Utica Comets Position-by-Position Comparison

Part Two – RightWing

In part one of this series, I compared the players who played down the middle last season in Utica with the players who could potentially line up there this season. The team will have a much different look down the middle this season with three of their top-four pivots moving on to different teams for 2019/20.

Today, I will dig into the right side, where there hasn’t been nearly as much turnover.

Last year the Comets coaching staff used a total of 19 skaters on the right side for at least one game. One of those skaters was right-shot defenceman, Jesse Graham.

Of the players who suited up for at least one game on the right side, three were with the team on a PTO (professional tryout offer), six were on AHL deals, while the remaining 10 were on two-way deals with the parent Canucks.

Seven of the players who suited up on the right side last year are expected back, while the others have either been traded out of the organization, signed on with other teams, or remain unsigned by any organization.

That adds up to a lot of bodies out, but only one addition has been made to the right side so far with the signing of Justin Bailey to a one-year, two-way deal by the Canucks. We also have to remember that many of the players used on right wing last season also saw time either in the middle or on the left side as well. The Canucks/Comets seem to lean towards players who can play multiple positions at forward.

It is possible that one or more of these players could return, but for now, this is what I’m working with.

Who is Out?

  1. Jonathan Dahlen: 21-years-old. 50 games, 14 goals, 15 assists, 29 points. Power play goals (8). Power play assists, (9). 5’11”, 183 lbs. Traded to San Jose. 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 signed with Toronto Marlies since. 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. Not given a qualifying offer/has signed one-year, two-way deal with Boston. Played mostly at LW.
  4. Michael Carcone: 22-years-old. 20 games, six goals, 11 assists, 17 points. Power play goals, (2). Power play assists, (7). 5’10”, 172lbs. Traded to Toronto Maple Leafs/has since been traded to Ottawa.
  5. Petrus Palmu: 21-years-old. 12 games, 0 goals, one assist, one point. Power play goals, (0). Power play assists, (0). Finished last year in Finland/will likely continue playing overseas for the coming season.
  6. 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 to Toronto Marlies/has re-signed with Marlies.
  7. Reid Gardiner: 22-years-old. 21 games, two goals, one assist, three points. Power play goals, (0). Power play assists, (0). 5’11”, 185lbs. Has signed in Germany.
  8. Thomas Kyle: 28-years-old. Six games, one goal, one assist, two points. Power play goals, (0). Power play assists, (0). 6’0″, 192lbs. Remains un-signed.
  9. Alex Kile: 24-years-old. Four games, zero points. Zero power play points. 6’0″, 194lbs. Remains un-signed.
  10. Mitchell Vanderlaan: 23-years-old. Two games, zero points. Zero power play points. 5’7″, 179lbs. Remains un-signed.
  11. Dyson Stevenson: 25-years-old. Three games, zero points. Zero power play points. 6’0″, 185lbs. Remains un-signed.
  12. Jesse Graham: 24-years-old. 52 games, four goals, 14 assists, 18 points. Power play goals, (2). Power play assists, (7). 6’0″, 185lbs. Remains un-signed. Played mostly at RD.

The Comets got a total of 671 games out of players who played at least one game on the right side. That group collected a total of 147 goals, 191 assists, and 338 points to give themselves a group average of 0.50 points per game. The group also combined for 37 power play goals and 69 power play assists last season.

Who is In

This group is decidedly smaller with just one new addition in Justin Bailey.

Sure, just like with the group of pivots, we could see a body or two sent down from the big club via waivers, but I’m not sure who that would be.

Tyler Motte plays all three forward positions and could potentially find himself on the outside looking in with the Canucks. That said, he seemed to be a favourite of Travis Green, so that fourth-line job is probably his to lose, and here’s no guarantee he clears waivers.

Tim Schaller is another possibility, but he has seen the bulk of his time as a pro on the left side or in the middle. We can add Nikolay Goldobin to the mix as well, although he’s spent the bulk of his time on the left side and I would not expect him to clear waivers.

There is still a lot of time remaining in this offseason as well, so once again, we could see some player movement between now and the start of the season that sees new players brought in and others shipped out.

So, what can we expect from Justin Bailey?

Bailey was drafted in the second round, 52nd overall in the 2013 NHL draft by the Buffalo Sabres. The 6’4″, 214lbs winger from Buffalo New York has suited up in 213 AHL games split between the Rochester Americans and the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, picking up 68 goals and 56 assists to give himself 124 points for a 0.58 points-per-game average. He has also picked up five goals and four helpers to give himself nine points in 63 games for 0.14 points-per-game at the NHL level with the Sabres and Flyers. Bailey will require waivers in order to get him to Utica, so keep that in mind as well.

The newcomer didn’t exactly pile up points with the extra man last year, grabbing just two goals and two helpers for his efforts on the power play. Bailey does bring size and speed to the roster though, which will be a welcomed addition after losing size in Brendan Gaunce and Darren Archibald,  and the loss of speed from players like Carcone/MacMaster.

If we add Bailey to the right wingers who are already in the mix, it looks like a potential position of strength for the team. Trent Cull and his staff could load up the right side and roll out a foursome of Reid Boucher, Zack MacEwen, Bailey, and Kole Lind. That could be a handful for any defenders who have to face them. My guess, however, is that we could see Boucher slide over to the left side where he finished up last year on a line with Tanner Kero and TheBigFella. 

I think that it’s possible that we could see Lukas Jasek slide over to the left side as well, although the same could be said for Kole Lind, (he played a handful of games there last season). Captain Carter Bancks also spent a good deal of his time on the right side last season as well, so I can see the right side shaking out something like this…

  • MacEwen
  • Bailey
  • Lind
  • Bancks

That set up would give the coaching staff a nice mix of players to work with who should be able to provide some solid offensive contributions, (MacEwen, Bailey, Lind) while also giving them a couple of defensively responsible players in MacEwen and Bancks while Lind learns the ropes on that side of things at the pro level this season. I haven’t seen enough of Bailey at the AHL level to give you an honest assessment of his game on the defensive side of the puck.

Bailey put up 20 and 23 goals in his first two seasons of AHL hockey while getting into just 37 games in each of his next two in the AHL and racking up the frequent flyer miles back and forth between the NHL/AHL. If he can repeat that type of AHL production, it will go a long way in replacing the winger-goals that walked out the door with Darren Archibald and Brendan Gaunce.

I do expect to see the Comets add another winger or two before camp starts. I believe that the team will want to have a few bodies at the ready in Kalamazoo again this season for when the inevitable injuries/call-ups wreak havoc with the roster.

Stay tuned next week when I tackle the left side before moving on to the defence and the fully revamped goaltending position.