Tom Fitzgerald Hired as Devils’ Assistant GM

The Devils have made yet another change in this whirlwind of an offseason. They have hired Tom Fitzgerald as Assistant General Manager to Ray Shero. The Devils never had an Assistant GM under Lou Lamoriello.

Fitzgerald has deep ties to Shero, having worked with him in the Penguins organization as Director of Player Development, as an assistant coach on the club’s 2009 Stanley Cup championship team and, as Assistant to the General Manager under Shero. He also served as Assistant GM of the Pens from June 6, 2014 (after Shero had left) to his move to the Devils.

In addition to that, during his playing days, he served as the first team captain of the Nashville Predators for their first four years of existence while Shero was with them.

His bio on the Devils’ website notes that he played 17 professional seasons in both the NHL and AHL, with the Islanders (by whom he was drafted in the first round, 17th overall in the 1986 Entry Draft), Florida (with whom he went to the 1996 Stanley Cup Finals), Colorado, Nashville, Chicago, Toronto and Boston. He played in the AHL from 1988-89 to 1991-92 with Springfield and the Capital District Islanders. A native of Billerica, Massachusetts, he represented Team USA at the 1989 and 1991 World Championships and the 1987 World Junior Championships. He attended college at Providence College for two seasons (1986-87 to 1987-88) where he played one season with none other than Lou Lamoriello as his coach.

He appeared in 1,097 NHL games, with 139 goals, 190 assists and a total of 329 points, adding 776 penalty minutes. In the playoffs, he had seven goals, 12 assists for 19 points and 90 penalty minutes all in 78 postseason contests.

This move is a good one, as it gives Shero another person he can rely on in the front office. Although the sting of Lou Lamoriello leaving is still fresh in many Devils fans minds, this should strengthen the front office even further.

More on Lou Lamoriello’s Departure

With the huge news coming down yesterday of Lou Lamoriello’s resignation from the Devils and hiring by the Maple Leafs to be their next General Manager, I thought I would give a few more thoughts on the whole situation.

Reading some of the reaction of Devils fans around the Internet, the majority of them seem to be a mixture of shock and a feeling that it is what was best for both Lou and the team. Echoing Ken Daneyko’s thoughts to Dan Rosen of NHL.com, they feel somewhat bittersweet. For some fans, Lou was the only constant they have known throughout their lives as Devils fans. Players came and went, but Lou was always there like a member of the fan’s family. Having been with the team for almost thirty years and been the one to build the team from a “Mickey Mouse organization” as characterized by Wayne Gretzky to three-time Stanley Cup champions, there becomes a bond that fans have with the GM that many thought would never be broken.

But now Lou is in Toronto hoping to bring glory back to a team that was a proud franchise in the days of the Original Six, but since expansion has tasted very little. They were the last Stanley Cup champions of the Original Six era in 1967, but have not even made it to the Finals since the league doubled in size during the 1967-68 season.

They came close a few times during the days of Cliff Fletcher as GM, Pat Burns as coach and Doug Gilmour as captain, going to the Campbell/Western Conference Finals two years in a row in 1993 and 1994, but that was it. They lost in 1993 to Gretzky and the Kings and in 1994 to the Vancouver Canucks.

Now, after giving the Devils a history they can be proud of, the task comes to him to reclaim the Leafs’ proud heritage. As I pointed out in yesterday’s blog, Lou will not be able to hide much of anything from the media in Toronto. Things will leak out and he might find it more frustrating to do things the same way he did them in New Jersey. Time will tell on that. Lou is a very smart man; he most likely knows this and will adjust accordingly. If he lets his stubbornness get the better of him, there could be a rough time between him and the media horde that follows the Leafs on a daily basis.

When change happens around the Devils, it happens in a hurry. In the last two years, we have lost broadcaster Chico Resch, who ended his longtime association with the club to go in to retirement, longtime goalie Marty Brodeur, who went to the St. Louis Blues to finish his career and take a position in management there, former team captain and on again/off again coach Scott Stevens, who was replaced when John Hynes was brought in, longtime scout David Conte and the Devils parted ways and, of course, Lamoriello being replaced by Ray Shero and eventually leaving for Toronto. With all of that change, Devils fans whose heads aren’t spinning are going to be more than a little upset. That is okay too. However, there is only one way to quell any unrest amongst the fans, and that is winning. If the team puts a good product on the ice and it results in capital gains over the next few seasons, then all will be forgiven.

