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Evansville at Komets
Faceoff: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Komets coach Al Sims calls rookie defenseman Nicolas Thommen a project, but he'd love for the Swede to be his project.
The 6-foot-6 1/2, 215-pound defenseman has had a big impact on the Komets' training camp, pounding everyone who gets within 10 feet of his goal. He's been the one defenseman willing to tangle with physical forward J.P. Chabot; he's also shown a decent shot and a tenaciousness that never backs down. Coming to the Komets' training camp was a huge jump for Thommen who played Junior B hockey last year in Brantford, Ontario, but each day he looks more like he belongs.
``I thought the transition for him has been very good,'' Sims said. ``I know they are working on his strength in Brantford. The one thing Nick brings for 6-7 is great hands and he's a great passer. He's like a European small-guy hands and passing, but he carries a lot of size and he has a lot of confidence in his fighting. He doesn't have that awkward look to him.''
It's likely Thommen will return to Brantford for one more year of seasoning, but the Komets already have an eye on him as a possible amateur player in next spring's playoffs. Sims compares Thommen to a younger Brent Henley because of his size and physical style.
Despite his size, Thommen is a smooth passer and a better-than-expected skater. He makes the easy play all the time, and is working to try increasing his weight and strength to become a bigger force on the ice.
``It's not that easy,'' Thommen said. ``I burn my food really fast, but I'm working hard at it.''
He's also adjusting to the pro style compared to junior play. He didn't grow up playing with fighting in Europe, but he's learning to adjust.
``If I hit somebody really hard in junior, I probably go to the penalty box,'' he said. ``I've had a couple of fights, and if I have to, I will do it. I don't have a problem with that, but if I fight a smaller guy all they can do is win. If they lose against me, they don't really lose. I'm learning every day and this is a lot different than what I've played before.''
But Thommen's potential could be amazing as his game continues to grow into his body.
Forward Chris Auger was back on the ice for the first time and looked good. ... Brett Smith was not playing because he was out of town picking up his kids. ... Patrick Knowlton scored twice, Matt Firman, Matt Atsoff and Brayden Metz once each. ... The goalies dominated the shootout as only Cory Schneider, Stephon Thorne, Cory Park and J.P. Chabot scored. ... Again, nobody looks too out of place, but the Komets basically have only four spots open at the most. ... Larkin Saalfrank robbed Eric Giosa on one chance. ... Atsoff keeps proving he has consistent offense. ... Ricky Helmbrecht and Tim Buttery looked like the top defensive pairing Wednesday. ... The exhibition games are going to determine pretty much everything about who survives the first round of cuts. ... Coach Al Sims said he's basically looking for a top-six forward, a 10th forward and a fifth or sixth defenseman right now. He'll re-evaluate once the three to five players from Norfolk get sent down which he expects by mid-week next week. ... Seth Ronsberg is big and always around the puck. ... Francois Lacerte and Gerry Festa are about equal in goal so far. Festa might control the pace of the game a little better by covering up more, but Lacerte doesn't give up as many rebounds. ... There's one more scrimmage today. ... Don't forget Friday's practices at Lutheran Health SportsCenter are open to the public 10 a.m.-noon. ... Defenseman Daniel Maggio has been released by Chicago of the AHL and should report to Fort Wayne soon.