Comets goalie Daws happy with progress

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UTICA — Nico Daws has had an interesting path early in his pro hockey career.

The 21-year-old goaltending prospect — who had a stint last season in the DEL in Germany — started 2021-22 with the Utica Comets and was part of the team’s record 13-0 start. However, the parent New Jersey Devils had to navigate through goaltending issues and Daws spent more time at the NHL level than anticipated.

“It was really important for me. It is an opportunity that not a lot of young guys get with getting a crack at an NHL job and almost being a starting goalie for a little bit. I played a lot of games,” said Daws, who credits his stint with Ingolstadt ERC last season and veteran teammates like former Comets forward Brandon DeFazio for helping him get acclimated to the pro level. “(The time with the Devils) kind of really helped me understand where I need to get to be able to succeed at that role. I try to bring as much confidence as I can down here.”

He turned in a solid 26-save outing against Rochester last Friday. The hope is he can be a standout for the Comets in the postseason. With the last two regular-season games Friday at Rochester and Saturday at Providence, he’ll likely start one for North Divison champion Utica (42-19-8-1 overall). Fellow standout Akira Schmid – who also had an unexpected NHL stint this season — could get one of the starts. 

Entering Friday, Daws had a 2.39 goals-against average, 0.918 save percentage with a 13-3-2 record with Utica. 

“Coming into the season, I didn’t know where I was going to end up whether in the AHL or the (ECHL). To have the season I’ve had, I never would have imagined it. Getting a chance to play in the NHL and develop, I’ve had so many great coaches around me. They’ve made it easy for me,” said Daws, who has formed a good bond with Schmid and fellow rookie Mareks Mitens. “I’m happy with how it has gone.”

Comets coach Kevin Dineen said Daws has returned with enthusiasm.

“You take both (Daws and Schmid) and they’ve been put in positions this year that most young players would not have been exposed to. I thought they did an excellent job. You watch games from afar at the NHL level. For me, it is when they come back and you see how they react to getting back to the swing of things. That’s been seamless for us.”

Daws is looking forward to the postseason.

“I think we’re playing really good hockey,” he said. “Hopefully we can continue that and go into playoffs with as much as confidence and see what we can do.” 

Roll call

The team had 12 forwards, six defensemen and two goaltenders at Thursday’s practice, which is standard for a game.

Dineen noted that the team would add players, just in case.

Tyce Thompson (undisclosed) practiced Thursday. Dineen noted the team is trying to be careful and he likely won’t play both games this weekend.

Forward Garrett Van Wyhe (undisclosed, out since April 16) skated after practice with Luke Stevens.

Van Wyhe is not expected to be an option this weekend, Dineen said.

Dineen said there is optimism Frederik Gauthier — who has missed the last nine games with a lower-body injury -- will begin skating next week.

Mitens didn’t participate Thursday and hasn’t played since April 16. He will be re-evaluated next week, Dineen said.

Comets team awards announced

Here’s the Comets’ season awards, which were released Thursday:

Media Choice Most Valuable Player: Fabian Zetterlund

Tom McVie Award (Team MVP): A.J. Greer

Ian Anderson Award (Most improved): Reilly Walsh

Dave Armstrong Award (Class Guy): Joe Gambardella

3 Stars Award (Most star this season): Akira Schmid

Thomas M. Lindsey Award (Best in community): Chase De Leo

Bill Horton Award (Most Heart): Ryan Schmelzer

Eric Weinrich Award (Best defenseman): Robbie Russo

AHL All-Star teams

No Comets were selected to the AHL All-Star first and second teams, which are voted on by players, coaches and media in the league’s 31 cities. The teams were announced Thursday.

First team

Goaltender: Dustin Wolf, Stockton (46 games, 33-8-4, 2.33 GAA, .924 SV%)

Defenseman: Jordan Gross, Colorado (61 games, 65 points)

Defenseman: Jordan Spence, Ontario (46 games, 42 points)

Forward: Stefan Noesen, Chicago (68 games, 81 points)

Forward: Andrew Poturalski, Chicago (69 games, 97 points)

Forward: T.J. Tynan, Ontario (61 games, 98 points)

Second team

Goaltender: Troy Grosenick, Providence (30 games, 16-6-4, 2.00 GAA, .933SV%)

Defenseman: Jake Christiansen, Cleveland (61 games, 45 points)

Defenseman: Joseph Duszak, Toronto (60 games, 51 points)

Forward: Martin Frk, Ontario (58 games, 73 points)

Forward: Seth Griffith, Bakersfield (63 games, 79 points)

Forward: Kiefer Sherwood, Colorado (57 games, 75 points)

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