Devils Development Camp 2017: Michael McLeod, Nathan Bastian

2016 first-round draft pick Michael McLeod and second-round draft pick Nathan Bastian are two of the most anticipated (possible) additions to the New Jersey Devils lineup in the fall but before they get to opening night, they to go through training camp and before that? The Prospects Challenge. And before that? The offseason. And what happens during the offseason? Development camp.

McLeod had an excellent 2017 development camp. It was his second one and he’s taken several gigantic steps forward. Fans were a little skeptical about drafting him last year but I think their worries are gone. He had an excellent 2016-17 season with the Mississauga Steelheads (OHL) and I was really looking forward to seeing what he could do at development camp.

McLeod didn’t disappoint. He looked like an NHL player throughout camp; he scored goals and tallied assists. He seemingly looked disappointed every time he had to get off of the ice when his shift was up. He’s a phenomenal skater, one of the best in the OHL. He’s an offensive juggernaut with the Steelheads and has the capability of becoming one in the NHL. His passion for the game is unparalleled.

 

Bastian, on the other hand, wasn’t as noticeable on the ice but he looked good this past week. His physical presence is one the Devils do desperately need. He has excellent hockey sense as well. He has the versatility of playing either right wing or center. He’s shown that he’s willing to learn and he’s made improvements over his years in the OHL.

His 2016-17 season also got off to a slow start, just like McLeod, but both of them picked up the pace midway through. Bastian then suffered a knee injury in the middle of the season but I’ve watched enough Steelheads games to know how he and McLeod play. He didn’t contribute offensively as much as McLeod did but he’s not a super offensive guy.

Because he’s already played four years with the Steelheads, Bastian will play with the Binghamton Devils (AHL) in the fall and potentially get some face time in the NHL. One of Bastian’s other advantages is that he’s played right wing, a need that the Devils are desperately looking to fill.

McLeod and Bastian had a memorable Snapchat takeover when the Devils prospects were treated to a dinner cruise on the Hudson River. They also scored back-to-back shootout goals after the Red vs. White scrimmage on Saturday.

Here’s what Bastian and to say about McLeod, via NHL.com:

“He’s the real deal,” Bastian said of McLeod. “You could tell after his participation for Canada at the [2017 IIHF] World Junior Championship that he took another step. No one could really stop him in the second half and he was lights-out in OHL playoffs.”

And here’s what McLeod had to say about Bastian:

“He’s good at both right wing and center,” McLeod said of Bastian. “He’s good down the middle and is able to use his speed more and is good on faceoffs. I liked playing with him when he was on wing in my draft year because he was so good at getting the puck off the boards and at protecting the puck.”

Both prospects are eager to learn and ready to make the team. And where one of them goes, the other follows. Both of them have been OHL All-Stars the past two years. Bastian is the “A” to McLeod’s “C”. They even use the same stick. McLeod might be a little closer to making the jump to the NHL than Bastian is but both can play at that level eventually and they’re both legitimate NHL prospects.

The OHL really doesn’t have much left for McLeod and he really, really, really wants to play for the Devils; he told Mike Morreale (NHL.com):

“I think I feel like I’m [NHL] ready,” McLeod said. “I’ve put on weight, have gotten faster and my shot has gotten a lot better. I feel like I’ve figured out the OHL. I’m hoping I could get to the NHL as soon as I can.”

And Bastian knows he still has (a little) room for improvement:

“I think I need to be quicker and be able to get 200 feet up and down the ice faster in order to play center in the NHL,” Bastian said. “I’m working on it. I’m gaining strength in the gym and on the ice, and that’s the most important thing.”

Here’s a pair of articles about McLeod and his feelings about next season, one from nj.com and one from NBC Sports. Hopefully both of them can make the jump to the NHL. McLeod would have to make the team straight out of training camp because otherwise, he would be returned to the Steelheads and would have to play out the full year there before returning to New Jersey. Bastian, as mentioned earlier, will be eligible to play in the AHL, regardless of whether or not he cracks the opening night lineup. But either way, it will be nice to see them wearing red and black, and playing on the same line again in the future.

Note: don’t forget to check out my posts on Nico Hischier and Pavel Zacha, Miles Wood, and Steve Santini!

Devils Development Camp 2017: Pavel Zacha, Miles Wood, and Steven Santini

New Jersey Devils development camp saw some familiar faces this week: Pavel Zacha, Miles Wood, and Steven Santini, all of whom played their rookie NHL seasons this past year. This was Zacha’s third development camp but Wood and Santini’s fifth and while all three of them are familiar with the Devils system, they added a “veteran” presence to the camp and helped the younger prospects get acclimated. Wood even referred to himself as an old guy but don’t get ahead of yourself there, buddy.

