The Saintcouver Blanues Build an AHL Roster

This past Sunday, Patrick Johnston reported that the Utica Comets had financial concerns about returning to play without crowds. I began to have serious doubts that there would even be a Comets season to watch this year.

Here we are less than 48-hours later, and not only are the Utica Comets back, but it’s as if they’re living out a bizarre, whimsical, Disney sports movie; “Two rival teams from opposite sides of the tracks unexpectedly have to come together before the season! And in order to win, they’re going to have to find out what it takes to work together! Rated G!” 

Even without factoring the merger of two clubs players & prospects to a single AHL team, the subject of how the Canucks/Comets were to construct their team without the majority of its star players from last season is a fascinatingly intricate exercise to work through. There were so many implications to take away from the taxi-squad alone, let alone the merger of prospects from two NHL clubs in a competing conference.

Most fans understand that the Canucks are in tough this season by having their affiliate across the border. The Canadian government hasn’t waived the mandatory seven-day quarantine period for re-called players from the AHL. So if the Canucks find themselves in a situation where they have to call up a player, they will have to do so with a week’s foresight. It will be a remarkable season of transactions, and I feel bad for Eliteprospects and Capfriendlys servers during the coming months.

Originally, I had thought the Canucks might opt-out of running a full six-man taxi-squad; instead, running a smaller group to ensure their up-and-coming prospects got more ice-time in the AHL. Unfortunately, that would require thinking ahead on almost a day-to-day basis, something this Canucks management group isn’t exceptionally good at.

Potentially, the Canucks could still opt for a smaller taxi squad group. However, with a condensed schedule, I feel that they will want as many bodies available. This means that of the 36-man training camp roster, at minimum, eight players will be headed to Utica to play out a very truncated and bizarre season in an augmented North Division.

Enter the St. Louis Blues.

St. Louis’s farm team, the San Antonio Rampage, was purchased by the Vegas Golden Knights and re-located to Henderson, NV to become the Henderson Silver Knights.

Crazy name, I know.

Also, it’s kind of incredible that the team responsible for knocking the Blues out of the playoff bubble is now going to be responsible for playing, training, and developing their players/prospects in the immediately ensuing season. Beautiful, really.

Now, to the players and prospects who will most likely be heading to Utica from both sides!

St. Louis Blues AHL-Probables 

Using Capfriendly, I put together this roster of all the likely AHL designees from the Blues camp. Listed are all signed players, so I’ve indicated X’s on those who were not invited to training-camp despite their contract status. Polei, Neighbours, and Fitzpatrick are ECHL players and might yet be invited to Utica. There are also a few players assigned to the KHL, in Kostin, Torpchenko and Alexandrov. The latter two being assigned to the K for the remainder of the season, and Kostin being a potential add-on to either the Blues NHL or AHL roster should he be able to sort his visa issues.

CHL players have also been granted the ability to practice/play with the farm-club of their NHL team – so I wonder if, on top of Mathias Laferriere, could we see players like Ethan Keppen and Carson Focht join Utica as well? However, it is unclear if that exception is granted to players with signing rights to their draft-team, or if the exception is only for CHL players with contracts.

Kostin would represent the most significant addition to the Comets roster if he were able to venture stateside. He has the draft pedigree and the skill, but most in Blues-nation believe he’s better off playing games in the AHL than sitting in the press-box or on the taxi squad.

AHL-Probables for the Canucks

Let’s start with the most obvious players: Teves, Eliot, Woo, Gadjovich, Lockwood, and Kielly are all assuredly playing in the AHL this season. Barring monumental improvements to their games and blowing the lids off of everyone in Vancouver. I can’t picture any of these guys making the taxi-squad or the starting roster. Some guys still need time to cook, and some guys have pretty much capped out on how far they can go.


Exempt from this exercise is Petrus Palmu, who was not invited to camp and is currently playing in the DEL, where he’s put up zero points in five games played. He had some very fun seasons in the Liiga, with some spectacular highlight-reel goals, but it doesn’t look like he’ll ever get over the hump.

Moving on to the # “almost-there-fellas.” We have players like Lind, Sautner, Brisebois, Bailey, Jasek, Michaelis, and Graovac. Graovac probably has the best shot of cracking the taxi squad lineup due to his experience, but I can’t see his footspeed making him an effective NHL’er anymore.

