Vancouver Canucks: Why We Should Love the Utica Comets


While the Vancouver Canucks are getting roughed up in the NHL, their AHL affiliate, the Utica Comets, is doing its job.

The Vancouver Canucks got a heck of a farm team down in Utica. The Utica Comets are doing everything right these days, and thank god that the Canucks management is at least smart enough to realize that they do not want to move their AHL team away from Utica, New York. When President Trevor Linden visited the Comets’ home win with GM Jim Benning, this is what Linden had to say.

And of course, the boys rewarded their boss with a stunning 7-4 win over the Springfield Falcons. Linden Vey was soon recalled from the Comets, too.

This season for the Comets have not been as stunning as last year, when they proved themselves among the elite of the AHL by reaching the Calder Cup Finals. That magnificent run was aided by Jacob Markstrom’s spectacular goaltending, and spearheaded by some great work by Sven Baertschi and now-Buffalo Sabre Cal O’Reilly.

That season turned things around for the Canucks and their perception of the AHL.

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Previously, the Manitoba Moose and the Chicago Wolves were Vancouver’s AHL affiliates, and I do not recall either one of them ever achieving success even remotely close to that of the Utica Comets — success on and off the ice.

The Utica Comets are selling out — now for 23 straight games — something even the Canucks have not done for a while now. In just the third year of their newest existence, that is quite the something. This year, the likes of Hunter Shinkaruk, Alex Grenier, and Brendan Gaunce will try to replicate the strong performance from the previous year.

But the Comets are much more than just a great franchise. It is Canucks GM Jim Benning’s secret weapon. Utica is where all the depth and youth upbringing flourishes, under Comets coach Travis Green.

Just this season, the Comets have shored up Vancouver’s depth tremendously.

Danny Syvret. That name should ring remotely familiar to you. A 30-year-old defenceman has seen a good chunk of NHL action. Syvret already has two points in two games for the Comets, and will prove to be the replacement for Comets captain Alex Biega. Maybe reading between the lines, we can see Alex Biega sticking in the Canucks lineup long-term with the acquisition of Syvret. I just love that name.

Another contract the Comets picked up is Dave Shields, a 6-foot-4 defenceman who also has a couple of points, but in four games. The 24-year-old will come in to fill in for injured Tayler Fedun, but what Utica has done is provide Vancouver with yet another much-needed depth defenceman. After losing Frank Corrado and Adam Cledening in short order, the Canucks really needed that depth on the blue line to be replenished, and the Comets are doing just that.

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Another prime example of the Comets doing the little things right is Travis Ehrhardt. The undrafted former Portland Winterhawk captain signed a professional contract with the Comets, and now is a leading offensive defenceman for Utica. At 26 years of age, Ehrhardt has four goals and 15 points in 26 games this season, good to be the top Comet defenceman in terms of point production.

Three very different players. Syvret is in the leadership stage of his AHL career. Dave Shields is a late-blooming big-body defenceman drafted in the sixth round, here to provide solid depth-work for Utica and perhaps for Vancouver in the somewhat-distant future. But Travis Ehrhardt is a great player in the making, and I will surely look for his name, next year in preseason.

Let me briefly analyze this. Depth is good. Depth gives you a surplus on a position, and allows you to make trades while getting younger. It gets your fans excited with all the youth coming up, and it sure does not hurt the Canucks who have played 10 defenceman this season.

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Having Syvret and Shields goes even further. They create a winning environment that GM Jim Benning has preached about for so long. We want to let the young players learn to win, not learn to lose.

Syvret and Shields are already making great impact on the Comets. With Syvret and Shields in the lineup, Utica has yet to surrender a loss in regulation or in overtime. Syvret scored the game winner in the first game he played as a Comet. And with Shields in the lineup the past four games, the Comets are 3-0-1.

Shinkaruk, Grenier, Gaunce, Friesen, Fedun, Biega, Pedan… the list of NHL-bound Comets goes on and on. The Utica organization is the breeding ground for the Canucks’ future, and that future seems to be an exciting, winning one. Thank you Utica.

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The Utica Comets are 14-10-2-2 on the season. They might not be able to match last season’s record of 47-20-7-2, but the Vancouver Canucks sure have a lot to thank Utica for, having grown into an instrumental organization for the Canucks.