Prospects Challenge Kicks Off as Devils Fall to Sabres 6-4

Hockey season has officially started! Kind of.

The 2018 Prospects Challenge got underway tonight at HarborCenter in Buffalo as the Devils took on the Buffalo Sabres in the first game of the rookie mini preseason tournament.

The Sabres came away with the 6-4 win as they looked a little bit more physical than the Devils and threw their bodies around, taking advantage of their bigger size overall. The Devils did a good job of responding generally, especially John Quenneville, who was arguably the Devils’ most physical player.

Two other takeaways from the game that I noticed was the Devils’ ability to respond offensively, as the majority of the game would see Buffalo go up a goal and the Devils immediately tie things up. It remained that way until the third period when the Sabres finally pulled away and scored two to take the 6-4 lead that would be the final.

The other thing of note was the debut of the first overall pick in this summer’s NHL Draft: Rasmus Dahlin, who had a pair of goals and an assist. He seemed to be real deal for the Sabres and gave the Devils some fits all night.

Of a minor note was the condition of the ice. It is still hot and humid out in Buffalo and the ice was not in the best of shape.

Regardless of some of the negatives, the Devils who did stand out were Brett Seney and this year’s first round draft pick, Ty Smith. Smith, especially was praised by the Buffalo announcers who were calling the game for putting a good showing in. Seney recorded a goal in the first period, the one that tied it up at one.

Cole Coskey had the first goal of the game for the Sabres, scoring at the 17:31 mark of the first. Seney tied it at one on the power play at 18:53.

In the second period, Victor Olofsson scored at 7:02 before Nathan Bastain tied things up just over 30 seconds later.

Buffalo then jumped out to a two goal lead as Alexander Nylander scored shorthanded at 10:19 and Dahlin scored his first 59 seconds later at even strength. The Sabres crowd gave the first overall pick a standing ovation following the goal, but his night was just getting started.

The Devils would respond quickly to those two goals, as Colton White scored at 11:53 and Fabian Zetterlund scored at 12:01. Seney had the lone assist on Zetterlund’s goal, giving him two points on the night.

In the third period, the Sabres pulled away when Dahlin put them up 5-4 for his second of the night at 4:28. Dahlin would also assist on Tage Thompson’s shorthanded goal that ended the night. It was the second shorty of the night for the Sabres.

The Devils were a perfect 5-for-5 on the penalty kill but failed to scored on any of their seven power plays.

In goal, Mackenzie Blackwood looked pretty good, making 26 saves on Buffalo’s 32 shots on goal for a .812 save percentage. Buffalo’s Jonas Johansson made 30 saves on 34 Devils shots.

The Devils next play tomorrow at 3 PM against the Pittsburgh Penguins prospects.

Devils Ink Seney to Entry-Level Deal

The Devils announced today via a press release on their website that the team has “signed forward Brett Seney to a two-year, entry-level contract.” The release says that the contract will kick in next season (2018-19).

Seney, the Devils’ fifth pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, 157th overall, is a 22-year-old native of London, Ontario who has played the last four years with Merrimack College of Hockey East. The release says that “he will sign an AHL Amateur Try-Out Agreement and report to the Binghamton Devils” today (March 17).

The press release gives some of his college career highlights, stating that he completed his “career ranking 12th overall among all active Division I players with 42 goals, 73 assists for 115 points in 139 games.” He was a 2018 Hockey East Third All-Star Team member “during his senior season with a career-high 32 points, his second consecutive 30 point campaign.” He led Merrimack with 13 goals and 19 points this past season. He also ranked seventh in Hockey East in points, tied for ninth in goals and was fifth in power play points (18) and fifth in power play goals (seven).

The 5-foot, 10-inch, 175 pound left shooting forward “shared or led Merrimack in points in each of his four seasons.” He was “sixth overall in the nation among active Division I players with 11 career game-winning goals.”

The Devils are probably hoping they have found another gem in the later rounds of the NHL Draft, a la Jesper Bratt. Seney had a good career playing in a top NCAA conference in Hockey East. Hopefully that translates well to the NHL and everything works out for him and the Devils. Also, it is good to see the Devils lock up an NCAA prospect without him going to free agency as we have seen so often with players like the Rangers’ Jimmy Vesey or the Devils’ own Will Butcher. Another prospect to develop in the system is always good for the parent team.

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.