Utica Comets 2018/19 – 2019/20
Part Seven – Wrap-Up
Over the past couple of weeks, I have been doing a position-by-position comparison of the Utica Comets 2018/19 roster to what this year’s squad could potentially look like. Today I will throw a little bow on all of that content with this wrap-up piece to see where the team stands.
I will include links to the first six parts of this series below.
Part One: Center Ice
— Botchford's Army (@CanucksArmy) July 16, 2019
Part Two: RW
— Botchford's Army (@CanucksArmy) July 19, 2019
Part Three: LW
— Botchford's Army (@CanucksArmy) July 25, 2019
Part Four: RD
— Botchford's Army (@CanucksArmy) August 2, 2019
Part Five: LD
— Botchford's Army (@CanucksArmy) August 6, 2019
Part Six: Goaltending
— Comets Cory (@CoryHergott) August 9, 2019
So, what will be the major differences between last year’s club and this year’s team? First, let’s look at the regular contributors who will not be back. I will list the players in the same order that they found themselves, points-wise for the Comets.
Who is Out
- Tanner Kero: C. Two-way deal. 76 games, 24 goals, 33 assists, 57 points. Finished second in scoring for Utica. Signed one-year, two-way deal with the Dallas Stars.
- Brendan Gaunce: W/C. Two-way deal. 60 games, 16 goals, 22 assists, 38 points. Finished fourth in scoring for Utica. Signed one-year, two-way deal with the Boston Bruins.
- Evan McEneny: LD. Two-way deal. 58 games, eight goals, 23 assists, 31 points. Finished first amongst defencemen and fifth in scoring for Utica. Unsigned, unrestricted free agent.
- Jonathan Dahlen: LW. Two-way deal. 50 games, 14 goals, 15 assists, 29 points. Finished sixth in scoring for Utica. Traded to San Jose for center Linus Karlsson. Dahlen will play for Timra in the Allsvenskan this year.
- Cam Darcy: C. AHL deal. 68 games, 10 goals, 13 assists, 23 points. Finished eighth in scoring for Utica. Signed a one-year AHL deal with San Antonio.
- Tom Pyatt: LW. Two-way deal. 36 games, six goals, 13 assists, 19 points. Finished ninth in scoring for Utica. Signed overseas with Skelleftea in the SHL.
- Jesse Graham: RD. AHL deal. 52 games, four goals, 14 assists, 18 points. Finished 10th in scoring for Utica. Unsigned, unrestricted free agent.
- Brendan Woods: C. AHL deal. 53 games, seven goals, 10 assists, 17 points. Finished 11th in scoring for Utica. Signed two-year AHL deal with the Providence Bruins.
- Darren Archibald: LW/RW. Two-way deal. 23 games, 11 goals, five assists, 16 points. Finished 14th in scoring for Utica. Traded to Ottawa, has since signed an AHL deal with the Toronto Marlies.
- Jaime Sifers: RD. AHL deal. 70 games, four goals, 10 assists, 14 points. Finished 16th in scoring for Utica. Retired.
- Ivan Kulbakov: G. AHL deal. 25 games, 10-15-2. 3.50 goals-against average/0.893% save percentage. Signed tryout deal with Dinamo Minsk in the KHL.
There were other players who got into 20 or more with the Comets, (Colton Saucerman/Reid Gardiner) but are considered depth players for the purposes of this exercise.
As we can see, the team is watching 546 man-games from last year move on, along with 104 goals, 158 assists and 262 points. The entire Comets roster put up 591 points as a group last season.
Now we will take a look at who is sticking around from last year’s group.
Who is Returning
- Reid Boucher: LW/RW. Two-way deal. 56 games, 31 goals, 31 assists, 62 points. Finished first in scoring for Utica. Re-signed to a one-year, two-way deal by Vancouver. AHL Veteran Status applies. Requires Waivers.
- Zack MacEwen: RW. Two-way deal. 69 games, 22 goals, 30 assists, 52 points. Finished third in scoring for Utica. One-year remains on his entry-level deal with Vancouver.
- Lukas Jasek: RW/LW. Two-way deal. 63 games, nine goals, 20 assists, 29 points. Finished seventh in scoring for Utica. Two-years remain on his entry-level deal with Vancouver.
- Kole Lind: RW/LW. Two-way deal. 51 games, five goals, 12 assists, 17 points. Finished 13th in scoring for Utica. Two-years remain on his entry-level deal with Vancouver.
- Carter Bancks: F. AHL deal. 69 games, four goals, 11 assists, 15 points. Finished 15th in scoring for Utica. In the final year of his AHL deal with Utica. AHL Veteran Status applies.
