Utica Comets Midseason Report Cards
I have had some people reach out to me looking for a midseason report card for the Utica Comets. The thing is, undergoing such an exercise is very subjective based on the differing expectations that people have for the players/prospects in the system. It is for this reason that I am going to do things a little differently than what you are probably expecting.
Today, I will give you a rundown of what the team has done to this point in the season and will include talking points for individual players as well, but I will be leaving it up to you, the reader, to decide on what actual letter grades you’d like to give to each player.
This article was meant to come out about a week sooner, but life got in the way, so bear in mind that all of the numbers contained within this piece are up to the halfway point of the Comets regular season, or the 38 game mark.
To start things off, let’s take a look at the Comets’ record over their first 38 games.
By the time the final buzzer sounded to end the Comets 38th game of the season, the team was celebrating a 5-2 win. That brought their overall record to 22-12-2-2 at the halfway point of the season. Utica had gone 10-7-2-1 at home by game 38 while showing a record of 12-5-0-1 on the road for their efforts.
The Comets power play was clicking along at 35/155 through 38 games, but they had also allowed nine shorthanded goals against. Their penalty kill had allowed 28 goals while down a man 167 times but had also scored five shorthanded goals.
It has to be considered great news that the team is being led by a pair of their prospects in terms of overall power-play scoring as Kole Lind and Brogan Rafferty were tied at 13 power-play points apiece through 38 games.
Justin Bailey was leading the club with seven power-play goals, while Rafferty’s 11 power-play assists topped the team.
On the shorthanded side of things, Reid Boucher has provided a pair of shorthanded goals along with one helper while down a man.
For the most part, it has been the usual suspects on the penalty kill with veteran AHLers Carter Bancks and Wacey Hamilton often being the first over the boards, (when healthy/in the lineup). Reid Boucher, Nikolay Goldobin, and Sven Baertschi have all seen their share of time there as well, but it has been the work of Lukas Jasek that has been somewhat of a revelation this year.
Jasek has taken on a prime role on the PK and has been doing solid work there, for the most part. Justin Bailey has also been a penalty-killing staple this year and his speed has shown to be handy when breaking pucks out of the Comets end.
On the back end, it has been Ashton Sautner and Jalen Chatfield doing their thing along with Guillaume Brisebois and Dylan Blujus. Olli Juolevi has taken on a big role on the team’s penalty kill and has been blocking a ton of shots this year while the team has been down a man.
The Points Race
The Comets have some firepower this year, as evidenced by them having five players on the league’s top-20 scorers’ list at the 38-game mark. They had 10 regulars who were putting up at least half-a-point-per game and two at over a point/game.
Reid Boucher was leading the charge on the offensive front with 42 points in 34 games, putting him at 1.31 points/game. Sven Baertschi’s 32 points in 26 games make him the other player who was putting up over a point/game at 1.23/contest.
There will surely be some Comets single-season records falling again this year as Reid Boucher is on pace to shatter the team’s single-season points record of 62 that he tied last season, as are Brogan Rafferty and Kole Lind. Rafferty is also on pace to crush Bobby Sanguinetti’s single-season high of 40 points from the blueline.
Boucher’s 22 goals led the team, while Rafferty’s 28 assists were tops in that department. Zane McIntyre had the most wins with 11 to Mikey DiPietro’s 10, while DiPietro had the club’s best goals-against-average at 2.68. His 0.908% save percentage was second to Bachman’s 0.909%.
Reid Boucher was also tops on the team for shots on goal with 148, while Justin Bailey sat second with 87. Brogan Rafferty wasn’t far behind with 74, while Kole Lind was no slouch with 70.
Francis Perron has been limited to just 29 games this year after sustaining an eye injury that will have him out for over a month by the time he returns, but he was the team’s leader in first goals scored in games at the halfway mark with three.
Reid Boucher led the team with five insurance goals and five game-winners as well. It’s almost as though the man can get it done at the AHL level. As mentioned earlier, Boucher also led the team with a pair of shorthanded goals. Rafferty, Bancks, Boucher, Sautner, Juolevi, and Hamilton have each picked up a shorthanded helper this year.
Lukas Jasek and Zack MacEwen have the Comets’ two overtime goals this season.
