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An Early Look Ahead At The 2019/20 Utica Comets

2019/20 Utica Comets

An Early Look Ahead

The Vancouver Canucks and Utica Comets have been busy reshaping their rosters for the 2019/20 season and I figured that now was as good a time as any to take an early look at what the Comets team could look like for the upcoming season. Keep in mind that more moves can be made that would see some of these players moved out and others brought aboard.

If we start with the parent Canucks, we can see that the team has an excess of forwards, even after buying out Ryan Spooner.

Forwards

TJ Miller – Elias Pettersson – Brock Boeser*

Sven Baertschi* – Bo Horvat – Tanner Pearson

Josh Leivo – Brandon Sutter – Jake Virtanen

Antoine Roussel* – Jay Beagle – Loui Eriksson

Nikolay Goldobin* – Adam Gaudette – Tyler Motte

                                             Tim Schaller

Of that group listed above, only Brock Boeser, Elias Pettersson, and Adam Gaudette would not require waivers to get to Utica. Boeser and Goldobin remain as unsigned restricted free agents. Roussel will be starting on the injured reserve list and it is possible that Baertschi could have lingering concussion issues that could potentially hinder his start to the season.

All of this points to the Canucks either trying to move a player or two out via trade or possibly sending an extra body or two down to Utica via waivers.

If we assume that Boeser and Pettersson will be starting in Vancouver and Roussel starts on IR, that leaves the team likely deciding between Motte, Goldobin, Schaller, and Gaudette as potentially earmarked for Utica. All but Gaudette would require waivers to get there.

On the backend, the team currently have the following players available.

Defencemen

Alex Edler – Troy Stecher

Quinn Hughes – Tyler Myers

Jordie Benn – Chris Tanev

Oscar Fantenberg – Alex Biega

Olli Juolevi – Jett Woo*

Ashton Sautner – Brogan Rafferty

Guillaume Brisebois – Jalen Chatfield

Josh Teves – Mitch Eliot

Of the group listed above, Hughes, Juolevi, Brisebois, Teves, Rafferty, Chatfield and Eliot would not need to clear waivers to get top Utica. Jett Woo will have to make the big club out of camp or it will be back to the Calgary Hitmen for him due to the CHL/AHL transfer agreement. Woo would be eligible to join the Comets after the conclusion of his WHL season.

Goaltenders

Jacob Markstrom

Thatcher Demko

The Canucks went into last season with goaltenders Jacob Markstrom, Anders Nilsson, Thatcher Demko, Michael DiPietro, and Richard Bachman under contract. We saw how that went after Nilsson was traded and Mike McKenna, (the man he was traded for) was snatched up off of waivers by Philly.

This year, the parent club is expected to have Markstrom, Demko, Bachman, DiPietro, Zane McIntyre, and Jake Kielly under contract when the season starts. It is possible that we could still see something happen with Bachman, whether that is a trade, or possibly retirement.

So…where does this leave the Comets as far as a potential opening night roster?

Reid Boucher – Adam Gaudette – Zack MacEwen

Francis Perron – Carter Camper – Justin Bailey

Lukas Jasek – Tyler Graovac – Kole Lind

Jonah Gadjovich – Wacey Hamilton (A) – Carter Bancks (C)

Vincent Arseneau – Seamus Malone

Olli Juolevi – Jalen Chatfield

Ashton Sautner – Brogan Rafferty

Guillaume Brisebois – Dylan Blujus

Josh Teves – Mitch Eliot

                                                          Stefan LeBlanc

Zane McIntyre

Richard Bachman

Jake Kielly

Michael DiPietro

Reid Boucher, Josh Teves, and Brogan Rafferty remained as unsigned restricted free agents, but those deals were literally announced as I typed this. Carter Bancks, Wacey Hamilton, Carter Camper, Seamus Malone, Vincent Arseneau, Stefan LeBlanc, and Dylan Blujus are all signed to AHL deals for the 2019/20 season.

If the parent club elects to go with 13 forwards and eight defenders, they will have to trim at least three forwards and eight defencemen from the above lists. If Adam Gaudette makes the big club out of camp, that would mean that Goldobin, Schaller or Motte could be hitting the waiver wire. This assumes Roussel starting on SOIR, (Season Opening Injured Reserve) and a healthy Baertschi.