On the other end of the footspeed spectrum is Justin Bailey, who, for whatever reason, has been unable to translate his speed-first game to the NHL. His lack of two-way game won’t fly with Travis Green, and his brief stint with the Canucks last season didn’t exactly leave a lot to be desired.

Not his fault, but Lukas Jasek is definitely playing in the AHL this season. Unfortunately, he was a late arrival to camp and, should he complete his quarantine, will be hard-pressed to make a big-enough statement in the final days of camp to earn a roster-spot. It’s possible, but it’s a big ask from a young player who isn’t quite on the Canucks coaches’ radar.

Then there are the rest, Lind, Michaelis, Sautner, and Brisebois. All guys who would be on the cusp of earning cups-of-coffee in a regular, non-truncated season. But a lame-duck coach like Travis Green will be leaning heavily on rotating the defensemen and bottom-six forwards from his taxi-squad and press box, who can penalty-kill, to maintain a somewhat healthy and competitive roster.

Constructing A Starting Lineup

With all of these factors in mind; How do the Utica Comets field a competitive roster that doesn’t break-up existing chemistry, develops two NHL teams prospects and creates a winning environment?

Forwards: 

As you can see we have five forwards debuting, seven forwards entering their second or third season, and five entering their fourth or higher. A decent spread of AHL experience, with several players coming off of their best year for AHL production. The players highlighted blue are those with the most AHL/NHL experience. Players highlighted green are those who need AHL ice-time the most for their development.  Purple are for the guys who mostly spent time in the ECHL, unlikely to play significant minutes. The two layers highlighted red are possible options from the CHL. 

This lineup keeps a relatively balanced distribution of established AHL producers with young forwards and debuting rookies. There is an attempt at maintaining one of the more dynamic bonds of last season in Lind/Bailey. Combining the latter with the AHL’s leading scorer from last season, Sam Anas could be fireworks as a top-line. 

I’ve heard only positive things about Michaelis’s game in the NCAA. His placement above Graovac/Jasek isn’t a condemnation of the latter but based entirely on the praise I’ve read of his game. Slotting him alongside another established AHL producer in Curtis McKenzie and Blues prospect Austin Pogasnki should help him transition his game to the AHL.

Lukas Jasek on a good AHL team should be a third-line center who can kill penalties and eat tough all of the tough minutes at 5v5. Slotted alongside him are tenacious forwards Will Lockwood and giant Blues center/left-wing prospect Nolan Stevens. For all of Jasek’s two-way positives, he still has a lack of size. The additions of Nolan Stevens and Will Lockwood to his wings will make up for that in spades. A third-line with aggression and relentless fore-checking could be precisely what Jasek needs to build his confidence as a center. If not, perhaps he can flip back to the left wing, and Stevens can supplant him.

Barring some miraculous training-cam improvements, I can’t picture Gadjovich slotting above some of the previously mentioned forwards. Tyler Graovac is a fine center for him to play with as he’s basically what Gadjovich needs to be at the AHL/NHL level, a big body who can skate and play hard along the boards to produce. Graovac may not have NHL wheels anymore, but he can teach Gadj a thing or two o a tough line with debuting undersized center prospect Hugh McGing.

Suppose the Comets truly embrace the “development” aspect of this truncated season. In that case, we might see full rotations of ECHL-calibre forwards into and out of the lineup regularly.

Defencemen:

 

 edit: This list is completely off, as I apparently listed off each player’s GP from their 2019-20 campaign, not their AHL GP. in totality.
Speicifically, Walman – 189 GP,
Brisebois – 165 GP, Tucker 2 GP, Reinke -122 GP, and Sautner – 242 GP.
specifically. 

The D-Pairings for an amalgamated farm team will be tough to figure out. Not a lot of significant AHL experience, but several players have NHL experience sprinkled throughout. 

Who the Canucks stick on the taxi squad is a mystery. And the addition of Travis Hamonic throws massive question-marks on where Rafferty and Chatfield end up. 

Because I don’t believe Rafferty’s offence has a place in Green’s lineup, I have to think he’ll get another full-season of AHL duty. 

But again, who knows!

The only thing I can guaran-cheese for certain is Ashton Sautner will 100% be put on his off-side to elevate the game of a debuting rookie. In this case, likely Blues prospect Scott Perunovich! Teves likely wont see much ice time this year. Mitch Eliot had fun underlying numbers and a great shot in spurts last season, but didn’t quite earn the trust of the coaching staff, he has a tough list of players to earn ice-time over with the addition of Reinke to the Comets right-side. 

