At first glance, the Devils have quite a bit of depth at left wing but not enough and this is an area that GM Ray Shero will have to address this summer.
The team has a number of left wings either on New Jersey’s or Binghamton’s (Albany’s) (AHL) rosters. New Jersey mainstays include Taylor Hall, Miles Wood, Joseph Blandisi, and Michael Cammalleri, while their AHL roster also has Blake Pietila, Ben Thomson, Luke Gazdic, Rod Pelley, among others.
I don’t need to tell you how good Hall is. He’s not perfect but he’s pretty damn good. Even with a not-so-great team around him and an inconsistent line and a few injuries this season, he still tallied 20 goals and 53 points. Imagine what he could do next season when he’s healthy, plays a full season with Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac, or has a top line center to play with. Hall’s offensive numbers dipped a little bit compared to the rest of his career numbers but he’s playing on a team that is offensively challenged and has consistently been one of the lowest-scoring teams in the league. If he still somehow managed to get 53 points, he’s a keeper and I hope he gets to show off his skills in the playoffs soon.
Wood had a decent rookie year too; he made the team out of the gate but was sent down to Albany for a little bit. He came back up in November and spent the rest of his season in New Jersey. He scored his first NHL goal against the Jets in November and he scored seven times after that (and he had nine assists). He played 60 games with the Devils this season and tallied 86 (!) penalty minutes, good for the team lead (a full 40 minutes ahead of the team’s second, Palmieri). Wood has given the team some much-needed life with his speed and his ability to pump up a crowd, and should be here to stay. He’s only 21 and still has a lot to learn but he’s valuable to this team.
Blandisi played just 27 games with New Jersey this year; he was in Albany in order to “overcook” and he came out a better player because of it. He tallied nine points (three goals, six assists) and had 26 penalty minutes. I think everyone’s favorite moment(s) of his season were his assist on buddy John Quenneville’s first NHL goal (against the Rangers) and his overtime winner (against the Rangers, same game). And just because it’s worth reliving:
Blandisi should be on the team out of the gate this upcoming season; he’s proven that he belongs here, and his chemistry with Quenneville and his speed are both assets. If he can stay out of the penalty box, he could be a game-changer going forward.
And we end up at Michael Cammalleri, who had a particularly brutal year. He’s never been a healthy scratch with the Devils before this season, when he was scratched for a few games mid-season. He played 61 games and tallied just 31 points, his lowest point total since his 2011-12 campaign with Calgary when he had 19 points in 28 games. For comparison purposes, he scored 14 more points with 2 more games played during the 2013-14 season with Calgary. He just wasn’t good this year. He looked lost on the ice. He had a natural hat trick against Carolina, which we thought might be the turning point of his season but it was not. He does have a no-trade clause so if he’s not taken by Vegas, I don’t know what the Devils would do. He’s currently signed to a 5-year, $25 million contract through the end of 2018-19, when he’ll be an unrestricted free agent.
Pietila, Thomson, and Gazdic also spent a little time in New Jersey this season; none of them, in particular, have “wowed” anyone.
On to New Jersey’s draft history. The Devils have drafted at least one left wing in each draft in team history except for the 2015 draft (they drafted two centers, two defensemen, and a goaltender) and the 2010 draft (two defensemen, two goaltenders, and a right wing). They drafted Mikhail Maltsev and Jesper Bratt last year, Brandon Baddock in 2014, and (Miles) Wood and Myles Bell in 2013.
Maltsev (205 lbs, 6′ 3″) played for Russia’s VHL and MHL. His career VHL numbers (one season) are two goals, 13 assists (15 points), and 21 penalty minutes in 34 games played (averaged 0.44 points per game). His career MHL numbers (two seasons) are 16 goals, 21 assists (37 points), and 22 penalty minutes in 43 games played (averaged about 0.86 PPG). He’s been in 17 playoff games and he has nine points (four goals, five assists) and a World Juniors silver medal to show for them. He probably won’t make the jump over to North America soon, if at all.
Bratt (174 lbs, 5′ 10″) recently signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Devils. He’s represented Sweden on an international level for a good part of his career; he’s played in the AIK for the last four years. He will probably play for Binghamton in the upcoming 2017-18 season and he’s someone the Devils should consider bringing up from time-to-time.
Baddock (216 lbs, 6′ 3″) spent the last year with the Adirondack Thunder (ECHL) and the prior four years (and a portion of a fifth year, his first) with the Edmonton Oil Kings in the WHL. He was Captain of the Oil Kings in 2015-16 and he wore the “A” in 2014-15. He had just two assists point-wise in 21 games played in the ECHL but his career WHL numbers are better: he had 54 goals and 49 assists (103 points, 480 penalty minutes) in 255 games played (averaged about 0.40 PPG). He will likely play for Binghamton this upcoming season.
Bell (220 lbs, 6′ 0″) played just two games with the Albany Devils in 2014-15 (no points) but spent last season in the Canadian Chinook Hockey League and the season before in Norway. You won’t see him on the Devils roster.
So there isn’t a ton of left wing depth either. Expect Hall, Blandisi, and Wood to anchor their lines next season. The Cammalleri situation is a predicament but maybe (hopefully) he won’t be around next season; the team needs to get faster and younger. Both Bratt and Baddock will possibly make their Devils debuts next season but the Devils should draft at least one left wing in this year’s draft, maybe even two. They could develop into the left wings that both New Jersey and Binghamton need. Keep an eye out for a post after the NHL Scouting Combine at possible left wing prospects who the Devils might consider drafting!
Part four of the Devils’ depth evaluations series will be up tomorrow! I take a look at a position that the Devils definitely don’t need any more of at the moment.