For most people, Friday’s just the day before the weekend. But after this Friday, the neighborhood’ll never be the same.
Ice Cube’s character, from F. Gary Gray’s cult classic, Friday, summarized it best.
After this weekend, the neighbourhood will never be the same.
The Vancouver hockey landscape will never be the same.
For the first time, the Canucks primary affiliate will be located within BC
I say “primary” because there was that brief period when their ECHL affiliate was the short-lived Victoria Salmon Kings, who ceased operations in 2011 after the Chilliwack Bruins moved to the island to become the Victoria Royals and stole the ECHL’s thunder.
Shame because the logo rocked.
Vancouver will have their AHL affiliate in their backyard, and with it, extra eyes turn to an organization that has struggled to make managing an NHL team look easy.
For nearly a decade, the Utica Comets operated on an island, away from the prying eyes of local Vancouver media.
Dependant on only a few sources for information, no one knew what was happening with Canucks prospects or their development.
When I first started to write about the Comets, it was out of a desire to see how the Canucks 2017 draft class fared in their rookie years.
Narrator: it did not go well.
That 2018-19 season was an unmitigated disaster, marred by goaltending issues and legitimate prospects scratched in favour of ECHL plugs.
The most notable issue being when both Petrus Palmu and Jonathan Dahlen publicly voiced problems with the management and coaching staff over playing time and communication.
If we’re generous to the Canucks management group, there have been three players drafted or signed out of free agency, who have developed in the AHL and turned into full-time NHL players.
Here’s a list of most of the U23 AHL’ers that have entered the Canucks AHL system since the Comets became their affiliate: Alex Grenier, Nicklas Jensen, Alex Friesen, Frank Corrado, Peter Andersson, Alex Mallet, Frank Corrado, Hunter Shinkaruk, Brendan Gaunce*, Mike Zalewski, Jordan Subban, Andrey Pedan, Joe Labate, Ashton Sautner, Cole Cassels, Evan McEneny, Jake Virtanen, Marco Roy, Zack MacEwen*, Guillaume Brisebois, Michael Carcone, Jalen Chatfield, Tanner MacMaster, Danny Moynihan, Nikolay Goldobin, Jonathan Dahlen, Kole Lind, Jonah Gadjovich, Petrus Palmu, Lukas Jasek, Thatcher Demko, Jack Rathbone, Carson Focht, Ethan Keppen, Jett Woo, Mitch Eliot, Adam Gaudette, and I’m missing some more.
- The Canucks got an entire NHL season out of Brendan Gaunce, but footspeed concerns and a lack of offence kept him out of future call-up considerations. Especially after the team invested in Jay Beagle and other bottom-six contracts. He arguably would be on that Graovac plain of NHL’er if the Canucks had just stuck with him.
- Virtanen, let’s not even get into it.
- MacEwen busted his ass to make the taxi squad and appeared to be on the verge of breaking out, but this year has been a disaster for him. He might have an NHL future as a 13th forward, but he isn’t a “must play” starting 16 forward at the NHL level at this juncture.
- Thatcher Demko – grade A proof of development. The only asterisk is that he is a goalie, and goalies develop much differently than skaters.
- Adam Gaudette and Jack Rathbone are two players who were infinitely better than those playing around them. They were on different skill levels, and their placement in the AHL was primarily due to circumstance rather than ability or needing time to cook/develop in the AHL.
So after eight years of remote management of prospect development, this club has a goalie and a 13th forward to show for their AHL development work.
The 4700-kilometre distance may have kept this ugly black spot out of the spotlight, but once the Abbotsford Aeronauts hit the ice next September, it will be tough to wave off their spotty development record.
Syracuse re-upped their head coach of the last six seasons, Benoit Groulx, who has churned out a new bottom-six/middle-six forward for the Tampa Bay Lightning every year he has been the head coach. Their recipe is a gold standard of what the Canucks organization should strive to model themselves after.
I performed the last exercise to examine AHL development records of various NHL franchises. The above list for Syracuse excludes Ross Colton, who debuted as a reliable bottom-six producer for Tampa this season.
The above list also excludes players like Alexander Volkov, who split time with Anaheim and Tampa Bay this season.
All eyes are on the Canucks organization this summer. If they are truly invested in a grand-scale audit of their organization. It’s about time they include their AHL affiliate into those considerations.
