Utica Comets Season In Review
In part four of this series, I took a look at some of the Growing Pains faced by Jonah Gadjovich and Kole Lind in their rookie seasons.
— Botchford's Army (@CanucksArmy) May 10, 2019
In today’s post, I will take a look at how Reid Boucher, Tanner Kero, and Zack MacEwen were able to accomplish something that hasn’t happened in Utica since the Vancouver Canucks bought the Peoria Rivermen and moved them there for the 2013/14 season.
20 Goal Club
Since their inception, the Utica Comets have seen a grand total of eight players score 20 or more goals in a single season, but never has the team had more than one player score 20 or more in the same campaign. This year, Reid Boucher, Tanner Kero, and Zack MacEwen were all able to accomplish that feat.
Pascal Pelletier: 2013/14
Pelletier was the first to hit that milestone and he did it in the Comets first season in Utica when he lit the lamp 22 times in 2013/14. Pelletier was a favourite of Travis Green, who was the head coach at the time. Pelletier would finish his career with the Comets with 32 goals and 58 helpers, giving him 90 points in his 121 games spread over two stints with the club.
Brandon DeFazio: 2014/15
DeFazio followed up Pelletier’s 2013/14 season with 21 goals in 2014/15 to lead the team. DeFazio, for his part, suited up in 151 games for the Comets, picking up 38 goals and 39 assists to give himself 77 points in Utica.
Hunter Shinkaruk: 2015/16
Shinkaruk was the first “actual prospect” of the Canucks to hit 20 goals when he tallied 22 in the 2015/16 season. He would go on to play 119 games in Utica, putting up 37 goals and 33 helpers to give himself 70 points in a Comets jersey. In his 186 games played in the AHL since his trade from the Canucks organization, Shinkaruk has put up 43 goals and 46 assists, giving him 89 points over that span.
Darren Archibald: 2016/17
Archibald was the Comets leading scorer in the 2016/17 season and also put up more goals than anyone else on his club that year, setting a new team-high single-season mark with 23. The man who is known as The Mayor in Utica suited up in 304 games for the team, scoring 75 goals and 69 assists to give himself 144 points as a Comet. Archibald was traded to the Ottawa Senators part way through this season but finds himself as a pending UFA, (unrestricted free agent) heading into the offseason. Could we see a return to the Canucks/Comets organization for The Mayor?
Reid Boucher: 2017/18
Archibald’s single-season record lasted just one year as Reid Boucher came to town and bested the mark by two goals in the 2017/18 season with his 25 markers. Boucher has quickly rocketed up the Comets all-time lists in all offensive categories. The man can get the job done in the AHL. Once again, it was just one player who hit the 20 goal mark in Utica for the 2017/18 season, but that would change this year when newcomer Tanner Kero and second-year pro, Zack MacEwen joined Boucher with over 20 tallies.
Reid Boucher/Tanner Kero/Zack MacEwen: 2018/19
That’s right folks, for the first time in their history, the Utica Comets had more than one 20-goal-man in a single season. Last offseason, I speculated on whether this could be the first season that the Comets would have more than one 20-goal scorer. I figured that the team might produce three, although some of my candidates were clearly out of the running before the season had really even started, and one other ended up hitting 20 goals, some of those coming while playing for the Toronto Marlies after Michael Carcone was traded for Josh Leivo.
Will This Be The Utica Comets First Season With More Than One 20-Goal Scorer? https://t.co/0ehTWaJjM1
— Botchford's Army (@CanucksArmy) August 24, 2018
Boucher finished the year with the new Comets single-season goals record after piling up 31 markers in 56 games this year. He scored nine goals on the power play this season, often with a one-time bomb from the right faceoff circle, otherwise known as his office.
Boucher wasn’t just picking up goals with the man advantage as he also grabbed 15 assists on the power play to bring his extra-man points total to 28.
The coaching staff also used Boucher on the penalty kill where he managed to pick up two shorthanded assists as well. Part of the reason why Boucher produces so many goals has to do with the fact that the man clearly enjoys shooting the puck, having been credited with 227 shots on net over his 56 games played this year.
Five of Boucher’s goals were of the game-winning variety.
Like Boucher, Tanner Kero also had a career-year for the Comets this season and was able to join the ranks of the 20-goal club in Utica. Kero put up 24 goals and 33 helpers this year, giving him 57 points in his 67 games played. His previous high of 39 points in an AHL season came in 2015/16 when he scored 20 goals and 19 assists for the Rockford IceHogs.
Kero led all Comets players with 11 power play goals and added another 13 helpers to give himself 24 points with the extra man. The Comets top pivot also scored once while shorthanded and added two game-winners as well. He was credited with 130 shots on goal this season. Boucher and Kero sat one-two in Comets scoring this past season with MacEwen close behind at number three.
Two of Kero’s goals were game-winners this year.
