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.

Devils Draft Prospect Series: MacKenzie Blackwood

The Devils Draft Prospect Series continues with another 2015 draft pick but be sure to look through the “Draft Prospect Series” tag on the blog for the rest of the 2017 and 2016 draft picks. I covered the Devils’ first-round pick Pavel Zacha this morning.

The New Jersey Devils selected goaltender MacKenzie Blackwood 42nd overall in the second round of the 2015 NHL Entry-Level Draft. The 20-year old, 6′ 4″, 225-pound Canadian netminder is one of the Devils’ many goaltending prospects. He played three seasons with the Barrie Colts (OHL) and represented Canada at World Juniors before joining the Albany Devils (AHL) this past season. The Devils signed Blackwood to a three-year, entry-level contract in December 2015.

Here are some of his stats:

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In his OHL career, he’s posted a 2.93 goals against average and a .91 save percentage during the regular season; he has a career 2.73 GAA and a .914 save percentage in the postseason. Blackwood’s last year with the Colts was arguably his best, posting a 2.72 goals against average and .921 save percentage in 43 regular season games, and a 2.71 GAA and a .915 save percentage in 13 playoff games.

In 2013-14, he was named to the OHL’s First All-Rookie Team. In 2014-15 and 2015-16, he was an OHL All-Star, and in 2015-16, he was also named the OHL Goaltender of the Year.

Blackwood joined the Albany Devils last season and split games with Ken Appleby after Scott Wedgewood suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the fall. He posted a 17-14-3 record, a 2.55 GAA, and a .907 save percentage in 36 regular season games. He posted a 1-3-0 record, a 2.13 GAA, and a .928 save percentage in four playoff games as the Devils fell in the first round to the Toronto Marlies; Blackwood picked up the Devils’ lone win with a shutout. Here’s an article from Times Union about Blackwood, a rookie goaltender, leading Albany into the playoffs.

Here’s what Curtis Joe of EliteProspects had to say about Blackwood in 2014: “A goalie who stays calm, cool, and collected in all situations, whether down by five or leading by ten. Knows his game inside and out, and never panics. With his size, it isn’t a surprise that he excels in the traditional butterfly-style; plays the puck intelligently and is quick to react with both his blocker and glove hand. Swift, crisp lateral movements let him get into positions where shooters have nothing to shoot at. At the end of the day, you can never complain when you have a goalie who tries as hard, and plays as consistently, as Mackenzie Blackwood.”

Here’s Hockey’sFuture’s talent analysis: “Blackwood is a modern goaltender who plays a strong butterfly style which combines his size and incredible athleticism. He was one of the best athletes in his draft class and top performers at the NHL combine. Using this, he moves quickly for his size in the cease, especially laterally. By staying poised and being in the right position, Blackwood is able to play consistently each night. In order to reach the next level, he still needs to improve his stickhandling and patience in staying on his feet longer. He also feels he can always improve his hands.”

Here’s an extensive look at Blackwood, courtesy of The Hockey Writers, and it includes a one-on-one with him.

Blackwood is a good goaltending prospect for the Devils but he’s not the only one. Cory Schneider and Keith Kinkaid are still New Jersey’s starting goaltenders; Wedgewood might make the jump if one of them gets hurt or gets traded. Both Wedgewood and Blackwood could be trade bait if there is a team out there looking for a solid goaltending prospect to develop. Wedgewood still needs to sign a contract but Blackwood still has a year left on his entry-level. With a year in the AHL under his belt, he should have a good, better season. I’m excited to watch him play at development camp this week as well.

Devils Draft Prospect Series: Pavel Zacha

The Devils Draft Prospect Series continues today with a pair of 2015 draft picks; for the rest of the 2017 and 2016 draft picks, check out the “Draft Prospect Series” tag on the blog.

I know, it sounds weird to be doing a prospect profile on Pavel Zacha but he’s still technically a Devils prospect despite playing most of the season with New Jersey. He was selected sixth overall by the Devils in the first round of the 2015 NHL Entry-Level Draft. The 20-year old Czech center/left wing is 6′ 3″ and 214 pounds; he was ranked #8 among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting. He’s played in the Czech developmental system his entire life before playing two years with the Sarnia Sting (OHL) and then transitioning to the AHL/NHL. The 2016-17 was his rookie season with the Devils; he played 70 games.

Here are some of his stats (warning: there’s a lot):

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In his two years with the Sting, he had 98 regular season points (88 games), averaging 1.11 points per game, and 16 playoff points (12 games) (1.33 points per game). He had a much better 2015-16 campaign than 2014-15. Both years were marred by injuries and he has a bit of a concussion history (he suffered one this season with the Devils as well). He was named to the OHL’s First All-Rookie team in 2014-15 and was named one of Sarnia’s assistant captains the year after.

In 2015-16, Zacha joined the Albany Devils at the end of the season for eight games and picked up six points. He was called up by New Jersey to make his NHL debut in the last game of the season; he had two assists on the night. He did not join Albany’s postseason run this year.

The following year (this past season), Zacha made his official, more-than-just-one game Devils debut and picked up 24 points in 70 games played. He did suffer a concussion in the spring and missed a few games. He got off to a very slow start but picked up the pace as the year went on and had a very good second half of the season. Here’s an article from nj.com about how Zacha turned his season around.

Zacha had eight goals and 16 assists, and 13 of those 24 points were on the power play. He found some chemistry on a line with Jacob Josefson and Stefan Noesen; Josefson joined the Sabres and Noesen hasn’t re-signed with the team but Zacha could find success on another line.

