CanucksArmy Utica Comets Mailbag
It’s time for this week’s Comets Mailbag, so let’s get after it.
How many practices did Utica have last season? Do not know how many more than teams in the Pacific Division?
— Ron#1Canucksfan (@RonSimp16154192) August 1, 2019
Ron has become a frequent contributor on the question front and he has me at a loss to answer this one with any kind of accuracy. This is something that is brought up often by management and the coaching staff when they talk about the benefits of having the team in the East, so I would imagine that it is a big enough difference that management sees it as an advantage. I’m sure that each team is different in terms of practice schedules.
It is a very good question and one that I will be asking at training camp when I get the opportunity to speak with Ryan Johnson and Trent Cull again.
This question brings us back to the common theme of whether it is better to have the farm team closer to home or in the East where the players spend less time sleeping in hotels and travel far less than the teams in the West do. There are certainly benefits to both sides of this debate and a strong case can be made either way. I expect this debate to continue on until the day comes when the Canucks decide to move their team closer to home…if that day ever comes.
Any room for Canuck picks to play or will the comets be running out the beer league hacks again?
— al mcbeth (@mcbeth_al) August 1, 2019
If we take a quick glance at who could potentially be in Utica for the upcoming season, we see something along these lines:
Reid Boucher – Adam Gaudette – Zack MacEwen
Francis Perron – Carter Camper – Justin Bailey
Lukas Jasek – Tyler Graovac – Kole Lind
Jonah Gadjovich – Wacey Hamilton – Carter Bancks
Vincent Arseneau – Seamus Malone
Forward Depth (Likely to start in Kalamazoo)
Dylan Sadowy – Tanner Sorenson – Dyson Stevenson
Olli Juolevi – Jalen Chatfield
Ashton Sautner – Brogan Rafferty
Guillaume Brisebois – Dylan Blujus
Josh Teves – Mitch Eliot
Defensive Depth (Likely to start in Kalamazoo)
LD – Matt Pettinger
LD – Aaron Thow
LD – Zach Frye
20 of the 33 players listed above are under contract to the parent Canucks. Of those 20, players like Reid Boucher, Tyler Graovac, Zane McIntyre, and Richard Bachman are pretty much outside of prospect territory, but all will likely be seeing substantial minutes, outside of possibly Bachman as the four-headed goalie monster in Utica will be something to keep an eye on going forward.
Six of those 33 players are quite likely earmarked for Kalamazoo, along with at least one of the four goaltenders, if not two of them.
The way that I have the lines/pairs listed above is kind of how I could see things shaking out with the lineup. That said, Trent Cull and his coaching staff, along with the Comets management group might have different ideas as they deal with the players on the daily and I’m just some dude writing about the team.
Would Canucks fans be happy with that type of roster alignment? I suppose that is something for each of you to answer. Would folks be okay with Reid Boucher and Justin Bailey getting minutes ahead of Kole Lind, Lukas Jasek, and Jonah Gadjovich? How do folks look at Francis Perron? Do you see him as a prospect or just someone else who will get in the way of Lind, Jasek, or Gadjovich’s minutes? Again, that is a question for each of you to ask yourselves.
At the end of the day, the Comets won’t have the number of rookies up front that they had last season, but those second-year pros will need to find their minutes regardless. I think the steps that players like Lind, Jasek, Gadjovich, Juolevi etc do or don’t take will have a large effect on what the coaching staff looks like in Utica for the 2020/21 season.
Lind, Gadjovich and Juolevi’s roles and potential TOI this year?
— Josh Crawford (@joshcrawford93) August 1, 2019
As I mentioned above, this will be a big year for those three skaters, and for the staff that is tasked with developing them into NHL ready players. Let’s start with Lind.
I see Kole Lind being trusted with more minutes this season and it looks like he will have some higher calibre centermen to work with. If Lind gets the chance to line up with one of Adam Gaudette, Carter Camper, or Tyler Graovac, he will have a better chance to put up points than he did last season with the likes of Cam Darcy and Brendan Woods as his pivot.
That isn’t to knock those fellows, as they played their roles on the team, but it is more about that fact that the Comets have more than one pivot who could potentially put up 40 plus points this year.
Lind saw time on nearly every second unit power play when he was healthy last year and I would expect that to continue this year. He may even get more of a prime role as a shooter, depending on what the coaching staff elects to do with the players available to them.
I think Kole will bounce back and forth between the second and third lines this season, depending on who is healthy, who is called up etc. I could also see him getting some time on the left side this year when needed.
Jonah Gadjovich will likely see a similar role that he saw last year, just with more minutes coming his way. Last year, when he got into the lineup, Jonah was deployed in an energy role with the likes of Wacey Hamilton, Carter Bancks, Brendan Woods, and Vincent Arseneau.
It took some time for Gadjovich to start looking comfortable, but by the end of the season, he was getting more minutes and making better use of them. He was able to more than hold his own in a few tilts that he got into and showed some playmaker’s mitts at times, only to see the play die on the stick of his linemates.
Gadjovich saw some time as the net-front presence on the power play last year and I can see more of that for him in the future. I’m hoping that by mid-season both Lind and Gadjovich are seeing some penalty killing minutes as well.