Santini and Wood roomed with Nico Hischier (who I wrote about yesterday) and Michael McLeod, both of whom could crack the Devils lineup this fall. Hischier and Santini went out to dinner with some of the older Devils veterans, while Zacha accompanied a few of the other prospects to dinner at Dinosaur BBQ in Newark. All three of them have really developed their leadership skills despite being some of the youngest in the Devils locker room.

And these three aren’t afraid to say what’s on their mind and make bold statements either. Zacha told the crowd at the open scrimmage on Wednesday, per Andrew Gross, that “we have to make the playoffs next year.” And while Wood didn’t mention the playoffs, he talked about something that’s slightly more important: “I want to be a leader on the team. I’m not afraid to say it.” They’ll both have a chance to deliver on their statements. Even Zacha, who couldn’t participate in last year’s development camp because he was recovering from an injury, is spending the offseason training in New Jersey. If that isn’t dedication, I don’t know what is.

Zacha had this to say to NJ.com:

“I feel better that I can work out, not worry about injuries,” Zacha said. “I can do full body workouts, stay here. I have everything here. I have coaches that I work with all season, so they know what’s best for me. Here I can go on the ice whenever I want, I’ve never had anything like this. I’m really happy to have the opportunity to stay here the whole summer.”

So how did these three do at development camp? Pretty well actually. Let’s start with the 2015 first-round pick. Zacha, coming off of an up-and-down season in New Jersey, looked much better during the second half of the season but looked like a totally different player at development camp. Whatever he’s doing this offseason is clearly working. He’s gone a little under the radar as of late with all the buzz about Hischier and some of the other draft picks but don’t forget about him. He led his team (Team Daneyko) to victory during the 3-on-3 scrimmage last Wednesday, going undefeated in all three matchups.

Zacha has a lot to prove this upcoming season. Can he be the top-six center that hockey analysts have chalked him up to be? Can he become the offensive juggernaut that fans were hoping for when the team drafted him? Maybe. He had a steep learning curve last season but hopefully his rookie struggles are behind him.

Wood also hit his rookie wall in January of this past season after getting off to a fast start, pun completely intended, but he looked good at development camp too. He looked good with Hischier and they both could be on the same line to at least start the season; imagine how much trouble they could cause opposing defensemen. Just imagine. I’m getting giddy just thinking about it.

He looks like a better skater and can actually stop on the ice when his feet are going faster than his mind. His defensive game has improved a little. He hasn’t had significant improvements like Zacha has but like Zacha, I think Wood has found his confidence.

Santini, too, is developing into the NHL-caliber defenseman that the organization hoped he could be. He’s taken a few steps forward during development camp and throughout the 2016-17 season but he’ll still have to earn his roster spot in the fall. If the Devils do acquire another defenseman before the conclusion of the offseason, Santini will have to fight for a roster spot with the addition of Mirco Mueller. Andy Greene, Damon Severson, John Moore, Ben Lovejoy, and Dalton Prout are all stay a part of the team’s blue line.

All three of them made their NHL debuts in that memorable game against Toronto on April 9, 2016, and now all three of them are looking to take another step forward and have a bigger impact on the team during their sophomore seasons. They’ve already shown glimpses of their leadership skills in the development camp locker room and are going to continue to develop into NHL mainstays.

Zacha, Wood, and Santini have all taken steps forward but even after completing their rookie seasons in the NHL, they still have plenty to learn. They’re going to translate their development camp success into training camp and regular season success, and help this team get off of the ground. It’s hard to imagine any one of them not spending most of the upcoming season in New Jersey, especially if Hischier and McLeod need familiar faces in the Devils locker room (but I’m getting ahead of myself).

Devils Development Camp 2017: Nico Hischier

New Jersey Devils Development Camp officially ended yesterday and it offered our first look (for many) at some Devils prospects, as well as a better look at some of the older ones. Some of these players have a chance to crack the lineup in the fall (there will hopefully be a post on that sometime soon) while others, especially some of the younger ones, still need some development. Overall, I was truly impressed by all of them but even after watching the Devils’ first overall pick Nico Hischier in several Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL) games, I’m still surprised at what he can do, and how he carries himself on and off the ice.

I haven’t been able to get my hands on too much footage from development camp so I hope that changes but for now, I’ll write about what I do have.

Here is some footage from NJ.com, courtesy of YouTube:

First and foremost, I absolutely love watching Nico skate; he’s such a fluid skater and it’s like poetry in motion. His turns are sharp. He doesn’t have any problems starting or stopping. But second, you’ll notice that he’s fast. Watching him and (Miles) Wood play together was fun, and if he and (Michael) McLeod ever play on the same line together, you might not even see both of them on the screen. They’ll just be blurs. With his speed and his ability to maneuver on the ice, Hischier could also be responsible for a few beautiful breakaway goals next season.

