Shawn Szydlowski has played for the Komets since 2013, making him the longest-tenured player on the roster. It’s very possible, however, that Tuesday’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Wheeling Nailers was his last game for the team.
Or maybe as a professional player.
“I’ve been debating (retirement) for the last couple years, obviously,” Szydlowski wrote via text message today. “Winning another championship this year would have made it easy to leave on that note. So, yes, I’ll take the summer and just see how the body feels and whatever else may happen between now and then.”
Szydlowski, the ECHL’s leading scorer and MVP in 2017-18, wasn’t necessarily expected to play for the Komets this season. He had offseason back surgery and the Komets didn’t hold one of their four veteran spots for him.
Only after a slow start to the season, amplified by injuries and call-ups, did the Komets settle on seeing what Szydlowski had left. They re-signed him in November and he made his return to the lineup Dec. 10, in a 3-2 road victory over the Kalamazoo Wings.
He had a good bit left, producing 11 goals and 27 points in 31 regular-season games, though he still sat out 23 games because of injuries, illness or just to keep him fresh. In the postseason, Szydlowski had two assists in six games, but he couldn’t play in Game 6 against Wheeling because of a one-game ECHL suspension for shoving an official.
In Game 7, he had three shots on goal and almost won it in overtime. His shot at an open net was blocked by Nailers forward Patrick Watling.
The Komets' roster next season is expected to look drastically different. Several of their best players, such as Will Graber, Lynden McCallum and Adam Brubacher, were on NHL or American Hockey League contracts, and the Komets don’t own their rights. Willie Corrin has already said he’s retiring and others, perhaps Zach Pochiro, could follow. Some players are likely to sign for lucrative contracts in Europe. And AHL teams will likely be interested in signing Samuel Harvey, Matthew Boudens, Mark Rassell and others.
Plus, coach Ben Boudreau’s contract is expiring and he will probably get looks from AHL teams. If his father, Bruce, remains as coach of the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks, that organization would be an obvious one to watch.
And while everyone with the Komets is saying this was a successful season, given all the obstacles, it was still a first-round playoff exit and ownership could decide on an overhaul. If Boudreau leaves, or if the Komets affiliate with someone other than the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights ends, mass changes are more likely to happen.
When it comes to Szydlowski, it’s similar to last year – only time will give us clarity on if he’ll be back with the team.