkaruk I agree their time should be next season

    • Fred-65

      I agree with Jensen. Guys like Kass and Nick are told what they need to do to be NHL players….. Use your size, or stay out if the NHL?

      Guys like Schroeder and now Shinkaruk will have to score to to be a useful top six guys, but Jensen and Kass have the ability to be physical and be useful.

      If they want to be fancy and sweet, then Europe/KHL or AHL calls.

    • Fred-65

      Definitely wondering. He was the last cut coming out of camp. 9 goals isn’t what I was expecting either, but then I was also expecting more than 2 out of Kass by this point this year. I think pulling Jensen up and living with the warts could be good for both guys, especially if they are competing for the same job. I doubt it happens though, it seems to be one or the other.

  • Fred-65

    Am I wrong thinking Vcr roster is full at this time …. so who gets waived to bring up all these prospects. The other thing you must keep in mind is the owner would like a little gravy in the way of play-offs receipts. The falling $ has to be hitting him hard. The dicount on the Cdn$ is now 20% that’s a big drop in revenue. Aquallini wants to be sure they have the best chnace of winning.

    If Jensen was blowing the AHL off the map then sure there’s an argument to be made, but he ain’t and unless there’s an injury Utica will be where he spends his winter

    • Fred-65

      No sir, you aren’t wrong. But do you believe the roster will remain static for the rest of the year or past the trade deadline?

      I’m of the thinking that at the moment we don’t lose much by plugging Jensen into Kassian’s roster spot. Both cap wise and roster wise. The way Kass is playing I think he’d have problems lighting up the AHL.

      Taking a risk with Jensen means that if we can move Kassian there’s a bit more flexibility in the return we get. You have to believe he’s getting near the end of his rope. Not saying a trade is going to happen. Just food for thought.

      • Fred-65

        Yes you can make a trade but there are few pieces that either any one wants OR Vcr whats to get rid of. If you take Kassian as an example his current play will not get many GM’s lining up to grab this guy, unless they’re send back an anchor as a replacement. Why gamble on being able to convert say a 2-3rd round pick that might turn out to be good for a guy that still hopefully has time on his side.

        Matthias, Dorsett and Richardson are UFA this summer so maybe you could move one of them but I think they’ll be resigned IMO. There are 6 RFA but apart from maybe Weber/Sbisa probably they’ll be back abd the reason they’ll be back is no one is breaking down the door to be brought up

        • Fred-65

          You are probably right. Still you can package him up as part of a deal if the other GM needs to shed some salary in the transaction, or is dumping a pending UFA. A 1.75 mill forward that is still young enough to have some upside, and is RFA at expiry has to have some value.

          Dorsett for sure. I’d be surprised if both Richardson and Matthias are back. They are both from the east and the Leafs in recent years seem to like to take UFA’s out of Vancouver.

  • wojohowitz

    A recent quote from Shawn Matthias was; `The Canucks have a number one line and nine other forwards`. Meaning the coach plugs them in or pulls them out depending on how he feels about their performance. Recently he put Richardson with Higgins and Burrows and it seemed to work until Richardson got injured.

    If guys like Kassian or Jensen want to be part of it they have to play better than one of the other nine forwards. Several of the forwards have spent a game in the press box watching and they got the message – like Higgins and Vey. After 45 games how many forwards have played in all 45? Only the twins.