One thing that we know is that both teams will be in good hands going forward. Lou’s track record speaks for itself and he will lead the Maple Leafs well over the next three years of the contract he signed there. As for the Devils, it is like team co-owner Josh Harris told Rich Chere of the Star-Ledger in an interview: that he, Lou and (Devils’ co-owner) David Blitzer agreed “that people like Ray Shero don’t come along every day and that it was an ideal time to think about the next number of years for the Devils.” There is no doubt that Ray Shero has a vision for the Devils. It may take a few years for everything to play out, but the Devils should be in good hands going forward.

In addition, both teams showed incredible class in the whole situation. Brendan Shanahan and the Maple Leafs offered an official “thank you” to the Devils organization for allowing Lou to move on to them. Likewise, the Devils owners officially thanked Lou in a statement and Lamoriello even took out a full page ad in the Star-Ledger thanking Devils fans and the people of New Jersey for the last 28 years.

In the end, the word that Ken Daneyko used best sums things up, as this is truly a “bittersweet” ending for the Devils and their fans. While we may have witnessed the end of an era in Lou leaving, we are also setting off on a new course for the New Jersey Devils. One that will hopefully be more successful than in recent years and will give Devils fans something to cheer about as the team returns to its former glory.

Winds of Change Persist: Lamoriello Resigns as Devils President, Hired as New Leafs GM

In another change in a summer of upheaval for the New Jersey Devils, Lou Lamoriello, the rock of the franchise for 28 years, has resigned as President of the team and has been named General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Lamoriello had stepped down as GM of the Devils earlier this summer and was replaced by Ray Shero.

The three-time Stanley Cup champion and Hockey Hall of Famer was hired by the Devils on April 30, 1987 when he was named the team’s second President, according to a press release on the Devils official site. He was hired from Providence College in his native Rhode Island and became General Manager and President prior to 1987-88 training camp. The Devils would go on to make a Cinderella playoff run that season, going all the way to game seven of the Wales Conference Final before ultimately losing to the Boston Bruins, a measure of success that the franchise had never known before. This success would set the tone for Lamoriello’s tenure in the Garden State. Over time, the Devils would win three Cups, five Eastern Conference championships and nine Atlantic Division championships as well as the Patrick Division Playoff championship in 1988.

But Lou did not only win at the NHL level. The recipient of the 1992 Lester Patrick Trophy for service to hockey in the United States and the U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer also served as GM for Team USA in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, which the team won and at the 1998 Winter Olympics (the first to feature NHL pros at the Olympics). In addition, during the time the New Jersey Nets of the National Basketball Association and the Devils were both a part of George Steinbrenner’s YankeesNets group, Lou served as the CEO of the Nets. During his time with the Nets, the team would make two consecutive NBA Finals appearances in 2002 and 2003. He served on the NHL Board of Governors’ Executive Committee as well. In addition, when he was with Providence College as athletic director and hockey coach (a post he held for 15 seasons going 248-179-13 according to the Devils’ press release), he led the Friars to 12 straight post-season tournaments. This includes a trip to the 1983 Frozen Four (as it is now known).

The Devils’ press release includes some amazing stats regarding Lou’s time in New Jersey. While he served as GM, the Devils went 1,093-779-268 for a .578 winning percentage (incidentally, he had the exact same winning percentage as coach of the Providence Friars) during the regular season. They went 136-116 in the playoffs for a .540 winning percentage. In addition, during the last two decades, the Devils had the second-best NHL records overall, going 396-275-110 for a .577 winning percentage in the ‘90s and 422-223-95 for a .634 winning percentage in the 2000’s.

Now, Lou brings all of this to the Toronto Maple Leafs, a team that has not tasted Stanley Cup success since 1967. He joins former Devils player and Leafs President Brendan Shanahan (who credited Lou at the Draft for teaching him a lot of what he knows about management) in an effort to rebuild a franchise that has missed the playoffs for nine of the past ten seasons. Toronto also has a new coach going into the season: the high-priced former Red Wings bench boss Mike Babcock (who called the Lamoriello signing a “home run” for the Leafs organization) and have made moves like dumping perceived malcontent Phil Kessel. Will Lou be able to work his magic in a city that is notorious for its unrelenting press coverage, hungry for every little bit of news it can get from the Maple Leafs? Lou certainly cannot play it as close to the vest as he did in New Jersey with the Toronto media, that is for sure.

