Tag Archives: Prospects

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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Free Agency Update #2: RFAs and Enerģija

A few loose ends were tied up this week during the annual Devils Development Camp, while one said goodbye to North America.

-On Friday Stefan Matteau was signed to a 2 year, 1 way deal, with a chance to finally stick in New Jersey.  The former first rounder split last season between Albany and New Jersey, appearing in 61 games with Albany and making 7 appearances in New Jersey.

-Saturday the last of the Albany RFAs was signed, as Seth Helgeson also signed for 2 more years, with an 2 way contract next season and a 1 way deal for 2016-17.  The 3rd year pro made his NHL debut in November, getting an assist in his first game, then stuck around with the parent Devils for 20 more games.  He appeared in 49 games with Albany, scoring twice and adding 10 assists.

-Add a third Devil to the Moving On category, as 5 year A-Devil Tim Sestito has taken his talents overseas, signing on with the KHL’s Dinamo Riga in Latvia (and where the translation in the title comes in).  There are only 4 players remaining in the organization that played in Albany during the inaugural 2010-11 season.

-Now for some highlights from this week’s Development Camp:

First thing everyone (especially myself) noticed?  More open on social media.  Compared to the past regime, this is a wonderful change.  There was even a social media class for the rookies as part of the camp program, along with a cooking/nutrition class, fitness testing, visiting two different Jersey hospitals, and a trip to Yankee Stadium.

Want the theme to Gilligan’s Island stuck in your head for a week?  Watch this:

Highlights from Saturday’s Red-White scrimmage, featuring a goal by Raman Hrabarenka:

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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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2015 Draft Wrap

This weekend came the 2015 NHL Draft in Florida, and after some trading around (including landing Kyle Palmieri from Anaheim in a deal on Friday evening), New Jersey had a total of 5 draft selections.  With a new regime in place so to speak and with some clear needs to rebuild the depth in the organization, this is a good start: 1 goaltender, 1 defenseman and 3 forwards.  Time to meet the Class of 2015:

(Note: clicking on the name will take you to their In Lou We Trust profile)

1st Round, 6th Overall: Pavel Zacha, F, Sarnia (OHL)

In what appears to be somewhat of a gamble, New Jersey chooses Zacha, an 18 year old Czech forward who just completed his first North American season with Sarnia.  In 37 games with the Sting he put up 34 points (16 G, 18 A), and he also represented the Czech Republic in both the U18 and U20 World Junior Championships, scoring 6 goals in 10 games.  And…you have to get behind a guy who learned English by watching Dumb and Dumber.

2nd Round, 42nd Overall: Mackenzie Blackwood, G, Barrie (OHL)

Time to start rebuilding the goalie depth, and it begins with Blackwood, a 18-year-old Ontario native who has spent the last two seasons with Barrie of the OHL.  In 2014-15 he posted a 33-14-2 record in 51 games, with a 3.09 GAA and a .906 save percentage.  He also recently received an invite to Canada’s U20 World Jr. camp.

3rd Round, 67th overall: Blake Speers, C, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)

Also in rebuild mode, the forward depth.  Adding to that is Speers, another 18 year old Ontario native who just finished his second season with the Greyhounds.  In 57 games in 2014-15, he put up 67 points (24 goals, 43 assists) and an additional 9 points in 14 playoff games.

4th Round, 97th Overall: Colton White, D, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)

What’s a New Jersey draft without a defenseman?  And the Devils start with White, another Ontario native who, in his second season with the Greyhounds, put up 22 points (6 G, 16 A) and a +38 in 67 games, and also appeared in 14 playoff games with 2 assists.

6th Round, 157th Overall: Brett Seney, LW, Merrimack (Hockey East)

With their final pick, the Devils chose Seney, a 19 year old native of Ontario (I’m detecting a pattern here with these draft choices) who just completed his freshman season at Merrimack.  He put up 26 points (11 G, 15 A) and a +3 rating in 34 games.  Not a big guy (he checks in at 5’9″ and just 159 pounds) but what he lacks in size he makes up for with his speed, as Mike from ILWT notes in his draft profile.

With the draft over with, the next focus is on free agency.  Monday afternoon is the deadline to tender offers to restricted free agents, and the fun begins Wednesday at noon, as the official signing period gets underway.  Also on Wednesday: the first Free Agent Tracker of the summer, so stay tuned.

