The New Class

It was a busy two days for New Jersey at the annual NHL draft in Buffalo.  A total of 9 players–7 forwards, 1 defenseman, and 1 goaltender–were picked, along with a trade on Saturday afternoon that provided the parent club with some depth.  Let’s meet the Class of 2016:

1st Round, 12th Overall: Michael McLeod, C, Mississauga (OHL)

After swapping places with Ottawa, giving the Senators the #11 slot and also picking up an additional third round selection, New Jersey chose McLeod, an 18 year old forward who just completed his second full season with the Steelheads, picking up 61 points (21 G, 40 A) in 57 games.  He also represented Canada in the World Junior Championships, scoring twice in 7 games.

2nd Round, 41st Overall: Nathan Bastian, RW, Mississauga (OHL)

New Jersey didn’t go very far for their second selection…they chose McLeod’s linemate (and self proclaimed social advisor).  Bastian also just completed his second full season with the Steelheads, scoring 19 goals and assisting on 40 others in 64 games.

3rd Round, 73rd Overall: Joseph Anderson, RW, USNTDP

With their first choice in round 3, the Devils chose Anderson, who just finished his third season with the US National Team Development Program.  In 25 games, he scored 10 goals and assisted on 10 others.  He will be starting his collegiate career with Minnesota-Duluth in 2016-17.

New Jersey would then trade the 77th pick to Pittsburgh for restricted free agent forward Beau Bennett.

3rd Round, 80th Overall: Brandon Gignac, C, Shawinigan (QMJHL)

Seven picks later, the Devils chose Gignac, who had a breakout third season with the Cataractes.  In 67 games, he scored a career high 24 goals and dished out 37 assists.  He also picked up 16 points in 20 playoff games (7 goals, 9 assists).

4th Round, 102nd Overall: Mikhail Maltsev, LW, Team Russia U18

Going outside North America for this one, the Devils chose Maltsev, who was on loan to Team Russia’s under 18 squad for the 2015-16 season.  In 29 games, the 18-year-old scored 11 goals and assisted on 12 others.

4th Round, 105th Overall: Evan Cormier, G, Saginaw (OHL)

Three picks after Maltsev, New Jersey picks a goaltender (cue groaning from the Devil fanbase).  Cormier just finished his second season with the Spirit, where he appeared in 58 games and went 21-27-7 with a 3.72 GAA and .890 save percentage.

5th Round, 132nd Overall: Yegor Rykov, D, SKA St. Petersburg 2

New Jersey’s first defense selection of the draft, Rykov is a 19 year old who split last season between three different SKA St. Petersburg teams.  He is slated to join the SKA KHL squad for 2016-17.

6th Round, 162nd Overall: Jesper Bratt, LW/RW, AIK (Sweden-2)

The third European of the day to be drafted by the Devils, Bratt (who won’t turn 18 until July 30th) picked up 8 goals in 48 games with AIK, playing in Sweden’s second tier.  He also represented the Swedes during the World Junior Championships, scoring twice in seven appearances.

7th Round, 192nd Overall: Jeremy Davies, D, Bloomington (USHL)

With the final selection, New Jersey chose Davies, a 19 year old Quebec native who just finished his second season with the Thunder.  In 60 games, he scored 13 goals and assisted on 36 others, leading all league defensemen in points.  He is committed to Northeastern University.

(Note: click on each name to check out full reports/reaction by All About the Jersey)

With the draft now completed, a few things to look forward to over the next week:

On Monday, qualifying offers are due to restricted free agents.  Then Friday at noon, free agency officially begins.  Stay tuned for my monthly trackers, and also for the annual AHL Big Board that will be out soon.

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Offseason Notebook #4

This week in the Notebook:

-The first hint of Albany’s preseason schedule was announced on Wednesday: they will travel to Wilkes-Barre on October 6th to face the Penguins.

And two new sets of birds have joined the AHL fold:

-On Wednesday, the Springfield Thunderbirds, formerly the Portland Pirates,  were introduced to the world.  The name (and in my opinion, the logo) comes from a combination of previous AHL franchises (the Indians, then the Falcons) and a tribute to two local Air National Guard bases.  The bird looks like a newer, more dressed up version of the Falcons previous mascot Screech (who may or may not be previous?  We shall see).

