Bulldogs Report: Mike Komisarek Profile

By Jim Harnock

Drafted 7th overall by the Montreal Canadiens in the 2001 NHL Entry
Draft, Mike Komisarek has made his much-anticipated professional hockey
debut this season with the Hamilton Bulldogs.

An NCAA product who opted out of the 2000 draft (and improved his CSB
ranking from 39th in North America in 2000 to 5th in 2001), Komisarek
played two years at the University of Michigan totalling 46 points in 80
games, including a 30-point final season in which he was named to both
the CCHA First All Star Team and the NCAA First All American Team as
well as being named the CCHA’s best defensive defenseman. He also has
experience with the US National Junior program, having played in 51
games during the 99-00 season as well as competing in the World Junior
Championships in 2001-2002.

The first thing one has to notice about Mike Komisarek is his size.
While he isn’t the tallest player on the Bulldogs (that honour goes to
6’6″ Alexei Semenov), the West Islip, NY native is certainly the
largest, combining a height of 6’4″ and a weight of 240 lbs.

A
first-year pro of that size is bound to draw attention and even more so
when they come out of university with the kind of hockey credentials
Komisarek did, but all the attention in the hockey world counts for
naught if the player falters under the scrutiny. As with any first-round
selection, there was a great deal of pressure on the big defenseman
going into the Montreal Canadiens training camp this past September and
he did not disappoint, surviving several rounds of AHL demotions, ending

up as one of the team’s final cuts before their 23-man roster was
finalized.

The only rookie to outlast Komisarek was current Bulldogs
team mate Ron Hainsey. One indication of how the Canadiens management
and coaching staff feel about Komisarek is that he was given Mark
Recchi’s old sweater number eight while with the Canadiens, while other
rookies were given training camp numbers like 65 (Hainsey) and 75 (Balej).

Offensively, Komisarek has been the leader of the Hamilton blueline
corps with a goal and nine assists in 21 games, but perhaps the best
attribute he brings to this team is his crisp passing — with Ales Pisa
now playing in the NHL, the Bulldogs lost their best outlet passer, but
Komisarek has taken up the slack without missing a beat. His work on the
power play, getting that first pass into the neutral zone, has been
excellent, and this ability has also improved the team’s transition game
as was evident in the recent 5-0 victory over the St. John’s Maple
Leafs.

While his shot has only found the back of the net once, he is
able to at least put it on net consistently to create rebound chances,
unlike his usual defence partner Marc-André Bergeron, his passing skills
and his smooth skating will more than compensate for any goal-scoring
deficiencies in his game.

Though he is very aware of developing plays and sees things well enough
to keep the momentum of a game going, he does at times focus too much on
the offensive possibilities of a play and start watching the puck in the
offensive zone while losing track of opposition forwards playing at the
blueline. Several times over recent games, he has been caught watching
the play in this manner and has been caught standing still at the line
when the opposing forward gets the puck and takes off down the ice,
getting a two-on-one while Komisarek does his best to catch up.

To his
credit, he does have the skating ability to catch up, but for a former
CCHA Defensive Defenseman of the year, these errors are both surprising
and disappointing.
Another area in which Komisarek needs to improve is consistency — not
offensive consistency, but physical consistency. In the Bulldogs’ worst
losses of the season, many of the goals can be attributed to the
defensemen not keeping the front of the net clear of opposition
forwards.

While this is not a job for Komisarek alone, as the biggest
defenseman on the team, he should be acting as a one-man wrecking ball
in front of Garon, Conklin, Fichaud, Antila, or whichever member of the
Bulldogs unwieldy goaltending committee is in net. Similarly, while his
physical work along the boards has been above average, it also suffers
consistency problems. This is, most likely, due to inexperience at the
pro level and playing against many players who have several years of pro
experience — some of whom have several years of NHL experience.
Komisarek certainly has the size and strength to be a force along the
boards and in front of the Hamilton goal, but thus far, the force is
only showing up about sixty percent of the time.

Going into training camp, many fans were predicting that Komisarek would
be playing in Montreal’s top four on opening night and never set foot on
an AHL rink. As I have stated many times, I’m a firm believer in the
farm system and I don’t believe any player should make the jump from
junior or university straight to the NHL and I said at the time that I
felt Komisarek needed AHL ice-time to elevate his game to a professional
level.

That belief remains unchanged. While I have no doubt that
Komisarek will play in the NHL one day, he is at least another season,
perhaps two away from being ready for the big league. Montreal fans
should realise that this is not necessarily a bad thing — as his skills
and decision-making improve in the AHL, so too will his confidence, and
when he finally makes the jump to the Canadiens, he’ll be a far more
complete player.

Strengths: passing, skating, shot from blueline.

Weaknesses: consistent physical play, watches the puck too frequently.

Projection: number 3 or 4 physical defenseman, 20-25 points per season.