Photo Credit: Canucks.com, Edit: Owen Skye | @OwenSkyeVisuals

Canucks Young Stars, Game Two: A Utica Comets Perspective

The Canucks wrapped up their 2018 Young Stars Classic with a 6-4 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday to finish with a 2-0 record at the South Okanagan Events Centre for the weekend.

Once again, this will not be a post-game report, but rather, more of my thoughts on the game in regards to the Utica Comets for the upcoming season. Ryan Biech of CanucksArmy did write up a quick post-game report that you can find in the link below.

Trent Cull kept the roster largely unchanged for game-two, but he did make a few tweaks.

Starting Lineup

54 Jonathan Dahlen – 40 Elias Pettersson – 78 Kole Lind

68 Petrus Palmu – 88 Adam Gaudette – 71 Zack MacEwen (A)

41 Jonah Gadjovich – 81 Tanner MacMaster – 67 Lukas Jasek

96 Anthony Salinitri – 73 Reid Gardiner – 46 Isaac Nurse

48 Olli Juolevi – 63 Jalen Chatfield (A)

56 Guillaume Brisebois (A) – 45 Jagger Dirk

93 Garrett McFadden – 94 Kaleb Bulych

76 Ivan Kulbakov

75 Michael DiPietro

The changes up front saw Anthony Salinitri slide from the middle on the fourth line to LW. Reid Gardiner was shifted from the right side on the fourth line to the middle, and Isaac Nurse slid into the fourth line RW spot. On the backend, we saw Vancouver Giants defender Kaleb Bulych step into the spot vacated by Jakob Brahaney, while newcomer Ivan Kulbakov was given the start in net.

Once again, I will start in net and speak first about Kulbakov. I had honestly never seen the 21-year-old play, but I did do a little bit of research on him when he signed his one-year AHL deal with the Comets earlier this summer. I wrote a short piece about him when he signed and I will include a link to that piece below.

The Utica Comets Sign Goaltender Ivan Kulbakov To One-Year AHL Deal

Kulbakov put up some solid numbers while playing in the USHL, but his AHL and ECHL numbers from last year were pretty underwhelming. As such,  I wasn’t really sure what to expect from him in my first viewing.

I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. He didn’t see a lot of rubber early but was sharp when tested. He saw more action as the game wore on and made a handful of pretty nice saves to help his team get the win. I thought his glove looked quick and that he was an active goalie. Perhaps a little too active at times, but overall, I thought that he showed well. He didn’t seem to have any hesitation when playing the puck and he moved it up the ice pretty well when needed.

On the backend, Kaleb Bulych was the new face and he acquitted himself well, including netting the game-winning goal. I thought that he was skating well and wasn’t afraid to jump up into the play when the opportunity arose. Bulych is with the team as an invitee and will once again be eligible to be selected in the upcoming draft.

Garrett McFadden was the other invitee without a contract on the backend for this one. McFadden recently announced that he will be joining the Acadia Axemen for the upcoming season. He got into both games this weekend and he looked like he might be worth keeping an eye on as a depth player in Utica down the road. There are currently a lot of bodies ahead of him, but by this time next season, a few of those bodies may have moved on.

From a Comets standpoint though, we should probably focus on Jalen Chatfield, Olli Juolevi, Guillaume Brisebois, and Jagger Dirk.

I thought that Chatfield looked much more engaged offensively on Sunday. He jumped into the rush and found a seam for a scoring chance that didn’t materialize early and continued to look for offensive chances for the rest of the game. He finished pointless in this one, but he had another solid outing. Jalen is an effortless skater and he showed that talent throughout the game. Chatfield once again saw action on the penalty kill and I would expect him to be a staple on Trent Cull’s kill in Utica this season.

Chatfield was paired with Olli Juolevi in both games this weekend and while they looked to be feeling each other out a bit at times, I think they would make a nice top unit in Utica this season should they both end up there.

