The Journal Gazette
Monday, July 26, 2021 6:50 pm

Komets begin build of roster for Cup defense

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

The Komets’ defense of their Kelly Cup Championship began in earnest Monday as they started putting together their roster for the coming season. The team re-signed forwards Anthony Petruzzelli, Zach Pochiro and Oliver Cooper, and defenseman Blake Siebenaler, while adding rookie defenseman D.J King.

“With these signings, the Komets officially begin the journey to defend the Kelly Cup,” general manager David Franke said. “We all know how much fun we had winning the Cup and we want to keep it. Anthony Petruzzelli, Blake Siebenaler, Zach Pochiro and Oliver Cooper were all instrumental in our run to the cup last season. Newcomer D.J. King is a promising defenseman to the Komets.”

The Komets also extended qualifying offers to eight players – goaltenders Robbie Beydoun and Stefanos Lekkas, forwards Anthony Nellis, Matthew Boudens and Stephen Harper (the ECHL Playoff MVP), and defensemen Nick Boka, Matt Murphy and Marcus McIvor – guaranteeing they keep their rights for another year. But the Komets are hoping to get some, if not all, of those players back this season.

“The four players we (re-signed) today, they’re going to be a part of the core group of the Komets. The guys we have qualified, they’ll be added to it, hopefully,” Franke said. “Between the signings today and who we’ve qualified, we have a very good core of players coming back. And hopefully we’ll be able to add to that strong nucleus.”

But there are some big questions left unanswered, including whether coach Ben Boudreau will return. The Komets extended his contract through August to give the sides more time to negotiate a new deal, and so Boudreau could work on building a roster for the Oct. 23 opener against the Wheeling Nailers at Memorial Coliseum.

“We're working on his deal for next year and beyond,” Franke said. “His contract’s been extended while we while we figure out a compensation package for him. So that’s where we stand with Ben.”

Boudreau has a 60-40-13 record in two seasons, though there were no playoffs in 2020 because of the pandemic. He was 9-4 en route to the Kelly Cup, defeating the South Carolina Stingrays 3-1 in the finals.

Absent from the qualifying offers were captain A.J. Jenks and Shawn Szydlowski, who has spent eight seasons with the team. It’s common for teams to not make qualifying offers to veteran players, since they can become restricted free agents in August.

“A.J. Jenks remains a possibility,” Franke said.

Szydlowski’s return is less likely and not just because he’s coming off a season in which he was inconsistent on the ice and stripped of his alternate captaincy before terrific play in the postseason. Szydlowski, 30, may need back surgery before he can compete again.

Petruzzelli, 28, an alternate captain, had 11 goals and 30 points in 50 games last season, then added four assists in 13 playoff games. Pochiro, 27, had 14 goals and 29 points in 32 regular-season games, and one assist in six postseason contests.

Siebenaler, 25, a native of Fort Wayne, totaled five goals and 16 points in 47 regular-season games and one assist in 13 postseason games. As a rookie, Cooper, 26, had two goals and four points in 17 games, then three goals and four points in eight playoff games.

King, 20, had five goals and 17 points in 54 games for the Ontario Hockey League’s Saginaw Spirit in 2019-20. His father, Derek, played 830 NHL games for the New York Islanders, Hartford Whalers, Toronto Maple Leafs and St. Louis Blues, and he is coach of the American Hockey League’s Rockford Icehogs.

Olivier Galipeau, who played for the Komets the past two seasons, signed with the expansion Trois-Rivières Lions. Alan Lyszczarczyk will play for HC Frydek-Mistek in the Czech Republic.

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