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Developmental Camp Wrapup (and Other News)

Before we dive into the events of this week’s developmental camp in Newark, there are some updates:

-The last original Albany Devil has left the building.  On Monday, Dan Kelly signed a 1 year deal with San Jose.  He leaves as the all time franchise leader in games played (352) and plus/minus (+44).  So if you’re keeping score at home…that’s 9 players, not counting those who remain unsigned, that have left the organization since May.  That number may soon increase to 10, as Marc-Andre Gragnani is rumored to be heading back overseas to an unnamed KHL team.

-However, the only coach the A-Devils has ever known will remain just that for the next two seasons.  It was announced early Saturday afternoon that the reigning AHL Coach of the Year Rick Kowalsky will stay on, along with assistant Sergei Brylin.  Kowalsky is the third longest tenured coach in the league, behind Roy Sommer (Worcester/San Jose) and Ken Gernander (Hartford).

-It looks like it could be the last season of AHL hockey in Newfoundland, with Monday’s announcement that the IceCaps will move to Laval, QC beginning in 2017-18.  After switching affiliations from Winnipeg to Montreal before last season, it was only supposed to be a temporary stay while a new arena was built in Laval, similar to what Philadelphia did with Adirondack while the PPL Center in Allentown was being constructed.

Now a few highlights from camp in New Jersey:

Interviews with Joe Blandisi, Nick Lappin and Josh Jacobs:

If you scroll down the New Jersey Facebook page…I highly recommend the Facebook Live Q & A with Blake Coleman.

Day 2 on Wednesday saw a 3-on-3 round robin tournament with the prospects divided into four teams, aptly named Team Stevens, Team Daneyko, Team Niedermayer, and Team Brodeur, after the four retired NJ numbers.  In the end, it was Team Stevens, lead by Jacobs and Blake Coleman, winning the tourney on a shootout goal by 2016 first rounder Michael McLeod.  After the tourney, everyone split up around the city of Newark for various community activities…some stayed behind to conduct a youth clinic, while others delivered bottled water to elementary schools or visited local hospitals.

Other team bonding activities? A cooking/nutrition class, a trip to the go cart track, and Yankees-Red Sox at the Stadium on Friday night.

Saturday afternoon came the Red-White Scrimmage.  After a scoreless first half, both teams turned on the offensive jets in the second.  Team White would hang on for a 4-3 victory, followed by a very long shootout for all participants just after.  I had the opportunity to make the trip down…

Blake Coleman representing Team White

Blake Coleman representing Team White

Ken Appleby

Ken Appleby

Full team photo...during pregame warmup.

Full team photo…during pregame warmup.

One of the purposes of this trip for me was to check out some of the current A-Devils (Coleman, Lappin, et al), but also to get an idea of who may be coming up over the next couple of seasons.  Who did I find the most impressive?  The SuperBuddies themselves, McLeod and Nathan Bastian.

For more photos from Saturday’s scrimmage, check out my full album on Flickr.

Now that camp is over…no more on ice action until training camp in September.  But there’s still comings and goings, and the schedule release (likely at least another month away) to look forward to the rest of the summer.

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Going Camping

It’s that time of the summer again…the annual New Jersey development camp.

From July 12-16th, 34 players–20 forwards, 10 defensemen, and 4 goaltenders–will be taking the ice at Barnabas Health Hockey House (the Devils practice facility) in Newark.  Full roster can be found below:

Forwards: Pavel Zacha, Blake Coleman, Michael McLeod, Nathan Bastian, Miles Wood, Brandon Gignac, John Quenneville, Nick Lappin, Joey Anderson, Brandon Baddock, Ryan Kujawinski, Jan Mandat, Kevin Rooney, J.D. Dudek, Chris Shero, Jesper Bratt, Joe Blandisi, Austin Cangelosi, Brett Seney, Blake Speers.

Defensemen: Yohann Auvitu, Steven Santini, Josh Jacobs, Colton White, Zach Berzolla, Gavin Bayreuther, Luke McInnis, Garret Cockerill, Marc Biega, Scott Savage.