Curtis Joe of EliteProspects said this about Zacha in 2015: “Pavel Zacha is an offensively dynamic center with the size, speed, and skill to make a significant impact on the game. He can play physical, but is at his best when using his high-end offensive abilities, such as his shot, stickhandling, and footspeed, to generate numbers in the opposition’s end of the ice. All-in-all, Zacha is a lethal weapon that can be depended upon to create, and finish, dangerous scoring chances whenever he is on the ice.”

Here’s Hockey’sFuture’s talent analysis: “Zacha is an offensively dynamic forward who can make a significant impact on the game with his combination of size, speed, and skill. The centerman can beat defenders one-on-one when he is on the rush with the stick on his blade where he can overpower most opponents to generate scoring chances. Zacha also puts a lot of power into his wrist and slap shots. The physical challenges of hockey do not seem to bother him but he would prefer to create scoring chances rather than get into shoving matches. Personality-wise, Zacha is coachable, has a workmanlike attitude in the gym, and a positive charisma.”

His future potential? He should make the Devils lineup straight out of training camp; I don’t see him starting the year in Binghamton. I’m expecting him to have a breakout NHL year, especially offensively. With the Devils’ abundance of centers, I could see him moving over to left wing. I liked what I saw when he played with Taylor Hall but Hall is likely going to stick on a line with Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac.

I’d like to see Zacha continue to play at the NHL level. Some more development in the AHL would benefit him; he could “overcook” like Joe Blandisi and John Quenneville have. He’ll be better for it but after spending all season in New Jersey, I don’t think he’ll go back to the AHL for any significant amount of time. He is attending development camp next week so that should be fun!

Devils Draft Prospect Series: Jeremy Davies

The Devils Draft Prospect Series continues today with the final 2016 draft pick; I took a look at Jesper Bratt this morning. Also, be sure to check through the “Draft Prospect Series” tag for the rest of the 2016 draft picks and every 2017 draft pick. I’ll jump into 2015 draft picks tomorrow!

The New Jersey Devils selected D Jeremy Davies 192nd overall in the seventh round of the 2017 NHL Entry-Level Draft. The 20-year old Canadian defenseman is 5′ 11″ and 181 pounds. He played junior hockey in Canada before crossing south of the border and playing in the USHL. After playing for both the Waterloo Black Hawks and the Bloomington Thunder, he committed to play college hockey at Northeastern University (NCAA) and completed his first year there in May.

Here are some of his stats:

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In his first year with Northeastern, he scored 23 points (eight goals, 15 assists) in 38 games and picked up as many penalty minutes (38). Here’s an excerpt from Northeastern Athletics’ website delving into the specificities of his year: “[Davies] has played in all 36 games this season, and is eighth in defensemen scoring and ninth in rookie scoring in Hockey East with 21 points (eight goals, 13 assists) this season … Recorded his first collegiate points with a power play goal and an assist against Arizona State (Oct. 22) … Picked up an assist against No. 4/4 Boston University (Nov. 4) … Had a season-high two assists against No. 9 Notre Dame (Nov. 12) … Scored a goal against No. 19 Providence (Nov. 18) … Netted a power play goal at No. 4/3 Boston College (Dec. 6) … Picked up an assist at Michigan State (Dec. 18) … Scored a goal at Frozen Fenway against New Hampshire (Jan. 14) … Netted the eventual game-winning goal against Merrimack (Jan. 20) … Picked up an assist at Merrimack (Jan. 21) to extend his scoring streak to three games … Had a career-high four points (one goal, three assists) at Massachusetts (Jan. 31) … Picked up an assist against No. 10/10 UMass Lowell (Feb. 3) … Had an assist at Connecticut (Feb. 17) … Had a power play goal and two assists at Maine (Feb. 25) … Logged a power play goal against Connecticut (Mar. 4).”

So Davies had a pretty good rookie season. Here’s an excellent article from SB Nation College Hockey about Davies and his season on Northeastern’s blue line. The article mentions that he’s been compared to Philadelphia’s Shayne Gostisbehere so I’ll take that.

The year prior, he played for the Bloomington Thunder in the USHL and had quite the year. He scored 49 points in 60 regular season games and six in eight playoff games. He was named to the USHL First All-Star Team; he also had the most assists by a defenseman (36) and most points by a defenseman (49) in the league. Not bad, eh?

I know there’s a lot but why not?

Davies has played really well throughout his young junior/professional hockey career. Even as a defenseman, he’s put up points on a consistent, night-in and night-out basis. He’s produced as if he was a forward, which is great because that means he’s an offensive-minded defenseman who still focuses on playing defense.

Northeastern Head Coach Jim Madigan said, “Jeremy is someone I think most Husky fans are going to come to watch and really appreciate the skill and intelligence that this young man brings. He’s from Montreal and played in the USHL for Bloomington these past two years. This year he was an All-USHL First Team selection, which is a difficult feat to accomplish. He was the leading defensive scorer in the USHL and he’s someone who will break us out of our own zone. He’s really intelligent, a good skater, jumps up in the play well and supports the play. He’s just not an offensive player, he plays 200-feet, but he does it with an effortless approach. He might remind some players of Jim Averill, who was so smart and did it with so much efficiency and effectiveness.”

I think Davies is one of the New Jersey’s most underrated picks. I might be a little biased (because, college hockey) but I like him and I think another year or two at Northeastern could do wonders for his development. He is 20 so he might not choose to stay all four years at Northeastern and instead decide to kickstart his professional career. I’m excited to see him again at development camp and possibly training camp.