Utica Comets Season In Review
M*A*S*H – Forwards Edition
In the second installment of this M*A*S*H series on the Utica Comets injury situation for the 2018/19 season, I took a look at how the backend was affected.
— Botchford's Army (@CanucksArmy) May 22, 2019
Today I will dig into how the forward ranks handled things on the injury front.
I will start out by looking at which players the team started the season with as supplied by the parent Canucks before moving onto the players who were signed to AHL deals by the Comets.
The Vancouver Canucks supplied the Comets with 10 forwards who had the ability to shuffle back and forth between the two clubs due to their two-way deals. That group consisted of Darren Archibald, Reid Boucher, Brendan Gaunce, Tanner Kero, Zack MacEwen, Jonathan Dahlen, Adam Gaudette, Lukas Jasek, Jonah Gadjovich, and Kole Lind.
Out of that group listed above, Kole Lind missed the most time due to injury with 22 games spent in the infirmary. The 20-year-old, first-year forward managed to get into 51 games for the Comets, picking up five goals and 12 helpers to give himself 17 points to go along with 20 minutes worth of penalties.
I have mentioned this in the past, but the Comets can be tight-lipped as far as their injured players go, but I believe that Lind’s injuries were of the shoulder and knee variety.
Missing those 22 games didn’t help Lind get into a rhythm with his game as it wasn’t until later in the season when we saw Kole playing the kind of game that he is capable of. The young winger made improvements in his game over the course of the season and I expect that he will come into camp ready to make a much better impact this time around.
I’m hoping to see Lind pick up where he left off and that the coaching staff will give him a little more rope to start his second campaign with the team.
Boucher has been the offensive catalyst in Utica for a couple of seasons now and continued to set new team scoring records despite sitting second on the list of most games missed up front for the Comets.
Boucher sat out 16 times dues to various injuries this year, along with having a brief call-up to Vancouver that saw him play just one game for the big club. Reid suffered a broken hand near the end of last season while up with the Canucks and the winger ended up with a similar injury at a similar time this year while with the Comets.
The AHL sniper has suited up in 101 games over the last two seasons for Utica, picking up 56 goals and 52 assists to give himself 108 points to go along with 51 minutes spent in the penalty box. This year, Boucher set a new Comets’ single-season goals record with 31, while also tying the team record for most points in a season with 62.
Boucher is a pending RFA, (restricted free agent) heading into this offseason. I am of the opinion that the team might not offer him a qualifying offer this time around, making him an unrestricted free agent who can sign with whichever team is agreeable.
While Boucher is elite at the AHL level, the parent Canucks haven’t seen fit to give the winger a lot of time to prove himself at the NHL level in the type of role that he has had tremendous success with in the AHL. If the team doesn’t see him as an option for them going forward it will be better for all parties to allow him to move on. This would also open up more room on the wings for younger players to take on bigger roles.
Gadjovich checks in as the player who missed the third most games to injury from this group with 13. He also missed his share of games due to healthy scratches, but I have covered that in an earlier article.
Jonah got into 43 games for the Comets this year, picking up four goals and six assists, giving him 10 points to go along with his 32 penalty minutes.
Similar to Lind, I feel that the time missed to injuries hampered Jonah’s ability to play the type of game that he has had success with in the past. Gadjovich plays a physical brand of hockey and that can be tough to do when your body is conspiring against you with injuries and the resulting time it takes to properly heal while playing through the pain.
I would like to see Gadjovich come into camp fully healthy so that he can hit the ground running next year. I am convinced that his previous wrist injuries had something to do with how his season went this year. I feel that there may have been a lingering issue there that he was trying to play through and that it was at least in part to blame for his struggles this season.
Kero did a great job of staying in the lineup for the Comets this year and it was a good thing as there was not much in the way of offensive centermen behind him in the lineup.
The pivot missed just seven games due to injury and another pair while called up to Vancouver where he did not see any action with the big club. Kero was the team’s second-leading scorer with a career-high 57 points that came from his 24 goals and 33 helpers that he put up over 67 games.
The pending unrestricted free agent will likely move on from the Canucks organization after the team made him one of the first cuts out of training camp and never gave him a minute of action at the NHL level this year despite his production in Utica and the number of injuries at the forward position in Vancouver.
Gaunce also missed seven games due to injury in Utica this year, where he played on both wings as well as spending time in the middle for the club.
Gaunce played in 60 games for the Comets, picking up 16 goals and 22 helpers, giving him 38 points to go along with 54 minutes in the box. The Canucks have already made it known that they will not qualify the contract of the pending restricted free agent, making him an unrestricted free agent free to sign where he likes after July first.
