The Utica Comets finished out their regular-season schedule over the weekend with a 3-1 loss to the Belleville Senators on Saturday, followed by a 4-3 overtime win over the Binghamton Devils on Sunday.
Utica ends the regular season with a record of 38-26-8-4, good for 88 points in 76 games. That's an improvement of nine points from last season and is good for fourth place in the AHL's North Division, three points behind Rochester.
That's an impressive achievement for bench boss Trent Cull. In his first year as a head coach at the AHL level, Cull was able to keep the Comets on the rails despite a rash of injuries that mirrored their parent club, plus a number of long-term callups by the Canucks.
In the end, 58 players appeared in at least one game for the Comets this year according to HockeyDB
. Reid Boucher led the team in goals (25) and points (46) in 45 games played and appeared in the AHL All-Star Game, but broke his hand blocking a shot when the Canucks played Columbus on March 31. According to Rick Dhaliwal of News1130
, there's a chance he could be ready to play if the Comets reach Round 2.
Boucher was also named team MVP by the local media and by his coach at the Comets' year-end awards on Sunday. The other winners:
• Zack MacEwen - most improved
• Wacey Hamilton - most heart
• Jamie Sifers - most dedication to the community and "class guy"
• Ashton Sautner - best defenseman
• Thatcher Demko - three stars award
Demko also set a couple of Comets team records:
No player came anywhere near appearing in all 76 games. The closest were Cole Cassels, who was 7-19-26 in 69 games, followed by Michael Carcone and Guillaume Brisebois at 68 games each and Zack MacEwen at 66.
After Philip Holm was dealt at the trade deadline, Patrick Wiercioch finished the year as the most productive defenseman, with 10-27-37 in 58 games.
The Comets have gotten a nice boost, especially offensively, from some late-season additions. In his second AHL game, Jonathan Dahlen picked up his first goal on Sunday, opening the scoring against the Devils.
Lukas Jasek also continues to produce. With his OT winner on Sunday, he wraps his AHL regular season with 3-4-7 and a plus-3 in six games.
Kole Lind is still looking for his first pro goal. He has one assist in six games with the Comets so far. Nikolay Goldobin and Ashton Sautner each have one assist in two games since returning to Utica, while Tyler Motte is pointless.
So—the AHL's top team, the Toronto Marlies, awaits in the first round of the playoffs. The Marlies finished the season with 112 points, eight better than the second-place Lehigh Valley Phantoms, and wrapped up their year on an 8-0-1-1 roll in their last 10 games.
The series is a best-of-five, starting Saturday in Toronto. Here's the schedule:
As some of you pointed out a couple of days ago, the Comets have played the Marlies pretty tough this season. Here's how the season series played out, with the home team listed first for each game:
Oct 7: Toronto 3 - Utica 1 (L)
Oct 8: Toronto 4 - Utica 3 (L)
Nov 22: Utica 2 - Toronto 5 (L)
Dec 20: Utica 5 - Toronto 2 (W)
Dec 22: Utica 3 - Toronto 4 (L)
March 18: Toronto 1 - Utica 3 (W)
April 5: Toronto 3 - Utica 2 (OTL)
April 6: Utica 3 - Toronto 2 (SOW)
Two regulation wins and one shootout win for Utica. Four regulation wins and one overtime win for Toronto.
Also worth noting: if the Leafs can't reverse course and come back against the Bruins, some pretty good players will become available to the Marlies:
Also on the prospect front: NHL Central Scouting released its final 2018 draft rankings today. Here's the top part of the lists:
If you'd like to go deeper, click here
for access to the complete lists for all categories, from NHL.com.
You can also go back and look at the lists from past years by changing the year at the end of the URL in your browser. That's a rabbit hole that could consume your whole day!
No surprise to see Rasmus Dahlin at the top of the list of international skaters and Andrei Svechnikov topping the list of North Americans. After that, it all gets pretty contentious, doesn't it?
The next important date on the Vancouver Canucks calendar is the draft lottery on April 28. Once we learn where they stand, we can ramp up the debate about who they should select!