Third, he likes scoring goals. He’s not afraid to shoot the puck if he has it regardless of whether or not he can actually score. He didn’t offensively breakout during development camp which is fine because we didn’t expect him to. He scored a couple goals over the course of the week, including one posted down below. Having a “shoot first” mentality really isn’t a bad thing considering that the Devils really haven’t done well putting shots on goal over the course of the past few years.

But as much as he likes scoring goals, Nico likes creating them too. He isn’t afraid to pass the puck either. He’ll make the pretty plays. He’ll make the difficult plays but he’ll still make them. No matter who he plays with in the fall, he’ll make them better players and better scorers.

The following video isn’t exclusive to just Hischier but he does score at about the 2:04 mark:

I really like the way Nico plays and the way he handles himself on and off the ice. He’s a well-spoken kid with a good head on his shoulders and he hasn’t given Devils fans a reason not to like him. He did seem a little out of breath, according to multiple people on Twitter, but that’s not something that concerns me. He still has time this offseason to put on some more muscle (if he chooses to do so). He hopefully learned a lot this week not just about hockey but about himself, the team, the organization, the city, and the fans.

Here’s an interview he did with MSG Network:

GM Ray Shero had this to say about Hischier after development camp:

“He’s been everything I had hoped he would be; I know this isn’t an evaluation but certainly his on-ice skill set is really fun to watch,” Devils general manager Ray Shero said. “He’s a really respectful kid and the way he carries himself I think is really nice to see and he has interacted well with the younger players and the veterans that came in. That’s his upbringing, but it’s been a great learning week for him and it’s been nice to see the type of person he is as well.”

And here are a few articles from NHL.com, one talking about how Hischier knows he has to earn a spot on the team this fall and one discussing the 10 things you might not know about the first overall pick. I’m also currently struggling to find the article but one of my favorite tidbits about Nico is that if he could meet any athlete, it would be fellow Swiss countryman and 19-time Grand Slam Champion, Roger Federer. That makes my hockey/tennis heart happy.

And before heading back home to Switzerland for a bit, Nico made sure to get some official business out of the way:

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He signed his three-year, entry-level contract with the Devils on Saturday and will wear #13, only the second Devils player in team history to do so (the other: Michael Cammalleri). He wears the number because he idolized Red Wings’ legend Pavel Datsyuk as a kid and says that he models his style of play after him.

(Edit: Nico actually chose #13 because his older brother Luca wears the same number. Andrew Gross talks more about it here.)

I’m really excited for Nico to put on the Devils uniform (officially) in the fall. I don’t know if he’ll make the team out of training camp or not but I hope he does. I’m glad he gets to wear #13 and I hope he’s a New Jersey Devil for life but before that, he’ll have a good offseason and he should be ready to go come August and training camp. We’ll hopefully get to see him play a little more at The Prospects Challenge in Buffalo in September as well as at camp. Development camp was far too short but I’m already impressed. October should be fun.

Devils Development Camp 2017: Recap

New Jersey Devils development camp officially came to an end yesterday. It was a fun week for both the players and the fans, especially for those who were able to watch the scrimmages in person. Not a ton of footage has been posted on the Internet just yet but as soon as the Devils do, it will be dissected as well. But for now, here’s a general overview of development camp.

Players arrived in Newark on Monday; here’s a complete roster of those who attended.

They warmed up with some soccer and then hit the ice.

Here’s a complete photo album from Day One.

Day Two started with off-ice workouts and Coach Hynes was there to observe.

The Devils announced development camp teams A and B. Team A consisted of forwards Joey Anderson, Brandon Baddock, Jesper Boqvist, Ryan Kujawinski, Nico Hischier, Brandon Gignac, Blake Speers, Aarne Talvitie, and Miles Wood; defensemen Yaroslav Dyblenko, Joshua Jacobs, Colby Sissons, Reilly Walsh, and Colton White; and goaltenders MacKenzie Blackwood and Evan Cormier.

Team B consisted of forwards Nathan Bastian, Austin Cangelosi, Robert Carpenter, Nicolas Guay, Michael McLeod, Nikita Popugaev, John Quenneville, Marián Studenič, Pavel Zacha, and Fabian Zetterlund; defensemen Jocktan Chainey, Jeremy Davies, Michael Kapla, Michael Kapla, and Steven Santini; and goaltenders Ken Appleby and Gilles Senn.

The Devils also announced that forwards John Quenneville and Brandon Gignac, and goaltender Gilles Senn would not be participating on the ice due to injuries for mostly precautionary purposes. Senn did play a little further on in the week.

