Utica Comets Lineup

2019/20 Early Forecast

The Utica Comets season opener is moments away, (figuratively) so let’s take a look at what kind of tangled mess the coaching staff will be dealing with this season.

Last year the parent club sent a pile of rookie wingers down to Utica, which made it difficult to get all of them enough minutes while battling with some established vets on two-way deals. This year, the team has fewer rookie forwards, but a slew of players who have AHL vet or vet exempt status.

In the AHL, teams can dress up to five veterans and one veteran exempt in a given game. They don’t have to dress five vets, they could go with four and two vet exempt players if they so choose.

Currently, the Comets have two players assigned to their roster who carry vet exempt status. They would be wingers Justin Bailey and Nikolay Goldobin. On the veteran side of things, the Comets have Reid Boucher, Sven Baertschi, Alex Biega, Carter Camper, Tyler Graovac, Wacey Hamilton, and Carter Bancks.

All of this is to say that the team can only dress six of the nine players listed above in a game.

Bancks has worn the C for the Comets for the last handful of years, but the man who wore it before him could be back in town as Biega had that role before graduating to the NHL. Hamilton has worn an A for the bulk of his tenure with the club as well, so we know that the coaching staff in both Vancouver and Utica hold the “twins” in high regard.

Camper, Graovac, and Hamilton all play the middle, so there’s a good chance that we will be seeing at least two of those three lining up in most games.

The Comets don’t really have a lot of depth down the middle with Adam Gaudette sticking around in Vancouver, but Seamus Malone can play the middle, though he’s still recovering from a late-season arm injury from last year. The club has also been trying Lukas Jasek and Francis Perron in the middle in camp, though Jasek seems more likely to stick in that role for the moment. Dyson Stevenson is with the team on an AHL deal and can play the middle in a pinch also.

When we look at the backend, we see a fairly interesting group. There are rookies in Brogan Rafferty, Josh Teves, Olli Juolevi, and Mitch Eliot. There are third-year players in Jalen Chatfield and Guillaume Brisebois, and there is also some experience with Alex Biega being assigned to the club. Ashton Sautner is also still around and could take on more of a leadership role this season. This backend should be able to play at a higher pace than last year’s group.

Dylan Blujus and Stefan LeBlanc are also in the fold on AHL deals.

Part of the goaltending drama has been sorted out as Jake Kielly has been assigned to Kalamazoo to start the season, while netminders Zane McIntyre, Michael DiPietro, and Richard Bachman are left to battle it out for the final two spots on the roster. I wouldn’t be surprised if the team elects to keep all three around to start the season.

So… what lineup options could we see?


Baertschi – Camper – MacEwen

Goldobin – Jasek – Boucher

Perron – Graovac – Lind

Gadjovich – Stevenson – Arseneau

Juolevi – Biega

Brisebois – Rafferty

Sautner – Chatfield



In this scenario, the team would have Justin Bailey, Wacey Hamilton, and Carter Bancks in the press box, allowing Biega to join what will be a fairly green backend. I’m not sure that it is ideal to have Stevenson in the middle on that fourth line, and leaving the speedy Bailey out of the lineup isn’t wise either.

MacEwen would get to work on the top line with some creative playmakers, while Jasek would have some skill to work with on line two as well. Perron, Graovac, and Lind could form a potent third line that could have teams on their heels, while that fourth line wouldn’t likely be much fun to play against.

Josh Teves and Mitch Eliot are left wanting for ice time in this scenario, but one of them will likely be on the outside looking in for ice time early.

Baertschi – Jasek – Boucher

Goldobin – Camper – MacEwen

Lind – Perron – Bailey

Gadjovich – Graovac – Arseneau

Juolevi – Rafferty

Sautner – Chatfield

Teves – Brisebois



This alignment gives a pretty balanced attack from all four lines while going with a pretty inexperienced blue line. Once again, Jasek gets some firepower on his wings and with his dog-on-a-bone approach to retrieving pucks, he could be setting up his wingers for some offensive looks.

The next line of Goldy, Camper, and TheBigFella oozes potential to be a high octane unit that could be tough to handle for opposing defenders.

Up next, we are using Perron in the middle, although I’m not sure he ends up there on a regular basis. We also see Lind shift to the left side of the ice when he has been used on the right side far more often in Utica, but it allows for what could be a speedy line that brings a really nice blend of skill and energy, along with what should be a dangerous forecheck.

Finally, on the fourth line, Gadjovich gets a pivot who can potentially help him put up some points while providing his typical physical game. Gadjovich, Graovac, and Arseneau all bring size and could be a tough trio to match up against.

Of course, that leaves a back end that lacks Biega but allows Josh Teves to see some minutes with Brisebois shifting to the right side where he played the bulk of his rookie campaign. I’m not sure how much the coaching staff would like the idea of Biega just sitting in the press box, but he has certainly done his share of that at the NHL level.

Boucher – Camper – MacEwen

Baertschi – Jasek – Goldobin

Perron – Graovac – Lind

Gadjovich – Stevenson – Bailey

Juolevi – Chatfield

Sautner – Rafferty

Teves – Brisebois



This set-up is another fairly balanced group, but again, it leaves the team with a less than ideal pivot on the fourth line. It also leaves Biega off the roster again. There are a million ways to skin this cat, but none of them are ideal. It is possible that the team could trade out one of their vets on an AHL deal, or maybe the parent Canucks could swing a deal of their own that could alleviate the issue.

At the end of the day, we need to be prepared for some lineup scenarios that we might not agree with or understand until we look at the big picture. The coaching staff is once again working with a less than ideal roster situation, but they will make the best of it until the inevitable injuries and call-ups hit and make all of this moot.