Goalies:

It’s pretty clear that Di Pietro is the Canucks third-best goalie, but I find it hard to believe that it’s in his best interest to sit practicing with the taxi squad for an entire season. 

The Blues don’t have a goalie option for the AHL outside of Hofer. As a debuting goalie from the WHL, he’ll likely rotate games with Kielly while Di Pietro starts most games.

If Di Pietro does get taxi squad duty, and we see Silovs in the AHL with Kielly and Hofer — we might just see a flat rotation between three rookie goalies for an entire season. 

Conclusion:

*exhales* man, this is going to be crazy 

After writing this, Thomas Drance posited on TSN1040 that the Canucks could loan a player like Justin Bailey to the Toronto Marlies to keep him available for call-ups. Something I hadn’t even considered, and something that could completely tank everything I’ve speculated! There are so many avenues that GMs have for managing their roster this season. 

This might be the one season where GM of the year will actually feel deserved. 

2019-20 Preseason – Utica Comets vs. Binghamton Devils

Pre-Season on the Farm

 

Good weekend to you all in R/Canucks land, we are just DAYS away from the regular season FINALLY starting, but before we get to the games that matter, it’s time to recap some games that absolutely DON’T! Yessir, it’s AHL preseason, where tonight, the Comets farm team pits its ECHL PTO’s and young guns against the Binghamton Devils in a key tilt that will determine who’s done a better job shaking off the rust and the cobwebs, in preparation for another grueling season in the AHL’s North Division!

 

Tonight will be a slightly different format, as tonight I will be joined by /u/papertoonie [+11] between periods and post-game, as we pontificate this rag-tag group of hockey players.

 

Starting Lineup

 

LW C RW
Boucher Camper Lind
Gadjovich Hamilton Perron
Bancks Leier Arseneau
Sadowy Sorenson Stevenson
LD RD
Teves Sautner
Rafferty Petgrave
LeBlanc Eliot
G
Zane McIntyre

 

 

RE: INJURY REPORT

 

Injury Report
Lukas Jasek Seamus Malone
Foot Arm

 

Healthy Scratches
Frye Chatfield Blujus Iacopelli Thow MacEwen Burmaster Kielly Edmondson Juolevi Bailey

 

1st period

 

Comets in Blue

 

 

Score at the end of the 1st period: 2-1 Binghamton Devils

/u/papertoonie [+11] for your thoughts!

The team was all over the place throughout the period; other than a few rushes up ice, they had almost no possession or control. McIntyre played really good and was the only one to stand out but he simply had no help from his team to start. Ugly defense and some bad turnovers left McIntyre having to come up big on more than a few occasions. Any sustained pressure the Comets had in the offensive zone was not controlled and just ended up with a lot of puck chasing as each player took turns turning over the puck at a rapid pace. The Devil’s had lots of good controlled sustained pressure in the Comets zone. Penalty killing was brutal; I just have nothing good to say about the 1st period for the Comets other than McIntyre and a few flashes here and there.

 

2nd Period

 

  • Whole lot of play chasing from the 3rd and 4th lines – not a whole lot of possession
  • Kole Lind gets a nice shot on Cormier from the blue line but its right into his glove
  • Ryan Schmelzer takes an interference penalty on the Comets Boston Leier and the Comets are off to their first powerplay of the night
  • 1st Powerplay Group – Lind, Rafferty, Camper, Boucher, Gadjovich
  • Gadjovich playing net-front and Boucher playing wind-up slapshot from the right side of the blue line, two huge blasts from him but Devils do well to clear
  • Matt Petgrave shifts on for Rafferty and has a shot blocked by Ben Street who gets a solo rush on McIntyre who makes a clutch shorthanded save
  • 2nd Powerplay Group – Petgrave, Arseneau, Eliot, Leier, Perron
  • Comets somehow blow a 4-on-1 rush after Francis Perron whiffs a shot from the right side wide of the net
  • Yikes, Boston Leier (#20) goes knee-on-knee with Ryan Schmelzer and the Comets are off to their 4th penalty kill
  • 1st PK Group has LeBlanc, Sautner, PLUS Hamilton and Bancks on for JUST the defensive zone faceoff
  • The veteran penalty killers immediately shift off for Boucher/Camper when they clear the zone
  • 2nd PK Group – Rafferty, Petgrave and Hamilton/Bancks shift back on after the first group does well to deny the Devils any chances
  • 4th line once again gets time in the defensive zone after the Devils powerplay ends but they just get absolutely hemmed in by the Devils pressure
  • Gadjovich with some decent board work in the offensive zone; gets a puck to Wacey Hamilton who centers it for Francis Perron who appears shocked at the offensive play that Hamilton just created; Perron then nearly takes a hooking penalty as the Comets lose the zone after the missed centering pass
  • Brett Seney makes the Comets defense look foolish as he manages to control the puck better with his feet along the boards for 20-30 seconds after losing his stick
  • Devils play-by-play announcer announces shots in favor of Binghmaton, 20 to 13