Top Five in Goals
- Reid Boucher – 22
- Justin Bailey – 16
- Nikolay Goldobin – 12
- Kole Lind – 10
- Lukas Jasek/Jonah Gadjovich – 9
Top Five in Assists
- Brogan Rafferty – 28
- Sven Baertschi – 24
- Kole Lind – 22
- Nikolay Goldobin/Reid Boucher – 20
- Carter Camper – 17
Top Five in Points
- Reid Boucher – 42
- Brogan Rafferty – 33
- Kole Lind/Nikolay Goldobin/Sven Baertschi – 32
- Justin Bailey – 27
- Carter Camper – 21
Top Five Scorers From the Blueline
- Brogan Rafferty – 33
- Olli Juolevi – 15
- Guillaume Brisebois – 12
- Ashton Sautner – 7
- Dylan Blujus – 6
Top Five in Penalty Minutes
- Vincent Arseneau – 71
- Dyson Stevenson/Reid Boucher/ Kole Lind – 39
- Wacey Hamilton/ Ashton Sautner – 28
- Carter Bancks/Guillaume Brisebois – 25
- Zack MacEwen/Justin Bailey – 23
Top Five in Plus/Minus
- Brogan Rafferty – Plus 17
- Guillaume Brisebois – Plus 16
- Lukas Jasek – Plus 11
- Josh Teves – Plus 9
- Carter Bancks – Plus 8
Top Five in Points/Game
- Reid Boucher – 1.31
- Sven Baertschi – 1.23
- Nikolay Goldobin – 0.97
- Brogan Rafferty – 0.85
- Kole Lind – 0.82
Top Five in Games Played
- Brogan Rafferty/Kole Lind – 38
- Lukas Jasek/Justin Bailey – 37
- Guillaume Brisebois – 36
- Carter Bancks – 34
- Reid Boucher – 33
Top Five in Shots on Goal
- Reid Boucher – 148
- Justin Bailey – 87
- Brogan Rafferty – 74
- Kole Lind – 70
- Nikolay Goldobin – 59
Top Five in Shooting Percentage
- Jonah Gadjovich – 25.7%
- Carter Bancks – 20.8%
- Vincent Arseneau – 20.6%
- Nikolay Goldobin – 20.3%
- Justin Bailey – 18.4%
Top Five in Power Play Goals
- Justin Bailey – 7
- Reid Boucher – 6
- Nikolay Goldobin/Kole Lind – 5
- Jonah Gadjovich – 3
- Brogan Rafferty/Sven Baertschi/Mitch Eliot – 2
Top Five in Power Play Assists
- Brogan Rafferty – 11
- Sven Baertschi – 10
- Kole Lind – 8
- Nikolay Goldobin/Carter Camper – 6
- Olli Juolevi – 5
Top Five in Power Play Points
- Kole Lind/Brogan Rafferty – 13
- Reid Boucher/Sven Baertschi – 12
- Nikolay Goldobin – 11
- Justin Bailey – 8
- Carter Camper – 7
- Zane McIntyre – 19 starts, 54 goals allowed, 1098 minutes played, 509 saves, 3.01 GAA, 0.900% save percentage. 11-6-2-0 record.
- Mikey DiPietro – 18 starts, 45 goals allowed, 1007 minutes played, 445 saves, 2.68 GAA, 0.908% save percentage. 10-5-1-0 record.
- Richard Bachman – Three starts, 10 goals allowed, 185 minutes played, 100 saves, 3.25 GAA, 0.909% save percentage. 1-1-1-0 record.
- Reid Boucher: 34 games, 22 goals, 20 assists, 42 points. Doing the things you’d expect from Reid Boucher at the AHL level. On pace for a career-year in the AHL.
- Nikolay Goldobin: 33 games, 12 goals, 20 assists, 32 points. An extremely skilled playmaker who still seems to take parts of shifts off. On pace for a career-year in the AHL.
- Kole Lind: 38 games, 10 goals, 22 assists, 32 points. Playing with confidence and an edge this year, Lind has taken his game to another level. With the team’s lack of pivots, he is also being tried in the middle of late and faring well there. On pace for a career-year in the AHL. Has already surpassed last year’s totals.
