The Komets bolstered their roster with a potential No. 1 goaltender, a former first-round NHL draft pick, a familiar face and player who should be popular with the fans.
Goalie Pat Nagle, center Angelo Esposito, forward Christian Ouellet and forward Alex Hudson were added today, giving Fort Wayne nine players for the upcoming season.
The Komets hope to finalize an affiliation with an NHL team – perhaps Tuesday – which would also lend some insight into how the roster will be comprised.
“I feel very confident it will happen,” general manager David Franke said, declining to name the potential NHL partner.
The Komets reached the Eastern Conference semifinals last season, losing to the Cincinnati Cyclones, while they were one of three independent teams in the ECHL. In 2012-13, they had a partnership with the Anaheim Ducks that wasn’t continued after Fort Wayne missed the playoffs for the first time since 2002.
If the Komets affiliate, it will help shape their goaltending, as the NHL team would assign a goalie to be paired with Nagle. It would likely mean that Ben Meisner, the Komets’ goalie in the playoffs last season, would be traded.
“Nagle, he’ll be one of our two goalies,” Franke said. “We’re getting closer to this affiliation and if we do that then we’ll get a goalie from them. I think Nagle is a kid who can come in and be No. 1 if he has to be. The duties between the affiliate goalie and Nagle will be competitive and it will also be a situation where they’ll each earn their right to play. … Nagle will play a lot of games for us and be a big part of this. We felt he was suited for the role.”
Last season, Nagle, 27, played 43 games for the Idaho Steelheads and went 23-14-4 with a 2.73 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage. He has also skated for Florida of the ECHL and put in two American Hockey League games for Syracuse.
Esposito, 25, was selected by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the 2007 draft (20th overall) and has played 123 AHL games, scoring 10 goals and 38 points with Chicago, San Antonio and Texas.
He spent last season in Austria, tallying one goal and eight points in 35 games.
“He’s got a lot of ability. He’s not related to Tony or Phil Esposito. He gets that a lot,” Franke said of the former NHL standouts. “He wants a chance to prove that he can play at a higher level. It’s not very often that you’re able to pick up a kid who was a No. 1 in the NHL, as he was. He’s looking to solidify his career and get a little more stability, not travel around so much.”
Ouellet, 22, had seven goals and 15 points in 33 regular-season games with the Komets last season, then added three goals and four points in 11 playoff games.
“He’s a good kid, a hard worker and he’s got (6-foot) size to him. When he came over to us (from Elmira), he did a good job offensively,” Franke said. “He’s not a liability defensively. He really wanted to come back and play here. He played on three different teams last season. He knows what he has to do to play in Fort Wayne all season.”
Hudson, 26, had 13 goals and 30 points in 59 games last season for Colorado. The Komets have him penciled in as a dynamic third-line center; he likes to use his body but can score, too.
“We think he’s a kid who can come in and provide a lot of excitement to the team,” Franke said. “He’s an entertaining and physical player. He likes to do stuff in the community, that’s something that’s important to him, and is a guy who stood out to our coach, Gary Graham, when he was looking to put that third line together.”
Notes: Former Komets forward Mickey Lang signed with the AHL's Toronto Marlies. He was the ECHL's MVP last season, after beginning the season in Fort Wayne.