 

Score at the end of the 2nd period: 3-1 Binghamton Devils

/u/papertoonie [+11] for your thoughts!

More of the same, as the Comets look messy, while the Devil’s dominate in possession once again. From about 14 minutes in till the end of the period I think the Comets spent around 70-80% of the time in their own end. The powerplay didn’t look terrible, but there was once instance where a shot from Brogan Rafferty was taken when it probably shouldn’t have, which lead to a Devil’s breakaway which put all the pressure on McIntyre to come up huge.

 

3rd Period

 

  • Some early pressure from the Comets to start the third, but no shots make their way on Cormier
  • Comets then get caught with too many men on the ice and thus the Comets head to their 5th penalty kill of the night
  • Penalty gets killed – hope the coaching staff gets the too many men stuff in order as they got caught for that WAY too many times last year for a pro-hockey team
  • Yowza, Tanner Sorenson takes a Devils clearing attempt right on the ear
  • Carter Camper (#19) with some nice puck handling to maintain the offensive zone – then goes cross-ice to Kole Lind (#13) who shows great patience to get himself space for a tight angle shot that gets blockered aside. 
  • Gadjovich appears to be elbowed in a scrum off a defensive zone draw but picks himself up to forecheck and create a scoring chance for Utica
  • I’m still not sure how this doesn’t count as a goal, puck clearly past the line before the whistle – really solid job by Gadjovich to recover off the elbow to create a scoring chance for the Comets but the refs say no
  • Following this, Carter Bancks picks up a slashing penalty while forechecking behind the Devils net
  • GOAL – BINGHAMTON – 3-1 Devils: Devils capitalize quickly off the o-zone draw as Ben Street rips a one-timer past McIntyre
  • Tough sequence of events for the Comets
  • oh boy, the end boards almost get on the scoreboard as a dumped puck gets redirected dangerously close to the Comets goal
  • GOAL – UTICA – 3-2 Devils: Wacey Hamilton (#36) with a solid job as distributor as he gets his line into the offensive zone, where he drops off for Stefan LeBlanc (#3) who’s shot redirects off a Devils player right by Francis Perron (#27), who wrists one top corner to put the Comets within 1
  • Rink announcers credit Gadjovich with an assist but I’m about 99% sure he doesn’t touch the puck on the goal
  • The tides may be turning, as the Devil’s Andrew Campbell takes a clear-cut interference penalty on Vincent Arseneau (#18), giving the Comets even more momentum
  • 1st Powerplay Group – Gadjovich, Lind, Boucher, Rafferty, Camper
  • One-timer bombs from Rafferty AND Boucher miss wide of the net and the Comets are forced to reset twice with their first unit forwards – Petgrave subs on for Rafferty quickly after his one timer though
  • 2nd Powerplay Unit – Eliot, Petgrave, Perron, Arseneau, Leier
  • oof that 2nd unit just gets absolutely nothing going on the powerplay, but pressure begins mounting for them as the 4th line gets rolled out to continue the pressure and for once don’t get hemmed into their own zone
  • GOAL – BINGHAMTON – 4-2 Devils: genuinely not sure how this happened, but Binghamtons Ara Nazarian leads a rush down the left wing and finds an all alone Marian Studenic who gets the tap-in goal to regain the 2 goal lead for Binghamton
  • Comets pull the goalie for the man-advantage – Camper, Boucher, Lind, Gadjovich, Rafferty and Perron all out to try some late game heroics
  • Stoppage in play happens and Sautner, Eliot, Arseneau, Bancks, Hamilton and Stevenson get shifted on
  • Minute 10 and the original 6 man group comes back on
  • GOAL – UTICA – 4-3 Devils: The Comets bring the game within one off some sustained pressure in the Devils zone but it might be too little to late, as Kole Lind (#13) fishes the puck through traffic in front of the Devils net and passes to Carter Camper (#19)on the left side who roofs one past Cormier with just 9.2 seconds left to try and tie the game
  • Comets fail to win the next faceoff draw but the Devils clearly ice the puck, but the refs have to go home early I guess as the whistles don’t blow and this one ends