Tuesday night, the Devils prospects attended a cooking class and had their own Iron Chef competition. They learned how to prepare healthy meals and had some fun in the process.

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Day Three was the 3-on-3 scrimmage, the one open to Devils Season Ticket Holders who RSVPed well in advance for the event. Here were the rosters:

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After two rounds of play, Team Daneyko led the way with a 2-0 record, Team Niedermayer and Team Brodeur went 1-1, and Team Stevens was 0-2.

Team Daneyko, led by Pavel Zacha, went 3-0 to win the 3-on-3 scrimmage championship (is that the official name for it or…?).

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Also on Team Daneyko, defenseman Joshua Jacobs has been on all three 3-on-3 scrimmage championship teams over the past few years. Here’s a recap and here’s a photo album from the event.

That night, Pavel Zacha and a few of the prospects went out to dinner at Dinosaur BBQ in Newark; he took over the Devils’ Instagram story for the night.

Thursday was an off-ice day. The prospects were split up into three (four) different groups to venture out into the Newark community and get involved. The first group stopped by the Newark Library to read to the kids:

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The second group (Jeremy Davies, John Quenneville, Aarne Talvitie, and MacKenzie Blackwood) headed to the Goodwill in Newark to serve food.

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The third group skated with kids through Hockey in NJ, an excellent program that helps kids in state play the sport.

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And the fourth group visited little kids at the Newark Beth Israel Medical Center.

After they finished their community visits, they came back together to go on a boat cruise on the Hudson River, sailing from Exchange Place in Jersey City and passing landmarks like the Statue of Liberty and One World Trade Center.

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Here’s a complete recap from Day Four. Miles Wood took over the Devils’ Instagram story while SuperBuddies Michael McLeod and Nathan Bastian took over the Devils’ Snapchat to cover the event.

Friday, July 14 was highlighted by the Devils prospects taking on the Escape the Room challenge in Montclair. They were split up into four teams for the competition and all four teams made it out within the time frame. Joey Anderson took over the Devils’ Snapchat for that. Here’s a recap of that.

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Saturday was arguably the main event of development camp, when the prospects were split into two teams (Team Red and Team White) and competed against each other. Devils fans were on hand to watch and cheer. Here were the official rosters:

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Team White edged out Team Red, 6-5, with Nathan Bastian’s game-winning goal with 2:30 remaining in the scrimmage. Steve Santini, Nico Hischier, Jocktan Chainey, Joey Anderson, and Ryan Kujawinski all scored for Team Red while Reilly Walsh (2), Fabian Zetterlund, Michael McLeod, Robert Carpenter, and Bastian tallied goals for Team White. Walsh, Bastian, McLeod, and Jesper Boqvist (2) all had shootout goals.

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The Devils had a point system in place all week long and they awarded points for a variety of different things; tryouts Carpenter and Nicolas Guay finished with the top two point totals, and MacKenzie Blackwood finished third.

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And that is a wrap on Devils Development Camp 2017. Expect plenty more coverage throughout the next week or so. I’d like to do recaps of players that stood out to me and I definitely want to take a long hard look at Hischier, as well as players who could crack the Devils lineup in the fall. As August arrives, I’ll start looking ahead to training camp and who I think will be in the opening night lineup, who might stay up/down next season, breaking down the Devils’ 2017-18 schedule, etc.

#IsItOctoberYet?

Devils Officially Sign First Overall Pick Nico Hischier To Three-Year, Entry-Level Contract

Executive Vice President/General Manager Ray Shero officially announced today that the New Jersey Devils signed their 2017 first overall pick, Nico Hischier, to a maximum three-year, entry-level contract, with a $925,000 AAV (average annual value) plus performance bonuses. The Devils won the draft lottery back in April and chose Hischier in Chicago on June 23rd. He participated in his first Devils development camp and had an impressive showing (more on that to come within the next few days).

Hischier is the highest-drafted Swiss player ever. He had a phenomenal 2016-17 season with the Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL) and Team Switzerland in his first year in the North American system. The 18-year old center had 93 points in 63 games with the Mooseheads. He was named to the QMJHL All-Rookie Team, was named the QMJHL Best Professional Prospect (Mike Bossy Trophy), the QMJHL Offensive Rookie of the Year (Michel Bergeron Trophy), and the QMJHL Rookie of the Year. He had the most goals (38), assists (48), and points (86) by a rookie in the QMJHL as well. In four separate international tournaments, Hischier scored 39 points in 30 games.

Hischier will wear #13 with the Devils. For just a little more on Hischier, here’s a draft profile written about a month and a half ago. There will be plenty more to come now that development camp is coming to an end (once the Devils upload scrimmage footage).