Juolevi finished this game with an assist to his credit and had another solid outing. He was getting pucks through to the net from the point and he showed a playmaker’s touch with his feed to tee up Elias Pettersson for a one-timer on the power play.

I am interested to see how Juolevi looks in preseason against some tougher competition.

The other pair on the blueline was that of Brisebois and Dirk.

Brisebois had another steady game but once again, he didn’t really jump out at me. This was his fourth time around at this tournament, so maybe he wasn’t as enthusiastic as he could have been, or maybe he was just trying to play a quiet, steady game. He saw time on both special teams and I would expect that to continue in Utica this season. Brisebois was wearing an (A) on his jersey in this game as well.

Dirk, for his part, was playing the right side as a left-shot defender. That kind of flexibility will only help his case to stick with the Comets this season. He had another decent game, jumping into the rush when he had a chance to do so. He also dropped the gloves, losing a pretty one-sided fight to Joey Ratelle. I think that Dirk might be able to bring enough to the game that he won’t need to be dropping the mitts all that often. To his credit though, he was game.

Up front, we saw the Dahlen and Pettersson show again as the pair brought the fans out of their seats on a few occasions. Dahlen finished the night with a pair of goals and only furthered his case to make the opening night roster. Once again, this was just a prospects game, so we need to take all of this with a grain of salt. That said, if Dahlen can continue to roll the way he is right now, he may force some tough decisions on management.

Dahlen was once again showing a scorer’s touch when he picked up his first goal of the game.

His second goal was an empty netter…so not quite as exciting.

The other member of the top line was RW Kole Lind. Lind didn’t put up the points like his linemates in this one but he had another strong outing. He showed some separation speed at times and did some nice work along the boards. It wasn’t a standout game for Kole, but he played well.

The pass that fed the Dahlen goal came off the stick of Reid Gardiner. Gardiner was playing the middle in a fourth line role on Sunday and he had another steady showing. It was nice to see him rewarded with an assist. I expect Gardiner to start in Kalamazoo this year, but he is looking like he should be a capable call-up.

Moving up a line, we saw Lukas Jasek playing another strong game along the boards and showing some wheels at times as well. He didn’t grab any points in this one, but he did show that tenacious side that will surely catch the eye of his coaching staff.

Jasek was playing on a line with Tanner MacMaster and Jonah Gadjovich again and those two made their presence felt in different ways.

I will start off with MacMaster who played another strong game in the middle and showed off those silky mitts to set up an Adam Gaudette one-timer.

MacMaster continues to show why the Comets snatched him up out of the NCAA at the end of last season. He can be used in all situations, he can move up and down the lineup, play both the wing and the middle, and brings a heady game.

Gadjovich got in on the action when he got into a tilt with the six-foot-six, 233lbs behemoth named Matt Ustaski. As you will see in the clip below, The Man Child staggered Ustaski with a heavy right hand.

Moving on to the MPG line of MacEwen, Palmu, and Gaudette, the trio had another strong outing.

Palmu played another Palmu type of game. He was used on the penalty kill, got in hard on the forecheck, went to the dirty areas to retrieve pucks and showed his soft hands at times as well. It will be interesting to see how he fares in the preseason against stiffer competition.

As you will have seen in the MacMaster clip earlier in this post, Adam Gaudette can hammer a puck. Gaudette was everywhere in this game. He was used on both special teams, ripped home a one-timer for a goal and was one of the best players on the ice. The Vancouver Canucks coaching staff might have a tougher time than they thought if they intend to send Gaudette to Utica out of camp because by the looks of things, he isn’t about to give them any reason to.

Now we move on to Zack MacEwen. The Big Fella had himself a game on Sunday. He picked up an assist and scored an empty net goal, but he also showed folks why it isn’t a good idea to get on his bad side when he beat the taste out of Anton Cederholm’s little brother’s mouth. Not that Jacob Cederholm is little at six-foot-four and 187lbs, though he did give up a few pounds to Zack.