As for Olli Juolevi, I think it will be more of the same for him this season. Last year he was used on the Comets top pairing with Jalen Chatfield and the duo was a treat to watch…until they weren’t. Juolevi only got into 18 games and he was still trying to find his way in the league. He will need to work on making his reads more quickly and tighten up on his gap control so that we don’t see him getting turnstiled on the regular.
I expect Juolevi to run the first unit power play again and hope to see him eating up minutes on the penalty kill this year as well. I honestly think that it would be best for Juolevi to spend the bulk of the season in Utica developing his game. I don’t see a need to rush him at this point.
Who is the top prospect on D and F who is likely to get the first call up that hasn’t already been to the show?
— Stickneyvr (@stickneyvr) August 1, 2019
This is a good question as the bulk of the players who are considered as prospects have already suited up for at least one NHL game.
Up front, we have Lukas Jasek, Kole Lind, Francis Perron, and Jonah Gadjovich to choose from. I haven’t seen much of Perron, but from what I understand, he will be an interesting one to keep an eye on here. He’s shifty, can make plays, and showed that he could score at the pro level last season.
On the flip side, I have seen every pro game that the other three have played and of that group, I lean towards Lukas Jasek. I think that he is closer than Lind or Gadjovich to getting an NHL look, so it comes down to Jasek and Perron for me…I will give the edge to Perron at the moment.
On the backend, we really only have Juolevi, Chatfield, and Eliot to choose from. I will take Eliot out of the equation because I think the other two are just that much further ahead than the rookie.
We heard multiple times last season that the team wanted to get a look at Chatfield at the NHL level, but a broken foot curtailed those plans. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jalen get a look this year. Juolevi, for his part, was also expected to make his NHL debut last season until that knee injury ended his campaign.
I will give the edge to Juolevi here.
Projected lines for next snz? Nucks
— Laura (@canucks181) August 1, 2019
This is more of a Canucks question than a Comets one…but here goes.
Micheal Ferland – Elias Pettersson – Brock Boeser
Tanner Pearson – Bo Horvat – JT Miller
Sven Baertschi – Brandon Sutter – Josh Leivo
Antoine Roussel – Jay Beagle – Jake Virtanen
Alex Edler – Troy Stecher
Quinn Hughes – Tyeler Myers
Jordie Benn – Chris Tanev
Oscar Fantenberg – Alex Biega
Obviously, the team will have to make some moves for this roster to take shape, such as moving out Loui Eriksson, Tim Schaller, and Nikolay Goldobin. Time will tell if they go that route.
What does the goalie situation look like next season in Utica?
— gabriella marie (@wildestdreams_3) August 1, 2019
Last year, the Canucks went into the season with Jacob Markstrom and Anders Nilsson in Vancouver, along with Thatcher Demko and Richard Bachman in Utica. Ivan Kulbakov was their man in Kalamazoo on an AHL deal. By the time the season had ended, the Comets saw no fewer than nine goaltenders suit up for them, (some only as a backup).
Those numbers didn’t prove to be ideal for anyone involved as the Canucks had to dress Michael DiPietro for an NHL game far sooner than they probably wanted to and the Comets had no stability at the position all season.
This year, barring injuries/trades, we can expect to see Markstrom and Demko starting in Vancouver, while some combination of Bachman, Zane McIntyre, DiPietro, or Jake Kielly will man the pipes in Utica.
McIntyre got a one-year, two-way deal that pays him $400,000 at the AHL level, so my guess is that the starting job is his to lose in Utica. Richard Bachman is the veteran incumbent and he has been a good soldier for the Comets since his acquisition four-plus seasons ago. He is also 32-years-old and he’s coming off of an Achilles’ injury.
Bachman had a tough outing in his one NHL game last season, so it could be that the Canucks want to go in a different direction. It’s possible that he gets moved in some fashion…or he could be the number two in Utica while DiPietro and Kielly ply their trade in the ECHL.
Speaking of Kielly and DiPietro…that will be an interesting battle to watch play out. On one hand, DiPietro has the draft pedigree and is seen as a potential number one in the NHL down the road, while Kielly is a little older, he’s undrafted, and the expectations might not be as high for him.
Would the Canucks rather see DiPietro backing up in Utica and not seeing a bunch of minutes, or would they rather see him having the wheels played off of him in the ECHL where he could be the backbone of the Kalamazoo Wings while he gets his feet wet at a lower level of pro hockey?
I feel like we could see a tandem of McIntyre and Kielly in Utica with DiPietro cycling up for starts throughout the season.
Did Vancouver and Ottawa get enough in return for helping Tampa Bay with their cap situation?
— Kian5000 (@Kian5000) August 1, 2019
This one is not even remotely a Utica Comets question and might be better asked of Jackson in one of his Mailbags.
Any weird pre game superstitions?
— sportsfan17 (@thesp0rtsfan) August 2, 2019
This is a great question and unfortunately, I do not have an answer for you. Hockey players are famous for their strange superstitions and I’m sure there are a few in the Comets room. I will be sure to keep this question in the back of my mind for training camp this year.
Personally, when I played goal, I always dressed my left side first. Left sock, left skate, left-pad all went on first. I also had a somewhat bizarre stick tapping routine that I did throughout the game to “landmark” myself in my net after a play. I didn’t even realize that I was doing it until my daughters pointed it out to me, but I would alternate tapping the blade and knob of my stick off the posts, my elbows, pads, and glove and blocker. It was really quite something.
Until next week…