Gaunce has been a good soldier for the organization after being drafted by the previous regime 26th overall in the 2012 draft. He was able to put up solid numbers at the AHL level with 111 points over 189 games but has been unable to translate that to the NHL level where he has just 15 points in 117 games played. Gaunce is a good dude and I wish him all the best going forward.
The Dahlen situation with the Vancouver Canucks will go down as one of the more curious ones in recent years. The player was acquired in a deadline day deal in a trade that sent Canucks fan favourite Alex Burrows out of town to wrap up his career with the Ottawa Senators. That trade was seen as a huge win by Canucks fans as Dahlen looked to be the type of high-end prospect that was missing from the system at the time.
Dahlen showed up at his first training camp with the Canucks and ended up with mono. He decided that the AHL wasn’t for him after his preseason with the Comets and headed back to Sweden to help his club team make the jump from the Allsvenskan to the SHL. To his credit, he played a huge role in making that happen for Timra.
This season, Dahlen came back over and ended up starting the year in Utica. The winger missed just five games due to injury, mostly as the result of a concussion suffered at the hands of Eric Tangredi…yep, he’s the same guy who took Ashton Sautner out for 23 games with a broken face from a questionable hit.
The 21-year-old Dahlen got into 50 games for the Comets, picking up 14 goals and 15 helpers to give himself 29 points to go along with 10 minutes in the penalty box before he was traded to San Jose for 19-year-old pivot Linus Karlsson.
After Dahlen was moved out, Jasek became the Comets leading scorer amongst their rookie crew and he would finish the season that way as well. Lukas also missed just five games due to injury this year for the Comets.
Jasek finished the season with nine goals and 20 helpers to give himself 29 points in 63 games while playing all three forward positions for the team along the way. He also spent 24 minutes in the penalty box this year.
I think the fact that Jasek only missed five games due to injury is a positive sign for a player who isn’t afraid to get his nose dirty in board battles. Jasek did some of his best work this season while deep in the trenches of puck battles along the boards, more often than not coming away with the puck.
Gaudette spent the least amount of time in Utica out of their rookie group and as such, he didn’t spend a lot of time on the shelf with injuries, missing just two games due to injuries/illness.
Gaudette played in just 14 games for Utica, picking up five goals and six helpers to go along with 12 minutes of penalty time.
Pyatt came over in a January trade with Ottawa that sent Darren Archibald out of town and allowed Thatcher Demko to graduate to the NHL as Anders Nilsson was also part of that deal.
Pyatt played in 36 games for the Comets while missing three more with a concussion late in the season. He spent the bulk of his time in Utica playing on the top line with Kero and Boucher where he picked up six goals and added 13 assists to give himself 19 points to go along with six penalty minutes.
The veteran is a pending unrestricted free agent and I would not expect the Canucks to bring him back. Is it possible that they could bring back the man who he was traded for?
TheMayor really put on the miles this season as he bounced back and forth between the Comets and Canucks before getting the same yo-yo treatment after his trade to the Ottawa organization.
Archibald didn’t miss any games to injury for the Comets, suiting up in 23 contests before his trade. During those 23 games, he was able to pick up 11 goals and five helpers to go along with 19 penalty minutes. I do think that there is an outside chance that we could see Archibald back in the Canucks/Comets system, but time will tell on that front.
There was one Comets regular who did not miss a single game to injury this year and that was none other than TheBigFella.
Zack MacEwen played in 69 games for the Comets this year, picking up 22 goals and 30 helpers to give himself 52 points to go along with 75 minutes spent in the box. He missed one game due to a suspension while missing the other six while up with the parent Canucks making his NHL debut.
MacEwen is a big dude and is no shrinking violet. He plays a physical game, he fights, blocks shots on the penalty kill and plays the net-front on the first power play unit for the team. This is impressive, to say the least as he does not shy away from the areas and plays where players pick up injuries, yet he managed to stay out of the infirmary.
That isn’t to say that MacEwen didn’t suffer his share of injuries this year, he was just able to play through them. I do know that Zack was hoping to play every game for the Comets this year and outside of the one-game suspension and his call-up, he managed to do it.
Laplante wasn’t technically a Utica Comet this year as he could not be assigned to the team out of camp due to his injury status. Laplante missed the bulk of last year with an injury and did not play a game this year for the same reason. He is a pending RFA and I do not expect the team to qualify his deal, allowing him to walk as an unrestricted free agent. It’s been a tough go for Laplante, I wish him well.
Moving onto the players who were signed by the Comets to AHL deals and we see more of the same. There were a number of players who missed significant time due to injuries.
