The Comets clinched a playoff birth in their final game, also edging out the Rochester Americans in a tight North Division race to finish third in the division with a final record of 35-27-6-4 and eighty points. The drop off from last year’s North Division title, where the Comets finished with a 41-24-4-2 record and 95 points was to be expected this season with some key veteran losses. The Comets will face off against the Laval Rockets in the North Division Semi-finals starting Wednesday April 19th at Laval.
FINAL SEASON STATS
Graeme Clarke won the AATJ best Utica Comet award this season for good reason. Clarke broke out this year leading the Comets in goals, assists, points, pts/g and shots on goal. Dobber’s PNHLe model put Clarke at 46, which is slightly above that of a future second line forward in the NHL. While I do not see Clarke’s path to the NHL on the Devils as that of a top six forward on this stacked offensive team, Clarke can play a grinding style suited for a bottom six role. The prospect update expects Clarke to make his NHL debut next season and be in the conversation during training camp for a full time NHL role. TRENDING: Break-out year.
Josh Filmon played only four games on a ATO for the Comets after signing his ELC with the Devils. As Filmon will still be 19 at the end of this year, he should not be eligible to play for Utica next season until his WHL season ends. Filmon potted one goal in his four games, but gained valuable experience on what to expect in the pro-game. TRENDING: Break-out year.
Nolan Foote had a strong season for the Comets finishing with 20 goals and 17 assists in 55 games. The most encouraging thing for Devils fans is that Foote seems to have gained some speed and acceleration and was able to keep up with team on the NHL level in his six-game call-up. The extra step has helped Foote win board battles, which is a crucial skill for a player vying for a bottom six role in the NHL. Should the Devils move on from Miles Wood at the end of this season, Nolan Foote seems poised to be in a position to take his spot on the team next year. TRENDING: Up.
Brian Halonen finished the season with 30 points in 57 games. As a 24-year old in the AHL, Halonen is slipping out of the prospect pool. He will need a very strong camp to earn a spot on the Devils next season. TRENDING: Status Quo.
Alexander Holtz had a strong AHL season of 11 points in 14 games after being misused on the NHL level this year. Dobber has dropped Holtz’s PNHLe projection to 33, which is that of a 3rd line forward. By all accounts, it was a down year. Holtz still has the tools and skill to be a top line forward at the NHL level if he can work out the warts in his off-the-puck play. Holtz missed the last few games of the AHL season, but should return for the playoffs. TRENDING: Down, but not out.
Timur Ibragimov was a contract that came back to the Devils in the Timo Meier deal. For a player who was in the ECHL before the trade, Ibragimov played fairly well for the Comets, finishing with six points in fifteen games. It remains to be seen what the Devils plans are for Ibragimov, who is a RFA at the end of the season, but it is possible that his tenure as a Comet ends after this playoff run. TRENDING: Up.
Aarne Talvitie had a rough start to the season and finished with 3 goals and 11 assists in 58 games. At 24-years-old, Talvitie’s prospect window is closing. Talvitie is a RFA at the end of the season. TRENDING: Down.
Tyce Thompson had a rough season. After nearly-making the Devils out of camp last year, Thompson has suffered a rash of injuries that has derailed his career. Dobber’s PNHLe model has Thompson at 18, an all-time low and a far cry from the 67 he enjoyed at the end of the 2019-2020 season. The NHLe model has Thompson at 14, nearly half of the 37 he had last year. While his brother Tage was a late bloomer, time is ticking for Tyce to break out in the NHL level. TRENDING: Down.
Jeremy Groleau finished the season with 10 points in 43 games. It is hard to envision a path for Groleau to make his NHL debut for the Devils that does not include the words “catastrophic injuries.” The 23-year-old is a depth defenseman and that’s fine. Organizations need those. Groleau will be a RFA at the end of this season. TRENDING: Status Quo.