With just two games remaining in this abbreviated Comets season, I’d like to see something from Blues prospect Tyler Tucker.
Mostly because his production chart is hilarious, haha
Absolutely nothing for the bulk of the season, then a casual point-per-game pace over the last six games, haha.
For Canucks prospects, tonight’s ‘do something’ belongs to Carson Focht.
Focht has put up impressive shot suppression and goal suppression numbers relative to his teammates and ice time, but the 5v5 goal scoring has not been there often this season.
- DiPietro’s call up to the World Cup is great for him, but man, only starting four games out of a possible seven over a 14-month span looks ugly as hell.
- Evan Fitzpatrick with his second start since April 14th, 2021
- Nathan Walker went from being on the quarantine list for Utica to being on the quarantine list of the NHL, so I doubt he plays any more games for the Comets this season.
Don’t feel like reading? Click here for spoilers!!
- Amerks donning their red (not a practice) alternate jersey in tonight’s action
- Comets dump the puck after the opening faceoff and pressure in the offensive zone for a bit before resetting in the neutral zone.
- Josh Wesley (#24) takes a tripping penalty while defending the net front, and the Comets head to their first penalty kill of the evening.
PK1 – Jasek, Teves, Eliot, John Stevens
- Curtis McKenzie (#81) picks off a pass at the Comets blueline and sends Lukas Jasek (#9) down the ice for a shorthanded breakaway chance. Jasek dekes to the backhand, but a diving Michael Houser makes a brilliant poke check to deny Jasek’s scoring chance.
- Fitzpatrick has looked sharp on the PK, turning away several shots from Patrick Polino at the net-front
- Rochester’s DJ is rolling through the late 00’s hits between whistles; Flo Rida’s Right Round turned up to 11 after a pretty routine deflection over the glass.
- Comets kill the penalty, and the game returns to 5-on-5
- Now Sia’s ‘titanium’ echoes through the Blue Cross Arena
- Rochester makes quick work off a steal inside the Comets’ d-zone after Ethan Keppen (#92) blocks a shot. Vinny Arseneau (#18) nearly springs Shawn Cameron (#15) out of the d-zone with a breakaway pass after Arseneau picks up Keppen’s blocked shot. Still, Rochester’s Brandon Hawkins steals Arseneau’s feed and quickly generates a dangerous chance for Brent Gates Jr.
- Six minutes into the first period and Carson Focht (#19), forechecking inside the Amerks zone, picks off a breakout pass and records the Comets’ second shot on goal.
- Jasek (#9) capitalizes on an Amerk giveaway inside the d-zone, sees his team going for a line change, then turns on the jets to wheel around Rochester’s Griffin Luce for a backhander on Michael Houser.
- Keppen (#92) with a brutal-looking giveaway in the neutral zone to Rochester’s J.S. Dea
- Keppen blocks a hard shot off his knee to close out a rough end to his shift.
- Sam Anas picks off a breakout pass, then rips a shot into the body of an Amerk defender.
- Tonight’s referees with a horrendous icing call against Rochester
- Another turnover inside the d-zone results in Fitzpatrick making a clutch save on Rochester’s Dominic Franco
- Sven Bärtschi tries to thread a pass through multiple bodies to Jett Woo (#22), who made a mad dash to jump up into the play.
- Woo with a pretty good-looking drive on that play
- Vinny Arseneau (#18) gets sucker punched by Rochester’s Dalton Smith, who’s been looking for a code-based scrap with Arseneau since Wednesday’s game.
- Smith heads down the tunnel as the refs deliberate over Smith’s infractions. Arseneau did not drop the gloves and went down hard after Smith’s punch.
- Smith takes a five-minute major and a game-misconduct
- The Comets will spend five of the final six minutes of the first period on the powerplay
PP1 – Five-forward unit
- Cull elects to go with the five-forward unit, which has scored once since its inception.
- Jasek blasts a one-timer into the body of an Amerk defender, and Rochester forces the Comets to reset from the neutral zone.
PP2 – Focht, McKenzie, McGing, Woo, Alexandrov
- Hugh McGing fans on a one-timer set up by Nikita Alexandrov and Rochester clears the zone.
- PP1 heads back over the boards for Utica
- Bärtschi passes to the vacant blueline, forcing the Comets to reset from the neutral zone.
