Utica Comets Update: What Happened to Nico Daws?
As I googled “Nico Daws” last week in preparation for this article, the first question that came up under the “People Also Ask” section is “What happened to Nico Daws?” To answer this perplexing question, I did what any enterprising writer would do: I cracked my knuckles, straightened my pajamas, poured myself some coffee, turned on my computer and went over to TheAHL.com to type in his name.
My conclusion after about fifteen seconds of pouring over stats: Nico Daws is doing fine.
The title of this article is a bit tongue in cheek, of course. People are wondering what happened to Nico Daws mostly due to the meteoric rise of Akira Schmid, who overtook Daws this year as the team’s clear number three (and maybe soon the team’s number two) netminder. When Mackenzie Blackwood went down due to injury, many fans expected to see Nico Daws taking his place and while Daws has dressed for some NHL games this year as a back up, he has not played in any of them.
Last season for the Devils, Daws had a 3.11 GAA and a .893 SV% to go along with a 10-11-1 record. It may be hard for Devils fans to remember as if you are anything like me, you have tried to blank last season out of your mind, but this was largely considered by the fan base to be a highlight in a historically bad season of goaltending in New Jersey.
When one looks at Akira Schmid’s 0-4-0 record for the Devils last year to go along with a 4.83 GAA and an .833 SV% one can understand why Daws seemed so appealing by comparison. Daws actually led the Devils in wins last season and was the second best netminder out of seven on the team’s goalie-carousel in terms of both GAA and SV% behind only still-recovering Jonathan Bernier.
Last year was that bad in net for New Jersey.
In last year’s no-good horrible season of epic bad goaltending it’s hard to remember that Nico Daws and Akira Schmid both started the season as rookies in the AHL. Both were playing extremely well before their respective call-ups as the Utica Comets tied the AHL record for wins to start a season with eleven with Daws and Schmid in a platooning role.
Before that, in the Covid-affected season of 2020-21, Daws was playing professionally in the DEL in Germany, whereas Schmid was still suiting up for the Sioux City Musketeers in the USHL. Their respective pathways to their first NHL games over the course of just one year looked like this:
Nico Daws: ERC Ingolstadt (DEL) - Brief stint in Utica (AHL) - New Jersey Devils
Akira Schmid: Sioux City Musketeers (USHL) - Brief stint in Utica (AHL) - New Jersey Devils
HOW RARE IS THAT?
According to QuantHockey, only two German-born goaltenders ever made the jump from the DEL to the NHL in one season: Rob Zepp, who played 10 games for the Flyers in 2014-2015 at the age of 33 after a long career in the DEL and Niklas Treutle who played 2 games for the Coyotes in 2015-2016. [QantHockey] In both instances, those goaltenders started those years in the AHL before getting called up during the season as Daws did. It should be noted that there may be additional non German-born goalies who made the jump from DEL to NHL in one season as the list only included German-born goalies, but even so, the bottom line is that this jump is clearly quite rare.
Akira Schmid’s jump from playing exclusively in the USHL to debuting in the NHL in one season is even rarer for a goaltender. So rare in fact that according to NHL.com, it had never been done before. Ever. Schmid was the first goalie to ever do it. [NHL.COM]
And you thought last year’s Devils weren’t historic.
SCHMID’S RISE LEAVES DAWS IN AHL LIMBO — FOR NOW
It was never fair to judge Daws or Schmid by last season’s NHL numbers just because they were forced onto the goalie-carousel before they were ready. Both young goaltenders made ridiculous jumps from lesser leagues into the NHL without a proper adjustment period. Schmid was 21 last season and Daws was 20. Both netminders needed time to marinate in the AHL, but since Devils goaltenders as a group had the staying power of a Spinal Tap drummer last year, they were both forced into service too early.
While Daws was better with the Devils last year, Schmid was the better goalie at the start of Utica’s season this year. At the time of his call-up, Schmid was posting a 2-1-2 record with a 1.97 GAA and and .918 SV%. This performance gave Schmid the nod to get called up when Mackenzie Blackwood went down with an injury.
So far, Schmid has ran with it.
This year for the Devils, Schmid made a different kind of history, namely tying Chris Terreri’s Devils record of 5 consecutive wins to start a season. [NHL.COM] Now that Schmid was credited with his first loss of the year in relief of Vitek Vanecek on Friday, he will have to settle for that tie. Still, Schmid’s numbers are outstanding. As of Saturday night, Schmid is 5-1-0 with a 1.70 GAA and a .940 SV% thus far this season for the Devils.
While these numbers are unsustainable, Schmid’s rise did not come completely out of nowhere. Before his historic jump into the NHL last season, Schmid was named the USHL goaltender of the year in 2020-21 after boasting a 23-13-1 record to go along with a 2.01 GAA and .921 SV%. Last season when playing in the AHL, Schmid was second amongst rookie qualifying goaltenders in GAA (2.60) and fourth in SV% (.911). In short, last season’s small premature blip in the NHL aside, Schmid has had a recent track record of success at his position.
So, where does this leave Nico Daws?
A CONCLUSION OF SORTS
It’s impossible to know what the future holds at any position in the NHL, but goaltending is an especially strange beast. One thing seems certain: Daws did not become somehow worse just because Schmid has been so outstanding to start this season. By all accounts, Daws is still developing well for the Comets and is a quality goaltending prospect in his own right.
