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.