 

Final Score: 4-3 Binghamton Devils

 

Scoresheet

 

Period Team Goalscorer Primary assist helper type
1st Utica Matt Pegrave Jonah Gadjovich 5v5
1st Binghamton Ben Street PPG
1st Binghamton Joey Anderson PPG
3rd Binghamton Ben Street PPG
3rd Utica Francis Perron Jonah Gadjovich Stefan LeBlanc 5v5
3rd Binghamton Marian Studenic Ara Nazarian 5v5
3rd Utica Carter Camper Kole Lind 6v5

 

Preseason Player Pontification

 

  • Zane McIntyre – genuinely hard to blame him for the loss in this one as the group in front of him look disinterested and at times appeared to be coasting had on their skates. Hard to face as many odd man rushes in 60 minutes as he did tonight, and hopefully the coaching staff works through the possession issues that plagued them in tonight’s game
  • Kole Lind – defensive game still a huge work in progress, but his offensive game looked strong – confident in his passing and his shot

/u/papertoonie [+11] says

Lind had some good chances, some fancy plays, but didn’t play too crazy, his late game takeaway to setup the Camper goal was very smooth

  • Matt Petgrave – I mean he looked better than he did last year, he was arguably the most efficient defender alongside Rafferty this game, however, he’s throws his stick and his body around with reckless abandon and I think against a real AHL team, hje would be brutally exposed with how often he leaves his D partner hanging out to dry. Would be best for him to play out the season with the K-Wings.

/u/papertoonie [+11] says

Decent defensive play and was probably the best defender for the first 2 periods of the game

  • Jonah Gadjovich – although his skating is still looking clunky, and not the greatest, he seemed to be in the right place at the right time for every shift of his, contributing on two of the Comets goals at even strength is also a huge positive to his game – I don’t know how much of his offensive contribution is hinging on luck, but solid positioning can carry slow players pretty far in hockey (cough cough not mentioning anyone cough cough); I’m also not sure if what he showed tonight translates against a full AHL roster, but I think games like this are good for his confidence and development

/u/papertoonie [+11] says

Won some battles on the boards and managed to setup a few players from there but wasn’t able to make much of it

  • Francis Perron – looked solid IMO, contributed offensively, led some solid rushes down the wing and got a nifty goal – liked him alongside Gadjovich and Hamilton… a pretty decent crash and bang line

/u/papertoonie [+11] says

Didn’t notice him a whole lot in the first 2 periods, he was mediocre and had a few flashes and looked to be one of the few guys who was ACTUALLY trying; could be a great addition to the Comets

  • Josh Teves – kind of a big yikes for me, took a bad penalty, had some bad giveaways and generally didn’t show great puck control skills as a defender…chalking this one up to preseason jitters, but not exactly a good first impression

/u/papertoonie [+11] says

Didn’t do well getting the puck out of the zone successfully and took a bad penalty alongside one really bad giveaway …overall not a great night for Teves

 

Thanks for tuning in to such a mean-nothing recap guys, and special shoutout to /u/papertoonie [+11] for helping me between the periods! This season ought to be quite exciting for the Comets, its hard to take anything from AHL PRESEASON TOO seriously, but I think their ought to be some pretty solid storylines throughout this season, especially when the Canucks make their final cuts and waiver transactions! Monday ought to be QUITE exciting!

 

Well Canucks nation, this has been the first edition of the Farmies for 2019-20 and I hope to see you all back here October 5th for the start of the AHL regular season where things start to REALLY heat up!

 

You can also catch me on theSinBin.net’s “In the Corners” podcast this Monday where I’ll discuss the season outlook for the Comets and the rest of the AHL’s eastern conference!

There might be some other things cooking with the SinBin too so stay tuned 

 

As always, if you want to read up on this Farmies or past Farmies editions you can find them all at my Farmies Blog here