Top Komets storylines
The Komets open training camp today for their 67th season of hockey at Memorial Coliseum, with 32 players expected to vie for about 20 roster spots.
Here’s a look at the top 10 storylines
1. Unknown identity: There are so many new players : only seven players are back from the Komets’ playoff run to overtime of Game 7 of the Western Conference finals : that it’s tough to decipher what the strengths of the team will be. One thing seems clear though: This team will be fast. And it will be a fight to get a roster spot.
2. Waiting for Vegas: The new affiliation with the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights has already yielded a player : goaltender Zach Fucale was sent Sunday : but the Komets are banking on at least two more players to come soon. Who they will be, and when they’ll arrive, are other questions.
3. Goaltending battle: Fucale should be a solid No. 1 goalie; he’s played 63 games in the higher-level American Hockey League. The fight for the other goalie spot could be the most significant in camp with Lukas Hafner probably having a slight edge over rookie Kyle Hayton. Gordon Defiel is also in the mix.
4. Hopes for Hodgman: Justin Hodgman, 30, could be a dominant No. 1 forward at this level, but he was limited to 30 regular-season games and one playoff game last season because of injuries, during which he totaled nine goals and 25 points. The Komets are banking on a rebound season.
5. The New Gs: Replacing ECHL MVP and leading scorer Shawn Szydlowski, team MVP Gabriel Desjardins and Garrett Thompson won’t be easy, but there are some new G’s: Garret Ross and Garrett Ladd. Ross has spent all six seasons of his career in the AHL. He’ll likely be the first player to be called up to the AHL’s Chicago Wolves. Ladd had 21 goals and 46 points in 48 games last season for Tulsa.
6. New-look blue line: The Komets are clearly banking on big offensive seasons from Cody Sol, Jason Binkley and Ryan Lowney, but the rest of the defensive corps is entirely new and will have to jell quickly.
7. Sophomore hype: Anthony Petruzzelli was terrific as a rookie, totaling three goals in his first four games and then adding some grit in 14 playoff games. Expectations are high for his return.
8. Ready to Roy: Marco Roy’s performance in the playoffs, through myriad injuries, is already part of Komets lore. He accrued two goals and 11 points in 14 games. He was still with Laval of the AHL on Sunday. Assuming he returns, the Komets need him to fill Desjardins’ void as the team’s opportunistic playmaker.
9. On the right side: Kevin Gibson was a nemesis of the Komets when he played for Quad City and Toledo, but fans will love his rough-and-tumble style now. By the way, he’s former baseball star Kirk Gibson’s kid.
10. Coaching duty: In June, when it became clear the Komets were losing the bulk of their offense, coach Gary Graham said, “I’m not afraid to use the word (rebuilding).” He has confidence in his ability to find talent and to groom it. This will be perhaps his toughest job, at least when it comes to getting a bunch of players on the same page and jelling.
: Justin A. Cohn, The Journal Gazette