Simon Nemec finished strong with eight points in his last six games to finish with 12 goals and 22 assists in 65 games in his first season of North American hockey. Nemec’s 34 points were good enough to finish sixth on the Comets. Perhaps, more impressively, is that 20 of Nemec’s points occurred 5on5. Per AHL Tracker, Simon Nemec’s 5on5 production is the most by any D+1 AHL defenseman in the entire database from 2004-2023, two points ahead of second place Julias Honka (18) in 2014-15 and double that of Red Wings phenom Moritz Seider (10) in 2019-20. [AHLTracker]
It will be interesting to see what GM Tom Fitzgerald does in the off-season on the blueline with Ryan Graves and Damon Severson set to become UFAs. Whether Nemec makes the Devils out of camp or not next year does not matter much in the grand scheme, but one should expect to see Nemec in a Devils jersey at some point next season. TRENDING: Up.
Michael Vukojevich has a rough season, regressing offensively to only three points in thirty-seven games and finding himself often-scratched. The 21-year-old showed some promise in his first year in the AHL, but is now sliding down the depth chart. TRENDING: Down.
Reilly Walsh had another strong offensive season finishing second on the Comets in scoring with 41 points in 71 games. In contrast to Nemec, five of Walsh’s nine goals came with the man advantage. The problem with Walsh was never his offense. What is troubling for Walsh’s NHL prospects is that the 24-year-old is still playing third-pairing minutes at the AHL level. The Devils have enough offensive-minded D-men that they do not need a power play specialist on defense in a sheltered role. That is not to say that Walsh cannot be a NHL player. Others have carved out such a niche. It is just hard to see Walsh carving out that role on this Devils team. TRENDING: Status Quo.
Nico Daws closed the gap between him and Akira Schmid with two shutouts in his last five games. Daws regressed slightly compared to last season’s numbers of a .916 SV% and a 2.54 GAA, but that’s to be expected on a weaker Utica team than the one that won the North Division last season. Daws is currently losing the goaltending depth battle at the NHL level to Akira Schmid, but seems to be developing into a capable goaltender in his own right. TRENDING: Status Quo.
Akira Schmid helped Daws close the gap with a eight goal blowout loss to Syracuse before his recall to the Devils. At the NHL level, Schmid shined, finishing the season with a 9-5-0 record, a 2.13 GAA and a .922 SV%. Those inclined to hand wring over Schmid’s last season in the NHL on the Devils dumpster fire carousal in net are grossly unfair to Schmid who made NHL history last season jumping from the USHL to the NHL in one year. So, who is the real Akira Schmid? The sample size is still small, but large enough to believe that Schmid can at least be a capable backup to Vitek Vanecek for the foreseeable future. TRENDING: Break-out at NHL level.
AROUND THE POOL
- All the Devils prospects have been eliminated from the KHL playoffs as AK Bars will play CSKA for the Gagarin Cup. [Pribalt]
- LHD Topias Vilen and the Pelicans will play Tappara for the Liiga championship. Ilves (Goaltender Jakub Maluk) will play HIFK for third place. [Pribalt] Topias Vilen has two gals and four assists in thirteen playoff games for the Pelicans including this beauty.
- As of Saturday, the Peterborough Petes (RW Chase Stillman) are 1-1 in their series with the Oshawa 67s. [CHL]
- A special milestone for head coach Kevin Dineen in the final game of the season:
- It appears that Arseni Gritsyuk is expecting to return to Avangard next season.
- The Devils have signed goaltender Tyler Brennan to a three year ELC starting next season. The former fourth-round pick is likely to back up Nico Daws for the Comets should Akira Schmid makes the permanent jump to the NHL. [NHL.Com]
- Peter Robinson interviewed Devils prospect Samu Salminen for NHL.com on the forward’s first year in Uconn. [NHL.com]
Now is the time to tell us what you think. Which Comets do you think will make the Devils next season. Let us know your thoughts about any of the prospects in the comments below.