Devils Early Offseason News and Notes

The 2021-22 regular season is in the books for the Devils and we now head into a summer without playoff hockey for the fourth time in five years for New Jersey fans.

May will be giving us not only the first two rounds or so of the Stanley Cup Playoffs (sans the Devils, of course) but also the beginning of the AHL’s Calder Cup Playoffs (prominently featuring the Utica Comets) and the IIHF World Hockey Championship (which has been pushed to the end of the month due to the NHL schedule changes and Covid precautions).

We will begin with the World Championships and who will be taking part in the tournament as it pertains to the Devils.

Catherine Bogart reports that six players will be appearing for their countries in the annual spring-time tourney.

As already announced by the team, head equipment manager of the Devils, Chris Scoppetto will be serving in the same role for the United States at the World Championship.

Joining him on the Team USA roster will be goaltender Jon Gillies, making his first appearance at the tournament. He previously represented the United States at the IIHF World Junior Championship in 2013 and 2014.

Team USA will play in Group B in this year’s World Championship.

Switzerland will have Devils captain center Nico Hischier on their roster as well as defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler, who was injured with a broken hand back on April 7. Bogart said that he is recovering, however, and should be ready to go for the tournament.

Hischier has played in three World Championships, last playing in last year’s tournament. Siegenthaler also played for Switzerland in that same 2021 edition of the World Championship. He has three appearances overall at this tournament according to Bogart.

Switzerland will play in Group A.

One of the Swiss opponents in Group A will be Canada, who will have defenseman Damon Severson and rookie forward Dawson Mercer on their roster.

For Severson, this will be his second appearance in the tourney (he last played for Canada in the 2019 edition).

Mercer is obviously making his first appearance in the senior version of this tournament. He played for Canada at the World Juniors in 2020 and 2021.

Finally, the Devils will see one more player participating in Group A action. Tomas Tatar will be making an appearance for Slovakia.

Tatar has the most experience in this tournament of any of the Devils-related participants, as this will be his seventh World Championship.

He last played in one in 2019.

The 2022 IIHF Men’s World Championship will begin on May 13 and conclude on May 29 and will be played in Tampere and Helsinki, Finland.

Group A will play games at the Helsinki Ice Hall while Group B will play out of the Nokia Arena in Tampere.

The two days of opening games will see the USA play Latvia and Finland play Norway in Group B and Germany clash with Canada Group A all on Friday, May 13. On Saturday, May 14, Denmark will play Kazakhstan, Switzerland will take on Italy and Slovakia will play Germany in Group A while Sweden will face Austria, Czechia will play Great Britain and Latvia will clash with Finland in Group B in a full day of action.

The 2022 AHL Calder Cup Playoffs are another premier attraction going on in the hockey world currently.

They got underway on Monday, May 2 when the Bridgeport Islanders beat the Providence Bruins 2-1 in overtime in game one of their Atlantic Division First Round series played in Providence. Those first round series are best-of-three with Bridgeport taking a 1-0 series lead.

Game two of that series will take place in Bridgeport on Wednesday.

The other first round series will see the Bakersfield Condors play the Abbotsford Canucks in the Pacific Division (game one of that series is currently going on as I write this with no score). The other Pacific Division series will pit the Colorado Eagles versus the Henderson Silver Knights. That series begins Wednesday and the Ontario Reign against the San Diego Gulls, which will also kick off on Wednesday.

In the Central Division, the Rockford IceHogs will play the Texas Stars beginning on Wednesday.

The other Atlantic Division first round series will have the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins play the Hershey Bears starting on Friday, May 6.

The North Division play-in series will have the Belleville Senators against the Rochester Americans starting on Wednesday.

These will help set up the semifinal series with one of the Pacific Division Semifinals yet to be determined with six teams vying for a spot there. The other Pacific Division series will see one of the winners of the first round series against the Stockton Heat.

The Central Division Semifinals will see the Manitoba Moose begin their best-of-five series against the Milwaukee Admirals on Friday while the Chicago Wolves will participate in the other Pacific Division series.

The North Division Semifinals series has the Syracuse Crunch taking on the Laval Rocket starting on Friday and the Comets getting a bye into their semifinal series which will be set up by the first-round winner between Rochester and Belleville.

The Atlantic Division, by contrast, has the Springfield Falcons and the Charlotte Checkers already advancing to the semifinals, but in separate series with their opponents being rounded out by the first-round best-of-threes.

The American League playoffs can be a bit confusing without a flow chart readily available. For our purposes as a Devils blog, the focus is on the Rochester-Belleville series for now as the winner there will move on to the second round to play the Comets in the semifinals.

One other piece of business before we wrap up is that Czech Prospects is reporting via Twitter that Devils goaltending prospect Jakub Malek “has signed a two-year contract with Ilves of the Finnish Liiga.

We will try to keep you as up to date as possible with all of the goings on in the Devils offseason hockey participation leading up to the 2022 NHL Draft Lottery and the Draft itself (which will take place in Montreal on July 7 and 8, 2022).

Devils Miscellaneous News and Notes

Just a few notes from April that I wanted to get to that have not gotten their own entry.

