Tag Archives: news and notes

Cuts, Camp Begins, and Visiting Old Friends

It’s been a busy few days in Devil land…and for myself as well.  With A-Devils camp officially opening for business this afternoon (and the first games coming up later this week), let’s get caught up with how training camp in the Garden State has been going.

-After Wednesday night’s loss to the Islanders in Brooklyn, the first round of cuts was announced:

Going back to juniors: goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood (Barrie/OHL); defensemen Josh Jacobs (Sarnia/OHL), Ryan Rehill (Kamloops/WHL), and Colton White (Sault Ste. Marie/OHL); and forwards Brandon Baddock (Edmonton/WHL), Connor Chatham (Flint/OHL), and Blake Speers (Sault Ste. Marie/OHL).  Alexandre Goulet, who had been in camp on an amateur tryout, was also let go.

Going to Albany: Yann Danis, Dan Kelly, Jacob Sweeney, Graham Black, Chris McKelvie, Rod Pelley, and Ben Thomson.

The Albany seven will join Joe Faust, Max Novak, Corbin McPherson (all on AHL contracts) and Alexandre Carrier, David Shields, and Gunnar Hughes (tryouts) at Albany’s camp.

-Friday night myself and a friend called ourselves up to New Jersey to check out the first home exhibition game.  And I must say, I’m glad I made the trip.

Adam Henrique greeting fans in the Towers...

Adam Henrique greeting fans in the  Towers…

Scott Wedgewood warming up

Scott Wedgewood warming up (Gio in the background)

When you get to see the first New Jersey win of the preseason (with a former A-Devil in net in Keith Kinkaid) and reunite with your first favorite A-Devil who remembers you even though it’s been at least 3 years since you last spoke to him…it’s a perfect way to kick off your hockey season.

-This just in: New Jersey has made its second round of cuts.  The following 15 players are en route to Albany (additionally, John Quenneville was returned to his junior team in Brandon), with some likely needing to clear waivers first in order to do so:

Goaltenders: Ken Appleby, Scott Wedgewood.

Defensemen: Brandon Burlon, Raman Hrabarenka, Vojtech Mozik, Reece Scarlett.

Forwards: Joseph Blandisi, Blake Coleman, Ryan Kujawinski, Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, Matt Lorito, Jim O’Brien, Blake Pietila, Mike Sislo, Paul Thompson.

The Devils roster stands at 27, so there may be another additional 1-2 players coming later.  By the end of next weekend, there will be a clearer picture of who will be here, who stays in New Jersey, and who may be heading north to Adirondack.




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Post Labor Day Catch-up

Only a few short days away from the start of training camp!  But before that, a few news items to get caught up on:

-A third development coach has been hired, as New Jersey has brought in Patrick Rissmiller.  He just completed a 13 year playing career, spending the last two seasons in Italy after bouncing around the AHL between Rochester, Worcester, Lake Erie, Chicago and Grand Rapids.  He last saw NHL time in the 2010-11 season with Florida.  Much like Scott Clemmensen, he will be working with prospects at all levels in the organization.

-On Thursday, New Jersey released the rookie camp roster that will play in Buffalo this weekend:

Goaltenders: Ken Appleby, Mackenzie Blackwood.

Defensemen: Raman Hrabarenka, Reece Scarlett, Vojtech Mozik, Ryan Rehill, Josh Jacobs, Colton White, Jacob Sweeney.

Forwards: Reid Boucher, Pavel Zacha, Ben Thomson, John Quenneville, Joseph Blandisi, Graham Black, Blake Coleman, Brandon Baddock, Ryan Kujawinski, Blake Pietila, Matt Lorito, Connor Chatham, Max Novak, Blake Speers, Alexandre Goulet.

The group will report to Newark on Thursday before leaving for Buffalo later in the day.

-From the “I called it” department: Albany has worked out an informal agreement with the ECHL’s Adirondack Thunder to send one goaltender and extra players to Glens Falls during the season, after using Orlando the last two years.  Funny how after being a league rival since the Phantoms came to the Civic Center in 2009, the two cities are working together again.  But it’s not the first time this has happened…you may or may not remember that the River Rats worked with the UHL’s Adirondack Icehawks/Frostbite for several seasons in the early-mid 2000s.  Pierre-Luc Leblond actually got his professional start as a regular member of the Frostbite during the 2005-06 season, the last season of New Jersey’s original run in Albany.  Speaking of PL3…

-Earlier this afternoon, Leblond made his third return to the organization, signing a 1 year 2 way deal.  He spent the last two seasons with Devils coach John Hynes in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, with one appearance in Pittsburgh.  In 121 games with the Penguins, he scored 4 goals and amassed 500 penalty minutes.  During his last stint in the Devils organization in the 2010-11 season, he played 2 games in New Jersey before spending the rest of the season in Albany, where he scored 8 goals and racked up 334 penalty minutes in 64 games.  He was traded to Calgary during the offseason and bounced between the Flames and Abbotsford in 2011-12, with a stop in Norfolk in 2012-13 before suiting up for the Penguins.

