FORT WAYNE — Shawn Szydlowski was the Komets’ most productive player in the postseason – he led them in goals (six) and points (11) in 11 games – and Fort Wayne had longed to bring him back since that performance.
On Tuesday, the Komets finalized a contract for the upcoming season with the 23-year-old right wing.
“(Szydlowski’s) playoff went a long way to bringing him back to Fort Wayne,” general manager David Franke said. “He finished up the regular season strong and in the playoffs, he was probably our best forward and best player. It had taken him awhile to get adjusted to things here, but as time went on and he got more and more comfortable, he really took off.”
Last season, Szydlowski was in the final year of a contract with the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres, who sent him to Fort Wayne after deciding they wouldn’t pursue him in the offseason.
He muddled his way through the first half of the season, totaling zero goals and two assists, in 21 games. In the remaining 42 games of the regular season, though, he had 11 goals and 24 points, using his 6-foot, 208-pound frame to his advantage, and he then led the Komets to the Eastern Conference semifinals.
“For some reason in my career, I’ve played better under pressure. I like the competition,” he said. “I would like a bigger role this year. I think I’m up for it and will be in better shape than I have been before.”
Szydlowski was a prolific scorer in juniors; he totaled 41 goals and 78 points in 66 games his final season, 2010-11, with the Ontario Hockey League’s Erie Otters. He spent 62 games in the AHL with Portland and Rochester between 2010 and 2013, totaling eight assists, and then played a season with the CHL’s Fort Worth Brahmas.
The Komets’ new affiliation with the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche was a draw for Szydlowski. “It’s always nice to have an affiliation,” Szydlowski said. “Guys know if they’re playing well, they’ll get noticed. When (the Komets) were an independent, you might wonder who’s up in the stands watching. It won’t be like that now. If you have a good game, it’ll get noticed.”
Franke said Szydlowski’s familiarity with the Komets, and the systems of coach Gary Graham, will help him right away.
“It’s a big year for him and even though he’s on an ECHL contract, he wants to get back up to the American League level,” Franke said. “I stressed to him: ‘Come back here. You know what it’s like here with our franchise and you won’t be starting over somewhere else. You’ll be familiar with the fans and the building.’ If he goes somewhere else, it won’t be that way. He’ll get off to a good start right off the hop here and we’re excited about it.”
So far, the Komets have signed forwards Angelo Esposito, Brett Beebe, Mike Embach, Thomas Frazee, Christian Ouellet, Alex Hudson and captain Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock, defensemen Drew Daniels, Matthew Maione and William Lacasse, plus goaltender Pat Nagle.
Notes: Plans are in the works for a possible AHL exhibition game at the Coliseum between Lake Erie and the Grand Rapids Griffins, the top minor-league affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings. The game, which is still in the discussion phase, would be Oct. 4 at the Coliseum.