The Journal Gazette
Monday, October 11, 2021 1:00 am


K's look to newcomers to add scoring punch

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

The Komets expect forwards Connor and Kellen Jones to lead the offense this season. Both have spent most of their careers in the higher-level American Hockey League, Connor has played four NHL games for the New York Islanders, and the 31-year-old twins combined for 13 goals and 37 points in 80 games between them last season for Västerviks IK in Sweden.

When the Komets open their 70th training camp today at Memorial Coliseum, many eyes will be on the Joneses for a team that is attempting to defend the Kelly Cup with only six players on the current roster (Anthony Petruzzelli, Matthew Boudens, Oliver Cooper, Blake Siebenaler, Marcus McIvor and Stefanos Lekkas) back from last season.

“I'm very confident in the Joneses. They've had consistent résumés their entire lives, so I'm not worried about them scoring,” said Komets coach Ben Boudreau, who has only one of his top 13 point-getters from last season, Petruzzelli, returning.

Boudreau noted that Drake Rymsha, who played a game last season for the Los Angeles Kings, can shoulder some scoring load along with Boudens and Sam Babintsev, who is waiting for his immigration work visa to be approved before he can arrive.

“We're watching the free-agent market and who's coming out of American Hockey League training camps. So it's a continuing building process, to be honest, but I'm confident in our group,” Boudreau said.

The Komets have until the Oct. 23 season opener at the Coliseum against the Wheeling Nailers to get things settled, and there will be an exhibition series with the Nailers on Friday (at Wheeling) and Saturday (at the Coliseum) to help Boudreau, assistant coach Olivier Legault and general manager David Franke make roster determinations.

Here are five other things to track during training camp:

Help on the way

Siebenaler and Tyler Busch are trying out for AHL teams and expected to be here this week. Stephen Harper, last season's playoff MVP, was signed by the Chicago Wolves but is likely to be sent here sooner rather than later. Matt Murphy, trying out for the Belleville Senators, could rejoin Fort Wayne, too. The Vegas Golden Knights and their AHL affiliate, the Henderson Silver Knights, are expected to send a goalie, perhaps Jiri Patera or maybe even Dylan Ferguson, and the Komets are hoping to get more – perhaps familiar names like Jermaine Loewen, Brayden Pachal or Ben Jones.

Veteran battle

The Komets can play four players with veteran status but have five, including the Joneses, in camp. The Komets could conceivably carry all, but look for one of the defensemen – Jamie Milam, Zach Tolkinen or Corbin Baldwin – to be cut. Veterans don't normally have to compete for a roster spot, so this is particularly intriguing.

Goalie strength

Stefanos Lekkas played 11 games last season for the Komets, going 7-2-2 with a 2.15 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage. He also played seven AHL games for lowly Rochester, going 1-5-1 with a 4.32 goals-against average and a .863 SP, and spent the last week of the regular season as the Buffalo Sabres' backup. Samuel Harvey spent seven games last season as a rookie with the AHL's San Jose Barracuda and was 2-4-1 with a 3.26 GAA and a .904 SP. Add into the mix an NHL prospect such as Ferguson, who led Fort Wayne to the Kelly Cup, or Patera and the Komets shouldn't give up many goals.

Looking for leaders

With A.J. Jenks now retired, the Komets are without a captain. It'll likely be either Petruzzelli, who hasn't missed a game since joining the Komets in 2018, or Boudens. No matter who wears the “C,” it's important for leadership to take hold in a city that demands winning in front of a huge fan base. When the Komets have lacked strong leadership in the past – think 2013 when Nick Tuzzolino was the captain and then traded – it's often led to poor starts.

Looking for scraps

Training camps are usually good for a fight or two. This season, there might be more pressure for guys to show they'll do anything for a roster spot. The Komets lost a lot of toughness from last season – Nick Boka, Morgan Adams-Moisan, Justin Vaive – and in the past couple of weeks Louie Rowe and Sacha Roy. Boudens is willing to fight. Rymsha and Cooper, too. But the Komets will need those guys outside of the penalty box.

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