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It’s Been Awhile…

…since I last updated this thing.  Before I jump head first into local baseball season (which begins on Friday…those that follow me on Twitter have all been duly warned), how about some updates?

-Congratulations go to the Manchester Monarchs, who in their final season as an AHL franchise captured their first Calder Cup on Saturday evening by defeating Western Conference (now new division rival) Utica in 5 games.  Since I wasn’t able to get to the Aud for a game (when there’s a line around the corner hours before the box office opens, attempting Ticketmaster is pretty much going to be a fail), I did take advantage of the free AHL Live feed and watched parts of 3 of the games…and I have to tip my cap to the Comets fanbase.  You will never find a louder, more loyal group than that in any arena, whether minor or major league.  I even saw it first hand during the All Star festivities (and I’ll confess to jumping in on a few UTICA chants).

-When the first edition of this year’s Free Agent Tracker comes out on July 1st, you will notice that I have added a new list to go with who’s signed and who is up for free agency: those that have signed to entry level deals.  Since my last post, two more names have been added, with both names coming from overseas:

-Back on May 29th, New Jersey signed Russian forward Sergey Kalinin (terms as always undisclosed), who comes to North America after spending the last 5 seasons with Avangard Omsk of the KHL.  In 58 games last season he scored 25 points (12 G, 13 A) while serving as the team captain.

-Earlier today, a signing completely out of left field, as Czech defenseman Vojtech Mozik was signed to an entry level deal.  He spent the last 3 seasons with HC Plzen in the Czech Extraliga, where last season he notched 29 points in 51 games.  His 10 goals (a career high) lead the league among defensemen.

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Joining the Ranks

It’s been a relatively quiet month of May after a new general manager in New Jersey took the reins and after a sixth Albany season became official.

But…things are starting to pick up a little bit, and today saw the first wave of draft pick signings.  New Jersey announced earlier this afternoon that forwards Ryan Kujawinski and Blake Pietila have been signed to entry level contracts.

Kujawinski was drafted in the 3rd round and 73rd overall in 2013 by the Devils, and split last season between Kingston and North Bay of the OHL, appearing in 61 games and posting 59 points (34 G, 25 A), while adding an additional 9 points (6 G, 3 A) in 15 playoff games with North Bay.

Pietila, a 2011 5th round draft selection (129th overall), just completed a four year collegiate career at Michigan Tech.  He tied a career high with 14 goals during his senior season in 40 games while serving as co-captain of the Huskies.

Meanwhile, in other league news:

-Manchester can finish off the Eastern Conference finals as early as tonight with a victory over Hartford, which would finish off a sweep of the Wolfpack.  In the West, Utica and Grand Rapids are tied at 1, with the series shifting to Michigan beginning on Thursday.

-The 2016 AHL All Star Classic is a go…with Syracuse hosting the event on January 31st and February 1st.  Tickets for both the Skills Competition and the game officially went on sale earlier today.  No, I did not order my ticket…yet.  But all signs point to me making the trip west for the second straight event.

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Week 24 Recap: Climbing the Ladder

Don’t count the Devils out just yet.  After a slow start to the week, the team has got their offensive touch back, taking two out of three wins on the week and staying in the race for the final playoff spot.

3/18 vs. Norfolk: 1-0 L

Game #4 of the homestand came Wednesday, as Albany hosted the Admirals for the first time all season.  And much like Sunday, it was another struggle on both sides to get a goal.  The Devils did outshoot Norfolk 14-7 in the first, but couldn’t get anything into the net.  Second period was more of the same defensive struggle, with the only action being two fights breaking out within 1:24 of each other.  But with 3:06 to go in the period, Norfolk struck first, or did they?  About 3 Ads were surrounding Scott Clemmensen’s net, and one of them was able to bat the puck in behind him.  It looked like goaltender interference, so the referees went to the video…and it was called a good goal (of course they did).  Stefan Noesen was given credit for the tally.  Albany had a golden opportunity to tie things up with a late period/early third period 5 on 3 opportunity, but could not get the job done.  Two more power play opportunities and an empty net situation followed, but still no offense.  And the Devils were shutout for a second straight game, extending the scoreless drought to 125 minutes and 3 seconds.  Clemmensen played outstanding in the loss, stopping 25 of 26 shots.