Check out the official release from the Devils.

Devils To Participate In The Third Annual Prospects Challenge

The New Jersey Devils will partake in The Prospects Challenge for the third year in a row at the KeyBank HarborCenter in Buffalo, NY courtesy of the Buffalo Sabres, alongside the Sabres, the Boston Bruins, and for the first time, the defending back-to-back Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins. The Challenge will take place from September 8-11, about a week before the 2017-18 preseason gets underway; check out the Devils’ preseason schedule here.

The Prospects Challenge is a round-robin-type tournament, in which each team plays each other team once over the course of the four days. Each game will be held at the HarborCenter and no games will be played on Sunday, September 10. Tickets are $10 and will go on sale Monday August 7 at 10AM EST. They can be purchased either at the KeyBank Center Box Office, by phone at 1-888-223-6000, or at sabres.com.

Full Schedule:
Friday, September 8
3:30PM – Pittsburgh vs. Boston
7PM – Buffalo vs. New Jersey

Saturday, September 9
3:30PM – New Jersey vs. Pittsburgh
7PM – Buffalo vs. Boston

Monday, September 11
12PM – Boston vs. New Jersey
7PM – Buffalo vs. Pittsburgh

Here’s the official release from the Sabres and here’s a follow-up from the Devils (they both say pretty much the exact same thing).

Devils Development Camp 2017: 16 Players To Look Out For

This post is just a little late but hopefully not too late.

New Jersey Devils development camp officially started yesterday with both on- and off-the-ice activities, and there will (hopefully) be a recap of days one and two posted tonight. There will be a 3-on-3 scrimmage at 10AM, open to Season Ticket Holders who RSVPed. And even though development camp is underway and this probably should have been posted on Monday, here’s a list of players to look out for at development camp throughout the rest of the week, presented in no particular order.

C Nico Hischier – this one’s obvious. This is the first exposure to Hischier for most Devils fans, who didn’t watch him play with the Halifax Mosseheads (QMJHL) at all last season. Development camp is an opportunity for us to see what he can do, but also for him to grow and learn and get acclimated to the team, the organization, and the area. It’ll be good for him (and the rest of the 2017 draft picks) to meet other young players in the system, some of whom might be teammates down the road.

C Michael McLeod – McLeod has a really good shot at cracking the Devils lineup come September (October?) and he’s someone you should definitely be watching anyway. He had a phenomenal 2016-17 season with the Mississauga Steelheads (OHL), leading them to the OHL Cup Final for the first time in franchise history. He’s played three years in juniors but looks like he could be ready to crack the lineup. If he has an excellent development camp, training camp just became that much more competitive.

C Nathan Bastian – don’t forget about the other SuperBuddy, Nathan Bastian. He’s played four years in the OHL for the Steelheads and will officially enter the Devils’ system this fall. Whether or not he plays in Binghamton (AHL) or in New Jersey, rests in his hands. If he breaks out this year during both camps and throughout the offseason, he could start the season in New Jersey but even if he doesn’t, I would hope that the coaching staff would bring him for at least some games throughout the year.

C Pavel Zacha – coming off of his rookie season, Zacha has to prove that the second half of 2016-17 wasn’t a fluke for him. He’s had a year to adjust to the NHL and to grow, learn, and develop. He’s one of the veterans at development camp and has seemingly taken Hischier under his wing (as have Santini and Wood); he’s getting along really well with some of the younger players. But Zacha has to prove that he can stay in the lineup, night-in and night-out.

D Steven Santini – Hischier’s development camp roommate is also coming off of his rookie season with the Devils and is fighting for his chance to start the season in New Jersey. He was one of the bright spots in what was an otherwise abysmal blue line. He’s young but he’s growing as a defenseman and should take several steps forward during development camp and training camp.

D Michael Kapla – Kapla played just five games for the Devils after UMass Lowell’s season ended and he signed a two-year, entry-level contract in March, a contract that expires at the end of the upcoming season. While I don’t see any reason why the Devils wouldn’t re-sign him, he’s essentially playing for a contract. The Devils’ blue line is getting younger and faster, and with Santini, Damon Severson, and Mirco Mueller also in the mix, Kapla is fighting for a roster spot too.

LW Miles Wood – ah yes. Our team leader in penalty minutes this past season. Wood knows that even though he fights on the ice, he’s fighting for a roster spot too. He told the media three important things yesterday: one, that his end-of-the-season shoulder injury is healed and he’s good to go; two, that Santini is a good roommate; and three, that he said, “I want to be a leader on the team. I’m not afraid to say it”, per Andrew Gross.  That, to me, is incredible coming from a 21-year old. You can see his leadership skills developing here at camp with the younger kids but also on the ice with New Jersey, when he drops his gloves to defend teammates. He may or may not crack the opening night lineup but when he does get called back up, you bet he’s going to make an impact.

