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Swikar Patel | The Journal Gazette
Jeremy Gates, right, played 17 games last season with the Komets, tallying one goal, four points and eight penalty minutes.

Signings give K’s more depth, size


– Komets coach Gary Graham called it “a chance to show where we are taking this team, what direction we’re going.”

That would be big on the back end.

The Komets signed three defensemen Tuesday – Simon Danis-Pepin (6-foot-7, 240 pounds), Nik Pokulok (6-5, 225 pounds) and Jeremy Gates (6-2, 200 pounds).

“The biggest thing is we know what it takes to win in this league. We saw what happened last year,” said Graham, who replaced the retired Al Sims after the Komets missed the playoffs in their first ECHL season. “We need depth and will build the team the right way.”

Danis-Pepin, 25, was a second-round draft pick of the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks in 2006. He played collegiately for Maine, where he was the team captain. Last season with San Francisco of the ECHL, he had three goals, 10 points and 61 penalty minutes in 61 games. The Bulls traded him to Fort Wayne for future considerations.

He has played 75 games at the higher-level American Hockey League, an asset, Graham said, since the Komets aren’t affiliated with an NHL team now, though they are in talks with some.

Pokulok, 23, played 29 games with Stockton last season, scoring two goals, three points and 18 penalty minutes, after his college career at Clarkson University.

“Nik is a young guy, physical, rugged,” Graham said. “He keeps things simple but has a big long stick and can protect his areas. … We need to protect our goaltenders.”

Gates, 25, played 17 games last season with the Komets, tallying one goal, four points and eight penalty minutes. He helped Graham to the Southern Professional Hockey League title with three goals, 13 points and 30 penalty minutes in 35 games.

“Jeremy, we believe in him,” Graham said. “When we got him back from Fort Wayne in Pensacola, he made a lot of steps forward. He was the best defenseman in the Southern Pro League once he got back. He’s got a lot to prove and wants to make the team out of (training) camp and stick.”

The Komets continue to talk with Chris Auger, who is coming off a knee injury, about a return.