Devils Make More Roster Moves

In a very busy Sunday, we have more news that I could have rolled into my last post but did not see in time.

Forward Jesper Boqvist and goaltender Akira Schmid have been assigned to the Utica Comets of the American Hockey League as per Sam Kasan of the Devils’ official website.

This whittles the New Jersey roster down to 29 players – Kasan said that the team must get down to 23 players by Monday at 5 PM.

One player who will be staying is Jimmy Vesey. The forward was signed to a contract earlier today according to the Devils PR team and announced by Executive Vice President and General Manager Tom Fitzgerald. He was on a Professional Try Out (PTO) during training camp and the preseason.

His contract is for one-year and is an NHL contract worth $800,000.

Vesey played 50 NHL games last season split with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Vancouver Canucks. Prior to that, he played for the Buffalo Sabres and the New York Rangers.

His most productive NHL seasons came with the Rangers, especially 2018-19, when he had 17 goals and 18 assists for a total of 35 points.

Vesey is now 28-years-old – and left-handed shot with totals of 64 goals and 56 assists for 120 points over 354 regular season games. He also has 92 penalty minutes. In the Stanley Cup Playoffs, he has a goal and 12 assists for 13 points, making his only postseason appearance in 2017.

A Boston-native, he was drafted by the Nashville Predators in 2012 (third round, 66th overall), but chose to sign with New York out of Harvard University. In college, he was the 2016 Hobey Baker Award winter as the top men’s hockey player in the NCAA with 24 goals and 22 assists (46 points) over 33 games for the Crimson.

Sunday News Roundup

So we’re still a few days away from the start of the Devils’ 2021-22 schedule and there are some news items to get to that I figured I would put together in one post for the week.

To begin with, Sam Kasan is reporting on the Devils’ official site (and it has been further confirmed by a tweet from the IIHF) that Devils captain Nico Hischier has been named as one of the first three provisional players for the Swiss Olympic team.

Kasan said tha that “[t]he International Ice Hockey Federation, National Hockey League and NHL Players Association asked all participating countries to provide a list of three initial players to be selected for the men’s Olympic national team roster.”

Hischier joins the Nashville Predators’ Roman Josi and the San Jose Sharks’ Timo Meier as the players named by Team Switzerland for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.

Hischier told Kasan that he’s “really pumped. Growing up you watch the Olympic Games. It’s something special. It’s something I haven’t experienced in my career. It’s still a little ahead. I’m trying not to focus on that instead of the season. I’ll just take it day-by-day, but when the time comes and I go over there, it’s a dream come true. I always wanted to experience that. It’s pretty cool.”

Kasan mentioned that Hischier has been able to represent Switzerland in the World Championships, the World Juniors and the World Under-18 Championships.

But you can tell by Kasan’s quote that this really means a lot to Nico and many of the players who will represent their countries in Beijing.

We, as fans, sometimes worry that, with NHL players in the Olympics, those from our team will get injured playing in a tournament that may or may not mean anything to us. To the players, this is one of the pinnacles of their careers and a chance to bring an Olympic medal home to their countries.

Good luck to Nico in February!

In other, more sobering news, there has been movement on the Mackenzie Blackwood vaccination saga.

Kasan is reporting via the Devils’ website that the goaltender tested negative for COVID-19 on Sunday and is now leaning towards getting the vaccine.

Blackwood was one of the final holdouts in the league to not get vaccinated.

Blackwood told Kasan that he is “probably going to be getting the shot in the next couple of weeks. It’s nice that {current test) came back negative and I’m back with the team, and business as usual.”

Kasan reported that Blackwood had been in quarantine since Thursday – but that that had no “bearing on his decision to get the vaccine.”

Blackwood told Kasan: “That has absojutely nothing to do with that choice. I talked with my family and friends. Don’t think this (COVID scare) changed my mind. It’s a separate event.”

Kasan said that when Blackwood was pulled out of the preseason game on Thursday against the Islanders, it was because of an inconclusive test.

Blackwood elaborated to Kasan, saying “I was getting ready for the game. I was told my test came back inconclusive and I just went home and waited to see what happened. I felt normal so I figured nothing was going on. Last time was a little different.”

Kasan mentioned that Blackwood had had COVID this past January. In addition, the goalie had heel surgery in the off-season as Kasan said that he had “been dealing with a lack of strength and mobility in the heel, as well as some discomfort.”

Blackwood did get in two preseason games according to Kasan. He played a period against the Islanders on October 2 in Bridgeport, Connecticut and two periods against the Capitals on October 4 at Prudential Center. Both games were wins for the Devils.

Kasan reports that he was scheduled to play the whole game on Thursday – the game was canceled due to a power outage at the Prudential Center – before he was pulled from the lineup. Blackwood said that he is treating practice as a game to make up for the “absence of a full game.”

Hopefully, Blackwood does decide to get the vaccination. Obviously, it is not perfect, you can still get sick even when fully vaccinated. NHL players are in close contact with each other on a daily basis and things are bound to happen.

But being vaccinated is a step towards protecting himself. If he is unvaccinated, he is very likely to get sick versus very less likely if he is fully vaccingated. The last thing we (selfishly) as fans need is for Blackwood to get on a hot streak and have it all come to a halt because a COVID test comes back negative and he needs to quarantine, or worse yet, is actually sick again.