Nico Daws will turn 22 in a few weeks. Due to the rise of Schmid, he will have to wait for another opportunity to play again for the Devils. Regardless of when Daws plays in the NHL again, having another capable goaltender in the system is a valuable asset for the team to have. After last season’s disaster between the pipes, Devils fans do not need to be reminded just how important goaltending depth can be. Daws has already proven to be a solid depth goaltender and may still develop into more.
UTICA COMETS UPDATE
As of Saturday morning when this article was written, the Utica Comets were 8-7-3-1 and sit in 6th place (out of 7 teams) in the North Division, nine points behind the division-leading Toronto Marlies. The Comets have games in hand on all teams in the division. [TheAHL.COM]
As of Saturday morning, Graeme Clarke had the best month amongst Comets prospect forwards with six points in eight games since last update. Clarke also leads the team with 51 shots on goal. Clarke has been suiting up on the Comets second line recently and has been thriving in that spot.
Tyce Thompson took a slight dip in production this past month, but still leads the prospects on the team as of Saturday morning with a 0.63 Pts/g average. After the hot start, Thompson has been mired in a mini-slump with four points in his last nine games as the Comets current top right wing.
After a hot start, Nolan Foote has been struggling with only 2 points in his last 9 games. Foote has been streaky throughout his career and needs to find a bit more consistency. Foote is currently playing on the top line with Thompson now that veteran Andreas Johnsson has been called up to New Jersey.
Though I’m sure he’d prefer the NHL, Jack Dugan seems grateful to be playing closer to home in Utica, so his family can watch him play. [RomeSentinel $] Dugan has a respectable ten points in 18 games playing mostly with Brian Halonen on the Comets third line. Halonen has hit a bit of a wall after a hot stretch a few weeks ago.
As to veterans, ex-Devils and non-prospects, center Brian Pinho leads the Comets in goals (8) and points (15). Andreas Johnsson leads the team in pts/g with 1.08. Mason Geertsen leads the team in penalty minutes (73).
Simon Nemec had a strong month and has been promoted to Utica’s top pair with veteran Tyler Wotherspoon. As of Saturday morning, Nemec sits in a tie for fourth amongst rookie defensemen in the AHL with 10 points in 20 games. The three rookie defensemen ahead of the 2nd overall pick: 20 year-old Jeremie Poirier (16), 23 year-old Ronnie Attard (11) and 20 year-old Ryker Evans (11). Nemec is still only 18 years-old.
Taking his age into account, Dobber’s PNHLe currently puts Nemec’s offensive production at 75, which projects, according to their model, somewhere between a future top pairing NHL defenseman and a superstar. [Dobber]
Reilly Walsh, on the other hand, has been playing on the Comets third pair with either Jeremy Groleau or Michael Vukojevic. Though Walsh’s point totals this season have been consistent with his career as he still enjoys time on the first power play unit, one wonders what his NHL future holds if his defensive play is such that Coach Dineen still has him playing a somewhat sheltered role on the third pair as a 23 year-old.
Nikita Okhotiuk has been playing consistently since returning from injury primarily on the Comets second pair with veteran Robbie Russo. Though the shutdown defender will never be a big producer, Okhotiuk’s offense has improved from a NHLe last season of 8 to 13 so far this year.
Jeremy Groleau got his first point of the season in the form of an assist since last update. Michael Vukojevich is still waiting for his first point after sixteen games.
Akira Schmid is still up with the big club filling in for Mackenzie Blackwood.
Nico Daws, the spotlight of this month’s update, is starting to win games and his record has now evened out to a 5-5-1 as of Saturday morning. Daws has been posting overall numbers that are very consistent with last season, when he finished with a 2.54 GAA and a .916 SV%
UTICA COMET OF THE MONTH
- Simon Nemec gets the nod here. Though Graeme Clarke also had a strong run this past month, Nemec seems to be gaining confidence. Sticktap, Mr. Nemec. Here’s a goal he scored on Friday night.
AROUND THE POOL
- After the rest of this article was written, the Utica Comets got crushed by Syracuse on Saturday night 5-1. Daws surrendered four goals as Syracuse put the last one in an empty net. Nolan Stevens scored his fifth for the Comets. Graeme Clarke picked up an assist to continue his hot streak. [TheAHL.com]
- After an adjustment period, Samu Salminen is settling into college life. As of Saturday morning, the Finnish Center/Winger had a mini-streak of 4 points in 5 games.
- Chase Stillman continues to find his scoring touch with four goals in his last three games.
that 4 goals in 3 games feeling pic.twitter.com/pps6IpOyQB— Peterborough Petes (@PetesOHLhockey) December 11, 2022
- Speaking of hot, Arseni Gritsyuk is now up to 12 points in his last 10 games.
- Goaltender Tyler Brennan was cut from Canada’s World Juniors team.
- In an interview with Daria Tuboltseva for Sport24 in Russia Shakir Mukhamadullin talks about drinking protein shakes and confirms that he will return to North America after his KHL season is over. [Sport24]
What do you think of Daws? Foote? Thompson? Clarke? Nemec? Are you excited to see Big Shak in the red and black? Tell us your thoughts.
Next week the update cycles back to the NCAA with a spotlight on the breakout season of junior center Artem Shlaine.