After six seasons serving as the Utica Comets' Director of Hockey Operations, Pat Conacher has a new role.
Conacher has moved to an amateur scouting position with the Vancouver Canucks, the Comets' affiliate announced Wednesday as part of a slew changes to the team's hockey operations staff. It is unclear what the move means for the Comets.
The 60-year-old Conacher -- whose extensive experience includes playing parts of three seasons with the Utica Devils in addition to a number of coaching and scouting stints at various levels -- joined the Comets ahead of the team's first season in 2013-14 and was an essential part of the organization working behind the scenes.
In his role with the Comets, Conacher helped evaluate players for Vancouver and was instrumental in scouting other leagues in an effort to target players to bring in to Utica when call-ups or injuries affected the roster. That was especially the case the last few seasons as a number of players were needed to help patch together a roster when the team was decimated by injuries. The Comets had more than 50 players appear in a game in each of the last two seasons, with a handful of those being on a tryout basis.
Ryan Johnson, who has been Comets general manager since summer 2017, as well Utica coach Trent Cull and players have praised Coacher's work in assisting the team.
There was no announcement Wednesday on a possible replacement for the Comets' director of hockey operations role. Neither Johnson nor Comets president Rob Esche could be reached for comment Wednesday.
As part of the Canucks' staff changes Wednesday, the team also announced Chris Higgins - the NHL veteran who had a 22-game with the Comets in his final pro season in 2015-16 - is re-joining Vancouver as assistant director of player development. Higgins' role involves supporting Johnson, who also serves as senior director of player development, as well as evaluating players. It is unclear how much time the 36-year-old Higgins - who is originally from Long Island - will spend in Utica.
The Canucks also announced Dan Cloutier resigned as goaltending coach and director of goaltending after eight seasons. A replacement for Cloutier - who made visits to Utica in the past - was not announced.
Curtis Sanford has served as goaltending consultant for the Comets the last two seasons.
Other changes include: former Abbotsford Heat coach Troy Ward joining the Canucks as an amateur scout along with Phil Golding and Martin Bakula. Todd Harvey and Derek Richard are taking "additional responsibilities" as scouts. Patrik Jonsson, Vincent Montalbano, and Brandon Benning are "taking on new assignments," according to the Canucks.
Canucks training camp set
The Canucks announced the roster for training camp, which includes almost every player signed to an American Hockey League contract for this season.
Twelve of the 13 players signed to AHL deals with the Comets are expected to be part of training camp, which is Thursday through Monday in British Columbia. The first on-ice sessions are Friday.
Seamus Malone, who suffered an upper-body injury at the end of last season during a short stint with the Comets, was not included. There was no reason provided.
Nearly all of the players on AHL deals were at Canucks camp last season.
Among the 64-man camp roster is Richard Bachman, who suffered a season-ending Achilles injury last December with the Comets.
The camp also includes two players on tryouts in veteran forward Landon Ferraro and defenseman William Warm, who will try to earn contracts with the organization. Ferraro, who had an injury-riddled 2018-19 season, was named the AHL's Man of the Year in April. He's considered an veteran under AHL rules.
The camp also provides an opportunity for younger players on NHL contracts like forwards Zack MacEwen, Kole Lind, goalie Michael DiPietro and defenseman Olli Juolevi (returning from knee surgery) to make an impression.
The Comets are expected to begin camp in Utica the last week of September.