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Photo Credit: TheCanadianPress

Quick Hits: Are The Utica Comets Using Their ECHL Affiliate More Effectively This Year?

Mitch Eliot To Kalamazoo

If you are someone who likes to keep up on all things Utica Comets, there is a good chance that you already follow Ben Birnell, (@OD_Birnell, @OD_Comets) and therefore, also know that the Canucks/Comets have assigned rookie blueliner Mitch Eliot to the Kalamazoo Wings so that he can take part in their Saturday game before returning to Utica once that match is over.

As Ben mentions, the Comets currently have eight other healthy defenders on the roster, so Eliot’s chances of getting an early look are slim until someone gets dinged up/called up. The Comets also have left-shot defender Matt PetGrave plying his trade with the Brampton Beast of the ECHL, while fellow lefties Aaron Thow and Zach Frye are already with the Comets ECHL affiliate Kalamazoo Wings along with forwards Tanner Sorenson, Dylan Sadowy, and the recently acquired David Pope.

Last season, we saw players like Petrus Palmu and Jonah Gadjovich struggle to see minutes early in the season with the Comets as the coaching staff felt they needed more practice time to get up to speed. Not that it matters much to the team, but that didn’t sit well with many fans who thought the kids should play whether they were ready for AHL minutes or not.

I see this as a positive sign that the team has taken this approach early on with Eliot and I mentioned this as a possibility during the offseason when laying out potential lineups for the team. The fact that the club is looking to send the player down for a game and plan to bring him back straight away shows that they see value in getting some playing time for him, while also wanting to continue having the Utica coaching staff working with him in practice.

To my thinking, this is a step ahead of where they were last year. The ECHL can be more than a place to stash depth players until they are needed. Teams can also use their ECHL affiliate to work players in after injures, or as in this instance, to keep their game sharp while bouncing back and forth to work with the AHL coaching staff.

I hope to see more of this as the season goes on. If Michael DiPietro ends up going more than four or five games without a start, it might make sense to try a similar tact with him as well. Ditto for AHL depth guys like Dylan Blujus, Stefan LeBlanc, and Dyson Stevenson once the team is at full capacity.

We will see if this becomes a new team policy, or if this is a one-off situation, but it is good to see that the team doesn’t look like it wants to see young players sitting around without getting them some minutes beyond the practice sheet.

The Comets will be back at it for their second game of the season on Saturday, October 12th for a game in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton against the Penguins at 7:05 pm Eastern/4:05 pm Pacific. As always, CanucksArmy will have your pre and post-game reading.