Goaltenders: Ken Appleby, Evan Cormier, Matt Morris, Mackenzie Blackwood.

A breakdown of the roster:

-8 players made at least one appearance in Albany during the 2015-16 season.

-6 players are 2016 draft selections.

-18 are Devil draft picks.

-College ties: 6 players come from Boston College.  Other schools represented: Maine, Merrimack, Northeastern, St. Lawrence, Brown, and Providence.

-Family ties: Chris Shero is GM Ray Shero’s son (no pressure, kid).

-9 players are on a tryout basis.  Could there be another Joe Whitney or Matt Lorito in that group?  We shall see.

The schedule kicks off with two practice groups on Tuesday afternoon, followed by a 3 on 3 competition on Wednesday morning (open to the public), and a community visit later that afternoon.  Thursday will feature three off ice workout groups, and Friday will see on ice skills.  Saturday afternoon everyone will take part in an intrasquad scrimmage that will also be open to the public (if everything works out to plan, I will be in attendance for that).

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Offseason Notebook #6

The latest from the Notebook:

-The Captain is back!  Rod Pelley will be back for a fourth season as the leader of the A-Devs, signing a 1 year AHL deal.  He appeared in 65 games last season, picking up 8 goals and 5 assists.  During his three seasons wearing the C (just the third in Albany’s franchise history), he has only missed a total of 19 games, and the Devils have a combined record of 123-71-18-16, along with their only two playoff appearances.  With Pelley’s signing, there are only seven unrestricted free agent Devils remaining who need a home for 2016-17.

-Mark your calendars for 99 days from now…or October 15th.  Albany’s home opener!

-On Thursday, the American Hockey League announced at their Board of Governors meeting this year’s division/playoff alignment and a few rules changes:

The only divisions seeing any changes are in the Atlantic and Pacific, leaving the conferences unbalanced…14 Eastern teams, 16 Western teams.  Gone from the Atlantic is Portland (due to the move to Springfield), leaving that division with seven teams.  Tucson (via the previous Springfield franchise) will join the Pacific, and just like last season, all but the California Five and Tucson will play 76 games, while the remaining 6 play 68.  (Again, I ask…WHY? Oh…I mean, yay, more fun with math and percentages.)  The playoff format is slightly different this year, as just the top 4 teams in each division–no crossovers–will make the postseason.  First round is best of 5, with best of 7 for the remaining three rounds.

-As for the other rules changes?

From October-Christmas break, home teams will wear light colored jerseys.  After that, dark colors.  Okay.

No more dry scrape before teams start overtime.  Goodbye #dryscrape hashtag, one of my favorites to use.

So you want to fight in an AHL game?  Well, that could cost you:

If you drop the gloves with an opponent right after a faceoff, you’re done for the day…automatic game misconduct.

During the course of the regular season, get 10 fighting majors?  You’re suspended for one game.  Get fighting majors 11, 12, and 13?  Another game each.  14 majors?  That’s two games you miss.  Continue to get fighting majors after that?  Another two games each.

Last rule change involves icing…if you’re the offending team, no time out can be taken.

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Offseason Notebook #5

Today in the Notebook:

-Four more signings for the Albany roster came yesterday afternoon:

Returning for his second full season is forward Max Novak, signed to a one year AHL deal.  In 43 games last season, the New Jersey native scored three goals and assisted on 14 others, mostly playing third and fourth line minutes.  He also made three appearances in the postseason with no points.

Also coming back, but for his first full season, is forward Kevin Rooney.  After coming to the Devils on an amateur tryout deal on March 29th, the former Providence Friar performed well in his 7 game stint during the month of April, picking up 3 assists and even seeing some time in a top 6 role.

Two new players have joined the fold as well:

-The signing of forward Jan Mandat, which had been rumored since early June, became official yesterday.

-And a possible replacement for PL3’s role may be arriving in the form of former Oilers forward Luke Gazdic, signed to a 1 year 2 way deal.  He split last season between Edmonton and Bakersfield, appearing in 29 games and scoring once for the Oilers, and had one goal and two assists in 11 games for the Condors.  But if you really want to see his resume…just watch the following:

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Free Agency, Day 1: Boom Goes the Dynamite

That explosion you heard in the East was not from a Fourth of July celebration.  Or from a round of thunderstorms.