- Sven Baertschi: 26 games, eight goals, 24 assists, 32 points. Sven has been an all situations player in Utica but has recently missed time with a high ankle injury. Has surpassed his previous AHL single-season high in points.
- Justin Bailey: 16 goals, 11 assists, 27 points. Bailey is also playing in all situations and uses his speed well to drive play on whatever line he happens to be with. On pace for a career-year in the AHL.
- Carter Camper: 26 games, four goals, 17 assists, 21 points. Camper has missed some time as the team’s veteran scratch, but with 21 points in 26 games, he has been a valuable addition to the team when he has been in the lineup.
- Francis Perron: 29 games, five goals, 12 assists, 17 points. Perron has spent the bulk of his season playing out of position as a winger in the middle. He has been streaky but as one of the team’s more skilled playmakers, he has also been a valuable addition. Perron is currently out with an eye injury and isn’t expected back for roughly a month.
- Lukas Jasek: 38 games, nine goals, seven assists, 16 points. Jasek has also been used out of position as a winger in the middle this year and he has done an admirable job in that role. I feel that he is better suited to the wing, but his work in the middle has landed him a prime role on the penalty kill this year. On pace for a career-year in the AHL.
- Jonah Gadjovich: 24 games, nine goals, three assists, 12 points. Jonah has done some great work on the power play this year and brings energy to whatever line he happens to be on. He has had some injury issues again this year, but he has been an effective forechecker and net-front presence when he has been in the lineup. Has already surpassed last year’s point totals.
- Vincent Arseneau: 31 games, seven goals, three assists, 10 points. Arseneau is what Arseneau is. A hard-working, human bowling ball of a man who brings a physical game on every shift. He is not afraid to drop the gloves when needed and provides a safe working environment for the kids. On pace for a career-year in the AHL.
- Carter Bancks: 35 games, five goals, five assists, 10 points. Bancks eats minutes on the PK and helps bring along the defensive side of the prospects’ games. He won’t provide a ton of offence, but he has an incredible work ethic that rubs off on the younger players.
- Wacey Hamilton: 22 games, three goals, five assists, eight points. Hamilton is similar to Bancks in that he brings a solid defensive game and eats minutes on the PK. He can also be the reason why the team is on the kill more times than is ideal. He has run into some injury issues due to his all-out playing style and will be on the shelf for the next 4-6 weeks after a shot block felled him in his last game and broke his foot.
- Zack MacEwen: 16 games, four goals, six assists, 10 points. MacEwen has spent more time up with the big club than he has with the Comets of late, although he isn’t getting into any action with Vancouver. His 10 points in 16 games with the Comets represent some solid production, but it would be nice to see him getting some minutes while up in Vancouver.
- John Stevens: 18 games, (2 with Utica) three goals, (0 with Utica) two assists (0 with Utica) five points, (0 with Utica). Stevens was acquired in an AHL trade with Bridgeport for future considerations. He plays the middle and the team is paper-thin there, so his acquisition was needed. With the extended absence of Wacey Hamilton, Stevens’ leadership abilities and strong PK work will be needed more than ever.
- Seamus Malone: 23 games, two goals, one assist, three points. Malone got an extended run as the team’s top pivot between Baertschi and Boucher and wasn’t able to produce much offensively. His slight stature seemed to conspire against him after being dropped down the lineup where he was quickly dinged up and put on the shelf. Malone showed some offensive creativity while with the club on a tryout late last year, so I will be keeping my eye on him when he gets back into the lineup.
- Dyson Stevenson: 20 games, one goal, two assists, three points. Stevenson brings a similar game to that of Vinny Arseneau. He doesn’t have the benefit of Arseneau’s size, but there is no questioning his heart or his willingness to get his nose dirty. Stevenson is a solid 13th forward for the team.
- Tanner Sorenson: Seven games, 0 goals, one assist, one point. Sorenson is meant to be plying his trade in the ECHL with the Kalamazoo Wings, but as a player who can be used in the middle or on the wing, he has seen a handful of games. He has some nice wheels and offensive instincts, even if they haven’t translated 100% to the AHL level for him.
