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Photo Credit: Cory Hergott

Utica Comets 2018/19-2019/20 Position-by-Position Comparison: Part One, Centers

Utica Comets Position-by Position Comparison

Part One – Centers

Thirteen… that is the number of players who lined up in the middle for at least one game for the Utica Comets last season. Of those 13, three were with the team on PTO deals, six had AHL deals with Utica, while the other four had two-way deals with the parent Canucks.

Tanner Kero was the only player of that last group who was a full-time pivot with the Comets last year. Adam Gaudette spent the bulk of his season in Vancouver while Brendan Gaunce and Lukas Jasek were used on the wing more than they were in the middle.

  1. Tanner Kero – Two-way deal
  2. Adam Gaudette – Two-way deal
  3. Brendan Gaunce – Two-way deal
  4. Lukas Jasek – Two-way deal
  5. Cam Darcy – AHL deal
  6. Brendan Woods – AHL deal
  7. Wacey Hamilton – AHL deal
  8. Carter Bancks – AHL deal
  9. Tanner MacMaster – AHL deal
  10. Reid Gardiner – AHL deal
  11. Tony Cameranesi – PTO
  12. Mike Szmatula – PTO
  13. Seamus Malone – PTO

The above group provided the Comets with 497 games played, 84 goals, and 138 assists for a combined 222 points, or 0.45 points per game.

It needs to be noted that some of those points were picked up while players like Carter Bancks, Lukas Jasek, Brendan Gaunce, Tanner MacMaster, Reid Gardiner, and Seamus Malone were playing on the wing.

The Comets currently look like they will have the following players available who could end up playing the middle for them in the 2019/20 season.

  1. Adam Gaudette – Two-way deal
  2. Tyler Graovac – Two-way deal
  3. Lukas Jasek – Two-way deal
  4. Carter Camper – AHL deal
  5. Wacey Hamilton – AHL deal
  6. Carter Bancks – AHL deal
  7. Seamus Malone – AHL deal

Of that group listed above, Malone, Bancks, and Jasek spent more time on the wing than they did in the middle last season under the Utica coaching staff. Gaudette could also earn a spot with the Canucks out of camp as well and it’s possible that he won’t be available to the Comets to start the year.

I will make the note here that while Zack MacEwen played the middle for the bulk of his career before turning pro…and I spent his whole first season beating the drum to move him off the wing and back into the middle, the team sees him as a winger and that seems to be working out pretty well for all involved to this point.

If we look at what the new group was able to provide last year, we have a lower point total due to having fewer players signed at the time of this writing, but we have a higher points-per-game average. The new group was able to provide 307 games played, 63 goals and 106 assists, giving them a combined 169 points, or 0.55 points per game.

I thought it might be interesting to look at who is out vs who is in from a couple of angles, so let’s take a look at size, age and power play contributions as well.

  • Out: Tanner Kero – Age, 27-years-old. Size, six-feet, 185lbs. 67 games played – 24 goals, 33 assists, and 57 points, or 0.85 points per game. Kero contributed 11 power play goals and 13 power play assists.
  • In: Carter Camper – Age, 31-years-old. Size, five-feet, nine-inches, 176lbs. 67 games played – 17 goals, 33 assists, and 50 points, or 0.75 points per game. Camper picked up two power play goals and 15 helpers with the extra man.

 

  • Out: Cam Darcy – Age, 25-years-old. Size, six-feet, 185lbs. 68 games played – 10 goals, 13 assists, and 23 points, or 0.34 points per game. Darcy grabbed one power play goal, and two power play assists last season.
  • In: Adam Gaudette – Age, 23-years-old. Size, six-feet, one-inch, 170lbs. 14 games played – five goals, six assists, and 11 points, or 0.79 points per game. Like Darcy, Adam earned one power play goal and two power play assists.

 

  • Out: Brendan Woods – Age, 27-years-old. Size, six-feet-four-inches, 209lbs. 53 games played – seven goals, 10 assists, and 17 points, or 0.32 points per game. One power play goal, and zero power play assists.
  • In: Tyler Graovac – Age, 26-years-old. Size, six-feet-five-inches, 207lbs. 65 games played – 24 goals, 26 assists, and 50 points, or 0.77 points per game. Graovac was credited with four power play goals, and eight power play assists last season.

I will leave Wacey Hamilton off of this list as he cancels himself out for this exercise. Obviously, the above list assumes that Gaudette lands in Utica to start the season, but time will tell on that front.

We can see that, on average, the team got a little older down the middle and a little smaller as well, but the points per game are up. We can also see that last year’s group picked up a total of 13 goals with the extra man while collecting 15 assists for 28 points on the man advantage.

This year’s potential group picked up a combined seven power play markers along with 25 assists to give themselves a total of 32 points while a man up. That leaves the team with six fewer goals, but 10 more helpers to give them a four-point bump over last year’s numbers.

