OK, you might think me crazy Komets fans, but I think there's a possibility that Anthony Petruzzelli could be the next Shawn Szydlowski.
I'm not saying their skill sets are entirely the same. I'm not saying that Petruzzelli can necessarily pull off all those moves or that he likes dropping the gloves like Szyd does. But there are some things that I sometimes see that makes me think he could become that sort of gritty scoring machine, if he's given the proper nurturing, and I saw it Friday in a 6-5 victory over the Wichita Thunder.
"I think it's starting to click a little bit more and it would be nice to keep riding the wave a little bit longer," said Petruzzelli, who has 14 goals and 32 points in 51 games this season for the Komets.
Petruzzelli had two goals and an assist. One goal was after a dazzling cross-ice Szydlowski pass. The other goal saw Petruzzelli circle the entire offensive zone, send a pass to Szydlowski for a blue-lie shot, then got to the net for the rebound. And the assist might have been the best past: a flick from the left post to an attack Trey Phillips on the far side.
Now here's the thing about Petruzzelli, 25: He was a monster offensive player in juniors. For the Brooks Bandits from 2011-2014, he totaled 80 goals and 163 points in 176 regular-season games, adding 14 goals and 30 points in 40 playoff games.
In college, his role was changed to more of a defense-first grinder; he had 21 goals and 43 points in 140 games.
Komets coach Gary Graham compared Petruzzelli's offensive potential to two of the best offensive players to come through Fort Wayne in recent years: Kyle Thomas and Gabriel Desjardins, who was voted MVP by his teammates last season over Szydlowski, who was later named MVP of the entire ECHL.
"Guys go from junior hockey and then they go into (Division I college) hockey and it really depends on the college coach and what kind of roles they are put in and things like that. Last year when we brought (Petruzzelli) in, we weren't really expecting a ton of offense from him, he was just a really hard-working guy who was going to be a (penalty-killing) and checking-line guy," Graham said.
"Now, obviously, just through sheer work ethic, he generates offense and it's very reminiscent of Kyle Thomas and how he slowly every year progressed. The way Kyle generated his offense was through that work ethic. Petey reminds me of how Kyle developed here. I see him on that same track, or on the same track of (Gabriel) Desjardins. All three of those guys have that same thing in common – relentless work ethic."
To circle back to Szydlowski, his career path isn't exactly the same. He, too, was a magnificent scorer in juniors, but a higher-caliber of juniors. He played for the Ontario Hockey League's Erie Otters and had 41 goals and 78 points in 66 games his final season, 2010-11, which is how he wound up with an NHL contract with the Buffalo Sabres.
But then he was morphed into a grinder at the American Hockey League level, and he even spent time in the Central Hockey League.
You will recall, Szydlowski was anything but a scorer in his first months with the Komets.
So, I know it's maybe a stretch, but it wouldn't shock me if Petruzzelli becomes a great scorer. I see it sometimes. Heck, right now he's on a line with Marco Roy and Brady Shaw.