When the Komets came to the ECHL, they brought the best of the Central Hockey League with them.
The Komets signed CHL Most Valuable Player Brandon Marino and high-scoring forward Eric Giosa from Quad City, veteran defenseman and leader Tyler Butler and Missouri's Charlie Effinger, who finished second in the CHL Goaltender of the Year voting. Butler was also the captain in Arizona.
``We looked at them and we know they are good players,'' Komets General Manager David Franke said. ``It's our belief that the CHL is on a very similar level to the ECHL, maybe not one through 10 at the forwards, but maybe one through six is comparable.''
The major difference is that the Komets loaded up on offensive forwards when they've been known mostly for their defense the last five years. Adding the firepower of Marino and Giosa makes the Fort Wayne lines much deeper, and that's before any player is added from American Hockey League affiliate Norfolk.
``We knew right off the hop we needed to get some more offense than we had last year, especially with (Bobby) Chaumont, (Jamie) Milam and (Frankie) DeAngelis not coming back,'' Franke said. ``That's one of the reasons we front-loaded the forward positions with a lot of offensive people, and on defense more defensively than offensively, but I think there are some young kids here who may show us something that we're not expecting.''
Maybe, especially playing with such potent forwards. Though most of the new players were well-established in their CHL cities, none of them hesitated to sign once the Komets called. Butler said it was time for him to leave Arizona, and his deal with finished within a few days. He showed up in Fort Wayne a month early to get his kids settled in school and start skating during preseason workouts.
``Fort Wayne is the benchmark for places to play,'' Giosa said. ``It's got great crowds, media coverage, tight teams that win every year. The locker room is a big part of it. The guys have been very welcoming. I think the team is going to come together real nice. We've already made friends.''
They all have different styles that fit the holes the Komets had. Marino gives them another playmaker who can skate any forward position. Giosa is also a center who can play either wing, and he's known as more of a front-of-the-net attacker who is also very good defensively.
Butler can play offensively and defensively on the blue line, play rough or move quickly through the zone. He can also teach younger defensemen and help with locker room leadership.
Effinger showed the Komets what he could do last year during the Turner Conference finals when he almost single-handedly pushed them to seven games. The Mavericks lost despite Effinger having a .919 save percentage in the series compared to .906 for the Komets' Nick Boucher. Effinger faced 285 shots, and the Komets' goaltenders 230 as the Komets outscored the Mavericks 25-24 in the series.
Now Effinger gets to play behind that Fort Wayne defense, and he'll have J.M. Rizk and Chris Auger on his side after they combined for eight goals against him in the series.
``We played them enough and followed them for two years and feel they can get the job done,'' Franke said. ``These are players who are proven scorers and proven quality people of character, and that's what we look for in a player.''