While Boucher and Kero have been around for a few years and have had a history of putting up points at the pro level, MacEwen managed to grab his 22 goals as a second-year pro after scoring 10 in his rookie season. That is a pretty nice jump in scoring for TheBigFella.
MacEwen finished his season by adding 30 assists to bring him to 52 points in his 69 games played after putting up 33 points in his 66 game rookie campaign.
Eight of MacEwen’s goals came on the man advantage, while he also grabbed 11 assists while up a man to give himself 19 points on the power play. MacEwen does a solid job of putting shots on the net as he was credited with 176 for the season. Zack also added a shorthanded assist, as the coaching staff saw fit to reward him with far more time on the penalty kill this season than he saw in his rookie year with the team.
One of MacEwen’s goals was a game-winner.
30 Assist Club
The Comets have seen the same number of 30-assist seasons as they have seen 20-goal men. Eight times players have picked up 30 or more assists in a single season for the Comets and only once has there been more than one 30-assist man in a season for the club.
Cal O’Reilly: 2013/14, 2014/15
Cal O’Reilly put up over 30 helpers twice for the Comets during his time with the team. It sure would be nice to have a playmaker like him kicking around to set up the young, offensive wingers who are currently in the Canucks system.
O’Reilly managed the feat in both the 2013/14 and 2014/15 seasons. He holds the Comets’ single-season record with the 51 assists that he put up in the team’s inaugural season and followed up that campaign with another 38 in the 2014/15 season.
Pascal Pelletier: 2013/14
Pelletier also picked up 30 plus helpers in the Comets’ first season when he tallied 40 assists for the team.
Alex Grenier: 2015/16
Grenier was next up with his 32 assists in the 2015/16 season for the Comets. Grenier has since moved on to the Springfield Thunderbirds before heading to the Laval Rocket last season.
Curtis Valk: 2016/17
Curtis Valk was the man putting up the helpers in Utica for the 2016/17 season as he finished with 30. Valk also moved on to the Springfield Thunderbirds before spending last season in the KHL.
Tanner Kero/Reid Boucher/Zack MacEwen: 2018/19
No player hit the 30 assist mark for the Comets in the 2017/18 season, though Patrick Wiercioch was the closest with 27 helpers to his credit.
This past season, all of Kero, Boucher, and MacEwen managed to pick up 30 or more assists for the Comets.
Kero led the trio with 33 helpers, while Boucher had 31. MacEwen rounded out the group with 30 assists to his credit.
50 Point Club
The Utica Comets have had just five players hit the 50-point mark over their six-year existence. They only had two before this year and had never seen more than one player hit the mark in a single season.
Pascal Pelletier: 2013/14
Once again, it was Pelletier who was the man doing the damage with 62 points in the Comets’ first season. That record would stand until Reid Boucher tied the mark this year.
Cal O’Reilly: 2014/15
O’Reilly did his best to match Pelletier’s 62 points but fell just short the following year with his 61. That total obviously still stands as the second highest in the Comets six-year history.
Reid Boucher/Tanner Kero/Zack MacEwen: 2018/19
Once again, it was the Comets top three scorers this season who managed to do something that hasn’t been done in Utica before when the trio all hit 50 points or more.
Boucher tied Pelletier’s record of 62, while Kero checked in with 57. MacEwen rounded out their top three with his 52 points on the season.
It will be interesting to see how the Comets roster shakes out going forward, and that is something that I will be digging into in due time. The club will have to be making some moves in order to improve the club for next season.
There has already been word that the team will not qualify the contract of pending RFA, (restricted free agent) Brendan Gaunce, effectively making him an unrestricted free agent who can sign with any team that will have him. Gaunce sat fourth in team scoring this year and his offensive contributions could be tough to replace.
Defenceman Evan McEneny sat fifth in scoring and is a pending unrestricted free agent who is not likely to be back. With the crop of new defenders coming in for the 2019/20 season, it might be difficult for McEneny to find a spot with the team.
Kero is a pending unrestricted free agent and after putting up career numbers and doing everything the team asked of him without getting a sniff as far as NHL minutes in Vancouver, it is difficult to see him being interested in coming back.
Boucher, for his part, has been THE offensive weapon in Utica since joining the team and has yet to see a real opportunity at the NHL level in Vancouver that suits his skill set. If the team isn’t bringing Gaunce back, what are their intentions with Boucher? Will they qualify his contract and bring him back for another year, or will they cut him loose? If they do qualify his deal, will he even accept it, or will he move on and head overseas? I am of the mind that Boucher could very well have played his last game for the Comets.
Time will tell as far as how those above questions are answered, but I can see the team coming into camp next season without four of their top five scorers from this year. If that is the case, let’s hope that the organization is able to replace the offensive contributions that those players were able to make.
I’d prefer to see the bulk of those replacement players as pivots rather than wingers who will clog up the works for the young players trying to find regular minutes.
Stay tuned as my next piece will look into the injury issues that affected the Comets this season and how many players they had to use to get through the year with my M*A*S*H article later this week.