FORT WAYNE – It didn’t take long for Josh Brittain to make an impression.
Midway through his first shift with the Komets – a team he hadn’t even practiced with – Brittain read the play from center ice. He steered around Kalamazoo’s Joe Charlebois, then crushed Sam Ftorek into the boards, almost causing a turnover.
In the span of a just a few seconds, it was clear that Brittain was as advertised – a big, physical, heady player, good enough to be picked in third round of the 2008 NHL draft by the Anaheim Ducks.
I’m a big power forward, and I like to intimidate the opponent, take pucks to the net and make my linemates better around me, said Brittain, a left wing who was scoreless with two shots on goal as the Komets went 1-1-0 in their first two ECHL games.
Tonight, they make their first trip to Kalamazoo, Mich., for a game since 2009.
The Komets’ affiliation with Anaheim is their most significant with an NHL team since 1999, and getting players like Brittain is the payoff.
There are lots of expectations on the 22-year-old native of Milton, Ontario, and he likes that.
I think it’s an opportunity. I was drafted for a reason, and I keep trying to do those things, on and off the ice, the 6-foot-5, 230-pound Brittain said.
The Komets have five players with ties to Anaheim or its American Hockey League affiliate in Norfolk, Va.: Brittain, right wing Matt Kennedy, defensemen Ryan Hegarty and Nick Schaus, and goaltender Marco Cousineau.
We’re all a pretty tight group of guys, from being in Syracuse (of the AHL) last year and being in training camps in Anaheim, Brittain said. We’ve all grown fond as a group. It makes it that much easier for chemistry and for the fans and everyone involved.
He had two goals, six points and 37 penalty minutes in 38 games last season with Syracuse.
With Elmira of the ECHL, where he was coached by former Fort Wayne coach Pat Bingham, he had five goals and four penalty minutes in nine games.
Asked what’s different about the players in the AHL, Brittain said: Guys at the next level and the level after that, they’re aware of what it takes to be a professional. There’s never room for complacency, and you can always grow as a player and as a person. It’s a very minimal adjustment, but it’s also a big step.
One that Brittain hopes to make with the Komets, who play host to Evansville on Saturday night at Memorial Coliseum.
Note: The Komets have added defenseman Colten Hayes to the roster; he had been practicing with the team since Tuesday. They have waived forward Cory Schneider and defenseman Jeremy Gates.
Hayes, 22, made his pro debut last year in the ECHL skating stints with Stockton and Reading, tallying three goals and 23 points in 48 games.