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News of the Week

A few notes to tide everyone over as we wait for the fall to get here:

-New Jersey announced earlier this week that rookies will report to training camp on September 10th for physicals, then they will travel to Buffalo from the 11th-13th for the Prospects Challenge with the Sabres and Bruins.  Veterans will report on September 17th for physicals. with the first practice the following day.

-On Wednesday, the NBA released their 2015-16 schedule.  And why should you care?  With three AHL teams (Milwaukee, Lake Erie, San Antonio) sharing their buildings with their NBA counterparts, the final hurdle to this season’s AHL schedule has been cleared.  But it’s still at least a couple of weeks away.

-Another veteran has gone overseas, as Cam Janssen has taken his talents to the Nottingham Panthers of the EIHL (based in England/Ireland).

-One thing I haven’t had the chance to write about here: the efforts of the city of Albany to ensure that the Devils stick around beyond this season.  And so far, everything that I’ve seen or read about is giving me a positive vibe about having hockey beyond 2016.  A few links to check out:

The arena’s namesake has a great incentive offer  for businesses who take advantage of season tickets.

A new adult hockey league that offers players season tickets and the full “pro experience.” I don’t recall any other AHL teams that have this kind of program in place.

A new tagline for the season and a partnership with Saratoga Casino and Raceway.  I’m wondering if there will be a promotional tie-in with the casino, much like Syracuse does with Turning Stone or Wilkes-Barre/Scranton does with Mohegan Sun.


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Preseason Planning

Back from a week’s vacation, including 3 days in Maryland and witnessing a no-hitter.  So of course during my travels actual news hits:

The first two preseason games have been scheduled, and both are on the road: On October 1st, Albany travels to Hershey for a 7 PM faceoff against the Bears, then head north on Interstate 81 to Wilkes-Barre on October 2nd for a 7 PM match against the Penguins.  I’m expecting at least one or two more games to be announced in the near future, including an obligatory matchup against the Phantoms.

Also announced this week: another addition to the coaching/developmental staff, with the hiring of Pertti Hasanen as a developmental/skills coach.  He joins the Devils organization after spending several years with Boston University as an assistant coach, then as director of hockey operations and player development.  He also has coaching experience with UMass-Lowell (as an assistant) and overseas in Finland, Norway and Italy as a head coach, along with running his own hockey school.  Most recently, he worked with prospects during New Jersey’s developmental camp last month.


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Camping, Rule Changes, Etc. Etc.

After having to read about several NHL teams’ rookie development camps this week…starting on Monday, it will finally be New Jersey’s turn.  A total of 42 players will be taking the ice from July 13th-18th, culminating in a Red-White scrimmage on Saturday:

GOALTENDERS (4): Anthony Brodeur, Mac Blackwood, Ken Appleby, Colton Phinney.

FORWARDS (26): Brandon Baddock, Graham Black, Joseph Blandisi, Reid Boucher, Connor Chatham, Blake Coleman, Patrick D’Amico, J.D. Dudek, Matt Gaudreau, Artur Gavrus, Alexandre Goulet, Sergey Kalinin, Tyler Kelleher, Alexander Kerfoot, Ryan Kujawinski, Matt Lorito, Darcy Murphy, Max Novak, Blake Pietila, John Quenneville, Brett Seney, Brandon Shea, Blake Speers, Ben Thomson, Miles Wood, Pavel Zacha.

DEFENSEMEN (12): Joe Faust, Casey Fitzgerald, Raman Hrabarenka, Joshua Jacobs, Vojtech Mozik, Ryan Rehill, Steven Santini, Reece Scarlett, Damon Severson, Jacob Sweeney, Colton White, Tyler Wood.

A few fun facts about this group:

-8 players appeared in at least one game for Albany in 2014-15.  It could have been 9 if Brandon Baddock had seen action.

-25 players are Devil draft picks, going as far back as 2010.

-Family ties: Martin Brodeur’s son Anthony (a 2013 draft selection who was not signed) leads the goaltending corps.  Matt Gaudreau is the younger brother of Johnny Gaudreau, who just finished a stellar rookie campaign in Calgary.  Tyler Wood is the older brother of 2013 draft selection Miles Wood.

Fire and Ice has more information on the undrafted invitees.

In league news, the AHL announced their annual rule changes and playoff format for 2015-16:

-All teams will still play 76 games.  Unless you’re Bakersfield, Stockton, San Jose, Ontario, or San Diego, who will only play 68 (WHY????  Dumb dumb dumb…sorry.  Getting off topic.) games.  With an uneven schedule, playoff standings will now be based on points percentage instead of the actual point total (Math. Yay.).  The top 4 teams in each division will qualify for a playoff spot…however, if the 5th place team in either the Atlantic or Central Division finishes with a higher percentage than the 4th place North or Pacific Division team, they can cross over and grab that spot.  The divisional set up remains for the first two rounds of the playoffs.

