Fair warning, this article was written a week ago when I sat down to speak with Justin Bailey but due to unforeseen circumstances, it hasn’t made it to digital print until today.
Utica Comets forward Justin The Gentleman Bailey was named AHL Player of the Week recently after piling up six goals and eight points in three games with the club in the week ending January 19th, 2020. Bailey is quick to point out that the Comets as a team have been scoring a lot of goals and that he’s had the help of some pretty good linemates to win that award.
The 6’4”, 214-pound native of Buffalo, New York was signed by Vancouver to a one-year, two-way contract this offseason and has suited up for all but one of the Comets’ games this season. He has lined up on both sides of the ice in Utica this year with the bulk of his time coming at left wing.
I caught up with Bailey to check in on his season to date.
Bailey is enjoying his time in Utica and cites perks like having breakfasts provided for them by the team and really great meals provided for lunches. He mentioned how they have been treated really well throughout the season and how players are treated as professionals by the coaching staff and trainers. They are expected to perform on a nightly basis, but the club really takes care of all of the little things that go into being a professional hockey player, says Bailey.
Another perk that Bailey beamed about was the fact that Vancouver Canucks Skills Coach Glenn Carnegie makes the trip to Utica every couple of months to work with the players.
It was very clear to me that Bailey puts a lot of value on that time spent with Carnegie. Justin said that Glenny takes the time to break down his shifts on video and helps him to see things that he otherwise wouldn’t really think about. He says that now he finds himself watching video clips and saying to himself, I could have done this, or I could have just changed the angle or I could have manipulated these things.
Carnegie helps Bailey adjust the little things that can sometimes be overlooked when watching a video clip or watching the game back and helps the player put those changes into action when the games are being played.
Being able to put those adjustments into play during games has helped Bailey get to 24 goals and 16 assists, giving him 40 points in 45 games this season. That ties the speedy winger’s previous career-high of 23 and puts him just five points off of his previous high of 45 set in his 70-game rookie campaign. At 0.89 points per game, Bailey is on pace for a career-high of 67 points.
After an injury-riddled 2017/18 season with Rochester limited Bailey to just 37 games, he had a tough time getting traction with the organization the following year and was subsequently traded to the Philadelphia organization where he had some quick success with their farm club in Lehigh Valley.
That experience in his last season and a half or so has Bailey appreciating the way things are going with the Comets this season. He said that early on there was clear communication between him and Comets head coach Trent Cull about what both expected from the other this year.
Bailey wanted to be clear with his coach that he was going to do what he can to help the team succeed and that he intended to earn the trust of the coaching staff as a player who can be relied upon in all situations. He also made it clear that his goal is to play in the National Hockey League but that he’s just trying to control the things that he can control and help the Comets win.
One thing that jumps off the screen when viewing a Comets game this year is the speed at which Bailey conducts his activities on the ice. There are very few, if any, in the league who can hope to keep pace with him. The thing is, and this will drive many other hockey players crazy, is that Bailey doesn’t work to improve his speed in his offseason workouts. He feels, and rightly so, that his speed is already top-notch. It turns out, he puts his speedy wheels down to his body mechanics.
When it comes to his skating, Bailey tends to work more on the power skating aspects. Better balance, being stronger over pucks and working on the little things that he can improve. Bailey feels that he is at his best when he is getting in quickly on the forecheck and making it a tough night for opposing defenders throughout the whole game and getting back on the backcheck to help his own team.
Another thing that has become evident is the chemistry on the ice that has formed between Bailey and Comets second-year forward Kole Lind. The two have formed a bond off the ice, spending their time joking around and having fun with each other away from the rink, but the on-ice evidence is clear as well with the way they work together in a game.
The two weren’t always on the same page as they didn’t click as well when lined up together earlier in the season, according to Bailey, but they now know each other’s tendencies on the ice much better. They know what the other is doing out there and have figured out what makes them successful as a line. That would be getting in on the forecheck and making plays down low, wearing down opposing defenders as the game goes on.
Bailey said he thinks of Kole as a little brother and as a guy who has been around for five seasons now, that he can help Lind with some of the things that he has learned along the way. Kole can get a little down on himself if a play doesn’t work out, but Bailey is quick to let him know that they will have another chance on their next shift if they keep playing their game. He tries to help Kole keep things light on the ice and not get too down on himself if things don’t go the way he planned.
The chemistry is a two-way street, according to Bailey as he knows that he is benefitting from the play of his linemates as well.
You may have asked yourself at the start of this article… The Gentleman? That nickname for Bailey stems from the celebration that we have been seeing from the big winger this year after scoring a goal. He says that it is new this year and that he thinks it started between him and Nikolay Goldobin earlier in the season. He said that you see guys knocking gloves after scoring and they just wanted to do something different and settled on a proper handshake as seen in a more recent game below.
A Few Plays From Justin Bailey
Size, Speed, Moves, Shot
Don’t Snooze With Bailey On The Ice
Peep That Behind The Back Pass