-Yesterday, the former tenants of the Mass Mutual Center, the Falcons, were re-introduced as the Tucson Roadrunners.  Personally I’m a fan of the new logo, reminiscent of former Roadrunner teams that played in Arizona since the mid 1960s, through the old Western Hockey League, the WHA, the Pacific Hockey League, the IHL, and the ECHL.  Then there are the many Looney Tunes puns that could come out of this (Acme sponsorship, anyone?)…

The notebook may be closed for the next two weeks, as I plan on a separate draft entry (which I hope to have out by next Sunday afternoon/evening), followed up by the first Free Agent Tracker of the summer July 1st.

 

Offseason Notebook #3

This week in the Notebook:

-On Tuesday, the full New Jersey preseason schedule was announced, and…again no game in Albany.  (Yes, four years later I’m still waiting for the make up from the lockout.)  The schedule begins on September 26th with a doubleheader of sorts…one squad will take on the Flyers in Newark, while the rest will travel to Montreal to face the Canadiens.  They play two at neutral sites…September 28th in Allentown against Philadelphia, and October 8th in West Point against Florida.  Two other matchups are at The Rock: October 1st against the Rangers and October 5th against the Islanders.  Full schedule can be found here.

-On Friday night, a trade with Florida went through that affected New Jersey’s cap hit and shook up the Albany roster.  The Devils acquired Marc Savard and a 2018 2nd round selection from the Panthers for Paul Thompson and Graham Black.  So why acquire a player who hasn’t been on ice since 2011?  Savard’s contract puts the Devils over the cap floor, and another draft selection for the future (between this year and 2018, New Jersey now has a total of 26 draft picks).  But it comes at a cost to Albany’s roster, which has seen four forwards leave before free agency has even begun.  It is most likely you will see both Thompson and Black in Springfield next year…and they will be coached by another familiar name in the Capital Region…

Segway to the latest news around the league…

-On Tuesday, former River Rats captain and assistant coach Geordie Kinnear was named head coach of the new Springfield franchise.  After spending a majority of his playing career with the River Rats, including the Calder Cup team in 1995, he retired as a player in 2001 due to injury and joined the coaching ranks, working as an assistant with the Rats during the last three years of the Carolina affiliation, then moving with the team to Charlotte, where he has remained behind the Checkers bench.

-And finally, break out the black spray paint can.  Congratulations to the Lake Erie Monsters, who finished off an amazing playoff run on Saturday night with their third sweep of the postseason, defeating Hershey 1-0 in overtime at home.  The Monsters, in their first season as a Columbus affiliate, won 15 of 17 playoff games, including sweeps of Ontario and the Bears, and finished the postseason on a 10 game winning streak.  Rookie Oliver Bjorkstrand was named MVP after scoring 10 goals in 17 games, including six game winners and three overtime winners, including the Cup clincher with just 1.9 seconds left in the first overtime of Game 4.

Offseason Notebook #2

Welcome to the month of June!  And the signings keep coming…

-Per RDS, the Devils signed center Jan Mandat to an AHL contract.  The 20-year-old native of the Czech Republic just completed his second season with Val d’Or (QMJHL), where he picked up 64 points (20 goals, 44 assists) in 62 games.  He added two goals in 6 playoff appearances.

-Also on Tuesday, New Jersey came to terms on a 3 year, 2 way contract with 2014 6th round draft pick Brandon Baddock, just getting in under the deadline to sign ’14 draft selections.  Baddock just finished his fourth season with Edmonton of the WHL, where this year he served as team captain and scored a career high 22 goals in 68 games, along with 13 assists and 143 penalty minutes.  He actually signed an ATO with Albany late in the 2014-15 season, but never appeared in a game.

Now to check on the Calder Cup Finals:

Hershey, after finishing off the Marlies in 5 games, find themselves in a 2-0 hole against Lake Erie as the series shifts to Cleveland on Monday night.   The Monsters have picked the right time to be on a hot streak, winning 13 of 15 postseason games (both losses to Grand Rapids in the second round), including their last seven in a row.  They can wrap up their first Cup as early as next Saturday.  Why so long in between games?  There’s another event called the NBA Finals taking over the Monsters home building this week, as the Cavaliers host Golden State in Game 3 Wednesday, Game 4 on Friday.