Hamilton had a rough go during training camp with the Canucks and suffered a concussion that set him back for the rest of the year. He managed to get into just 23 games for Utica this year after having what was a career year for himself last season.
Putting up points is not Hamilton’s calling card as he is more of a defensive specialist, but he still put up nearly half a point a game this year with 11 in his 23 contests. Hamilton is one of the leaders in Utica and has another year left on his AHL deal with the team. He is one of the club’s better faceoff men and penalty killers. Unfortunately, he is also one of the team’s more frequent flyers as far as trips to the penalty box go.
Hamilton missed 47 games due to injuries while also sitting a handful more as the team’s veteran scratch when they had more than they were allowed to play in a game.
BigVinny missed a total of 23 games to various injuries, which doesn’t really seem like all that many for a man who can be aptly described as a human bowling ball when he is on the ice.
Arseneau stands six-foot-two and tips the scales at a little over 230-pounds. The man is tailor-made to punish bodies and he does so on the regular with big, heavy hits. Kole Lind had some of his best games of the season while playing on a line with Arseneau and picking up on his all-out style of play.
Arseneau had a career year with 38 AHL games played, nine goals and two helpers to go along with 49 minutes spent in the box. His deal with the Comets was for this season and as such he is a pending unrestricted free agent. I could see the team bringing him back for another season.
Woods was in his second season with the team this year, although he only managed to get into 14 games for the team last season before suffering a season-ending injury.
This year, Woods missed 21 games with various ailments. He fits well as the team’s fourth line centre but found himself pushed further up the lineup than what I would consider being ideal a little too often this season.
The six-foot-three, 223-pound pivot played in 53 games for the Comets this year, picking up seven goals and 10 assists to go along with his 103 minutes spent in the box. Not unlike Hamilton, Woods a solid penalty killer, but spends more time in the box than what is ideal.
Woods is a pending unrestricted free agent and I could see the team bringing him back for a third season on an AHL deal.
MacMaster got into 29 games with the Comets this year while sitting out 12 more due to injuries before he was moved out in favour of defenceman Stefan LeBlanc, also on an AHL deal. MacMaster was able to put up 11 points while with the Comets this year.
Bancks is the captain of the team and has been a useful player on the defensive side of things, eating up minutes on the penalty kill.
The captain missed seven games due to injuries this year while playing in 69 more to match Zack MacEwen for second-most games played this year for the Comets. Like Hamilton, Bancks has another year left on his deal with the team and will be back for another campaign.
Bancks picked up four goals and added 11 assists while spending 47 minutes serving penalties.
Darcy is a player who came over from the Tampa Bay system and started out with the club on a tryout deal before earning an AHL contract last year. He played well enough to earn an AHL deal for this year and had a solid campaign for the team.
Darcy missed just four games to injury while playing in 68. He sat a few as a healthy scratch as well. He is a useful player for the Comets as he plays the middle and there are not many others in the system who can do the same.
Similar to Woods, Darcy is often pushed further up the lineup than what is ideal for his skill set, in my opinion. He has found himself as the team’s second line centre more often than I’d like, but I do think that he can play an effective role as the team’s third line pivot.
Darcy has been able to provide decent secondary offence while also being a sound penalty killer when called upon. Darcy picked up 10 goals and added 13 assists to give himself 23 points in his 68 games. His one-year AHL deal has expired, but I would not be surprised to see him back for another season in Utica on an AHL deal.
Gardiner spent the bulk of his season with the Kalamazoo Wings in the ECHL, but he did manage to play a depth role for the Comets, getting into 21 games while missing two with an injury.
Gardiner put up three points with the Comets while seeing time up and down the lineup at all three forward positions. His one-year AHL deal with the Comets has expired and he has already signed on to play in Germany for the 2019/20 season.
There was one player who was on a tryout deal up front that I felt deserved a mention for this exercise and that is Seamus Malone.
Malone came in at the end of the regular season on a tryout deal after finishing up his NCAA career with the University of Wisconsin. The five-foot-ten, 180-pound 23-year-old played in six games for the Comets, picking up three goals and adding another in the shootout before breaking his hand. He missed six games this year.
Malone plays the middle and the wing and showed some offensive creativity along with a nice scoring touch. I would like to see him back on an AHL deal with the Comets next season.
As you can see, with 202 man games lost up front, the Comets faced their share of injury troubles this year once again. As such, do not be surprised if we see the club load up with players on AHL deals again next season. They currently have just Wacey Hamilton and Carter Bancks signed to AHL deals for next year. That will give the management group the opportunity to make bigger changes by bringing in new faces, or they could go with the players with whom they are more familiar and we could see a handful of the above players brought back. Either way, the Comets will have a busy offseason of adding players, in my opinion.