FORT WAYNE – Normally, when the Komets have training camp, the players deemed as long shots to make the team have to battle just to get ice time in exhibition games and practices.
That won’t be the case this year.
The Komets have 31 players on the preseason roster but only about 24 will be with the team when practice opens Saturday at Memorial Coliseum.
Seven players – Chris Auger, Jean-Michel Rizk, Brandon Marino, Charlie Effinger, Kenny Reiter, Daniel Maggio and Brent Henley – will be on tryouts in the higher-level American Hockey League.
Because the Komets are now in the ECHL, their training camp is earlier than in recent years and coincides with AHL camps, meaning while players are in their higher-level tryouts, the Komets must make do with the guys still here.
It’s going to give guys lots of opportunities to get out there and play in situations maybe they wouldn’t be normally in, Komets center Brett Smith said, and the coaches will get to look at them a little closer.
The Komets will wind up keeping around 21 players for the regular season, which opens Oct. 12 against Kalamazoo at the Coliseum.
There will be two home exhibition games against Evansville – Oct. 6 and 7 – and that will be the time to shine for young players with small résumés, such as forwards Seth Ronsberg, who played last season in the North American Hockey League, and Linus Werneman, who was in Sweden.
This will give us a very unique opportunity to look – really look hard – at all the young guys coming in, said general manager David Franke, whose Komets won the CHL title last season. And it’s a great opportunity for those kids to show they can play at this level. They will play all the exhibition games and all be front and center, while those other seven guys aren’t here.
As for those seven, because of the NHL lockout, their chances of making AHL rosters are reduced. However, they could impress enough for midseason call-ups, especially since the Komets now have an affiliation with Anaheim of the NHL and Norfolk of the AHL. Auger, Rizk and Marino will be in Norfolk’s camp.
We know we’re going to get players from Anaheim and Norfolk, and there very well could be players made available to us by other American League and NHL teams because of the lockout and the glut of players right now, Franke said.
While the players who will be on the ice next weekend at the Coliseum will have a chance to shine, they must understand also that the seven players not there have been guaranteed spots with Fort Wayne if they don’t stick in the AHL.
Having guys going to the American League camps, it’s even better for us, said Smith, whose team has won four titles in five years.
In my experience, guys coming back from those camps always seem to be a step ahead. They’re a little quicker and move the puck faster and that’s a bonus for us.