Back on April 8, the Devils announced via a press release that the team and United came together to “donate 225 pairs” of skates to the Newark community. They also announced the opening of the Ironbound Rink Community Skate and Skate Kiosk.

The Devils and the airline also worked with Mayor Ras J. Baraka and the City of Newark on this endeavor.

The Ironbound Rink opened last Saturday, April 9 at 1:30 PM (or approximately as the pregame was going on the air for the Devils game in Dallas on that day) and is located at 226 Rome Street.

The hockey skates were also donated “making it more accessible to youth and families to learn and practice the art of ice-skating.”

In attendance at the ribbon-cutting ceremony were Recreation, Cultural Affairs and Senior Services Director Patrick Council representing Newark, retired Devils defenseman and two-time Stanley Cup champion Colin White and various executives from United and Devils Arena Entertainment.

The dedication ceremony included “two Community Skate sessions, led by the Devils mascot, Mr. White, New Jersey Devils employees, and Hockey in New Jersey volunteers, for residents and attendees.” Other family friendly activities were offered as well.

Mayor Baraka said: “We are excited for opening day and to provide Newark residents, particularly our youth, with access to a first-class ice-skating rink, enabling them to stay active and healthy, while creating incredible experiences for the whole family to enjoy. Working with many partners, we have created outstanding recreation facilities, which have improved the quality of life for all our residents. I thank the Devils and United for being true supporters and for their commitment to Newark.”

Rodney Cox, who is United’s Vice President of Airport Operations at Newark added: “At United, we believe in connecting people and investing in the communities where we live and work. Our partnership with the New Jersey Devils to renovate the Ironbound Community Skate and Skate Kiosk is not only focused on ensuring local youth engage in healthy activities, but that we break down barriers and inspire future generations.”

Finally, Jake Reynolds, Devils and Prudential Center President said: “The New Jersey and United are proud to introduce Newark residents to the sport of ice skating with the opening of a newly remodeled skate kiosk in the Ironbound Recreation Center rink. We continue to be committed to our Newark neighbors – aiming to improve the quality of life in the communities where we live, work and play. Not only does this help promote physical fitness, it makes ice skating and learning the game of hockey more accessible to the families and young people of our City.”

In other, on ice news from the Devils organization, the Utica Comets have been pretty busy over the month of April.

On April 4, AJ Greer, who has since been recalled to the Devils and has been playing in the NHL for the last two weeks, was named the American Hockey League Player of the Week for the period ending April 3, 2022.

The press release posted by the Comets to their website noted that in that previous week, he had ten points over four games (four goals and six assists).

Greer equaled a personal season high when he had four points that previous Monday in a game at the Hartford Wolf Pack. He had a goal and three assists in the Comets’ 7-3 win.

That Wednesday, he had a hat trick (including on the power play, shorthanded and at even strength) and a career high nine shots on goal in a Comets loss at the Rochester Americans, 4-3.

Finally, that Friday, he had three assists (his third straight games with at least three points) in a 5-3 Utica win over the Syracuse Crunch.

The 25-year-old forward in his sixth season of professional hockey has recorded career highs in goals (22), assists (28) and points (50) over 50 games to that point in the AHL with the Comets. He is in his second stint at the NHL level with the Devils currently.

The Joliette, Quebec native was a second-round draft pick of the Colorado Avalanche in 2015 and was acquired by the Devils from the Islanders last season.

Over his previous AHL career which has spent with the Utica Comets/Binghamton Devils, Bridgeport Sound-Tigers, Colorado Eagles and San Antonio Rampage.

He has played 275 games in the AHL and has 85 goals, 108 assists totaling 193 points in that time.

His rookie season of 2016-17 saw him elected to the AHL All-Star Classic. That year, he also won the Yanick Dupre Memorial Award as he was recognized as the AHL Man of the Year. He won the award “in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the San Antonio community” where he was playing with the Rampage at the time.

The Comets followed that up by celebrating Marty Brodeur Night at the Adirondack Bank Center in Utica on April 6.

The Comets lost that game in overtime to the Belleville Senators 4-3.

Marty was on-hand to drop the puck for the ceremonial faceoff in the pregame. The Devils legend and three-time Stanley Cup champion was being honored where his Hockey Hall of Fame pro career began.

He played for the Utica Devils during the 1992-93 season in the AHL.

The Comets most recent big moment came on April 9 when the team clinched a 2022 Calder Cup Playoff spot.

Utica currently stands in first place in the North Division with a 40-18-7-1 record and 88 points over 66 games. That is a .667 points percentage. They also stand in first place overall in the AHL’s Eastern Conference.

They are fourth overall in the league standings behind four Western Conference teams: the Stockton Heat of the Pacific Division, the Chicago Wolves of the Central Division and the Ontario Reign of the Pacific Division.

The next closest Eastern team to the Comets, in fact, are the seventh place Charlotte Checkers, who are first place in the Atlantic Division – showing just how dominate the West has been in the American League this season.

And finally, as we close this out, my condolences to the friends and family of Islanders great Mike Bossy, who lost his battle with lung cancer today.

The Hall of Famer was truly one of the all-time greats and one of the greatest pure goal scorers in NHL history. He was one of the lynchpins of the Islanders 1980’s Stanley Cup dynasty.

Rest in peace Mike Bossy.