RW Joey Anderson – Anderson is one of the only true right wings in the Devils organization right now. We know how severe the situation is at right wing and while Anderson may or may not crack the opening night lineup in the fall, he’s coming off of a good first season at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, a good Frozen Four (NCAA) tournament, and a pair of good World Juniors tournaments, representing Team USA. I would expect the coaching staff to take a good look at him, especially if he has a good development and training camp.

D Reilly Walsh – Walsh is another 2017 draft pick whom we haven’t seen much of, except for maybe YouTube highlights. He’s a great defensive prospect and while he probably won’t crack the lineup this year, he’s someone worth watching out for because he could in the future. I like what I’ve seen from him so far and I’m excited to see what he’s capable of doing.

LW Jesper Bratt – Bratt signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Devils last year so he’s “officially” a Devils prospect. He wants to stay with the organization and the organization wants him. He has a shot at cracking the lineup this upcoming season too but that all rests on his development camp and training camp. I would expect the coaching staff to take a look at him (they’re hopefully taking a look at everyone).

C Blake Speers – another Devils center who could potentially crack the opening night lineup. Speers has played four years with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the OHL and is looking to make the jump to the NHL. He played three games for the team in 2016-17 and joined Albany (AHL) for their postseason. He could add speed and energy to the Devils lineup, and I’d like to see him get some consistent playing time. He’s someone you might see playing at the Rock in the fall.

D Colton White – the Devils’ other prospect from Sault Ste. Marie and Speers’s friend, is a great defensive prospect too and has also played four seasons with the Greyhounds. He’ll likely play (at least) one season in the AHL before potentially playing for New Jersey but that depends on his development and training camps, but also on how the Devils blue line evolves this upcoming season. If some of the “older” players are traded (i.e. Ben Lovejoy, Dalton Prout, John Moore), that’ll make way for some younger defensive prospects and White could be one of them.

C Jesper Boqvist – the Devils’ second 2017 draft pick is definitely someone to watch out for. It was a bit surprising that they decided to select yet another center but Boqvist has also played some wing. He’s a great skater and he’s played in the Swedish system his entire hockey career so it’ll be fun to see how his game translates to North America. This will also be a first look at him for many Devils fans who haven’t seen him play before, myself included.

LW Nikita Popugaev – he’s garnered comparisons to Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin, another Russian, which is enough to want to watch him play but Popugaev is great on his own. He’s a great prospect and I’m surprised that he fell to the Devils but he’s ours now. Again, this will be many Devils’ fans first look at him, despite the fact that he’s played the past two years in the WHL. He’s definitely someone to keep an eye on.

G Ken Appleby – a goaltending prospect! Devils fans actually got to see him this year, backing up Cory Schneider for a game and playing the rest of the season in Albany (AHL) because Scott Wedgewood missed most of the season with a shoulder injury. He’s someone the Devils are going to groom to eventually take over the mantle when Schneider (and Keith Kinkaid) retire. Wedgewood or Blackwood might be trade bait but none of their futures are set in stone. He had an up-and-down season but with both Wedgewood and Blackwood healthy, Appleby might spend the season in the ECHL with the Adirondack Thunder.

G MacKenzie Blackwood – Albany’s other goalie also had a bit of an up-and-down season but he helped out a team with a severely depleted lineup due to the amount of injuries that New Jersey had this past season. It’ll be fun to see just how much he’s grown as a goaltender and as a person at camp and then in Binghamton (AHL). He’s someone who’s also being groomed to take over the mantle come Schneider and Kinkaid’s retirements but we’ll see what happens.

LW Robert Carpenter and F Nicolas Guay – I guess this makes this list 17 players and not 16. One of two tryouts at development camp, Carpenter is a 20-year old left wing out of Massachusetts who’s played the last seasons with Boston University (NCAA). He’s played in the U.S. developmental system and is someone who could sign a contract with the Devils if he has a good camp. The team could always use more depth at wing. This will be our first look at him and potentially what he can bring to the organization.

The Devils’ second tryout at development camp, Guay is an 18-year old Canadian forward who’s played the last two seasons in the QMJHL. I reiterate what I just wrote about Carpenter. Guay could sign a contract with the Devils. We’re (probably) watching him play for the first time and I’m excited to see what both he and Carpenter can do.

And I know that isn’t a complete list because everyone at development camp is worth watching and taking notes on. I would have added both John Quenneville and Brandon Gignac but they’re out for the week, as is 2017 draft pick Gilles Senn. Senn could return by the end of the week but that has yet to be determined.