- Olli Juolevi: LD. Two-way deal. 18 games, one goal, 12 assists, 13 points. Finished 17th in scoring for Utica. Two years remain on his entry-level deal with Vancouver.
- Vincent Arseneau: LW/RW. AHL deal. 38 games, nine goals, two assists, 11 points. Finished 18th in scoring for Utica. Re-signed to one-year AHL deal by Utica.
- Adam Gaudette: C. Two-way deal. 14 games, five goals, six assists, 11 points. Finished 19th in scoring for Utica. In the final year of his entry-level deal with Vancouver.
- Guillaume Brisebois: LD. Two-way deal. 49 games, three goals, eight assists, 11 points. Finished 20th in scoring for Utica. In the final year of his entry-level deal with Vancouver.
- Wacey Hamilton: F. AHL deal. 23 games, one goal, 10 assists, 11 points. Finished 22nd in scoring for Utica. In the final year of his AHL deal with Utica. AHL Veteran Status applies.
- Jonah Gadjovich: LW/RW. Two-way deal. 43 games, four goals, six assists, 10 points. Finished 23rd in scoring for Utica. Two years remain on his entry-level deal with Vancouver.
- Ashton Sautner: LD. Two-way deal. 31 games, three goals, five assists, eight points. Finished 24th in scoring for Utica. Will be a restricted free agent after this season. Requires Waivers.
- Dylan Blujus: RD. AHL deal. 43 games, one goal, seven assists, eight points. Finished 25th in points for Utica. Re-signed to a one-year AHL deal by Utica.
- Stefan LeBlanc: LD. AHL deal. 25 games, zero goals, six assists, six points. Finished 26th in points for Utica. Re-signed to a one-year AHL deal by Utica.
- Jalen Chatfield: RD. Two-way deal. 34 games, zero goals, six assists, six points. Finished 27th in scoring for Utica. In the final year of his entry-level deal with Vancouver.
- Seamus Malone: LW/C. AHL PTO (professional tryout offer). Six games, three goals, zero assists, three points. Finished 31st in scoring for Utica. Signed to a one-year AHL deal by Utica.
- Matt Petgrave: LD. AHL PTO. 12 games, one goal, one assist, two points. Finished 35th in scoring for Utica. Signed to a one-year AHL deal by Utica.
- Aaron Thow: LD. PTO. six games, zero goals, one assist, one point. Finished 38th in scoring for Utica. Signed to a one-year AHL deal by Utica.
- Dyson Stevenson: F. PTO. Three games, zero points. Signed to a one-year AHL deal by Utica.
The Comets returning players managed to get into a total of 662 games last season and picked up 102 goals, 174 assists, and 276 points. Of that above group, it is likely that we will see all but Petgrave, Thow, and Stevenson starting in Utica, with those last three heading off to Kalamazoo as depth players.
The Canucks/Comets have been busy making roster moves this offseason and have added a few new faces that will likely see time in Utica this year. Let’s take a look at those players, shall we?
Who is New
- Carter Camper: C. AHL deal. 67 games, (Grand Rapids, AHL) 17 goals, 33 assists, 50 points. Finished third in scoring for Grand Rapids. Signed to a one-year AHL deal by Utica. AHL Veteran Status applies.
- Tyler Graovac: C. Two-way deal, (Calgary Flames, NHL). 65 games, (Stockton Heat AHL) 24 goals, 26 assists, 50 points. Finished second in scoring for Stockton. Signed to one-year, two-way deal by Vancouver. AHL Veteran Status applies. Requires Waivers.
- Francis Perron: LW. Two-way deal, (San Jose, NHL). 63 games, (San Jose Barracuda, AHL) 18 goals, 29 assists, 47 points. Finished second in scoring for San Jose Barracuda. Acquired by Vancouver in pick swap with San Jose at 2019 NHL draft.
- Justin Bailey: RW. Two-way deal, (Buffalo Sabres/Philadelphia Flyers, NHL). 11 games, one assist with Philadelphia, (NHL). 17 games, six goals, two assists, eight points with Lehigh Valley, (AHL). 37 games, nine goals, 11 assists, 20 points with Rochester, (AHL). AHL Veteran Exempt Status applies. Requires Waivers.
- Brogan Rafferty: RD. Two-way deal. 38 games, (Quinnipiac, NCAA) four goals, 20 assists, 24 points. Finished seventh in scoring for Quinnipiac. Signed to a two-year deal by Vancouver Canucks. The first year is a two-way deal, the second is one-way.
- Josh Teves: LD. Two-way deal. 30 games, (Princeton, NCAA) three goals, 17 assists, 20 points. Finished fifth in scoring for Princeton. Signed to a two-year deal by Vancouver. The first year is a two-way deal, the second is one-way.
