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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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.

 

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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.

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