Another thing that comes out of this whole affair is that Lamoriello was apparently not as okay with stepping down as GM as he initially let on. Will Devils fans be able to cope with the change? If the season goes south, will the blame be shifted to Devils’ owners Joshua Harris and David Blitzer for “tinkering” with things too much? Will the inevitable comparisons between Lou’s style and that of Shero come sooner or later from the fans? These are real questions that will be answered in time.

One thing to keep in mind is how the team needed a change “as sad as that is” Ken Daneyko told Dan Rosen of NHL.com. Daneyko went on to say that the day is “bittersweet” in that while it is a fresh change for New Jersey, it is also like losing “your mentor.”

But Ken Daneyko is now one of the last of his kind. One of the fans’ last links to the Devils’ glory days, seeing as how most have moved on. Most know that this is a business. They do not call it professional hockey for nothing, but it still hurts on some level. However, the team was left in more than capable hands and has an incredibly bright future. The coming season will be a test, but no one ever said this would be easy.

Devils Head into Development Camp with Signings, New Look

In the heat of the summer, Devils fans already looking towards hockey season can get their fix with some news bits surrounding the team’s annual development camp, which has already started at the AmeriHealth Pavilion practice rink at the Prudential Center.

Among that news is that the Devils have come to terms with defenseman Eric Gelinas on a new contract. The new deal, at an annual value of $1,575,000 over two years according to General Manager Ray Shero on the Devils website, gives the Devils continued depth on the blueline. According to the Devils’ website, Gelinas led the team’s defense in scoring last year when he notched six goals. He had a total of 19 points (good for fourth amongst the defense corps). He played in 61 games last year (a career high for the 24 year-old, taken 54th overall in the 2009 Draft by New Jersey). Last year, he was second among defensemen on the team with nine points on the power play (ranked fifth on the team). His rookie year of 2013-14, he finished tied for third in the NHL among rookie defensemen with 29 points in 60 games played. Gelinas has 13 goals, 35 assists for 48 points and 64 penalty minutes in 122 career games played overall.

Another signing comes from a player who has yet to play a game in the NHL, but does come from a good pedigree. John Quenneville, the Devils’ first pick, 30th overall in the 2014 Entry Draft has signed a three-year entry level contract according to GM Shero. The 19 year-old comes in from the Western Hockey League’s Brandon Wheat Kings, where he played in 165 regular season games and had 50 goals, 74 assists and 124 points over his career to go with 148 penalty minutes. In the playoffs, he had 15 goals, 17 assists and 32 points to go with 28 penalty minutes in 28 games total. The 19 year-old native of Edmonton also represented Canada at the 2014 Under-18 World Championships (where they won a bronze medal) and Team Pacific at the 2013 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge (they won silver). He won gold with Team Alberta at the 2011 Western Canada Under-16 Challenge Cup. All of this comes from the Devils press release on their website.

After a successful junior career with Brandon, Quenneville comes to Jersey with a highly touted background. He is, of course, a cousin of the Chicago Blackhawks’ two-time Stanley Cup champion coach, Joel Quenneville (who himself is a former Devils player). He also helped lead Brandon to the WHL Finals and was named the WHL Player of the Week for the period ending April 26, according to his bio on the Devils’ site. He posted a regular season high goal and three assists for four points in a game on October 24 against the Kamloops Blazers last year.

Among some of the notables who are in attendance at the development camp include goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood, the team’s second round draft pick this year; forward Joseph Blandisi, Blackwood’s talented teammate on the OHL’s Barrie Colts; forward Reid Boucher, who has seen some time with the NHL club over the last few seasons; goaltender Anthony Brodeur, son of the great Martin Brodeur who comes to the team from the QMJHL’s Drummondville Voltigeurs; forward Blake Coleman, standout at Miami of Ohio; forward Matt Gaudreau, New Jersey native and brother of Calgary Flames rookie sensation Johnny; Russian all-star Sergey Kalinin (forward); Michigan Tech forward Blake Pietila; defenseman Steven Santini from Boston College; and Damon Severson, a defenseman who has also had time with NHL Devils.

