Matthew Boudens enjoyed his rookie season with the Komets so much that he pitched some of his college teammates on the experience.
“I honestly just told them about my experience and there's a reason I'm coming back. It’s because I loved it there in front of those fans and playing pro hockey. It was kind of something you dream of as a kid,” Boudens said after re-signing Wednesday.
The sales technique was enough to help convince rookies Matt Murphy and Marcus McIvor, who won championships alongside Boudens at the University of New Brunswick, to sign with the Komets.
Fort Wayne also brought back Marco Roy, who was one of the ECHL’s top forwards last season with the Idaho Steelheads, and the Komets signed rookie forward Stephen Harper.
“It’s great to have Marco back in a Komet uniform,” Komets general manager David Franke said. “He will be one of the go-to guys this coming season."
Roy, 25, totaled 29 goals and 74 points in 74 regular-season games for Fort Wayne between 2017 and 2019. He had two goals and 13 points in 24 playoff games, helping Fort Wayne to Game 7 of the 2018 Western Conference finals.
An alternate captain, he was traded to Idaho last summer because Fort Wayne owed the Steelheads for Justin Kea. In 55 games with Idaho, Roy had 10 goals and a team-leading 50 points.
“I hated seeing Marco go and he's still as good as he ever was,” Komets coach Ben Boudreau said. “He wants to win a championship and to be here. That’s the biggest thing and it can be tough (finding) older guys who want to come for the right reasons. You know, (Shawn) Szydlowski, (A.J.) Jenks and Marco, those guys are awesome and the fact that they want to be here and they’re all great players, it’s awesome.”
It’s not clear why Roy wasn’t protected by the Steelheads. Some players have it written into their contracts that they must be made free agents or, sometimes, teams cut a player loose if their agent agrees to bring them another valuable prospect.
Boudens, 26, had 10 goals, 20 points and 94 penalty minutes in 43 games as a Fort Wayne rookie, also skating 10 games in the higher-level American Hockey League for Chicago. Boudens fought eight times, one fewer than ECHL-leader Ben Wilson of Kalamazoo.
“Matt had a good productive rookie season with the Komets,” Franke said. “We like his style of play, leadership qualities and his willingness to do whatever he can to help the Komets win. He was also very helpful recruiting Matt Murphy and Marcus McIvor.”
Murphy, 25, had six goals, 22 points and a plus-21 rating as a defenseman in 29 games last season for New Brunswick. McIvor had two goals and 13 points in 25 games before the coronavirus pandemic halted the season and prevented him from a chance of a fourth university championship in five years.
Boudens, Murphy and McIvor combined to win eight national championships at New Brunswick.
“We had some success at school and I kind of know what both those guys are about,” Boudens said. “They can be a big help to our lineup and, obviously, there’s familiarity between us. They are two of my really good buddies, so I was really excited when they decided that Fort Wayne was the spot for them.”
Harper, 25, had nine goals and 29 points in 23 games last season for Acadia University. The forward played in the Ontario Hockey League from 2011 to 2016, for Erie, Belleville, Hamilton and Niagara, totaling 96 goals and 228 points over 324 games.
“The thing that people say about him is: ‘He's a man amongst boys,’” Boudreau said, adding there are some comparisons to team MVP Brady Shaw.
“You’re going to need size and grit in this division and he's every bit of a man in that he’s a 6-foot-2 power forward and he’s produced at top levels. I mean, he’s an unbelievable offensive threat who can skate, shoot, do it all.”
The Komets had previously signed Szydlowski, Jenks, Anthony Petruzzelli, Kyle Haas, Fort Wayne-native Blake Siebenaler, goaltender Stefanos Lekkas and rookie Tommy Beaudoin.
The Komets extended qualifying offers Tuesday to seven unsigned players – one fewer than the maximum allowed – so they retain the rights to Shaw, all-star Shawn St-Amant, Alan Lyszczarczyk, Brett McKenzie, Olivier Galipeau, Chase Stewart and Adam Henry. Gabriel Verpaelst wasn’t given a qualifying offer; as a veteran he could have become a restricted free agent July 16 anyway.
There have been rumors of the Komets trying to acquire Fort Wayne-native Jackson Leef, but he received a qualifying offer from the Brampton Beast, which could keep his rights for a year.
The Komets’ season is scheduled to begin Oct. 16 at Indianapolis. In a letter to fans, team president Michael Franke reiterated this week that coronavirus-related safety protocols could make that start date impossible.
“The ECHL has a game plan in the event that the start of the season would have to be delayed,” Michael Franke wrote. “The goal will be to play a full 72-game schedule. All ECHL teams have been asked to submit playing dates for the remaining days in April, all of May and the month of June 2021, to complete the ECHL Kelly Cup Playoffs. The Komet organization has been involved in this decision-making process and we’re very comfortable with the plan.”
If the season were to be canceled, the Komets will refund season-ticket holders who don’t wish their funds to be held by the team until the 2021-22 season.