As we wrap up our three-part conversation with Comets’ head coach Trent Cull, we touch on one of the biggest questions in development and the players who are ready to break out and take the next step on their way to an NHL future.
UC: Let’s attack a looming question head on. How much does the organization value winning as a form of development?
TC: I can’t speak for the whole organization saying that, but for me, and in my experience, it’s a huge tool for your team to be successful during their development, and I’ll give my example by going back two years ago. Look at the players who had opportunities to play playoff hockey and what they’ve gotten out of that. Off the top of my head: Ashton Sautner, who ended playing in the NHL for a little bit and could become a mainstay. Guillaume Brisebois, who had eight games in the NHL last year. Zack MacEwen made his adjustments. Thatcher Demko. Those are just the guys I can think of right now. Those were core pieces of our team heading into playoffs two years ago, where they got to play in a higher-pressure situation, do-or-die. Toronto even went up 2-0 in that series so it was do-or-die in game three, four, and five. I think those are great opportunities outside of the regular season to see your prospects be in great situations. Sometimes it doesn’t end up right, but when they get a chance to do it again, they can hopefully build on that. Other guys excelled in those situations and it’s such a great window to see those players. For me, it’s an integral piece in developing those guys for the next level. Not only are we developing guys to play in the NHL, but we want them to be very successful and winners in the NHL.
UC: Who do you think is poised to break out this season and make a huge jump to be a big part of the conversation about the future of Vancouver? And who’s someone that fans haven’t been exposed to yet or not as much and could be one of those go-to guys?
TC: Zack MacEwen. He brings a Tom Wilson-like quality to him. He’s a big, strong power forward and I know that is something that Vancouver doesn’t have a ton of and I think there’s a real opportunity for Zack moving forward. The guy who I am also really excited about is Adam Gaudette. And I’m not saying that he’s gonna play for us, but let’s say he was to come to us. I felt like last year he had little, short bursts here. He played two or three games and four or five games at a time here and he spent a majority of his time in the NHL. He’s a guy that I would love to coach throughout the year because I think that there’s some things that he would need to work on here at this level. But he would get a ton of opportunity and ice time here and I would love to see that reaction and watch him. I think he would have some ups and downs to start, but I believe he would take off. I love this group of these defensemen. I really like Sautner’s progression and the way he’s come along. There’s Guillaume Brisebois and Jalen Chatfield as well. They’re guys who skate well and they’re already earning some call ups. Jalen had a few injuries that hurt his development last year, and I’m excited for him. He’s spent the entire summer in Vancouver and he’s working his butt off trying to become a better player. I see Guillaume the same way. I’m excited to see that group of four and how they’re moving along. And there’s quietly guys like Gadjovich and Lind, who I know have done a ton of work on skating and getting better this summer. I still see that these guys can come back and be a big part of us moving forward. And when you’re successful in this league, I find it’s usually surrounded by that young nucleus that’s moving along. And those guys, if they can all take more steps and get better, it will really help our team.
Cull and the Comets open training camp in late September as they gear up for the 2019-20 season, set to commence on October 5 in Binghamton.