- Mitch Eliot: RD. Two-way deal. 66 games, (Sarnia, OHL) 17 goals, 38 assists, 55 points. Finished fifth in scoring for Sarnia. Signed to a two-year, two way deal by Vancouver.
- Dylan Sadowy: LW/RW. Two-way deal, (Detroit, NHL). 14 games, (Grand Rapids, AHL) one goal, zero assists. 43 games, (Toledo, ECHL) 23 goals, 23 assists, 46 points. Finished fourth in scoring for Toledo. Signed to a one-year AHL deal by Utica.
- Tanner Sorenson: C. ECHL deal. Eight games, (EHC Winterthur, NLB Switzerland) three goals, two assists, five points. 55 games, (Kalamazoo, ECHL) 22 goals, 42 assists, 64 points. Finished second in scoring for Kalamazoo. Signed to a one-year AHL deal by Utica.
- Zach Frye: LD. AHL deal. Seven games, (San Jose Barracuda, AHL) one goal, one assist, two points. 25 games, (Orlando, ECHL) five goals, 11 assists, 16 points. Finished 18th in scoring for Orlando. Signed to a one-year AHL deal by Utica.
When we look at the above group, we can probably safely assume that Camper, Graovac, Perron, Bailey, Rafferty, Teves and Eliot will be starting in Utica, while the trio of Sadowy, Sorenson, and Frye head off to Kalamazoo.
Rafferty, Teves, and Eliot are unknowns at the pro level and will be making their rookie debuts this year, so I will leave their points totals out of this part of the equation as it’s going to be tough to gauge what they can bring at the AHL level.
The Comets will, however, be adding a group of players who played 249 AHL games last year and put up 74 goals, 101 assists, and 175 points in Camper, Graovac, Perron, and Bailey. I expect that we will likely see all four of the latter plying their trade with Utica’s top-nine group of forwards.
So, what might a Comets line-up look like to start the season? That will depend on the health of the parent Canucks, the health of the Comets, and whether or not Vancouver is able to make a trade or two in order to move out an extra body or two. Players with a (W) beside their name will require waivers to get to Utica.
Vancouver Canucks Forwards
Micheal Ferland (W) – Elias Pettersson – Brock Boeser
Tanner Pearson (W) – Bo Horvat (W) – JT Miller (W)
Sven Baertschi (W) – Brandon Sutter (W) – Josh Leivo (W)
Antoine Roussel (injured reserve) (W) – Jay Beagle (W) – Jake Virtanen (W)
Forwards on the Bubble
- Loui Eriksson (W)
- Tim Schaller (W)
- Nikolay Goldobin (W)
- Tyler Motte (W)
Vancouver Canucks Defence
Alex Edler (W) – Troy Stecher (W)
Quinn Hughes – Tyler Myers (W)
Jordie Benn (W) – Chris Tanev (W)
Oscar Fantenberg (W) – Alex Biega (W)
Vancouver Canucks Goaltending
Jacob Markstrom (W)
Utica Comets Forwards
Players listed with a (W) beside their names require waivers. Players listed with a (V) beside their names have AHL veteran status. Players with (VE) beside their names have veteran-exempt status. Players with (AHL) beside their names are on AHL deals with the Comets.
Reid Boucher (W) (V) – Adam Gaudette – Zack MacEwen
Francis Perron (W) – Carter Camper (AHL) (V) – Justin Bailey (W) VE)
Lukas Jasek – Tyler Graovac (W) (V) – Kole Lind
Jonah Gadjovich – Wacey Hamilton (AHL) (V) – Carter Bancks (AHL) (V)
Vincent Arseneau (AHL) – Seamus Malone (AHL)
Comets Depth Forwards (Kalamazoo)
Dylan Sadowy (AHL) – Tanner Sorenson (AHL) – Dyson Stevenson (AHL)
Utica Comets Defence
Olli Juolevi – Jalen Chatfield
Ashton Sautner (W) – Brogan Rafferty
Guillaume Brisebois – Dylan Blujus (AHL)
Josh Teves – Mitch Eliot
Comets Depth Defencemen (Kalamazoo)
Matt Petgrave LD (AHL)
Aaron Thow LD (AHL)
Zach Frye LD (AHL)
Utica Comets Goaltenders
As you can see from the lists above, the Canucks/Comets find themselves with a surplus of wingers again this year, which could lead to some interesting decisions once training camp/preseason wrap up if no other moves are made between now and then.