Highlights:

Lines:

Reid Boucher-Tim Sestito-Mike Sislo

Stefan Matteau-Scott Timmins-Paul Thompson

Chris McKelvie-Graham Black-Darcy Zajac

Ben Thomson-Rod Pelley-Cam Janssen

Extra: Joe Whitney, Kelly Zajac, David Wohlberg, Matt Lorito

Defense:

Seth Helgeson/Reece Scarlett

Brandon Burlon/Corbin McPherson

Dan Kelly/Raman Hrabarenka

Extra: Joe Faust

Friday: The second ATO of the season has arrived–and the Devils didn’t have to go very far to find him.  Union College forward Max Novak, a native of New Jersey, becomes the third UC alum to suit up for the Devils (Keith Kinkaid and Kelly Zajac the other two).  In 35 games this season, he notched 28 points (10 goals, 18 assists) and had a +3 rating.  His most memorable goal came last season, as he scored the game winner in Union’s 7-4 national championship win over Minnesota in Philadelphia.  For his four year career, he has a total of 96 points (43 goals, 53 assists) in 141 games.

Saturday: With Mike Cammalleri out due to the flu and Patrik Elias suffering from back spasms, both Reid Boucher and Stefan Matteau were recalled under emergency conditions to New Jersey…only to both be scratched for the Devils 3-0 shutout loss to the Islanders.  They were both returned to Albany then recalled under regular conditions.

3/21 vs. Norfolk: 4-3 W

After Norfolk made a quick journey west to Binghamton on Friday (and lost 4-3 to the Senators), it was back to the Capital Region on Saturday for the rematch.  And finally, the Devils sleeping offense came to life.  Brandon Burlon finally broke Albany’s long scoreless drought early in the first period with his sixth goal of the season for a 1-0 lead.  It was the first goal for Albany in a span of 127 minutes and 40 seconds.  But Chris Wagner would tie it up midway through the period with a power play goal.  Then the Devils were forced to play shorthanded yet again as Dan Kelly took a 5 minute major and game misconduct for boarding Norfolk’s Mike Sgarbossa…but Wagner was called for roughing (and also fighting Kelly) on the same incident, creating a 4 on 3/4 on 4/Norfolk major power play situation.  And they would capitalize on that, taking a 2-1 lead on a Jaycob Megna goal.  The Devils would kill off the rest and mount a rally in the second period.  Raman Hrabarenka (6th) and Chris McKelvie (3rd) would score 3:04 apart midway through for a 3-2 Devil lead.  But John Kurtz would re-tie the game up just before the second ended.  The game remained deadlocked late…until another long drought was broken.  Matt Lorito, finally making his pro debut, scored on a power play with 5:21 remaining in regulation to put the Devils ahead 4-3.  It was their first power play goal since March 1st, snapping an 0-for-27 drought.  Albany survived an extra attacker late and held on for the win, breaking a 3 game winless skid and jumping from 12th to 10th in the Eastern Conference standings.  Scott Wedgewood picked up win #10, stopping 24 of 27 shots.  It was a balanced offensive attack for the Devils on this day: Burlon and Graham Black added two assists, while McKelvie, Hrabarenka, Seth Helgeson, and Rod Pelley each had helpers.

Highlights:

Lines:

Joe Whitney-Scott Timmins-Paul Thompson

Tim Sestito-Matt Lorito-Mike Sislo

David Wohlberg-Rod Pelley-Darcy Zajac

Chris McKelvie-Graham Black-Cam Janssen

Extra: Kelly Zajac, Ben Thomson, Max Novak

Defense:

Dan Kelly/Raman Hrabarenka

Brandon Burlon/Corbin McPherson

Seth Helgeson/Reece Scarlett

Extra: Joe Faust

Sunday: As a result of his major/game misconduct penalty on Saturday, Dan Kelly was given a one game suspension and had to sit out Sunday’s home game against Hartford.