- Nothing happening on this powerplay for Utica
- Focht (#19) records the Comets only shot on goal during the five-minute powerplay. OOF!
- The game returns to 5-on-5 with under 55 seconds left in the period; truly, a pathetic powerplay.
- Some other things happened in the final minute of the period, but it was inconsequential.
- That powerplay might have killed my will to live.
- Comets finish the game down in shots on goal nine to eight. Haha.
- LMAO, I mean, what the fuck is that!?
- More turnovers to start the second period for Utica as Tyler Tucker (#2) loses the puck in his feet at the Comets goal line, leading to a dangerous chance for Steven Fogarty.
- Hugh McGing (#14) springs McKenzie (#81) up ice for a breakaway, and he draws a hooking penalty against Rochester’s Oskari Laaksonen.
- Comets regretfully head back to the powerplay.
- The five-forward powerplay group generates a few dangerous shots on Houser, but they have to reset from the d-zone after a clearance.
- Rochester kills the remainder of Laaksonen’s penalty.
- Brett Murray launches a shot at Evan Fitzpatrick, who makes the initial save, then makes an incredible follow-up save on Dominic Franco, who pounces on the uncontrolled rebound for a shot.
- More turnovers in Utica’s d-zone result in even more shots and saves by Fitzpatrick
- GOAL – UTICA – 1-0 COMETS: Go figure. The Comets finally manage to post up inside the offensive zone for some sustained pressure, and on their third shot of the period, score. Jasek (#9), involved along the endboards, allows Nikita Alexandrov (#41) to fish the puck back to the blueline for Josh Teves (#4), who wrists a puck towards Houser’s blocker side. McKenzie (#81) gets a last-second tip on the puck that redirects the puck to Houser’s glove side, post and in.
- After the McKenzie goal, some dicey moments for Utica as Rochester’s Brett Murray blows a golden empty-net scoring chance.
- Ethan Keppen takes a penalty for hooking while forechecking in the offensive zone, and the Comets are off to their second penalty kill of the night.
PK1 – Jasek, Tucker, Wesley, John Stevens
- PK1 with an early clear followed by a save by Fitzpatrick on C.J. Smith
- McKenzie (#81) steals the puck in the d-zone from J.S. Dea and sends Nolan Stevens (#17) into the Amerks zone for a shorthanded breakaway chance
- Mitch Eliot ties up Steven Fogarty, and Lukas Jasek steals for the clearance. The Comets penalty kill looking very effective against the AHL’s leading powerplay
- Remi Elie rips a shot off the crossbar and out of play with under six seconds remaining in Rochester’s powerplay
- Keppen leaves the box as the game returns to 5-on-5
- Vinny Arseneau (#18) with a very late hit on Dominic Franco followed by more code-aversion.
- Arseneau was smart, at first, using the Amerks bloodlust against them to draw penalties. But he’s going to get some of his teammates annihilated by hits if he keeps refusing to answer for his hits.
- Arseneau gets assessed for a five-minute major, and now it’s the Comets turn to face an extended powerplay.
PK1 – Tucker, Wesley, Stevens’ brothers
- Comets are holding the Amerks to outside very well through the first minute of the Amerks powerplay.
- Wesley picks off a pass and dumps the puck to allow for a wholesale change of personnel.
PK2 – Jasek, McKenzie, Teves, Eliot
- Brent Gates Jr. whips a shot nowhere near the net, forcing the Amerks to reset from the neutral zone.
- McGing hops on for McKenzie on the reset.
- PK1 back out for a spin, and the Amerks once again force themselves to reset from the neutral zone
- Amerks finally register a shot on goal with less than one minute remaining in their major powerplay.
- Oskari Laaksonen records the Amerks second shot on the powerplay
- Sven Bärtschi joins Nolan Stevens (#17) for a shorthanded rush in the dying seconds of the penalty kill. Stevens and Bärtschi are perhaps too carefree with their setup as the backchecking Amerks disrupt any attempt at a shot on goal.
- Bad night for five-minute majors, holy guacamole! Only two shots on goal registered by Amerks on their five-minute try
- A line of Bärtschi, Alexandrov, and Jasek post up inside the offensive zone for a great bit of sustained pressure for Utica.
