Devils’ Website Gives Insight into Ruff

In an interesting article posted yesterday on the Devils’ official website, writer Peter Robinson spoke to two of Lindy Ruff’s former NHL players and discussed what he brings to the Devils’ bench. The interviews appeared in an article entitled “Reflections on Ruff.”

The two players Robinson spoke to via text were Jay McKee, who played under Ruff with the Buffalo Sabres, and Dave Lowry, who played under Ruff when the latter was an assistant coach with the Florida Panthers. One of Ruff’s players at that time and Lowry’s teammate? None other than current Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald.

Both men have gone into coaching at the junior level. McKee was “most recently the head coach of the Kitchener Rangers” of the Ontario Hockey League, where, Robinson points out, he coached Devils prospect Michael Vukojevic.

Lowry is the coach of the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League and his son, Adam, currently is playing for the Winnipeg Jets.

Both men had fond memories of Ruff as a coach, with McKee telling Robinson that “Lindy is a great communicator and his Xs and Os are great too.”

Lowry said “Lindy came along for us at a time when coaches didn’t really associate (off-ice) with the players. Lindy would play golf with us and take part in the occasional card game… that was unheard of at the time.”

But despite that, McKee told Robinson that he didn’t “want to call him a players’ coach (necessarily), because he was never afraid to crack the whip. What he is, is he’s an excellent person, just a good human and he can connect with guys, especially young players.” This is especially appealing to Devils fans’ ears with their core of good, young players and system of prospects.

Another interesting wrinkle that Robinson explores is that McKee played for the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009-10, a year following their Stanley Cup win in 2009. That was the year that Fitzgerald moved “into a player development role” for the Pens “after serving an assistant to Dan Bylsma on the Cup-winning squad in 2009.”

McKee said: “I don’t really know Fitzy other than as a player, I played against him a lot, but I will say this, that it’s usually guys like him who make the best GMs.”

McKee also makes mention of Ruff’s ability to adapt, citing the Sabres major playoff runs while Ruff was there. He told Robinson: “the first time, 1999, we got to the Final and really only had one star player and that was our goalie, (Dominik) Hasek. Then in 2006 we had Max (Afinogenov), Chris Drury, Danny Briere, Derek Roy…had we not had four defensemen injured (in the playoffs) and Tim Connolly the (outcome) could have been different (than losing in the Eastern Conference Final). That was all Lindy being able to adjust like he did as a head coach (and have success) with different teams and (installing) two completely different systems.”

Lowry likened it to technology, saying “you need to know the latest, greatest (piece), but sometimes you pick it up just by watching your own kids.”

This information bodes well for fans who were skeptical of this hiring, myself included. Ruff seems, from what his former players say, to be able to connect with the younger players while still maintaining discipline and adapting his coaching as the league changes. You do not last as long as Ruff has in the NHL as a coach – almost 26 straight seasons – and not be good at your craft. This perspective makes things a little more exciting.

In other Devils news, Amanda Stein is reporting on her “Inside the Devils” blog on, that Nico Hischier is skating with the Swiss National Team this week.

Starting today (Wednesday), Nico and “Devils goaltending prospect Gilles Senn will join a group of 22 for the” summer Prospects Camp being run by the Swiss National Team.

There are “strict social distancing and sanitation guidelines” being adhered to and “all players involved will be tested for COVID-19 and asked to respect a 1.5-meter distance whenever possible.”

The camp will be bringing in “the best young players in the Swiss player pool, 25 and under, as well as young players from the junior teams.” Hischier, while an NHL player, has competed at the IIHF World Championships with Switzerland and will “help integrate the younger generation” along with Senn and Pius Suter, who recently signed with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Stein said that “the camp will mostly involve practice sessions, as well as a scrimmage at the end of camp.”

Devils Round Out the 2017 Draft with Ten More Picks

Day two of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, rounds two through seven, saw the Devils add ten more prospects to their pool. Let’s get down to looking at who they picked and what sources say about them.

With the 36th pick overall in the second round, the Devils took Swedish center Jesper Boqvist. Boqvist, who is 5-foot, 11-inches tall and 165-pounds, played last season for Brynas of the Swedish Hockey League. He represented Sweden in the 2016 Under-18 World Championship – where they won a silver medal and the 2015 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. His profile on says that he had six assists in 16 games for Brynas last year and that he models his game after Evgeny Kuznetsov of the Washington Capitals.