Of course, it is still early in the offseason and moves could be made to shuffle out a body or two up top.

On the backend, it will likely come down to a battle of lefties Ashton Sautner and newcomer Oscar Fantenberg along with righty Alex Biega for the final two roster spots on the blueline. All three will require waivers to get to Utica.

In goal, I think that barring injuries, Jacob Markstrom and Thatcher Demko will start in Vancouver with McIntyre and Bachman hitting waivers to get to Utica. Kielly and DiPietro will not require waivers.

Who Is Out? (NHL/AHL Deals)

The Canucks/Comets have lost a few players who finished the season as regulars on NHL/AHL deals in Utica last year. Some have signed with other teams in the NHL/AHL, while others have headed overseas for a fresh start.

  1. Tanner Kero: Signed one-year, two-way deal with the Dallas Stars.
  2. Cam Darcy: Signed one-year AHL deal with San Antonio Rampage.
  3. Brendan Woods: Signed two-year AHL deal with Providence Bruins.
  4. Brendan Gaunce: Signed one-year, two-way deal with the Boston Bruins.
  5. Reid Gardiner: Signed one-year deal overseas.
  6. Marek Mazanec: Signed one-year deal overseas.
  7. Evan McEneny: Currently unsigned, unrestricted free agent.
  8. Tom Pyatt: Currently unsigned, unrestricted free agent.
  9. Jesse Graham: Currently unsigned, unrestricted free agent.
  10. Jaime Sifers: Retired.
  11. Kyle Thomas: Currently unsigned, unrestricted free agent.
  12. Brandon Anselmini: Currently unsigned, unrestricted free agent.
  13. Jagger Dirk: Currently unsigned, unrestricted free agent.
  14. Michael Leighton: Currently unsigned, unrestricted free agent.
  15. Ivan Kulbakov: Currently unsigned, unrestricted free agent.

Who’s In? (NHL/AHL Deals for 2019/20)

  1. Francis Perron – LW: Acquired via trade with San Jose.
  2. Tyler Graovac – C: Signed to a one-year, two-way deal by Vancouver.
  3. Justin Bailey – RW: Signed to a one-year, two-way deal.
  4. Carter Camper – C/RW: Signed to a one-year AHL deal.
  5. Zane McIntyre – G: Signed to a one-year, two-way deal.
  6. Josh Teves – LD: Signed to a two-year, two-way deal.
  7. Brogan Rafferty – RD: Signed to a two-year, two-way deal.
  8. Carter Bancks – RW/LW/C: In the final year of AHL deal. Returning.
  9. Wacey Hamilton – C/LW/RW: In the final year of AHL deal. Returning
  10. Seamus Malone – LW/RW/C: Signed to a one-year AHL deal. Returning, (finished on PTO last year).
  11. Vincent Arseneau – LW/RW: Signed to a one-year AHL deal. Returning.
  12. Reid Boucher – RW/LW. Signed to a one-year, two-way deal. Returning.
  13. Stefan LeBlanc – LD: Signed to a one-year AHL deal. Returning.
  14. Dylan Blujus – RD: Signed to a one-year AHL deal. Returning.

The Comets currently have fewer players signed to AHL deals coming into this season than they finished with last year, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see the team add another defender and possibly a little more center depth on AHL deals.

AHL Veteran Status

In the AHL, teams can dress up to five players in a game who fall under the AHL veteran status rule. If a player has played in 320 or more games between the NHL, AHL, and high-level European leagues, they are considered a veteran by the league. Teams can have as many such players on their roster as they’d like, but can only dress five in a given game. Goaltenders do not count against this cap.

So, who currently fits that veteran tag this season?

  1. Reid Boucher
  2. Carter Bancks
  3. Wacey Hamilton
  4. Carter Camper
  5. Tyler Graovac

If the Canucks were to send a player like Tim Schaller down, he would also count against the veteran limit.

As you can see, the parent club still has some work to do in order to have a smooth transition from training camp into the regular season without potentially losing a player or two to waivers. The Comets team that we see forming looks like they could be able to play with a bit more pace, especially on the backend where newcomers Rafferty, Teves, and Eliot can all skate quite well.

Stay tuned to this space as I will continue to break down the Comets potential roster for the 2019/20 season in the coming weeks.