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  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Komets assistant coach Ben Boudreau, 32-year-old son of NHL coach Bruce Boudreau, spent many days in the Coliseum in the 1990s when his dad coached the K's.

Saturday, October 14, 2017 1:00 am

Young Boudreau feels at home

K's new assistant embraces name, challenge ahead

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

Komets vs. Toledo

When: 7:30 p.m. today

Where: Memorial Coliseum

Radio: 1190 AM, 107.5 FM

Being a hockey coach with the surname Boudreau carries with it a particular level of pressure, since Bruce Boudreau has been one of the NHL's best coaches in recent years. He's led Washington, Anaheim and currently Minnesota, was named the NHL's top coach in 2008 and has helped make stars out of players like Alexander Ovechkin.

Having the name in these parts may even amplify it, since Boudreau was a star player for the Komets – he totaled 88 goals and 229 points in just 184 games – and the coach who led them to the 1994 finals in the International Hockey League.

Ben Boudreau, the new assistant coach to Gary Graham, doesn't seem to feel anything but joy about knocking around Memorial Coliseum, where the Komets open their 66th season tonight against the Toledo Walleye. And if there is pressure, he asked for it by declining job offers from other teams to come to Fort Wayne, in large part because his father, who was fired by the current ownership group during the 1994-95 season, looks back so fondly on the franchise that helped give him his start in coaching.

“The impression it left on him has carried through to this day,” Ben Boudreau said.

Ben Boudreau may be familiar to Fort Wayne fans anyway, having roamed the Coliseum as a kid and as a Komets' opponent with the Flint Generals in the 2010 IHL finals.

“He's one of the young up-and-coming coaches in the league and will soon be a head coach, there's no doubt in my mind,” said Graham, who hasn't had a full-time assistant since Konstantin Shafranov departed for Russia in 2016.

Graham still led the Komets to the fourth-best record in the regular season and the second round of the playoffs, but Boudreau and player/assistant Jamie Schaafsma want to take the minutiae off his plate.

“I think Gary and I are very complementing of each other,” said Boudreau, 32. “Two people with the exact same style isn't necessarily going to mesh well. We always play devil's advocate with different ideas. Our personalities are very similar, which is great.

“We're both very outgoing people, who love to communicate and that's so important in today's game. You can tell in the conversations that I've had (already) with Gary that we're both very passionate about hockey and one idea can turn into a long conversation. We love talking hockey and being involved.”

It helps Boudreau has such a good mentor, his father, who he continues to lean on for advice.

“I'm in the fortunate position that if I ever have questions in hockey, there are a lot of people I know but none closer than my father,” he said. “When he knew about me coming here for an interview process, having the opportunity to choose where I wanted to go, which is very rare in hockey, he had nothing but great things to say up and down the organization here in Fort Wayne.”

Boudreau, who was an assistant with Bakersfield in 2014-15 and Norfolk the last two seasons, believes the Komets will be successful.

“I think when you look at the roster, there's been that movement toward that skill and speed, and I think we're absolutely jam-packed with a lot of the talent up front, a very complementary back end and very capable goaltenders,” he said. “That's usually a very good recipe for success. ... There are no barriers to what we accomplish this year.”

Notes: Cody Sol was named an alternate captain, taking the spot left by Will Weber. Schaafsma is the captain and Shawn Szydlowski the other alternate.

jcohn@jg.net