The parent club will have to decide which player/players get waived out of camp in order to get down to a 23-man roster at the NHL level. That will absolutely have an effect on the Comets roster. As it is, the Comets will have some tough calls to make in goal with veterans McIntyre and Bachman in the fold while youngsters Kielly and DiPietro will need to get their minutes as well.
Things aren’t as difficult on the back end, though rookies Teves and Eliot might have to bide their time until they can take advantage of someone else’s injury to get into the lineup on a regular basis. If the coaching staff wants to get Teves in, they could also slide Brisebois over to the right side where he spent the bulk of his first season and use the duo as a pair.
When we move to the forward ranks, we don’t have such an easy time figuring things out. If we take the Vancouver bubble players out of the equation for a moment and look at the players who “make sense” as starters in Utica, the team looks pretty solid and the young players “should” all see decent minutes with good linemates on the regular.
The problems arise if the Canucks are unable to move out a couple of extras from up top. Those bubble players, Eriksson, Schaller, Goldobin, and Motte could all potentially throw a wrench into the kids getting regular minutes. My guess is that we wouldn’t have to worry about Goldobin because if he hits waivers, I would imagine another team would be willing to give him an opportunity and scoop him up from the freebie pile. I think there is an outside chance of the same happening with Motte, although I’m not sure that Travis Green would be as eager to waive him.
As far as Loui Eriksson goes, if the team does decide to go the waivers route with him, I am of the opinion that they would loan him to a different team if he were to clear like they did last year with Sam Gagner and the Toronto Marlies. I just don’t see a scenario where the Canucks send a player who is unhappy with the organization down to the minors to ride the buses with their kids. Anything could happen, but I will believe that move when I see it. Eriksson has moved his family back to the Dallas area, so maybe a loan to the Texas Stars or possibly the San Antonio Rampage might make sense.
The fly in the ointment, as far as I am concerned, is Tim Schaller. I don’t see how he will win a spot with the big club out of camp unless there are injuries to other players. If Schaller were to be waived to Utica and clear, he would instantly gum up the works for the young wingers. The coaching staff could elect to use Schaller in the middle in Utica, which could possibly push Wacey Hamilton out of the lineup. That wouldn’t be a terrible thing as while Hamilton is a solid penalty killer and a fine defensive player, he also takes a pile of penalties and has had a tough time staying healthy over the past two years.
It’as also important to remember that all four of the bubble guys would also hold AHL veteran status, so any of them getting into this lineup would come at the expense of another veteran and not a kid as the Comets are already at their limit of five vets who can play in a given game, per the AHL rules.
This is all to say that the Canucks will have some fancy footwork to do before the regular season starts…or Trent Cull and his staff will be the ones doing the shuffle again in Utica while trying to ensure that their young players are getting regular minutes and developing properly. We also know that the injury bug plays a hand in how the rosters shake out for both clubs.
The other area that intrigues me with the Comets roster is what will happen in goal. Up until this past season, the Comets had only ever had nine men play minutes for them in a game between the pipes since they arrived in Utica for the 2013/14 season. Last season, however, they had to use seven! With that in mind, along with the great goalie fiasco of ’19 that saw Michael DiPietro make his NHL debut far sooner than the team would have liked, the Canucks made sure they have adequate depth at the position this year.
With Markstrom and Demko expected to hold the fort in Vancouver, that still leaves the four-headed goalie monster for Utica to deal with. At the top of the heap is Zane McIntyre, who I expect to be the starter on most nights in Utica this year when he is healthy. He played in 46 games last year for Providence and in 47 the year before. The soon to be 27-year-old is also going to be paid $400K at the AHL level, so my guess is that Vancouver sees him starting a good portion of the games as well.
Richard Bachman has been a great mentor for Thatcher Demko and has been fantastic in the Utica community. That said, he is 32-years-old and coming off of an Achilles’ injury and only got into nine games for the Comets last season because of it. Bachman’s numbers weren’t anything to write home about either, but I can see a scenario where he still has value for the team. I kind of wonder if he might end up being shifted into a coaching/player development role of some sort, but he could also end up as part of the rotation for the Comets this year.
As I have mentioned a few times, I think the Comets might run with Jake Kielly as their backup this year, with DiPietro being worked into some starts as well. I can see the organization seeing some value in playing the wheels off of DiPietro in Kalamazoo while he cuts his teeth as a pro, while Kielly spells off McIntyre for some AHL starts of his own. At the end of the day, there are some nice options for the coaching staff in net this year in Utica and it will be one of the more fascinating storylines to watch play out this season.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this series and that you are starting to get fired up for the regular season to start as the Comets first game will be against the Binghamton Senators on Saturday, October 5th. Until then, stay tuned to this space for any and all Utica Comets news.