Struggling Out of the Gate
Utica has struggled to start the season going 1-2-2 and currently sits (as of Sunday morning) 6th in the North Division, one point above the lowly Laval Rockets. Much of this has to do with struggles of goaltender Erik Kallgren. With the absence of Nico Daws (injury) and Akira Schmid (playing in NJ), the Utica net has been given to the tandem of Kallgren and Isaac Poulter. For his part, Poulter has played spectacularly for the Comets so far this season (1-0-1, 1.77 GAA, .942SV%). Kallgren, on the other hand, has been Poulter’s opposite (0-2-1, 5.79 GAA, .787SV%). Given Poulter’s struggles last season, it remains to be seen whether this small sample size is an anomaly or if the 22-year-old is truly developing into a quality AHL netminder.
One bit of news that will certainly help the Comets going forward and should be a relief to Devils fans is that Simon Nemec returned from injury on Saturday and picked up his first assist of the season. Nemec’s return could not have come at a better time for the Comets as LHD Santeri Hatakka missed the last few games after leaving the game against the Toronto Marlies on October 15th with an injury.
In Nemec’s absence, Cal Foote (before his callup to New Jersey) and Topias Vilen have lead Utica’s backend with two points each. As to forwards, veterans Max Willman (6 points) and Xavier Parent (5 points) are at the top of the Utica leader board. However, several prospects have had strong starts to the season. With the season so young, a chart doesn’t seem to make sense right now, so here are the highlights among the prospects.
Graeme Clarke is leading the prospects with four points (three goals) in five games. After a strong season last year that saw Clarke breaking 20 goals and 50 points for the first time in his professional career, the 5’11 winger seems to be continuing where he left off. After two goals on Saturday, Chase Stillman is right behind Clarke with three points in his first five games. Here is a look at Stillman’s first professional goal off a great play by Xavier Parent and a nifty little pass by winger Timur Ibragimov.
Stillman may have had a little extra motivation in Saturday’s game:
For the first time in their careers, @RileyStillman61 and @ChaseStillman will face each other when the @AmerksHockey meet the @UticaComets tonight.— American Hockey League (@TheAHL) October 28, 2023
: @Mossbrooks48 | https://t.co/nW6hzrPiuk pic.twitter.com/U1S8cNY5Lu
A closer look at the two brothers:
Double the Stillman, double the fun 6️⃣1️⃣ pic.twitter.com/Z5hdq5G3iH— Utica Comets (@UticaComets) October 28, 2023
Rounding out the prospects of note, Tyce Thompson has struggled out the gate earning his first point in five games, an assist, in the 3rd period of Saturday’s Comet’s loss. On defense, Daniil Misyul also has his first North American point, an assist, and Topias Vilen has two. Vilen has been mostly paired with veteran Robbie Russo. Both Vilen and Misyul have played in four of Utica’s five games.
Around the Pool
- Daniil Orlov is someone to start putting on the radar. Check out this end to end goal.
- Also in Russia, Gritsyuk is heating up.
- Seamus Casey is continuing to put up Jack Hughes number with 14 points in his first 8 games. The NCAA leader in points amongst all players is 15. Scott Morrow is 2nd in the NCAA for points amongst defenseman with 9. Extremely impressive. [Elite Prospects]
- Winger Lenni Hameenaho is currently 3rd in goals in the Liiga with 9. His 13 points in 17 games puts him at 76 on Dobber’s PNHLe model, which projects his potential as that of a future top line player in the NHL.
Now it is time to tell us what you think. Post your meaningful comments below.