The team has also used forward Justin Taylor of the Kalamazoo Wings for a seven-game PTO, (professional tryout offer) as well as David Pope, who came over in a trade for defender Alex Biega, for three games this year. Forwards Adam Gaudette and Tyler Graovac also got into two and six games respectively before being summoned to Vancouver.
- Brogan Rafferty. 38 games, five goals, 28 assists, 33 points. The counting stats for Brogan are clearly very good. He is collecting points like Grandma collects knick-knacks. Rafferty has had some issues this season with handling pressure from opposing forwards at times, but things have improved greatly on that front since early December. He is on pace to obliterate the club’s record for points in a single season by a defenceman and could do so within the next week.
- Olli Juolevi. Olli had 30 games under his belt by the halfway mark and had put up one goal and 14 assists, giving him 15 points on the season. While half a point/game isn’t close to the points/game that he put up last season with 13 in 18 games, Juolevi’s season has seen some encouraging signs. Yes, he missed some time due to hip soreness and yes, he has been burned by speedy forwards at times, but Olli has been having a steady season in his own end. The mistakes that we saw early on are far less frequent and he has become a rock on the team’s penalty kill. Olli has surpassed last season’s totals and is on pace for a career-year in the AHL.
- Guillaume Brisebois. Guillaume, for my money, has been one of, if not the most reliable defenders on the team this season in Utica. The only games that he has missed were when he was up with the big club and his plus-16 at the halfway mark was second on the team to Rafferty’s plus-17. He had three goals to match his career-high, along with nine assists, giving him 12 points at the halfway mark. He has been a staple on the penalty kill while also being on pace for a career-year in the AHL offensively.
- Ashton Sautner. Sautner had gotten into 32 games by the halfway point and had picked up seven points for his efforts. He continues to be a physical, shutdown type of defender for the Comets and is usually one of the first over the boards on the penalty kill. Sautner brings leadership to the team and makes for a safe call-up option for the Canucks if they need a defender for an injury fill-in.
- Dylan Blujus. One of two defenders on AHL deals to play for Utica this season, Blujus had 21 games in by the halfway point and had three goals and three assists to show for it. As far as AHL depth defenders go, Blujus has been a handy player to have around in Utica. He can play a regular shift and kill penalties where he has been a shot-blocking machine. He won’t pile up points, but his place on the team is more than warranted.
- Mitch Eliot. Eliot hasn’t had a ton of luck getting into the lineup on a regular basis as he had dressed for just 16 games at the mid-way point. He did have two goals and three assists for his efforts during that time. Both of Eliot’s goals came on the man advantage as he has a knack for getting his shot through from the point. He can bring a physical edge as well, although, with so few games under his belt, I wonder if we’d see it more often if he were more comfortable in the league. I don’t know yet what the team has in Eliot, but there have been some promising moments from him in his limited action.
- Stefan LeBlanc. The other defender on an AHL deal who has suited up for the Comets this year is LeBlanc. LeBlanc had picked up 14 games with the Comets at the midway point and some of those were as a winger. The utility player can kill penalties and fill in when needed on the backend. He won’t be putting up a pile of points but can handle a shift when called upon. He had a goal and an assist in his 14 games.
- Jalen Chatfield. Chatfield spent a good chunk of time up with the big club, although he didn’t see any NHL action. He had played in 28 games at the midway point and had picked up one assist along the way. Chatfield isn’t a point producer, although he does jump up into the rush looking to help provide some offence fairly regularly. He is a puck eating machine on the penalty kill and does some of his best work there. He plays a greasy game and can make life difficult for opposing skaters who end up in his lane. I’d like to see Chatfield get a cup of coffee with the big team, but he might end up being surpassed by others in the system before too long.
- Josh Teves. Teves has had almost as much trouble getting into the lineup as Eliot this season. He had 20 games in at the halfway mark and had just one assist to show for his efforts. He saw some brief spot duty on the penalty kill but otherwise hasn’t seen special teams work. He skates quite well and his smallish size hasn’t limited him from looking for the physical areas of the ice. He has been in some puck battles with some much larger men and has fared relatively well. Although he hasn’t been putting up points, he has been noticeable as a defender joining/leading the rush a few times. I hope to see him get into more action in the second half.