The Devils are looking to get younger throughout the lineup and the development camp is the first step to see who will be able to crack the lineup with the big club and where they will end up come October.

Devils and David Conte Part Ways

According to a report on NHL.com and the Devils’ official website, the Devils have opted not to renew the contract of longtime scout David Conte.

Conte, who served as the Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations since 2006, had been with the team since 1984-85 when he joined the organization full-time as a scout and was Director of Scouting since 1993. Devils General Manager Ray Shero was quoted in the press release as saying: “David and I have had numerous discussions regarding his future. Based on our conversations, I believe it is in the best interests of our organization to pursue other opportunities and to not renew his contract.” The GM also thanked Conte for his 31 years of service to the team and that “the search for his successor will begin immediately.”

Conte, who the article on NHL.com mentions had a hand in drafting such great NHLers like Brendan Shanahan, Bill Guerin, Martin Brodeur, Scott Niedermayer, Brian Rolston, Sergei Brylin, Patrik Elias, Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta, also helped to sign undrafted players like John Madden and Brian Rafalski (as the article mentions by name) and others like Andy Greene.

The 66 year-old graduate of Colgate University had previously served as a scout with the Washington Capitals with GM Max McNab (who would go on to work for the Devils as well) after spending his post-collegiate playing career in Europe (he played in Finland, Italy and Spain). It was there that he made a number of connections that allowed him to succeed in his NHL scouting career. In fact, the Devils’ old media guides used to specifically note his expertise in evaluating U.S. college and European talent, although as his track record shows, he was equally adept at finding talent in any player no matter where they played.

It seems this has been said a lot during this offseason, but the parting with David Conte is yet another “end of an era” for the Devils organization. Conte was responsible for helping to build three Stanley Cup winning teams and a lot of the team’s success over the roughly twenty-five year period from 1988 to 2012 can be attributed to his drafting. But, the Devils have not been where they were used to being: in the playoffs and at the top of the standings. It is because of this that management felt a change needed to be made, and with a new GM comes a new team with him. Shero is going to want his guys surrounding him and that is OK. The end result in professional sports should be to win. If Ray Shero feels that they need a change in their outlook when it comes to scouting and that it will be in the best interests of the New Jersey Devils, then that is how it has to be.

I am sure that most Devils fans everywhere are very appreciative to David Conte for all that he has done for the franchise during his tenure here. He brought some of the all-time greats in Devils (and NHL) history into the league. I am also sure that most fans would wish him the best of luck in the next step in his illustrious career.

Three More Signings Complete Devils’ Week

The Devils finished out the first week of free agency by inking three more players to contracts: forward Jim O’Brien, defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani and goalie Yann Danis. The three players each bring different dimensions to the Devils’ depth chart and can contribute to the club if given the opportunity.

O’Brien comes to the Devils after splitting last season with the KHL’s Novokuznetsk Metallurg and the AHL’s Hershey Bears. The 26 year-old, 6-foot 2-inch, 200 pound forward had 10 goals, 19 assists and 29 points with 26 penalty minutes in 32 games for Hershey, according to the Devils website. The native of Maplewood, Minnesota has NHL experience with the Ottawa Senators, of whom he was the 29th overall pick in 2007’s Entry Draft. He is another graduate of the United States Development Program to join the Devils, having played there in 2004-05 and 2005-06. He has represented the United States on the international stage, winning a gold medal at the 2005 Under-18 World Junior Championships and silver in 2007 in the same tournament. He also played two years with the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League and won the 2007 WCHA championship at the University of Minnesota after joining the Golden Gophers. His professional hockey career started with the Binghamton Senators of the AHL, where he won the 2011 Calder Cup. He would go on to play 63 games with Ottawa scoring 8 goals, 4 assists for 12 points and 14 penalty minutes. One of those goals came against the Devils on the final day of the 2011-12 regular season, in a game the Devils would go on to win as they were about to embark on their memorable playoff run. He was signed to a one year, two way contract worth $575,000 (at the NHL level) according to the press release on the Devils site.

