Photo Credit: Bryan W. Peck / Utica Comets
A month and a half ago, with just two points in his first 26 games with the Comets this season, I’d betting that Evan McEneny wasn’t thinking too hard about his first NHL call up. Back then he was trying to stay in the Comets lineup. 17 games later, having amassed another 15 points, it might’ve crossed his mind.
But I’m still guessing he wasn’t expecting it to happen like this.
Today, the Canucks announced that at least one and as many as five of their players are battling the mumps, which means the Canucks had to dip into their farm team for reinforcements. Evan McEneny is on his way to the NHL, as is Alex Grenier.
— TSN Radio Vancouver (@TSN1040) February 24, 2017
There was some rampant speculation about who the call ups might be following the mumps news, and given that Troy Stecher was the first confirmed patient, many pointed to Jordan Subban, who leads Utica defencemen in scoring. But the smart money was on McEneny.
If a defenceman is coming up – McEneny has been playing extremely well in Utica recently (15 PTS in last 17 games) and could be the guy.
— Ryan Biech (@ryanbiech) February 24, 2017
McEneny has suddenly become the Comets best defenceman, and has outplayed Subban over the last several weeks. Despite having almost all of his production come in the past six weeks, he’s just one back of Subban in even strength scoring and has taken over the top power play unit. His 5-on-5 on-ice numbers have been in the black in that period and he’s been an absolute shot machine.
Earlier today I published a lengthy article on McEneny, something I’ve been working on for quite a while. It just so happened that McEneny ended up getting suddenly called up an hour before the post was scheduled to go live.
The unofficial announcement was made on the radio by Canucks GM Jim Benning just after 2 o’clock, with Benning stating that McEneny has been the Comets best defenceman, and has come highly recommended by the Utica staff.
“Evan’s been conceivably our defenceman down there over the course of the year,” Benning told the TSN 1040 afternoon show. “He’s really playing well right now. We talked to Travis, we talked to Ryan Johnson, and we kinda go on their expertise [as far as] who’s the player that deserves to be called up and they both said Evan should get a chance. He plays a good two-way game, he’s moving the puck well, he’s been playing on the power play down there, and he’s been scoring.”
I’ve been pumping McEneny’s tires for a little while now, though it’s been more difficult without Twitter. About two and half weeks ago, I gave him the Player of the Week honours in my Utica Comets Weekly Update article, stating that he had probably even earned it a couple of weeks before that. It wasn’t hard to notice McEneny so long as you were watching the Comets. He’s stood out, and his stats were beginning to jump off the page. Just two days ago I wrote this about McEneny, imploring Canucks fans to keep an eye on him:
Not to be forgotten, Alex Grenier has also had a great year down in Utica, where he’s leading the team in points, with 38. His 15 goals are second on the team to Darren Archibald, and his 23 assists leads the team as well. His underlying numbers aren’t quite as polished, as he’s carrying a 46.8% goals-for percentage at 5-on-5.
Grenier’s With-or-Without-You chart indicates that he’s been benefiting from playing with Curtis Valk, who has had success with just about everyone he’s played with, but he may be suffering from a fairly common issue with WOWY’s: if he isn’t playing with Valk, the next option isn’t nearly as good. Aside from the games he played with Michael Chaput at the start of the season, Grenier’s only other centres have been Pascal Pelletier, with whom he has had terrible results, and Cole Cassels, with whom he has hardly played with.
Still, most of Grenier’s linemates have seen better two-way results away from him than with him. This doesn’t mean that Grenier is a bad player, just that he’s more of a beneficiary that one who’s really been carrying the flow of play.
This is Grenier’s second call up of the season, though he didn’t get a chance to play last time. That won’t likely be the case this time around, as the Canucks are expecting to miss at least three or four regulars tomorrow night, if not more, and they only had one extra forward to begin with.
Grenier had mixed results in limited action last season. His first call up and NHL debut came against the Winnipeg Jets, and he was a noticeably impactful player in that game. However, when he returned to the Canucks late in the year as the team was playing out the string, he struggled to make an impact. A brief (and confusing) cameo playing with the Sedins seemed to do more harm than good.
Grenier finished last season with zero points and two penalty minutes in six games, averaging 11:29 of ice time.
Of the five mentioned in the press release today – Stecher, Tryamkin, Tanev, Granlund and Chaput. https://t.co/gfbK9SH4LG
— Dan Murphy (@sportsnetmurph) February 24, 2017
In the event that all five of these players were to be unable to dress for tomorrow’s game, it would force both McEneny and Grenier into the lineup, as well as Philip Larsen and Alex Biega, who have been mostly healthy scratches of late.
Troy Stecher is the only confirmed case at this point, and the Canucks are still waiting on test results for the other four players. Benning stated today that they could be expecting more recalls tomorrow, depending on the results of those tests.