FORT WAYNE – The Komets open their 61st training camp in team history Saturday. It’s also the first in the ECHL for a team that has won three IHL titles and a CHL title in the last five years.
Here’s a look at five issues the team will need to deal with and how it could play out:
Nick Boucher, who won those four Cups and was the team’s MVP last season, had two offseason hip surgeries and is out until January. And he’s not even signed. The Komets found replacements with Charlie Effinger, formerly with Missouri of the CHL, and Kenny Reiter, who led Minnesota-Duluth to an NCAA championship in 2011.
But Effinger will be in training camp with Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League and Reiter with Bridgeport of the AHL. Both will likely be sent to Fort Wayne, but there has to be a tinge of nervousness that they won’t arrive quickly.
So who do the Komets have in their place? There’s Jeff Rose, who played for three teams in the Single-A Southern Professional Hockey League last season with a 6-8-2 record. There’s Francois Lacerte, who had a 23-27-10 record and a .891 save percentage in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. There’s Larkin Saalfrank, a native of Fort Wayne who served as an emergency goalie last season, and there’s an unnamed goalie that general manager David Franke said is en route.
If Lacerte can’t hack it, the Komets had better hope someone comes from the AHL – soon.
No Frankie D. on D
The Komets had hoped that Frankie DeAngelis, who was on the all-CHL team last season, would forego retirement and return. Instead, he retired Sept. 7 to take a job in the insurance industry. That cost the Komets a pivotal player.
Even though the Komets haven’t added another scoring defenseman this month – unless rookie Scott Kishel wows – things may not be so problematic.
Tyler Butler had 20 goals and 85 points over the last two seasons, while captaining Arizona of the CHL. And Daniel Maggio showed in his limited time with the Komets during the playoffs – he had two goals and five points in 15 games – that he could be a top defenseman.
Plus, the Komets are expecting that their affiliation with Anaheim of the NHL will provide defensemen.
Chemistry on offense
The Komets lost a lot of offense – Bobby Chaumont, Playoff MVP Mike Vaskivuo, Leo Thomas – but they added even more with CHL MVP Brandon Marino, Eric Giosa and Jean-Philipp Chabot.
But the Komets aren’t going to have much time to jell up front, especially with Marino, Chris Auger and Jean-Michel Rizk starting off in AHL camps.
Expect some growing pains early.
In one sense, the Komets have plenty of toughness with Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock, Brent Henley, Stephon Thorne and Butler. However, they did let David Starenky go in free agency.
Not to worry, as a tough guy may come down from the AHL and some of the kids coming from college and juniors will try to stick by using their fists.
Pressure is on Sims
A difference between the ECHL and the CHL is that the players will be younger and require more teaching. Of the 31 players on the Komets’ roster, 19 are first- or second-year players. Coach Al Sims had better develop them.