With the 63rd overall pick in the third round (which the Devils acquired from Colorado in the Eric Gelinas trade), New Jersey took Swedish winger Fabian Zetterlund of Farjestad Jr. The 5-foot, 11-inch, 195-pound native of Karlstad, Sweden had two penatly minutes with Farjestad of the Swedish Hockey League in 14 games. He played the majority of last season in the Swedish Junior league where he played 40 games and had 16 goals and 20 assists for 36 points and 18 penalty minutes.

The Devils’ next pick was 81st overall in the third round (acquired from San Jose when they signed head coach Pete DeBoer). With that, they took Reilly Walsh, a defenseman from Proctor Academy out of New Hampshire. The 5-foot, 11-inch, 184-pound blueliner from Andover, New Hampshire played in four games for the USA at the 2016 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tourament. According to his profile on, his dad, Mike Walsh, played “in 14 games with the Islanders from 1987-89.” He has also committed to play at Harvard University in 2017-18 and plays his game in the style of Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Devils took Russian left wing Nikita Popugaev with the 98th overall pick in the fourth round. He is 6-foot, 5-inches and 219-pounds and played last season with the Moose Jaw Warriors and the Prince George Cougars of the Western Hockey League. He had a total of 29 goals and 40 assists for 69 points over 71 games split between those two teams last year in the WHL. The 18-year-old (who turns 19 this November 20) native of Moscow won a gold medal in the 2014 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. He had three goals in six games played. According to, his favorite player (who he wears number 71 in honor of) is Evgeni Malkin.

Popugaev was one of the few players with a full, detailed scouting report on him online. NHL Central Scouting says of him: he is a “good package of size, skills and smarts – excellent vision with hockey sense to support teammates and make good choices on the play – utilized in all situations and plays the point on the power play at times – unselfish game with the puck – repsponsible two-way game – vision and thought process often a step ahead of teammates – doesn’t like to lose a battle in any situation and plays to win.”

That moved the Devils to the fifth round, where they were scheduled to pick fifth, the 129th overall pick. With that, they took Swiss goaltender Gilles Senn. He is 6-foot, 5-inches tall and weighs 191-pounds. He played last season with HC Davos of the Swiss league where he played 34 games and compiled a 2.64 goals against average and a .910 save percentage in 2000 minutes of ice time.

The Devils had another pick in the fifth round, 143rd overall, via San Jose (the Mirco Mueller trade) and they used it on Slovakian right winger Marian Studenic of the Hamilton Bulldogs of the Ontario Hockey League. In 58 games with the Bulldogs last season, he had 18 goals, 12 assists for 30 points and 23 penalty minutes. He lists SIdney Crosby as his hockey idol on and dreams of “winning the Stanley Cup.” A noble wish for any aspiring hockey player, to be sure.

Moving to the sixth round, the Devils took Aarne Talvitie 160th overall. The 5-foot, 10-inch, 198-pound native of Espoo, Finland played for Blues Jr. last year of the Finnish Junior league. He had 13 goals and 24 assists for 37 points and 36 penalty minutes in 46 games for them last year.

New Jersey took a Canadian for the first time this draft by selecting defenseman Jocktan Chainey 191st overall in the seventh round. He is from Asbestos, Quebec and was a teammate of Nico Hischier on the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. With Halifax last year, he had four goals and 20 assists for 24 points and 44 penalty minutes in 55 games skated in.

The Devils’ final two picks came via the Sharks and they used them both on defensemen.

They took Russian d-man Yegor Zaitsev 205th overall in the seventh round. He is a 6-foot, 180-pound native of Moscow who played 19 games for Dynamo Moscow of the Kontinental Hockey League last season. He had 1 assist and ten penalty minutes in those 19 games. He played the bulk of his season with Balashikha of the Russian second tier last year, potting two goals and four assists for six points to go along with 44 penalty minutes in 24 games.

The Devils used their final pick of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft (214th overall in the seventh round) on Rogers, Minnesota-native Matthew Hellickson. He is a 6-foot, 184-pound defenseman out of the Sioux City Musketeers of the United States Hockey League. He had six goals and 22 assists for 28 points and 30 penalty minutes in 52 games played for Sioux City last year.

Overall, it was a good haul for the Devils. Of course, netting Nico Hischier at first overall skews that quite a bit, but if you can get an NHL player out of any of the lower rung of picks, that will be gravy. Good luck to all of the Devils’ draftees as they set out on the next phase of their hockey careers.