The offseason is in’t over yet, and the parent Canucks are reportedly still trying to make some moves to clear out a body or two up top, but if they are unable to, we could see one or both of Tim Schaller or Tyler Motte waived with the intention of clearing a spot in Vancouver while bolstering the AHL roster with NHL depth. Both of Schaller and Motte have played the middle but have been used exclusively on the wing while in the Canucks system. Either could end up playing minutes as a pivot for the Comets if the team elects to go that way.

Kero, Woods, Darcy, and Hamilton all saw time on the penalty kill for Utica last year with Darcy seeing the fewest minutes of the group while down a man. I have reached out, unsuccessfully, to people who covered the Stockton Heat, (Graovac) and the Grand Rapids Griffins, (Camper) last year to find out if either player saw much time on the penalty kill for their respective club last season.

Hamilton was often paired with Carter Banks on the kill, while Kero saw his PK time mostly with Reid Boucher. Woods paired up with Zack MacEwen or Brendan Gaunce for the most part. If the newcomers do not have penalty killing chops in their repertoire, the Comets coaching staff will have to look to some younger faces for penalty killing minutes.

This could be the season where we see youngsters Jonah Gadjovich, Lukas Jasek, and Kole Lind get some experience killing penalties at the AHL level. I feel like Jasek and Gadjovich could both do well in penalty killing roles if paired with a solid veteran like Hamilton or Bancks.

As we can see, the coaching staff could have a little more in the way of offensive contributions from the potential pivots for the 2019/20 season, but they might need to look to some new scorers on the power play. That Zack MacEwen fella has a pretty nice shot, so maybe it’s time to pull him from the net-front and slide him into a shooting position to see how he does there.

Speaking of TheBigFella, stay tuned to this space as I will tackle last year’s rightwingers vs this year’s potential crop this week as well as I work my way through the roster.

 



  • Bill Laforge

    Utica and the Canucks need a complete rethink on construction of their roster. Far too many AHL contracts taking up icetime. Didn’t work out too well last year.

    • CometsHARDCORE

      Just curious. How many AHL contracts do you think need to be added to the NHL contracted players to fill out both a NHL and AHL roster? And what do you think other teams do for the ratio of NHL/AHL contracts?

      • Bill Laforge

        While an NHL team has a roster of 23, the AHL team usually has about 25. There is no limit to the number of AHL contracts which is fine as long as they are being shuttled to the ECHL as required.

  • Defenceman Factory

    Thanks Cory. It would be much more difficult keeping up with the farm without your writings. Schaller or Motte could be pretty valuable additions to Utica and almost certainly one or both will be sent down.

    Centre depth is an issue for the Canucks and gets more important if Sutter gets moved as he should and Gaudette takes the 3rd line as he should. Is Graovac the 1st call up from Utica at centre? Do you know what gaps in his game have kept him from becoming a regular NHLer?

  • Bill Laforge

    Utica will have some good forwards like Perron,Bailey, Jasek, McCewen, Gadjovich,Lind,Boucher,Schaller(?),Motte(?),Palmu(?),Goldobin(?) ….do they want centers like Hamilton,Camper. Better utilization would be using prospects like Jasek, McCewen, Gaudette as top line centers. It seems a waste of potential otherwise

    • CometsHARDCORE

      Gaudette played 14 games in the AHL last year and 56 in the NHL. What are the chances that he plays any significant time in Utica this season? MacEwen projects as a big power wing in the NHL. That is why Vancouver has him in that position in Utica so that he is developing in the role that they see him fitting into eventually. Jasek is an unknown at this point but if he develops into a NHL player at all it will likely be on the wing and not down the middle.

      The Canucks do not have any real center prospects in the AHL so they have to sign depth player to both NHK and AHL contracts to help with the development of the prospects on the wings. The center position has been a obvious weakness in Utica for multiple seasons in a row which is why AHL plumbers like Hamilton, Woods and Darcy were used so often.

      • Defenceman Factory

        On Gaudette being in the NHL for most games this year there is likely a difference between will and should. Gaudette’s time with the big club last year was mostly because of Sutter’s injuries. Being waiver exempt and with Sutter healthy and still on the team Gaudette will be in Utica.

        Sutter should be moved and Gaudette should have a lock on the 3rd line centre job.

  • Kanuckhotep

    When the injury bug inevitably hits the big club the look of the Comets will radically change and it’s hard to figure out lines in the middle of summer. Because he’s waiver exempt expect Gaudette on Utica. Like the kid but is not ready to be #3 centre just yet. He’ll split his season between the two clubs no doubt. Bo, Petey, Beagle and Sutter are ahead of him and I doubt there are any takers on Sutter’s contract nor have there been. Want to see Juolevi finally on the Canucks to see if this kid was worth drafting him where they did. It’s been too long and it’s time.