Utica Comets Position-by-Position Comparison

Part Three – LeftWing

In part one of my comparison of the Utica Comets of last year to this year’s potential club, I took a look at the changes made in the middle.

In part two, I shifted my focus to the right side.

Since these two articles were written, the Comets have signed center Tanner Sorenson and winger Dyson Stevenson to AHL deals, along with defenders Matt Petgrave and Aaron Thow. All four should be considered depth signings and barring injuries they will likely be starting their seasons in Kalamazoo of the ECHL.

Today, I will take a look at what changes we could see on the left side of the forward group.

Last season, the Comets saw 18 different skaters start a game on the left side, though some didn’t finish the game there. Of the players who suited up on the left side for the Comets, three were on a PTO, (professional tryout offer) four were on AHL deals, while the other 11 had deals at the NHL level.

Who’s Out

  1. Tom Pyatt: 32-years-old. 36 games, six goals, 13 assists, 19 points. Power play goals, (1). Power play assists, (6). 5’11”, 185lbs. Unrestricted free agent traded to San Jose along with a sixth-round pick for Francis Perron and a seventh-round pick. NHL contract. Played mostly at LW.
  2. Darren Archibald: 28-years-old. 23 games, 11 goals, five assists, 16 points. Power play goals, (5). Power play assists, (1). 6’3″, 209lbs. Traded to Ottawa, has since signed one-year AHL deal with Toronto Marlies. NHL contract. Played mostly at LW.
  3. Brendan Gaunce: 24-years-old. 60 games, 16 goals, 22 assists, 38 points. Power play goals, (1). Power play assists, (8). 6’2″, 216lbs. Did not receive a qualifying offer from Vancouver. Has signed a one-year deal with the Boston Bruins. NHL contract. Played mostly at LW.
  4. Tanner MacMaster: 22-years-old. 29 games, two goals, nine assists, 11 points. Power play goals, (0). Power play assists, (3). 6’0″, 185lbs. Traded mid-season to the Toronto Marlies for defenceman Stefan LeBlanc. AHL deal. Played mostly at LW.
  5. Petrus Palmu: 21-years-old. 12 games, zero goals, one assist, one point. Power play points, (0). 5’6″, 172lbs. Left mid-season to go back to Finland. NHL deal. SPlit time between LW/RW.
  6. Jonathan Dahlen: 21-years-old. 50 games, 14 goals, 15 assists, 29 points. Power play goals, (8). Power play assists, (9). 5’11”, 183lbs. NHL deal. Traded mid-season to San Jose for C Linus Karlsson. Played mostly at LW.
  7. Michael Carcone: 22-years-old. 20 games, six goals, 11 assists, 17 points. Power play goals, (2). Power play assists, (7). Traded mid-season to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Josh Leivo. NHL deal. Split time between LW/RW.
  8. Alex Kile: 25-years-old. Four games, zero points. Zero power play points. 6’0″, 194lbs. PTO. Split time between LW/RW.
  9. Mitchell Vanderlaan: 24-years-old. Two games, zero points. Zero power play points. 5’7″, 179lbs. PTO. Played LW/RW.

The Comets got a total of 631 games out of players who started a game on the left side last season. That group picked up 142 goals and 173 helpers to give them a combined 315 points. That gives them a points-per-game average of 0.50. As I mentioned in my post on the right side, we need to remember that for many of these players, some of those points came while playing a different position.

Last year’s outgoing group combined for 17 power play goals and 34 power play assists, giving them a total of 51 points with the man advantage.

Five of the outgoing group made significant contributions in terms of points last season, and some of those points will be difficult to replace as the team has really only added Seamus Malone on an AHL deal, along with the acquisition of Francis Perron to the left side.