Gragnani comes to the Devils from Bern of the Swiss League where he had 8 goals, 29 assists for 37 assists last season, leading the league in scoring for defensemen. The year prior was spent with Lev Praha of the KHL and he has NHL experience with Carolina (2012-13) and Buffalo and Vancouver (2011-12). In 2010-11, the native of Montreal was awarded the Eddie Shore Award as the AHL’s best defenseman while playing in the Sabres’ organization with the Rochester Americans. He also played in the AHL with the Portland Pirates and Charlotte Checkers. His NHL totals are: 3 goals, 15 assists for 18 points and 34 penalty minutes in 74 games. The 28 year-old has international experience, winning a silver medal with Canada at the 2005 Under-18 World Junior Championships, as well as playing for Canada at the 2011 World Championships. He played junior hockey with the QMJHL’s Prince Edward Island Rocket. He signed a one year, two way contract worth $575,000 at the NHL level.

Danis returns for his second stint with the Devils, having played for the team in 2009-10 (backing up Marty Brodeur, he went 3-2-1 in 12 games and had a 2.06 goals against average). He spent last season with the Norfolk Admirals and Hartford Wolf Pack of the AHL, leading Hartford to the Eastern Conference Finals with a 7-7 record and a 2.37 goals against average. In 2013-14, he played for the Adirondack Phantoms in the Flyers organization in 2013-14 and spent the two years before that with the Edmonton Oilers’s affiliate, the Oklahoma City Barons. With Oklahoma City, he won the 2012 Baz Bastien Memorial Trophy as the AHL’s top goalie. He spent 2010-11 with Amur Khabarovsk of the KHL. He also spent time with the Islanders organization (2008-09) and five years with the Montreal organization (2003-04 to 2007-08). He played four years at Brown University and was named a NCAA East First All-American in his senior year and ECAC First All-Star Team. He was also named ECAC Goaltender and Player of the Year that season. He made the Second All-Star Team for the ECAC after his sophomore and junior seasons as well. The 34 year-old native of Lafontaine, Quebec has played 53 NHL contests, going 17-21-4 with a 2.75 goals against average and three shutouts, according to the Devils’ press release. With the Devils’ NHL goaltending tandem almost set, he will likely be playing for Albany. In his AHL career, which encompasses 278 games, he has a 140-99-26 record with a 2.62 goals against average and posting 14 shutouts. He was signed to a one year, two way contract worth $575,000 at the NHL level.

While not huge signings at first glance, these three pickups could work well for the Devils. Adding to the depth of the club is always a good thing, giving a team a good chance to compete when injuries hit, or to make trades to further fill gaps in the lineup. The Devils are incredibly deep on the blueline and in the goal crease, so this gives them a lot of room to work with.

Devils Stay Relatively Quiet on First Day of Free Agency

The New Jersey Devils stayed somewhat quiet on the free agency front as the annual “free agent frenzy” began on July 1. Some factors in this are, of course, the somewhat weaker class of free agents available, the sense that new General Manager Ray Shero did not want to rush into things with a stop gap and risk giving out a bad deal to a player or hurt the team’s overall development as it looks to rebuild for the coming years and the fact that GMs around the league were more subdued this year and did not go too nuts with the contracts that they did give out to players.

Some of the bigger deals around the NHL were former Caps defenseman Mike Green getting three years from Detroit (for about $6 million/year as is being reported), former Winnipeg Jet Michael Frolik going to Calgary for five years/$4.3 million per year and former Devils and Penguins defenseman Paul Martin to San Jose for four years/$4.85 million according to TSN) which were some of the better deals made this July 1. The Edmonton Oilers also made a splash on the heels of drafting Connor McDavid by signing Mark Letestu and Andrej Sekera.

But one of the most intriguing (at least in the eyes of the media, namely SportsNet who devoted most of their “Signing Season” show that was simulcast on the NHL Network to it once it went down) deals of the day was a trade. Toronto traded Phil Kessel, Tyler Biggs, Tim Erixon and a 2nd round draft pick in 2016 to Pittsburgh for Scott Harrington, Kasperi Kapanen, Nick Spaling and “first and third round picks in 2016” according to NHL.com. The Leafs will also retain $1.25 million per year on Kessel’s contract. There are reportedly conditions on the draft picks for Toronto, depending on whether Pittsburgh makes or does not make the playoffs next season, but the deal seems pretty solid for both teams. The Maple Leafs get rid of Kessel, who has not been a good fit for them and the Pens get another top six winger who should thrive with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to take some of the scoring pressure off of him. The Penguins are once again investing a lot in their offense and it seems like they will be boom or bust as far as their “big three” go. One thing is for certain, should they stay healthy, there will be a lot of firepower in Pittsburgh again next year.

