As we near Labor Day Weekend and the flipping of calendars to September, it officially marks hockey season. With training camp a few weeks away and preseason hockey at the end of the month, we wanted to get an inside scoop of what to expect. So we went straight to the source and sat down with Comets’ head coach Trent Cull. This is part one of three in our head coach sit-down series.
Utica Comets: There was a disappointing finish to last season, but there was an early start on personnel changes as far as who’s coming in to play, etc. What is the initial confidence level going into this season?
Trent Cull: I’m excited. I like some of the depth signings Vancouver made. From the outside in and looking at Vancouver, they have a glut of forwards. Hopefully that turns into a glut of forwards for us. You might get an opportunity to see some players in Utica who, maybe, we wouldn’t normally see. So that could be a good thing for us.
I don’t want to sit here and say “these are the guys who are going to be playing for us this year,” because you never know when you go to training camp for Vancouver. I want all of these guys to have opportunities. But I do like the depth throughout our forward ranks. We have some younger defensemen who are pretty solid players, (Olli) Juolevi coming back is exciting, and we have a lot of goalie depth. For me, I didn’t go into last season feeling the same way about goalie depth, and unfortunately it ended up becoming an issue. We felt it all year. We had a guy (Ivan Kulbakov) who we didn’t think we would have and he did a great job for us. Normally you’re not expecting guys who are normally slotted for the ECHL to come in and be your starting goalie and play the most games for you.
UC: Give us a little insight into the process of bringing players in. That’s usually handled by (Comets’ GM) Ryan Johnson and (Canucks’ GM) Jim Benning. Do you just sit and watch and take what they give you? Or do you provide input?
TC: There’s no doubt they’re making the signings. They’ve seen that they have to make sure they have as much depth that’s ready to play in the NHL as possible. That’s where we’ve seen the biggest deepening of our organization. I’ve given opinions and we’ll watch some video. But we’re navigating the guys who could be going up and down and mostly playing in the American Hockey League. So we give opinions, but they’re the ones with the most information and they’re the ones making all of the signings.
UC: How much anxiety did you have when Reid Boucher was dipping into free agency, knowing that any other team could swoop in and take away a 30-goal, 60-point producer?
TC: Reid, for me as a coach, is a real high-end talent. I don’t want to say that Reid is gonna be here for us this year. He’s working really hard this summer. He’s doing a lot of good things. The best thing I can say about Reid is that he’s constantly improving. Look up what he’s done the past few years. He’s getting better and getting better, so that’s one of the things that I’m a huge fan of. Here’s a guy who’s continually putting up numbers in the AHL and he’s going to get his opportunity (in the NHL). But I’m happy to have him in the organization.
UC: You lose Tanner Kero, but you replace him with a 50-point guy in Carter Camper. Do you consider that a one-for-one switch?
TC: Absolutely. I was really excited for Tanner. He was a guy I didn’t know much about coming in a year ago and he had a career year with us. That makes you feel better as a coach. I was excited for him that he earned a deal with Dallas. In Carter Camper, here’s a guy I’ve coached against so I know a bit. I think they are different players, and how I see Carter is actually a better distributor of the puck which is really exciting. We have some guys who can really shoot the puck, and I see Carter being a really good fit for some of them.
Come back tomorrow as we get into part two of our chat with Trent Cull, who touches on locker-room leadership, the development of his young defensive core and the wealth of goalies he plans to enter training camp with.