I don’t think that MacEwen will need to be the pugilist on the team, as I feel he has enough skill in other areas of the game to be successful, but that young man throws BOMBS when he drops the gloves. He kind of reminds me of how former Canucks defender, Ed Jovanovski used to look like he was trying to take his opponent’s head off in most of his bouts.

From here we move to main camp this week in Whistler and then on to preseason. Stay tuned as there will be a couple of us CanucksArmy types heading to Whistler later in the week and there are sure to be some articles coming out based on those visits.


  • Dahlenfan

    Gaudette, dahlen, and petterson look like future nhl players for sure. I think gaudette and petterson make the team.out of camp and dahlen wiĺ be a first call up. They started out hot in this game and then took it easy and let them tie it up. 3-0 is the worst lead for this to happen they say. They did better in the 3rd but if it wasnt for kabulkov they would of lost this one. He made some really nice saves to keep them in it. Juolevi looked solid but he still doesn’t stand out much. But I always thought that of hamhuis. Didn’t really stand out good or bad. Just solid. That’s what juolevi looked like. Our nhl Dmen or not solid. Hopefully juolevi steps it up and they make room for him. I love palmus drive and work ethic. That kid is a fire hydrant with a hemi.

    • Cory Hergott

      Dahlenfan: I blame Joey Kenward 100% for your spelling of Kulbakov’s name. I drove me nuts hearing him pronounce his name “Kubalkov” over and over again, lol.

  • Bud Poile

    During a Ryan Johnson interview he said ‘they’ like EP at center
    It’s going to be a difficult decision to make room for Gaudette at center ,never mind two rookies.
    So,it will be interesting how they decide to create their final roster.

    • argoleas

      This IMO is the most crucial factor. They will not have two rookies start the season as centers at the same time, and it is clear their priority is to get Pettersson established. Maybe in December, they may feel more comfortable bringing Gaudette up (assuming no earlier injury callups), and maybe shift Sutter or Beagle to RW to be his mentor.

      It’s all really splitting hairs right now whether Gaudette starts the season in Van, or gets called up later. Either way, he will spend a very big chunk of his time this season up with the parent club.

    • argoleas

      That may end up happening eventually, once Dahlen and Pettersson are established. Because everyone will key on Boeser from now on, whereas the premium will likely be on sheltering first Pettersson then Dahlen, likely they will stay away from that in EV for the time being. But a few seasons down the road, could work very well. And they may have other options, like Lind, or Virtanen. Maybe even Big Zack. Chemistry will decide.

    • Dirty30

      Unfortunately, that leaves you with three lines of nothing. The idea of pairings plus might work better:

      Boeser-Bo plus
      Dahlen-Pettersson plus
      Virtanen-Gaudette plus
      Rousell-Beagle/Sutter plus

      That leaves Eriksson, Goldobin, Leipzig, Baertschi, Granlund to fitbin somewhere here or elsewhere.

      • Kevlar73

        If Elias is playing centre I don’t want to see Brock on his line. I’d prefer that the opposition keys on Brock and Bo and allows for easier match ups for EP

  • DeL

    It is a conundrum you want Gaudette Dahlen Juolevi to play on the big club if they show in camp that they deserve to be there…….but only if Green gives them the minutes. No sense having them only getting 7-8 minutes they’re better off in Utica where they can play more often and sharpen their skill sets and improve on deficiencies. That stated Petterson is staying. Him and Dahlen have chemistry so that will be another decision for mgmt.

    • argoleas

      Pettersson and Dahlen proved they have great chemistry together….. even after not playing together for a year. Mgmt could take that to heart and not push Dahlen too quickly up to the NHL. Whatever happens this season, by start of the next one, those two will be playing together once again, but this time possibly for the next decade+.

  • BBoone

    The Canucks are not winning the cup any year soon. Although some “ can’t miss’ prosprcts should start in NHL, most top prospects should start in AHL where they can
    play meaningful minutes and roles in a tough league . Only Pettersson should start in NHL . There is zero proof that small minutes overmatched in NHL with short practice time is better that big minutes in AHL with long practice time. Better safe than sorry .