The other major trade to go down on July 1 was Vancouver sending Zack Kassian and a 2015 5th round pick to Montreal for Brandon Prust. July 1 was just the tip of the iceberg for trades, however. Things started at the Draft and have been ongoing. The Bruins sending Dougie Hamilton to Calgary for 2015 Draft picks showed that the Flames were serious about moving to the next level, something that they demonstrated again when they signed Frolik.

But the blockbuster trade prior to July 1 was the Blue Jackets acquiring Brandon Saad, Michael Paliotta and Alexander Broadhurst from the Stanley Cup champs for Artem Anisimov, Jeremy Morin, Corey Tropp, Marko Dano and a 4th round pick in 2016. The key here, besides Saad making Columbus a better team right away, is Dano. It was brought up on SportsNet’s “Signing Season” panel show that Dano was the player that Chicago is really high on and that he was what they were looking for. The Blackhawks do not have a lot of cap space and needed to get rid of a contract like Saad’s. What they got in return should make them happy.

Although the Devils did not make an immediate splash, they did make one signing: former Coyotes defenseman John Moore came into the New Jersey fold with a three-year/$1.6 million contract. What the 24 year-old Moore gives the Devils is a left-handed shot on defense and a little more depth on the blueline. Although it seems like a small move, this deal could have far-reaching consequences for the Devils, should they decide to make a trade or even just to have a little extra to work with on the backend. The 6-foot 3-inch, 200 pound native of Winnetka, Illinois had 2 goals and 9 assists for 11 points last year between the Rangers and Coyotes. He also had 30 penalty minutes and won a bronze medal at the 2015 World Championships with Team USA. He has played five seasons in the NHL with Columbus, New York and Arizona amassing 230 games. He has nine goals, 31 assists for a career total of 40 points and 70 penalty minutes over those 230 games.

The Devils also made a move to sign 2011 draft pick Blake Coleman to an entry level contract. The 5-foot, 11-inch, 200 pound native of Plano, Texas just completed his fourth season with Miami of Ohio. He had 20 goals, 17 assists for 37 points in 37 games for the Red Hawks, including a hat trick in the NCHC tournament finals against St. Cloud State. He was also named the NCHC Offensive Player of the Week ending November 2. He was the Devils’ second choice, 75th overall in the third round of the 2011 Entry Draft. With this entry level contract, Coleman will attend the Devils’ training camp in September.

Overall for the Devils, the first day of free agency was pretty quiet. Chances are, however, that New Jersey is not done this offseason. Trades can still happen and, as certain players stay free agents longer, things become more desperate for them as the season begins to rapidly approach. Teams can get bargains then. July 1 is just the first day of a long offseason signing period.

2015 Draft Good to Devils

After drafting Pavel Zacha in the first round in Sunrise, Florida at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, most Devils fans were happy. But General Manager Ray Shero was not done there. Of course there would be six more rounds to go and the Devils still had five or six more picks left. By the end of the second day, the Devils would have three more Draft picks and another new addition via a trade.

In the second round, 42nd overall, the team took goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood of the Ontario Hockey League’s Barrie Colts. The six-foot four-inch 215 pound native of Thunder Bay, Ontario is eighteen years-old and “takes a calm and relaxed approach and has excellent positional play. He has a butterfly style with great low net coverage and controlled lateral movements” according to Al Jensen of the NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau. He went 33-14-2 last season for Barrie with a 3.09 goals against average and a .906 save percentage. He also posted two shutouts. He compares his game best to a Pekka Rinne or a Mike Smith, although his favorite NHL goalie is Carey Price.

In the third round, New Jersey took center Blake Speers 67th overall. Speers is a five-foot eleven-inch, 180 pound eighteen year-old who played last season for his hometown Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL. In 2014-15, he had 24 goals and 43 assists for a total of 67 points which included a 13 points in the first seven games of the season, in which he scored 4 goals and 9 assists. Speers’ favorite NHL team is the Blackhawks, according to his Draft profile and his favorite NHL player is Patrick Kane.

In Round four, the Devils also went to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds for their 97th pick overall: Colton White. The 6 foot, 180 pound eighteen year-old London, Ontario native is a left-handed shooting defenseman. According to the Devils’ website, White was the latest defenseman drafted by the Devils since they took Alexander Mikhailishin at 155th overall in 2004. White had 6 goals and 16 assists for 22 points last OHL season in 67 games. He was also a plus-38 for the team.