-Overtime will now be 3 on 3 for 5 minutes, just like in the NHL and the ECHL.  The shootout remains if a game is still tied after that.  And also staying around…DRY SCRAPE!

-New for 2015-16: the coach’s challenge.  If a coach still has a timeout remaining, they can use the challenge to initiate a video review, but only for rules that use replay.

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Free Agent Update #1: No Crickets Here!

We interrupt your Fourth of July weekend festivities to give you a recap of the first 3 days of the free agent signing period.

In the past, I would sit back and watch every other team load up or re-sign players like crazy during the first few days of July…and hear nothing out of New Jersey.  For days.  Or even weeks.

But not this year.  The new regime has come in and re-signed one big piece and picked up four others that do address needs for Albany.

Let’s start with Wednesday’s signings:

-First came the highly anticipated signing of forward Blake Coleman to an entry level deal.  A 3rd round draft choice in 2011, he just completed his collegiate career at Miami (OH), where in his senior season he appeared in 37 games and set a career high in both goals (20) and assists (17) while serving as assistant captain.  In 143 games over his four seasons, he scored 60 goals and assisted on 47 others.

-A few hours later, another expected signing: forward Paul Thompson (#21 on the AHL Big Board), coming off a career season, returns on a 2 year 2 way deal.  A late summer signing last year, all Thompson did was set a Albany/Lowell franchise record for goals in a season (33), was second in the league in power play goals (13), and represented Albany at the AHL All Star Classic in January.

-Then late Wednesday, a signing out of left field: forward Jim O’Brien (#11 on the Big Board) was signed to a 1 year, 2 way contract.  This may not sound like much to fans in New Jersey, but for the AHL level, this is a pretty big signing.  He split last season between Novokuznetsk Metallurg of the KHL and Hershey, scoring just twice in 22 games in Russia, but picking up 10 goals in 32 games with the Bears (and an additional 3 goals in 10 playoff games).  He does have some NHL experience, appearing in 63 games over parts of 3 seasons with Ottawa, and was also a member of Binghamton’s Calder Cup winning squad in 2010-11.

Friday saw two more players sign on the dotted line:

-The second goaltender/#3 on the depth chart hole has been filled, and it’s a familiar name to New Jersey fans: much like his new goaltending coach did last summer, Yann Danis (#56 on the Big Board) returns to the organization for his second tour of duty, signing a 1 year 2 way deal.  The journeyman netminder spent last season with Norfolk and Hartford, going 5-6-0 with a 2.72 GAA and .914 save percentage with the Admirals, and 12-7-4 with a 2.35 GAA and .921 save percentage with the Wolfpack.  He spent the 2009-10 season as Martin Brodeur’s backup, only seeing action in 12 games and going 3-2-1 with a 2.05 GAA.

-The second signing comes in the form of a 1 year 2 way contract for defenseman Marc Andre Gragnani, a name not familiar at all to New Jersey fans, but has a good AHL resume.  He spent last season with Bern in the Swiss-A league, putting up 37 points (8 G, 29 A) and a +13 in 49 games.  He has a bit of NHL experience, appearing in 74 games for Buffalo, Vancouver and Carolina, but most of his career has been in the AHL, playing in Rochester, Portland and Charlotte.  He won the AHL’s Eddie Shore Award (given to the top defenseman) in 2010-11 while with the Pirates.

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On The Market

Before the free agency frenzy begins on Wednesday, two last pieces of business to tend to:

-All teams had until 5 PM today to tender qualifying offers to any restricted free agents.  New Jersey did just that with Stefan Matteau and Seth Helgeson.  However, qualifying offers were not in the cards for Maxime Clermont or Corbin McPherson, making both of them unrestricted free agents.

-Here’s another list to keep an eye on for organizational depth: the annual AHL Big Board is out.  With the original author moving on to greener pastures in Pittsburgh, our friends over at Chirps from Center Ice took over the project and enlisted several other bloggers, including myself, to help put the list together.  Unlike in past years where you had to nearly scroll all the way to the bottom to find any Devils, there are quite a few Albany UFAs in the top 100: Joe Whitney sits at 10, Paul Thompson at 21 (just behind former Devil Bobby Butler at 20), Scott Timmins at 47, Darcy Zajac at 68, and Scott Clemmensen at 72.  The Patriot News (who cover the Hershey Bears) did their own Top 100 list, complete with videos.

Unless anything earth shattering happens before Wednesday…the first Free Agent Tracker goes live at noon sharp on the 1st!

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