Who’s In

  1. Seamus Malone: 23-years-old. Six games, three goals, zero assists, three points, (on PTO with Utica). Power play goals, (1). Power play assists, (0). 5’10”, 181lbs. AHL deal.
  2. Francis Perron: 23-years-old. 63 games, 18 goals, 29 assists, 47 points, (with San Jose Barracuda). Power play goals, (7). Power play assists, (9). 6’0″, 165lbs. Acquired in a trade with San Jose. NHL deal.

It has to be at least somewhat encouraging that between Perron and Malone, the pair were able to put up nearly half the power play goals that the outgoing group of nine managed last year. That said, that duo cannot be expected to carry the full weight of the offence that has walked out the door since last season ended.

In Perron and Malone, the Comets have added two forwards who are offensively minded who should be able to help drive play for whatever line they happen to be on. I only saw Malone’s six games last year, but I did like what I saw from the winger/pivot. He showed some nice hands and some nice wheels. I feel like he might have a tougher time of the two as far as finding regular minutes this year with the Comets.

Perron, for his part, brings skill and playmaking from the wing. I haven’t seen much of the player and my attempts to reach out to writers who covered him in San Jose last year have been fruitless, but from what I have seen, he should be able to provide the Comets with some top-six scoring and give the coaching staff another option on the power play.

The Comets currently have the following wingers that they will have to find room for between the left and right sides. Many of the players listed can swap from side to side if needed, but it will be up to the coaching staff to determine who fits where best.

  1. Reid Boucher: LW/RW. NHL deal. Veteran status. Requires waivers.
  2. Zack MacEwen: RW. NHL deal.
  3. Justin Bailey: RW. NHL deal. Veteran Exempt status. Requires waivers.
  4. Francis Perron: LW. NHL deal.
  5. Kole Lind: RW/LW. NHL deal.
  6. Lukas Jasek: RW/LW. NHL deal.
  7. Jonah Gadjovich: LW/RW. NHL deal.
  8. Seamus Malone: LW/C/RW. AHL deal.
  9. Vincent Arseneau: LW/RW. AHL deal.
  10. Carter Bancks: RW/LW/C. AHL deal. Veteran status.
  11. Dyson Stevenson. RW/C. AHL deal

With only eight open wing spots, we can see that at least two/three of these players will likely be eating that press box popcorn on any given night or will be plying their trade with Kalamazoo in the ECHL.

Things will get tougher if the parent Canucks waive a player or two to Utica to start the year as many expect, so you can potentially add the likes of Tim Schaller, Tyler Motte, Loui Eriksson, or Nikolay Goldobin. Tyler Motte and Nikolay Goldobin are unlikely to clear waivers, and it’s unlikely that the Canucks would send Eriksson to Utica if they decide to waive him, so many of these players may never actually play a game for the Comets even if they are demoted, but it’s still a factor worth considering.

Eriksson and Schaller would count against the veteran limit, while Goldobin would fall under the veteran exempt category. Motte would slide in without issue if he were to clear waivers.

At the end of the day, the Comets left side looks like it could be younger, faster, and possibly more skilled for the coming season. I’m not sure that we will see the likes of Perron or Malone manning the penalty kill as Archibald, Pyatt, and Gaunce did before them, so the coaching staff will have to audition a few new faces when they find themselves down a man this year.

Both of Perron and Malone have proven the ability to provide offence on the power play, so I would expect both to get a look there when they are in the lineup.

So, what will the Comets left side potentially look like to start the season? I would suspect that it looks something like this…

  1. Reid Boucher
  2. Francis Perron
  3. Lukas Jasek
  4. Jonah Gadjovich

I think the Comets will keep Vincent Arseneau and Seamus Malone up with the team as they give the coaching staff one player who can play either wing, and another who can slide into the middle when needed. I have Boucher sliding over to the left side with Zack MacEwen, Justin Bailey, Kole Lind, and captain Carter Bancks fleshing out the right side. As it is still early in the offseason, things can change, but right now, I see the coaching staff in Utica having some solid options up front for the coming season with a good mix of veterans and younger players.

Stay tuned to this space as I tackle the right side of the defence in my next piece for this series.