The 3-on-3 scrimmage is underway!

Devils Draft Prospect Series: Colton White

The Devils Draft Prospect Series ends today with the last 2015 draft pick; I covered his best friend and teammate Blake Speers this morning. Before Devils development camp begins Tuesday, check out the rest of the “Draft Prospect Series” tag on this blog for every other 2017, 2016, and 2015 Devils draft pick.

The New Jersey Devils selected D Colton White 97th overall in the fourth round of the 2015 NHL Entry-Level Draft. The 20-year old Canadian defenseman checks in at 6′ 1″ and 192 pounds; he shoots left. He’s played the last four seasons with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL) and was an assistant captain the past two years, while Speers was Captain; White was named an OHL All-Star as well for the first time. He will make his Devils debut this fall, either with Binghamton (AHL) or with New Jersey.

He signed a three-year, entry-level contract with (Blake) Speers last September and celebrated by getting 12 stitches.

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Here are some of White’s stats:

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White isn’t an offensive-minded defenseman but he can chip in every now and then. He describes himself as a two-way defenseman and has good hockey sense. He’s pretty good in his own zone; he’s not physical or aggressive all that much. He’s smart, he knows how to handle pucks, and he sees the ice well.

Here’s what Tyler Parchem of Elite Prospects had to say: “Also wore #8 for London Jr. Knights Gold Min Mdgt in 2011-12. White is a smart defenseman who skates well and makes good passes. He was buried on a deep Soo team this season so his numbers are lower then they could have been on a weaker team. He is not overly physical on the backend but has a good stick and is often in the right position to break up the play. Could potentially break out next season and could be a smart pick in the later rounds (2015).”

Here’s Hockey’sFuture’s talent analysis: “White is a smart defenseman who skates well and makes good passes. He is not overly physical on the backend but has a good stick and is often in the right position to break up the play. Recently, he has shown a surprising rise in his offensive talent and production. With his ability to keep pucks in at the blue line and how well he sees the ice on the point, the case could be made that he could work as a quarterback on the power play. He does have to improve his shot. Increased confidence at the point could open up new possibilities for the blue liner.”

In the same “stitches” article from earlier, White mentions fellow Devils defensive prospect, Steven Santini:

“White enters camp coming off a strong showing at the Prospects Challenge in Buffalo, drawing plenty of opportunities on penalty kills and skating with another strong defenseman prospect, Steven Santini.

“The first game I was a little hesitant and stuff, but the second I think I was a little more confident,” White said. “Steve is a big confidence boost on the backend, and he’s actually my roommate here, so he’s been a good mentor for me.””

And he talks about training camp:

“”That’s huge for me coming in to camp, earning my first contract, sort of all my hard work paying off now,” he said. “More work starts now, and I need to compete for a spot on this team. If I don’t make it, I’ll go back to juniors and do big things there, hopefully make an impact there.””

White and Speers will be attending their third development camp together and I’m excited to watch both of them play.

White should have a good development and training camp. I wouldn’t expect him to make the team (New Jersey) straight out of training camp in September but I’d expect the team to take a few more good looks at him throughout the season. It would be nice to bring him up for a few games, especially if the Devils end up trading away a defenseman.  But for now, I’m eager to watch the both of them tear up the AHL with the Devils in the fall.

Devils Draft Prospect Series: Blake Speers

The Devils Draft Prospect Series continues today with the two remaining 2015 draft picks: Blake Speers and Colton White, best friends, OHL teammates, and hopefully, NHL teammates. Be sure to go through the “Draft Prospect Series” tag for the rest of the 2017, 2016, and 2015 draft picks up until this point.

The New Jersey Devils selected C/RW Blake Speers 67th overall in the third round of the 2015 NHL Entry-Level Draft. The 20-year old Canadian forward is 6′ 0″ and 185 pounds. He played a few years in Bantam and midget hockey before playing four years in the OHL with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds; he led them to the playoffs all four years and Captained the team his last two. This past year, he also played three games for the Devils and a pair of playoff games for Albany (AHL). He also represented Canada at World Juniors and won a silver medal. This upcoming season, he’ll be playing in Binghamton (AHL) and he’ll hopefully see plenty of NHL time.

Speers and best friend/teammate Colton White signed their three-year, entry-level contracts last summer.

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Here are some of Speers’s stats over the past several years:

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Speers is first and foremost an offensive threat. In four years with the Greyhounds, he averaged more than a point per game in all but one season, his rookie season. He’s been a constant playoff presence as well. His offense has been consistent throughout his entire junior career; his Bantam and midget numbers are remarkable. His point production is something the Devils could desperately use so hopefully his offense translates to the NHL (and the AHL) level.

