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Comets commence camp in France; roster cuts; minor-league signings

The Utica Comets commence their training camp in Lyons, France today. Utica will play three exhibition games total.

Courtesy of

Courtesy of

Coming off an impressive 2014/15 campaign in which the Canucks AHL affiliate fell three games short of capturing their  first  Calder Cup in franchise history, the Utica Comets kick-off their pre-season today in Lyons, France, after arriving on Tuesday.

The Comets will have 24 players when camp commences, including Alexandre Grenier, who's was reassigned to  Utica yesterday.

Grenier, 24, appeared in five pre-season games with the Canucks, picking up 0 points with only 8 shots registered on goal. Grenier wasn't exactly noticeable in the exhibition games he played,  both in a good and bad way. In the small sample size he played, he at least showed the Canucks brass that he can be trusted in the defensive zone. According to my crappy mathematical skills, Grenier finished the pre-season with a -1 in on-ice shot differential (Corsi) during 5-on-5 even-strength play. Grenier had a variety of linemates in the pre-season, including a brief stint playing with Daniel and Henrik Sedin; he didn't necessarily look out of place with the twins, but really didn't do enough to push for a spot on the roster, at least for the time being.

Grenier's pre-season will probably be remembered for when Adam Cracknell ran into Grenier right after Grenier fired a failed shot on goal in the high slot. Nifty deke showcased by Grenier here before Cracknell came in like a wrecking ball. (Sorry for the Miley Cyrus reference, guys.)

It's probable that one of the young rookies -- Virtanen, McCann or Gaunce -- battling for a roster spot struggles at some point if Virtanen, McCann or Gaunce make the team. That could trigger a Grenier re-call, with Grenier being exempted from waivers while accompanying a cheap price tag attached to him ($585,000 at the NHL) that could come in handy for the Canucks, who are $1.2 million away from the National Hockey League salary cap. Jim Benning likes the game that Grenier embodies, as the big 6'5" right-winger can transition into an offensive role while still being responsible fore-checker.

In 67 regular season games with the Comets last year, the native of Laval, Quebec, picked up 43 points (17 goals, 26 assists) in 67 games. The Canucks 3rd-round pick in 2011 added 15 points (6 goals, 9 assists) in the Comets run to the Calder Cup.

Grenier will be the 15th forward in camp.

The Comets announced yesterday that they agreed to terms on re-signing former Medicine Hat Tiger Curtis Valk. Valk, 21, was one of the better forwards at Canucks training camp last year in terms of players whom unexpectedly stood out with relativly low expectations. Valk is still recovering from the same injury that limited the 5'9", 170-pounder  to only 31 ECHL games in his first full season of professional hockey. Valk scored at just below point-per-game by tallyling 30 points (11 goals, 19 assists) in 31 games with the Canucks ECHL affiliate, the Kalamazoo Wings. The native of Medince Hat, Alberta was a plus 8 and picked up 12 PIMs. Valk, along with Ludwig Bloomstrand and Dave Fox, lead the Wings in scoring last year and could all slot into the Comets lineup at some point during the 76-game campaign. Valk won't be returning to action until November, according to Jordan Kanygin of CHATVNEWS.

Kalamazoo also announced that they've signed former Canuck and Comet Darren Archibald to a minor-league contract.

It's not completely out of the question that the fan-favourite Archibald returns to Utica, but as Comets play-by-play man Brendan Burke points out, Archibald signed with Kalamazoo, not Utica, and would have to sign an PTO with Utica. Head coach Travis Green liked Archibald's physical presence in the lineup, and would welcome the native of Newmarket, Ontario, back in the lineup considering he was one of the more aggressive players on the team.

The Comets pre-season schedule can be found below:

The Comets clash in the first of two games verus the Syaruse Comets today at 2:30 P.M. ET/11:30 A.M. PT before they play the host club, the Dragons de Rouen, who have former Canucks Jason Krog and goaltender Dany Sabourin. (Remember him in the 2007 playoffs?)

To stay up to the date with the Comets training camp and the rest of the 2015/16 season, follow @BrendanBurke@UitcaComets@CometsInGame, or myself @GradySas. You can join in the Comets discussion on Twitter by clicking on their new promotional hashtag, #RaiseTheLevel.