The Komets wanted to get something substantial for Nick Boka, and they identified rookie forward Tyler Busch as an intriguing prospect. Little could the Komets have known just how valuable Busch would become this month as injuries and call-ups have forced them to improvise lineups in a way no one around Memorial Coliseum had seen before.
“He's a utility guy,” coach Ben Boudreau said. “He plays on the left, he's in the middle, he's a big body. He's willing to play any kind of role – power play, penalty kill, five vs. five, center, left wing – and he can obviously be tough to play against, too. So there's a lot of versatility in his game, which is something that we really liked. Cincinnati didn't want to give him up, but we found a way to make that (happen), and we couldn't be happier with who he is as a person and what he does on the ice.”
How Busch, 25, came to the Komets speaks to the complexity of rules in minor-league hockey.
Boka was the Komets' Defenseman of the Year last season, when they won the Kelly Cup, but he signed an American Hockey League contract over the summer with the Rochester Americans, who wanted Boka with Cincinnati, the Americans' ECHL affiliate. Rather than squat on his rights, the Komets wanted to be fair to a player who had helped them to a championship, so they focused on getting something in return from the Cyclones and homed in on Busch, a 6-foot-3, 194-pound forward who had played at Arizona State University from 2016 to 2020 and spent 23 games last season in Sweden.
The hiccup was ECHL rules prevent teams from trading away rookies who haven't yet played for them. So the Komets had to send Boka to the Cyclones for an undisclosed amount of cash Aug. 13 – all that was publicly announced – and the Cyclones agreed to release Busch so he could sign with Fort Wayne.
In 10 games with the Komets, Busch has two goals and four points. That includes a goal in Thursday's 3-2 overtime loss to the Toledo Walleye at the Coliseum, where Fort Wayne played with nine defensemen – three more than usual – and only seven forwards. When the Komets face the Indy Fuel at 7 p.m. today in Indianapolis, it's possible the Komets dress 10 defensemen because forward Matthew Barnaby was shaken Thursday by a Butrus Ghafari elbow, which Busch answered by immediately fighting Ghafari.
“It's my first my first full season pro in North America, and I'm really enjoying it,” Busch said. “I'm getting some good experience and starting to adjust to the speed and the size of the guys out there. There's not much time and space and you've really got to be quick when you're making plays. So, I think I've done a good job of adjusting, and we've got a good group of guys in there that make it easy to just step right in and play our game. It's really a joy to be here.”
Busch, from Lloydminster, Alberta, was one of the early NCAA recruits for Arizona State, which completed the transition from the American Collegiate Hockey Association to NCAA Division I for the 2016-17 season. He helped the Sun Devils qualify for the NCAA Tournament in 2019. In 131 college games, Busch had 26 goals, 77 points and 249 penalty minutes.
He's had two stints with the Komets' AHL affiliate, the Henderson Silver Knights, and is scoreless in four games.
“We had a great program there at Arizona State. I can't say enough good things about my time there, and I really enjoyed it,” Busch said. “It prepared me for the next step, and I've been pretty happy with the way it's gone here.”
Komets at Indy Fuel
When: 7 p.m. today
Where: Indiana Farmers Coliseum, Indianapolis
Radio: 1190 AM, 107.5 FM