The Komets brought back six defensemen from last season’s championship squad in the IHL. But that doesn’t mean they are guaranteed a job when the regular season opens Oct. 16 against reigning Central Hockey League champion Rapid City.
The bottom line is who plays the best in the exhibition games and the practices, those will be the guys who end up sticking around here, general manager David Franke said. The guys who are coming back, in a way they have to prove themselves, too.
Captain Guy Dupuis and Frankie DeAngelis, who was selected to the IHL’s All-Rookie Team last season, aren’t going anywhere. This will be Brandon Warner’s fourth season and Danko Mironovic’s third, so they’re likely safe, too.
After those four, things get murkier.
Clearly, the Komets are passionate about second-year player Bobby Phillips and third-year man Keith Rodger, but they went out and signed veteran Craig Cescon, who faced the Komets in the IHL Finals with Flint last season.
Throw into the mix rookie Brad Pawlowski, brought in to battle forward Olivier Legault for the enforcer role, and rookie David Cianfrini, and the competition looks tough. The Komets will probably cut two defensemen before they play their inaugural game in the CHL.
Training camp is for kids to have an opportunity to make the hockey team, coach Al Sims said. One of our defensemen (Steven Oleksy) already left because he didn’t think he’d have a chance to make the hockey team. If someone is better than someone else, unfortunately, he’s going to play and the other one is going to lose his spot.
Rodger said the returning players are aware that they have to compete for their spots.
You never can take your spot for granted, Rodger said. The guys they brought in are all good players and it will be a battle. It should be fun.
Sims, a former NHL defenseman, prioritizes that part of the game, so he’ll have a particularly watchful eye on the blue-liners.
Sims said he will take particular note of what the newcomers do in the preseason games, Thursday at Memorial Coliseum against Dayton and Saturday at Dayton.
Most of the guys know we’re not bringing in Pawlowski and Cianfrini for no reason, and these kids were promised an opportunity and they will get that, Sims said. Hopefully, they show well. If they do make it, we’re just going to be a stronger team.
Note: As expected, the Komets have waived forward Ryan Potts and goaltender Tony Manning. Potts, a Fort Wayne native and grandson of Komets legend Reggie Primeau, was being looked at as a possible midseason replacement in case of injuries. Manning, a local with no professional experience, was brought in because Kevin Reiter had been out of town on an American Hockey League tryout. All of the Komets who had been in the AHL – Mathieu Curadeau, Craig Cescon, Derek Patrosso, Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock and Reiter – have been returned to Fort Wayne.