3/22 vs. Hartford: 5-3 W

The long homestand finally came to an end on Sunday afternoon, as the Devils played host to the Wolfpack.  After a physical start, the visitors got on the board late in the first on a very lucky bounce off the stick of Joey Crabb for a 1-0 lead.  Carl Klingberg would double the lead late in the second period, and the way things were going for Albany it looked like another blow to their fading playoff hopes.  But then the third period happened.  Paul Thompson would get Albany on the board just 1:02 in with a power play tally (yes another one!), then exactly one minute later Mike Sislo would tie it up.  On another power play opportunity later, Scott Timmins would put the Devils ahead with his 8th goal.  Just 1:04 later, Raman Hrabarenka would add another power play goal for a 4-2 lead.  Oscar Lindberg would make things interesting late with a goal to put Hartford within one, but Tim Sestito would finish it off with an empty netter.  Lost in the comeback and tying a franchise record with 5 goals in a period was another good outing from Scott Clemmensen, who only needed to stop 15 of 18 shots to pick up the win.  10 Devil skaters had at least one point, with Sislo’s one goal/two assist performance leading the way.

Highlights:

Lines:

Joe Whitney-Scott Timmins-Paul Thompson

Tim Sestito-Matt Lorito-Mike Sislo

David Wohlberg-Rod Pelley-Ben Thomson

Chris McKelvie-Graham Black-Cam Janssen

Extra: Kelly Zajac, Darcy Zajac, Max Novak

Defense:

Brandon Burlon/Corbin McPherson

Seth Helgeson/Joe Faust

Reece Scarlett/Raman Hrabarenka

Extra: Dan Kelly

Conference Standings:

After Sunday’s action, here’s where everything stands in the East:

8. Springfield–75 points

9. Worcester–74

10. Albany–69

11. St. John’s–69

12. Lehigh Valley–65

13. Binghamton–64

The magic number to clinch stands at 32, while the tragic number is 17.

Pop Quiz: It’s a 2 part question this week.  Who holds the Albany AHL record for the best plus/minus rating for one season? And who has the worst?  Both answers are coming up.

Obligatory Fight of the Week:

Two for the price of one this week, because finally there’s video proof!  First up, Dan Kelly from Wednesday evening’s festivities:

Not long after that, it was Chris McKelvie’s turn in the ring, so to speak.

My Player of the Week:

The last two days have given quite a few candidates to choose from, so this week it’s being split.  Good to see Chris McKelvie break out with a goal and two assists, and both Brandon Burlon and Raman Hrabarenka had good offensive showings from the blue line.  Honorable mention to Matt Lorito for producing the game winner in his pro debut, hopefully the first of many goals to come.

Team Leaders:

Goals: Paul Thompson (26)

Assists: Joe Whitney (27)

Points: Paul Thompson (46)

+/-: Graham Black (+11)

Penalty Minutes: Dan Kelly (123)

Wins: Scott Wedgewood (10)

GAA: Scott Clemmensen (2.53)

Save Percentage: Scott Clemmensen (.906)

ECHL Update:

Myles Bell (Evansville): 41 GP, 10 G, 9 A, 19 Pts, -22, 25 PIM

Eric Baier (Orlando): 45 GP, 7 G, 11 A, 18 Pts, +8, 20 PIM

Mike Keenan (Orlando): 36 GP, 0 G, 10 A, 10 Pts, +4, 30 PIM

Ben Johnson (Orlando): 8 GP, 1 G, 5 A, 6 Pts, +7, 0 PIM

Maxime Clermont (Orlando): 18 GP, 9-6-0, 2.96 GAA, .900 Save Pct.

Injury Update: The only questions right now are the brothers Zajac, as Kelly is still nursing a nagging lower body injury.  Darcy sat out Sunday’s win and was the only player not in attendance for the team postgame autograph session, so not sure of his status.

This Week’s Schedule: A quick two game schedule for the Devils this week.  Just a ten hour bus ride to Norfolk awaits them, that’s all.  Friday and Saturday evening they close out their March slate by making their last trip ever to Virginia to take on the Admirals.  And if the two games this week were any indication…buckle up boys and girls.

Pop Quiz Answer: This week we’re looking at plus/minus ratings in Albany history.  The best belongs to Scott Pellerin, who was a +43 for the 1995-96 River Rats.  The worst is actually a tie: Jiri Bicek and Joel Bouchard both finished a -30 for the 2001-02 River Rats.

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