FORT WAYNE – The Komets’ roster is taking shape for this season and, much like last year’s, it is packed with former stars from the CHL.
After its inaugural season in the ECHL, in which it went 33-35-4 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2002, Fort Wayne will be led this season by a bevy of former CHL standouts – Brandon Marino, Charlie Effinger and Tyler Butler.
On Tuesday, the Komets signed a slew of forwards: team MVP Marino, Fort Wayne native Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock, Mickey Lang, Matthew Larke and Kyle Bochek.
I think it’s a good group to make our first formal large announcement of signings for this summer, said Komets general manager David Franke, who had previously signed only Matt Firman and Mathieu Gagnon. We’ve got some offense and toughness, aggressive-style players, speed.
Some fans may be skeptical about dipping into the CHL well again – last season’s debacle led to the retirement of coach Al Sims and the hiring of Gary Graham – but Graham said he’s not worried.
I’m not concerned with it. I know the kind of style I want to teach and it’s not a concern. These are speed guys who can get the job done, Graham said.
The Komets have also decided not to renew their affiliation agreement with the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks, which provided only a few standouts last season, such as Josh Brittain, Nick Schaus and Jeff Deslauriers.
We’re not going to be affiliated with Anaheim or Norfolk (of the American Hockey League) this season, Franke said. We’re out seeking an affiliation with another team, so we’ll see what happens, but we’ve got time. It didn’t work as well as we hoped it would, and we just decided not to go down that path again.
Last season, Marino, 27, had 20 goals and 74 points in 71 games.
Schrock, 28, had 10 goals, 20 points and 168 penalty minutes in 69 games as an alternate captain. He is now the longest-tenured Komet at five seasons, and Graham plans to put him on a checking line with Bochek, 25, who had 12 goals, 37 points and 121 penalty minutes last season with Bloomington of the CHL.
I know how to get more out of Schrocky. We’re going to work on getting him to the net more. He’ll be crashing and banging, said Graham.
Of Schrock, Franke said: It’s his time to shine with the Komets. He’s kind of the face of the Komets right now. He’s got a great personal relationship with Gary Graham, and I expect a much better season from Kaleigh than we got last year.
A former CHL teammate of Marino, Lang, 26, had 41 goals and 83 points in 64 games with Quad City last season. Larke, 26, had 19 goals and 47 points with Bloomington.
It’s exciting. Obviously the guys we targeted from the Central League are guys I think can get the job done at the ECHL level, Graham said. They’re young, hungry and have something to prove. They are guys who can push the pace. They are very good skaters who put guys on their heels.
Notes: The Komets’ season opens Oct. 19 against the Toledo Walleye at Memorial Coliseum. They are in talks with forward Chris Auger about a return this season, though Tyler Butler will not be brought back. Mike Vaskivuo remains a possibility, though talks have cooled.