Tag Archives: Prospects

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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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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