“Next man up” is a familiar sports mantra when injuries happen. The Devils are currently beset by injuries. For Utica, this means more ice time for prospects such as Topias Vilen and debuts for Will MacKinnon and others receiving the call-up from Adirondack.
As of Sunday, the Comets sit last in the North Division with a 13-13-3 record. The good news is that the Comets have games in hand on every team in the North Division and only four points separate Utica from Laval in 4th place. So, while the playoffs are still a very real possibility for Utica, they will have to work hard to crawl into them. In many respects, the Comets and the Devils are similarly situated in that regard. They are in the hunt, but nothing is guaranteed.
Utica Comets Update
Graeme Clarke has been by far the hottest of the Devils prospects since last update, scoring 17 of his 24 points in his last 15 games, even earning his first cup of coffee with New Jersey. Clarke’s skating is likely what is holding him back from a longer look with the big club as the Devils brass have placed an emphasis on the speed of recent call-ups Max Willman and Shane Bowers. Personally, I would like to see Clarke get more games in with the Devils as an injury call-up. The fact that Devils management disagrees does not bode well for him in New Jersey especially given how hot he has been lately. I think it is very likely that Clarke gets moved either at the deadline or in the offseason even if it is only a change of scenery deal ala Tyce Thompson and Reilly Walsh.
Chase Stillman, who was neck and neck with Graeme Clarke last update, has dipped a bit, but the gap between them has more to do with Graeme Clarke’s recent heater than Stillman falling off a cliff. Stillman did score this beauty on a penalty shot on Saturday, so hopefully things will begin to heat up for him as well.
Also of note, winger Arnaud Durandeau has eight points (all assists) in eight games since joining the Comets in the Tyce Thompson swap. Durandeau’s NHL resume consists of four games with the Islanders. If this pace continues, it is possible that Durandeau gets a look from the Devils at some point this season.
Winger Xavier Parent leads all Comets with 25 points in 32 games although Graeme Clarke’s pts/g is slightly higher. (O.80 vs. 0.78).
On defense, Simon Nemec has graduated to New Jersey and given how well he has done I have removed his as a prospect. In short, I do not see Simon Nemec returning to the AHL. Cal Foote is also now with the big club on a less permanent basis as a call-up after the injury to Jonas Siegenthaler. Per Ahltracker, Daniil Misyul and Santeri Hatakka have been very similar this year.
According to @ahltracker, the highest game score per game of Utica left-handed defenseman this year:— Devils Army Blog (@DevilsArmyBlog) January 7, 2024
1. Topias Vilén, 0.33 (in the ECHL right now)
2. Tyler Wotherspoon, 0.26 (has been play right side)
3. Santeri Hatakka, 0.22
4. Daniil Misyul, 0.22
5. Michael Vukojevic, 0.0
That post was made before Topias Vilen was recalled to Utica. Vilen excelled in a short stint for Adirondack of the ECHL putting up ten points (3 goals, 7 assists) in only six games. At only 20-years-old, Vilen has seen the short end of the stick for much of this season with the overcrowding on defense in Utica. With some injuries in New Jersey, Vilen is now getting more of a chance for the Comets and has been one of the better left-handed defenseman in Utica per AHLtracker above. The future seems bright.
With Daws getting the call-up, Schmid was sent down and the results as outlined above have not been great. It is a small sample size and I would expect them to improve. Isaac Poulter has been the mainstay in net for the Comets most of this year. His numbers have trailed back to earth a bit, but he has been Utica’s best option thus far with a 10-4-1 record, 2.72 GAA and .906%.
Around the Pool
- On Monday after this article was written, Utica dropped a 5-4 decision to Syracuse in OT. Schmid earned the loss, stopping 23 of 28. Taking advantage of the call-up, defenseman Topias Vilen scored the first AHL goal of his career using his speed to cut to the middle and rip it into the net.
Topias Vilen, ensimmäinen AHL-maali.— Heikki Mannonen (@HMannone) January 16, 2024
Lahtelainen tasoitti pelin 2. erässä. 16 ottelussa Cometsissa 1+6. Käynti myös ECHL:n puolella, jossa kuudessa ottelussa kymmenen tehopistertä.#NHLfi #AHLfi #Pelicansfipic.twitter.com/U7N0JfeJIa
- After playing only four games, ECHL goaltender Tyler Brennan is on Injury Reserve.
- On the subject of Thunder goalies, Jeremy Brodeur is having a fine season for Adirondack. (12-5-0, 2.43 GAA .923%)
- Russian winger Arseni Gritsyuk is on a heater.
- Also in the KHL, defenseman Yegor Zaitsev is having a fine season. Though no longer considered a “prospect” the Devils still own his rights.
Alexander Nikishin tops the newest KHL Players Rating. pic.twitter.com/AVzMvLaRqg— KHL (@khl_eng) January 4, 2024
Now it is time to tell us what you think. Post your comments below.