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The Utica Comets are getting the band back together

It’s been a tumultuous season for the Utica Comets, but help is arriving at just the right time.

As of February 13, the Comets have played 44 games and have an overall record of 19-18-4-3 for 45 points. That record puts them in last place in the seven-team North Division.

Injuries to Utica’s NHL parent club, the New Jersey Devils, have not helped the Comets cause. Star defenseman Dougie Hamilton suffered a long-term injury early in the season, prompting the recall of Simon Nemec. Now in his second season in North America, the number two overall pick in the 2022 NHL entry draft was expected to play a big role in the Utica defense corps this season. Nemec was recalled to New Jersey on December 1 and has not been back to Utica since.

Max Willman was brought in before the start of the season for a top-six role in the forward’s group. With injuries to various Devils forwards maligning the team, Willman became New Jersey’s primary recall option and has been limited to 20 games in Utica as a result.

Defenseman Cal Foote was another roster import this offseason. With the turmoil in Utica, Foote had played a lot of minutes this season. After being recalled by the Devils on January 9, he was indefinitely suspended when he was charged with sexual assault stemming from the time he was with Team Canada in 2018.

New Jersey Devils assign one to the Utica Comets, recall another

Other Comets who have missed ten or more games due to injuries and recalls include Daniil Misyul, Santeri Hatakka, Timur Ibragimov, Topias Vilen, Michael Vukojevic, Brian Halonen, and Erik Källgren. All but Misyul are currently available for Comets head coach Kevin Dineen

The good news is the band is getting back together in Utica.

Willman was reassigned to Utica on February 12 and will provide a boost to an offense that is already averaging 3.11 goals per game which ranks 13th in the American Hockey League. In the 20 games he has played in a Comets uniform, Willman has nine goals and seven assists to go with 61 shots.

Rugged winger Brian Halonen was expected to play a larger role with the Comets this season after putting up 30 points in 57 games last season. He opened the season on injured reserve but returned to action on December 30. In the 18 games Halonen has played since returning, he has been a force to be reckoned with – registering 11 goals (6 are on the power play), 15 points, and 43 shots.

Goaltender Erik Källgren was also signed by the New Jersey Devils in the offseason and subsequently assigned to Utica. He had a rough start to the season and was injured in mid-December, forcing him to miss multiple weeks of action. He is active once again and provides much-needed depth behind Isaac Poulter and Akira Schmid – who was recently recalled by the Devils but should be back soon.

With the roster coming back together, on Tuesday the team welcomed a familiar face back to the fold. Nolan Stevens was signed after his contract was mutually terminated by the Detroit Red Wings. Stevens already has two stints with the Comets under his belt, having played for the team in 2020-21 and last season. In 31 games with the Grand Rapid Griffins (the Red Wings AHL affiliate) this season, he has three goals and eight assists.

More on the way?

The Comets might not be done adding to the roster, as two more players could be on the way.

Defenseman Seamus Casey was selected by the New Jersey Devils in the second round of the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. Now in his sophomore season at the University of Michigan, Casey has been sensational for the Wolverines. In 28 games this season, he has 5 goals, 29 assists, 10 PIM, and is a +14. He also helped lead Team USA to a gold medal at the 2024 World Junior Championships.

Should he decide to turn professional after Michigan’s season is over, the Devils would need to sign him to a contract. He would then most likely be assigned to Utica.

To see the New Jersey Devils’ salary cap and contracts, visit https://capfriendly.com.

Forward Josh Filmon is signed to a contract by the Devils and was very impressive in training camp. Filmon’s age worked against him, as he was 19 and due to the CHL/NHL rule either needed to play for the Devils or be assigned to his junior hockey team, the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League. New Jersey chose the latter.

Filmon has been lighting it up for Swift Current this season. In 48 games he has 22 goals, 30 assists, 24 PIM, and is a +7. He turns 20 on March 18 and is a prime candidate to join the Comets before the season’s end.

In conclusion

The Utica Comets have 28 games remaining in their regular season schedule. Although they are in seventh place, they are also well within striking distance of a playoff spot. There are five spots up for grabs in the North Division, and although it is highly unlikely they will catch Syracuse or Cleveland, they are also three points out of third place.

The NHL trade deadline is just over three weeks away (March 8), and New Jersey’s plans could potentially alter the Comets roster, not to mention the always unknown injury factor. Regardless, the Comets seem to finally have some roster stability and the playoffs are a realistic option once again.

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