For their final pick (6th round, 157th overall), the Devils went to the NCAA college ranks when they took Merrimack left wing Brett Seney. At five-foot, nine-inches and 155 pounds, the nineteen year-old London, Ontario native is the smallest player taken by the Devils in this year’s Draft. According to the Devils website, Seney is the first player the Devils have ever drafted from Merrimack College. The left-handed shot had 11 goals and 15 assists for 26 points last season to go with 55 penalty minutes in 34 games. Seney, who was named Hockey East Rookie of the Week for the week ending January 19, led Merrimack in points and assists. He also led the Warriors with a plus-3 rating. He just completed his freshman year at the North Andover, Massachusetts-based school.

In between all of that, the Devils sent one of their second round picks (they had an extra second rounder thanks to the Jaromir Jagr trade with Florida last year) and a third round pick in the 2016 Draft to the Anaheim Ducks for Montvale, New Jersey native Kyle Palmieri.

According to Dan Rosen of NHL.com, the team was looking for “a young forward with NHL experience who could fit into the up-tempo style that coach John Hynes wants to play” and Palmieri fit the bill exactly. He is 24 years-old and had 29 points in 57 games for Anaheim last season.

The concern in Anaheim, as Ducks GM Bob Murray told Rosen, was that Palmieri would have to be given a bigger contract after 2015-16. The Ducks have Ryan Kesler coming up as an unrestricted free agent next year and Rickard Rakell, Jiri Sekac, Sami Vatanen, Simon Despres, Hampus Lindholm, Josh Manson, Frederik Andersen and John Gibson all as restricted free agents. Palmieri would also be a restricted free agent.

He played most of last season with different linemates up and down the lineup, including time with Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Kesler according to Rosen. But Devils GM Ray Shero feels that that shows he can play with different players in different situations. It also helps that he played for new Devils coach John Hynes with the United States National Team Development Program between 2007 and 2009.

But the main draw for Shero was Palmieri’s age and that “he plays with speed and can really shoot a puck.” The Devils also feel his contract situation is the perfect fit for the team right now. His current contract carries a salary cap hit of $1.47 million, as Rosen quoted from war-on-ice.com.

The picks the Devils made in the Draft helped the team plug some holes in their future. The Palmieri deal only made things better for the Devils at the 2015 Draft. As Shero reiterates a few times in the Rosen article, Palmieri is a young, speedy forward who can shoot the puck and who has a decent contract. Overall, he should be a great fit for the Devils for next year and, should things work out, for a few years to come.

Devils Draft Zacha in First Round

The Devils looked to address some issues scoring-wise with their first round selection in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft held at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida last night (June 26). With the sixth overall pick, they took Pavel Zacha of the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League.

As expected, Connor McDavid of the OHL’s Erie Otters went first overall to the Oilers while the Sabres chose Jack Eichel of Boston University second. From there, many thought, the real draft would begin, since picks one and two were such locks.

The Coyotes took Dylan Strome (a teammate of McDavid’s with the Otters and brother of New York Islander Ryan Strome) third, Toronto took Mitch Marner of the OHL’s London Knights fourth and the Hurricanes took defenseman Noah Hanifin of Boston College fifth before the Devils were on the clock.

NHL Central Scouting actually had Zacha ranked eighth overall, while Marner was ranked sixth. But with the Leafs’ needs and their connection to management at London, they decided to take him at fourth. The Devils would address their own issues at center by taking the next highest ranked centerman. This was just a testament to how deep the Draft was at center, considering there were two players at that position touted as “generational talents” in McDavid and Eichel. The fact that the Devils could get a good center a few picks in showed that the talent at this position runs deep in this draft class.

So what does the Devils first sixth overall pick since John MacLean in 1983 bring to the table? According to NHL.com’s official profile page, the 6 foot, 3 inch 210 pound left-handed shooting center “exhibits good puck control, a strong work ethic and a great shot.” He “is relentless on the puck and creates scoring chances for teammates with his strength and smart decisions.” This profile is bound to remind some of fellow Czech Jaromir Jagr, especially the being “relentless on the puck” and creating “scoring chances for teammates” part. Also his work ethic, as Jagr’s work ethic was/is legendary across the NHL, something which has allowed him to play well into his forties with no end in sight. Nobody wants to put the burden of him being the “next Jaromir Jagr” on the kid; those were just some observations that stuck out from reading the Central Scouting report on him.