- Jett Woo with several shot attempts
- Shawn Cameron gets called for slashing, and the Comets will close out the second period on another penalty kill.
- Amerks generate nothing on the powerplay as time winds down on the period
- Comets have been outshot, 23 to 16, after forty minutes of play.
- An early chance for Rochester seconds before Cameron leaves the box for his slashing minor
- Utica generates a 4-on-1 rush chance that culminates in Michael Houser making a terrific save on a Mitch Eliot (#52) one-timer
- Both teams’ exchanging icings over and over that seriously stifle the flow of play.
- Utica generates their most dangerous chance of the period off of a Sam Anas (#7) shot on goal. Alexandrov (#41) starts the play with some slick evasive moves in the neutral zone before handing off to Jasek (#9) along the Amerks blueline. Jasek goes cross-ice with a pass to Anas, who wades towards Houser for a shot that goes off Houser’s right pad and dangerously towards Alexandrov.
- Hugh McGing gets dinged for tripping (that rhymes!), and the Comets are off to their fifth penalty kill of the game.
- Fitzpatrick with a huge blocker-save on J.S Dea
- C.J. Smith throws a shot wide of the goal that wrings around the glass and out of the zone
- Josh Teves (#4) with a diving block that goes appreciated by the Comets bench
- Curtis McKenzie (#81) draws a hooking penalty in the dying seconds of the McGing penalty and sends Jasek (#9) down the ice for a shot on Houser
- Comets to their third powerplay of the game
- A quick passing play between the Stevens brothers leads to a stoppage in play after a shot from Nolan (#17) gets stopped by Houser.
- Bärtschi (#47) almost makes it two-nothing after pouncing on Sam Anas’s (#7) rebound
- PP2 comes out for Utica, and they lose the faceoff, forcing them to reset from the d-zone
- Dea leaves the box, and the game returns to 5-on-5 with slightly less than five minutes remaining in the period.
- Another save for Evan Fitzpatrick
- With less than three minutes in the period, Rochester earns an offensive zone faceoff, and they pull the goalie for the extra attacker.
- Fitzpatrick with a great read to make a post-to-post save on C.J. Smith
- Comets play the puck off a Rochester body in the neutral zone and manage a wholesale line change with one minute left in the period
- Mitch Eliot (#52) lays a hard hit on Michael Mersch with forty seconds left in the period, and the Comets will head to the penalty kill
- Comets face a 6-on-4 powerplay from Rochester
- Fitzpatrick makes some incredible saves in the dying seconds of the period
- Lukas Jasek picks up the rebound along the wall and ties the puck up for ten seconds before sending it down the ice to end the game
- Evan Fitzpatrick, in his second start of the year, picks up a 33-save shutout. The first of Fitzpatrick’s pro career. What a performance!
Utica def. Rochester 1-0
— Cody Severtson (@CodySevertson) May 15, 2021
- Let this thought marinate, two of the game’s five-minute major powerplays combined for only three shots on goal. I think my brain might be broken after that.
- Lukas Jasek led the Comets with five shots on goal, and two of them came while shorthanded. Impressive two-way game from him tonight.
- Nathan Staios is a pretty speedy little defenceman. I kind of like his overall game. Staios is somewhat undersized, but he holds his ground fairly well in board battles. He and Woo showed much better coordination and chemistry in tonight’s action. Both were much more effective together than they had been in previous outings.
- It was another solid outing for the rage-king, Curtis McKenzie. He came in clutch with the lone goal and was incredibly effective on the Comets penalty kill.
- Speaking of the Comets penalty kill, they managed to kill off nearly fourteen minutes facing the man advantage. Over their past ten games played, the Comets have successfully killed 23 of 26 penalties. That PK% of 88% would put them at the top of the league for penalty killing. As it stands, the Comets have an 81% penalty-killing rate which places them 17th among the league.
- The Comets powerplay, despite its struggles down the stretch, sits ninth in the league.
- There genuinely isn’t much to take away from tonight’s game except for Evan Fitzpatrick’s stellar performance between the pipes.
COMETS HARVEST THREE STARS
- Evan Fitzpatrick
- Lukas Jasek
- Curtis McKenzie
Next Up on the Docket
The Comets return for their season finale this Sunday at 5:05 PM EST/3:05 PM PST.
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