Comets goalie Daws selected to AHL All-Star squad
Utica Comets goaltender Nico Daws will represent the North Division at the AHL All-Star Classic next month in Laval, Quebec.
It is a solid honor for the 22-year-old Daws, who was been key for the Comets this season, especially during the team’s recent 11-game point-streak. The team has said goaltending has been a strength this season.
Daws, who is in his second pro season and has spent some time with the parent New Jersey Devils this season, has continued to make progress while appearing in a team-best 18 games during the 2022-23 campaign entering Wednesday.
He has a 2.67 goals-against average — second-best among qualifying goaltenders in the North Division — and has a .905 save percentage. He has a 10-6-1 record.
Notably, in Sunday’s win over Providence, he made his 1,000th AHL save in the regular-season. Daws has 24 career wins with Utica, which ties him for sixth with Michael DiPietro on the team’s victories list.
“I’ve felt pretty good this year,” Daws told the Daily Sentinel in a recent interview. “We’ve been in a lot of close games and it makes life a little bit harder, but a little bit fun at the same time.”
In a video posted on social media by the Comets, coach Kevin Dineen revealed to the team that Daws is the team’s All-Star representative. Dineen pointed to Daws and said “it is a reflection on you” and the rest of the team. Dineen said it is a “great honor” that the team is excited about.
Daws is the third goaltender from the Comets to be selected to the AHL’s All-Star festivities. When the Comets were the affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks, Jacob Markstrom was selected in 2015 when the AHL still played an All-Star Game. Thatcher Demko was selected in 2018 when the format was a 3-on-3 round-robin tournament and the North Division won the event.
Each of the AHL’s four divisions will be represented by 12 players. Rosters were determined by committees of AHL coaches and all 32 AHL teams are represented by at least one All-Star.
Utica has one All-Star rep along with Belleville, Rochester and Cleveland. North Division-leading Toronto has three selections along with Syracuse and host Laval has two. In the past, roster changes have been made leading up to the event.
Hershey head coach Todd Nelson, Toronto head coach Greg Moore, Texas head coach Neil Graham and Calgary head coach Mitch Love will serve as coaches for the event.
The 2023 AHL All-Star skills competition on Sunday, Feb. 5 will pit the all-stars from the two Eastern Conference divisions against the two Western Conference divisions in seven skills events.
In the All-Star Challenge on Monday, Feb. 6, four teams will participate in the 3-on-3, round-robin tournament featuring six games of 10 minutes each. The two teams with the best records at the end of the round-robin will face off for the championship, a six-minute, 3-on-3 game.
AHL teams are limited to having six players who fall under veteran or veteran exempt status in the lineup at one time.
Right now, the Comets have a total of seven players who fall under those categories: Andreas Johnsson, Joe Gambardella, Mason Geertsen, Zach Senyshyn, Robbie Russo, Tyler Wotherspoon and Dylan Blujus.
It means one from that group will have sit each game as long as all of them are on roster. It wasn’t as much of an issue earlier in the season due to call-ups, injuries or other considerations.
The Comets — when they were Vancouver’s affiliate for eight seasons — dealt with the same roster conundrum at times. Other teams have also had to make those roster decisions.
Dineen said he spoke to the players who fall into the veteran or veteran exempt categories earlier in the season.
“I said there are going to be situations this year where you’re not going to be in the lineup because of rules,” Dineen said. “We keep the communication open. You expect a grumpy player. But, they understand it.”
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