Another scouting report on him states that “he’s got high-end skill and is an excellent competitor; he plays an excellent two-way game. He’s physical and solid on his skates and can separate guys from the puck.” All of this is good news for a Devils front end that sorely needs youth and some of the skill that it brings with it. Hopefully, should he stick with the big club this season, someone like Patrik Elias could make a good mentor for him. Other than that, allowing him to get some seasoning by going back to Sarnia for another year and then, possibly Albany, will probably be the way the Devils will handle it. They do not want to rush things with their prospects and will allow them time to mature and develop, which is something critical in getting the most out of your first round picks. Other than players like McDavid and Eichel, very few prospects are ready to jump into an NHL lineup right away. Think someone like Stefan Matteau here: a player that, while possessing a great skillset, does need time to adjust to playing in the NHL.

The eighteen year-old native of Brno, Czech Republic, who represented the Czech Republic at the 2015 World Junior Championship had 16 goals and 18 assists for 34 points in 37 games for Sarnia last season. Since coming to play in North America, he has “picked up the English language quickly by watching and reciting subtitled versions of his favorite movies, including Dumb and Dumber.” His profile on NHL.com listed his favorite NHL team as the Chicago Blackhawks, his favorite NHL player as Alex Ovechkin, his favorite video game as NHL 15, his favorite actor as Will Smith, favorite musician as Drake and favorite website as NHL.com. He also enjoys basketball and his favorite non-hockey athlete is LeBron James.

According to the Devils official website, this was the 11th time the team has picked in the top ten in team history. In those picks, there have been some hits and misses. For every Scott Niedermayer or Brendan Shanahan, there has been a Rocky Trottier, Neil Brady or Lance Ward. Hopefully, Pavel Zacha can be a long term member of the Devils who produces well and gives nets dividends for the team.

Welcome to New Jersey, Pavel Zacha.

Devils Release 2015-16 Schedule

The Devils and the National Hockey League have released the team’s 2015-16 schedule. Here are a few highlights of next year’s schedule of games.

The Devils open their season at home on Friday, October 9 against the Winnipeg Jets. In fact, their first four home opponents are against Western Conference teams:  Winnipeg, Nashville, San Jose and Arizona. They do not see an Eastern Conference rival until the Columbus Blue Jackets come into Prudential Center on October 27.

The Devils meet the Rangers for the first time in 2015-16 at Madison Square Garden on October 18. They play the Flyers for the first time in the regular season on October 29 in Philadelphia. Their first meetings at the Rock come on December 4 for the Flyers and the Rangers do not come into town until February 2. The Devils play the Rangers three times in the month of February (at home on the 2nd, at MSG on February 8 and at Newark on February 23). They will visit the Islanders at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn for the first time on November 3 on the back end of a home-and-home series. The Isles come to town first on Halloween, in the first half of the home-and-home.

The Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks come to town on November 6. The Devils then travel to Chi-town on November 12. They will face the defending Eastern Conference champion Tampa Bay Lightning on home ice on February 26 and then in the Sunshine State on April 2 (before facing them a third time five days later back in New Jersey on April 7).

New Jersey makes its annual Western Canadian road trip from November 17 to November 22, hitting Calgary on the 17th, Edmonton on the 20th and Vancouver on the 22nd. The California road trip comes from March 10 to March 14. They face San Jose on the 10th, Los Angeles on the 12th and Anaheim on the 14th.

The Devils visit the St. Louis Blues and their new Assistant General Manager Martin Brodeur on January 12 as part of an extended western road trip that also takes them to Minnesota, Colorado and Arizona. The Blues and Brodeur visit New Jersey on November 10.

The Devils end the season on April 9, 2016 at Toronto in a game broadcast on Hockey Night in Canada. In all the team will appear on HNIC three times, including the season finale against the Leafs. They will also face Montreal on November 28 and Winnipeg on January 23 on that show. They are all away games.

The schedule looks very interesting upon first glace. Once promotions and other things are announced, things should heat up even more for Devils fans. Here’s hoping the team can retire Martin Brodeur’s number and honor his career on a dedicated night this coming year.