Nope.  That was the Albany roster as we know it blowing up.

On the first day of NHL free agency, a lot of players changed teams, but the AHL Devils took a huge hit, despite picking up three new veteran players that could see significant time here.

-Albany’s top 4 scorers from last season all have new homes, as Matt Lorito signed for two years with Detroit, and Mike Sislo and Jim O’Brien joined former Devil Joe Whitney in Colorado on one year contracts.  You may want to keep an eye on the San Antonio Rampage (Colorado’s AHL affiliate) after the day the Avs had.

-Also finding a new home: Pierre-Luc Leblond, as he signed a one year deal with Tampa Bay.  He’ll most likely be with Syracuse, taking over from David Broll as the primary enforcer (ironically the two fought each other a couple of times last season).

But, all was not totally lost, as New Jersey took care of a few of their free agents (DSP, Beau Bennett, Jon Merrill) and picked up Ben Lovejoy and Vern Fiddler.  And, three new vets who we’ll likely be seeing here come October:

Carter Camper#20 on the Big Board, the 27-year-old center spent all of last season with Hershey, picking up 34 points (9 goals, 25 assists) in 64 games.  He was second in the AHL in playoff scoring, scoring 6 times and assisting on 11 others in 21 games, and lead the AHL in playoff power play points (8).  He only has three games of NHL experience, all with Boston in 2011-12.  This will be his fifth AHL stop behind Providence, Springfield, Binghamton, and the Bears.  You can follow him on Twitter at @carter_camper.

Andrew MacwilliamThe 26-year-old defenseman spent all of last season in Manitoba, scoring once and picking up 14 assists in 72 games.  He started his career with Toronto after finishing his college career at North Dakota, getting in 12 games with the Maple Leafs during the 2014-15 season.

Karl StolleryAnother veteran signing on defense, the 28-year-old spent last season in San Jose with the Barracuda, where in 67 games he scored a career high 6 goals and 18 assists.  He started his career with the Avalanche organization, spending three seasons with Lake Erie before joining the Sharks.  He has some NHL experience, appearing in a combined 12 games with Colorado and San Jose in 2013-14 and 2014-15.  You can follow him on Twitter at @stolleryk.

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2016 Free Agent Tracker (as of 7/1/16)

Happy first day of free agency!  A few pieces of business before we get to the first official tracker of 2016:

-Add Raman Hrabarenka to the unrestricted free agent list, as he was not tendered a qualifying offer by New Jersey before Monday’s 5 PM deadline.  Reid Boucher and Reece Scarlett were tendered offers, and remain RFAs.

-Need a guide to who’s available on the minor league free agent market?  You have two sources to use: the Chirps from Center Ice official Big Board (which I had an assist in helping put together), or Highland Park Hockey’s list.

-Finally, mark your calendars for July 12th-16th, for the annual New Jersey development camp.  I’ll have more details on that later.

And now, your first scorecard for the summer:

Signed for 2016-17:

Pavel Zacha

Joe Blandisi

Damon Severson

Ryan Kujawinski

Vojtech Mozik

Blake Coleman

Blake Pietila

Ken Appleby

Ben Thomson

Ben Johnson

Scott Wedgewood

Seth Helgeson

Josh Jacobs

Nick Lappin

Yohann Auvitu

Jan Mandat

Brandon Baddock

Restricted Free Agents (all given qualifying offers):

Reid Boucher

Reece Scarlett

Unrestricted Free Agents:

Yann Danis

Marc Andre Gragnani

Pierre-Luc Leblond

Jim O’Brien

Dan Kelly

Brandon Burlon

Mike Sislo

Rod Pelley

Max Novak

Corbin McPherson

Matt Lorito

Joe Faust

Raman Hrabarenka

Moving On:

Brian O’Neill (signed with Jokerit 5/20)

Chris McKelvie (retired; named assistant coach at Army 5/25)

Graham Black (traded to Florida 6/10)

Paul Thompson (traded to Florida 6/10)

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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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