His career OHL numbers are pretty impressive. He has 215 points (84 goals, 131 assists) in 217 regular season games, averaging nearly a point per game, and 30 points (10 goals, 20 assists) in 46 postseason games, averaging about 0.65 points per game. He was named to the OHL’s First All-Rookie Team in 2013-14, played in the CHL Top Prospects game in 2014-15, and was named an OHL All-Star in 2015-16. He was named the OHL Player of the Week (March 14-20) in 2016.

He had a decent World Juniors tournament, picking up three points in seven games. Here’s an article from January about Speers’s World Juniors tournament.

Here is what Curtis Joe of Elite Prospects had to say about him: “For Blake Speers, offense is the best defence. Has slick hands and good overall puckhandling skills. Great passing ability and a very accurate shot. Plays a puck possession game; not diminutive in size, persay, but does need to get stronger. Not afraid to battle along the boards, but his size does show through against bigger opponents. Has all the tools to be a successful contributor when played in the right role (2014).”

Here’s Hockey’sFuture’s talent analysis: “Speers is a smooth skater who can transition through all three zones with speed. The forward has put in a lot of effort to become a two-way player which makes him able to play in most situations. Offensively is where his strength lies thanks to his slick hands and good puckhandling skills. He can make accurate passes and take good shots on net. Most of all, Speers is a very smart player. Because of his size, he has to use his hockey sense to outwit opponents, see the play develop before it happens and act on it. Overall, Speers is a coachable player who wants to compete every night no matter his role.”

Here’s a Q&A that Speers did with The Hockey Writers. He talks about a bunch of different things: White, playing against other Devils prospects, training camp, and AHL and professional hockey, so be sure to check that out.

Speers will be at Devils development camp again (with White) and he’ll be fun to watch. He won’t be playing any more junior hockey; fingers crossed, he’ll start the year with New Jersey like he did this past season and we’ll go from there. I’d like to see him get consistent NHL time. The team needs speed, youth, and energy, and Speers brings all of that. He usually plays center but the coaching staff could experiment with him at right wing. Unless he has an awful development and training camp, I don’t see any reason for him to not start the year in the NHL.

Devils Draft Prospect Series: Brett Seney

The Devils Draft Prospect series continues today with another 2015 draft pick; I looked at both Pavel Zacha and MacKenzie Blackwood today. Check out the “Draft Prospect Series” tag for the rest of the 2017 and 2016 draft picks before development camp gets underway on Tuesday.

The New Jersey Devils selected LW Brett Seney 157th overall in the sixth round of the 2015 NHL Entry-Level Draft. The 20-year old Canadian left wing is 5′ 9″ and 170 pounds. He played for the Kingston Voyageurs (OJHL) for two seasons before committing to Merrimack College (NCAA) and has played there the last three years.

Here are some of his stats:

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In 102 NCAA games, Seney’s scored 29 goals and 54 assists, picking up 83 total points. He has 127 penalty minutes. He was named to HockeyEast’s All-Academic Team this past season and was a 2017 Hobey Baker nominee.

Seney has speed and skill but his size and strength are a big concern.

Here’s Hockey’sFuture’s talent analysis: “The first thing you notice about Seney is his speed. He is one of the fastest skaters in Hockey East and a dangerous transition player. Complimenting that with his offensive skills makes him a threat to score when he gets a step on his defender either on the rush or in the offensive zone. His size will be a concern going forward, but Seney is motivated by current NHLers Tyler Johnson, Brian Gionta and other diminutive scorers who have gone on to have great success. The area he wants to improve upon is his defense so he can become an all-around player.” They also go on to compare to two other former Devils forwards, Brian and Stephen Gionta.

Here’s an article from nj.com (June 2015) on Seney and his Devils aspirations and here’s a draft profile from SB Nation College Hockey. Here’s a good excerpt:

“Seney is undersized, but there were very few players with better speed in Hockey East this past season. There were a couple goals he scored during the first half where he picked off an errant pass in the neutral zone, circled back into the zone and just completely blew past the defense en route to an easy goal.

His quickness and ability to make plays with the puck really showed in transition as a majority of his goals and assists came on the rush. He also made several highlight reel assists by waiting to draw the defense and goaltender to him before slipping a pass to a linemate hitting the backdoor.

One weakness to his game was his defensive zone coverage, but that is somewhat expected as a younger freshman in Hockey East, coming out of the OJHL — a junior league often known for its offense. Seney was -9 in his last 11 games. He was +12 in his first 23 games.”

His future? Seney was invited to Devils development camp (I believe) but he won’t be attending. He’ll likely play his senior year at Merrimack this fall before pursuing a professional career next year.