Photo Credit: Cory Hergott

CanucksArmy Utica Comets Mailbag: Goaltending, Call-Ups, & Who Makes The Cut

CanucksArmy Utica Comets MailBag

It’s that time of the week again, folks. Let’s get after it.

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I mean, the ideal situation would see Michael DiPietro grab the number one job before the season finishes, and it would be even better if he were battling Jake Kielly for starts. I’m not sure that’s what we will see happening, though. At the end of the day, I think we will be seeing some sort of rotation until injuries occur.

I think that we could see a combo of Zane McIntyre and DiPietro in Utica, with Kielly heading to Kalamazoo in order to get starts. I think Richard Bachman will end up staying in Utica, no matter how the goaltending chips fall. Even if he isn’t playing, he could help DiPietro on and off the ice.

I do think that we will see DiPietro and Kielly both spending some time in KZOO throughout the season just to keep them sharp if McIntyre or Bachman end up going on a run that forces the younger netminders to sit.

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I will answer the question like this…I think that there is an organizational want to have young players earning their roster spots rather than just handing them a prime role. I think that both coaches want to employ and uptempo, fast, physical brand of hockey, though neither staff has really had the horses to do so in recent years.

Both coaches want pucks moved out of their end quickly and cleanly, and both want a fast, hard forecheck when they don’t have the puck. I think that there is consistency from the top-down as far as how this organization identifies players and how they want their team to play.

I think it would be great if DiPietro can get into 35-plus games with Utica this season…although I’m not sure if that will be a realistic number just yet. Zane McIntyre was brought in on a two-way deal that still pays him around $400K at the AHL level and he is used to playing 40-plus games a season. Bachman normally plays a little over 30 when healthy.

Clearly, all four goaltenders will not be able to play big minutes, but I think that we could see DiPietro get into 25-30 games with the Comets this season. I’d love to be underestimating that, but we will have to wait to see how his season goes in his first pro campaign.

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Well, since this tweet came out, Zack MacEwen and Jalen Chatfield have been assigned to Utica, while Richard Bachman and Tyler Graovac have hit the waiver wire and will be headed to Utica if/when they clear.

At the moment, Guillaume Brisebois is still up with the big club, as is Adam Gaudette. My guess is that we will see Brisebois head down once Oscar Fantenberg is ready to go, while Gaudette has shown well enough in preseason that he may have forced his way onto the roster.

If that is indeed the case, we could see a player or two traded/waived that we were not expecting when camp started. I think that all of MacEwen, Graovac, Brisebois, and Gaudette have at the very least pushed their names to the front of the call-up list.

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Graovac was waived since this tweet went out, but yes, I think that he has put himself in a good position. He showed well on the wing and in the middle, which makes him versatile. Coaches like versatile.

When I spoke with Graovac at training camp, he said that he spoke with Travis Green early in free agency and that Green spoke highly of him as an opposing coach from his AHL days at the helm in Utica. So we know the coach in Vancouver has at least a little bit of time for what he brings.

The knock that I had been reading on Graovac was his footspeed. He doesn’t see that as an issue, but rather as one of his strong suits. To my eye, his skating isn’t as bad as what I had been reading, but it might not be as much of a strength as the player thinks it is. I think he can get by in a fourth-line role at the NHL level as a call-up. He has decent hands in terms of his stickhandling, but he tends to hang onto pucks a little longer than I’d like to see. I think he could use his wingers a little better as well.

I think he will be a nice vet for the young players to work with in Utica this year while being a capable call-up when needed. If we keep our expectations reasonable and realize that Graovac is a depth player and not one who should be counted on as a prime piece going forward, we shouldn’t be disappointed.

I think that a trade is entirely possible. That said, I’m not sure that the return would be all that great on any of those players that you mentioned. Virtanen will have the best value of the bunch, but I’m not sure that giving up on him is the right choice out of that group.

I think that it’s possible that Goldobin could fetch a late-round pick or another team’s stalled prospect, but again, I wouldn’t expect much. Any trade of Schaller or Eriksson likely means retaining salary and/or taking back another undesirable contract in return. I do think that it is possible that one of the two could be moved. Time will tell on that front, though.

My guess is that out of the two, the team would prefer to hang onto Beagle and move on from Sutter. Gaudette has certainly made a strong case to stick with the big club out of camp, but his addition to the team might not come at the expense of Sutter or Beagle.

I think that if the team opens the season with all of Pettersson, Horvat, Sutter, Gaudette, and Beagle healthy and on the roster, that Sutter could be moved to the wing until a trade can be sorted out. If that happens, we could see another winger waived or traded to make room. I do think that Sutter’s tenure with the Canucks will come to an end before next season begins, but we will have to wait to see when/how the team is able to move him out.


Until next time.