Sweden, Canada Both Win at Worlds

The IIHF World Championship continued with some exciting action today. Firstly, although it does not pertain to the Devils, congratulations to Great Britain who prevailed over France in overtime to avoid relegation and play in next year’s Worlds. Likewise, congrats to Italy, who also staved off relegation by beating Austria in a shootout. The Italians had not scored a goal through their first few games in the round-robin but were able to persevere and fought back to win this one. Austria will join France in relegation as they try to fight their way back to the World Championship for 2021.

Now onto games that really matter to Devils fans. First Sweden outlasted Latvia 5-4 in Group B.

Elias Pettersson got the Swedes going by scoring on the power play 10:15 into the first period. Oskars Batna had gone off for a hold putting Sweden on the man advantage and Pettersson was able to capitalize.

The Swedes took that 1-0 lead into the second when, at 7:47, Oliver Ekman-Larsson was called for a slash. Roberts Bukarts scored on the power play for Latvia, leveling the game at one.

Adrian Kempe would put Sweden back on top at 2-1 when he scored an even strength goal at the 13:38 mark of the second period. Before the end of the second, Adam Larsson was called for high-sticking which would put the Latvians on the power play to start the third period.

And Latvia would respond. Bukarts scored unassisted for his second of the afternoon just 1:11 into the third to tie the game up at two.

Just 2:31 later, Latvia took the lead at 3-2 when Janis Jaks notched one. That lead was short-lived however when Sweden’s Anton Lander tied it at the 9:00 mark. This one was back-and-forth and seemed destined for a great finish.

At 10:09 of the third, Patric Hornqvist gave the Swedes back the lead at 4-3 but that would only last about three minutes. Bukarts completed his hat trick at 16:36 of the third to knot the game back up, this time at four.

Latvia would draw a power play when Sweden’s Adrian Kempe was called for delay of game following the fourth Latvian goal. Towards the end of that power play, Latvia pulled goalie Kristers Gudlevskis in favor of Elvis Merzlikins and then they promptly pulled Merzlikins. They needed the win and took the risk but Dennis Rasmusssen scored into the empty net for Sweden giving them the 5-4 lead.

And that was the final. Gudlevskis was put back in net and he finished out the final thirty seconds or so of the game.

The Latvian goaltenders made 30 saves on 35 Swedish shots. Henrik Lundqvist made 25 saves on 29 shots against. Jesper Bratt played just 2:44 over three shifts and was an even plus/minus.

Sweden will next take on Russia tomorrow in their round-robin finale.

Five seemed to be today’s magic number as Canada blanked Denmark 5-0 in Group A action in Kosice.

Canada took a 1-0 lead just one minute into the game, scoring when Pierre-Luc Dubois took a nice pass from Jonathan Marchessault as he reversed course behind the Danish net and passed from behind the short side of the net.

Canada added another one at 6:06 when Jared McCann made it 2-0. Marchessault finished off the first period scoring for the Canadians when he tipped a Damon Severson shot by Danish goaltender Patrick Galbraith. The goal was reviewed for a high-stick but was deemed a good goal. This came at 8:23.

In the second period, Canada was put on the power play when Markus Lauridsen of Denmark was called for a high stick. Sam Reinhart scored at 13:53 to make it 4-0 Canada and notch his first of two on the afternoon.

Reinhart scored his second 4:34 into the third period on a goal that was also reviewed for a high stick. It counted as well and Reinhart had his second goal of the game and the Canadians had a 5-0 lead. This would go on to be our final as Canada cruised to victory.

Starting goalie Carter Hart was pulled at the 10:56 mark of the third in favor of Mackenzie Blackwood as Blackwood was given some time in the tournament and Hart was given some time to rest. It was a nice gesture from Canadian coach Alain Vigneault. Blackwood preserved the shut out and the Canadian goalies combined to stop all 24 Danish shots that they saw. Galbraith stopped 29 of 34 Canadian shots for Denmark.

Damon Severson has the assist for the point, three total shots on goal and was a plus-2 in 17:26 of time on ice (23 shifts).

Canada takes on the Americans tomorrow in a biggie of a game to finish off round-robin play for both teams.

So games on tap for tomorrow include: Finland versus Germany, Czech Republic versus Switzerland, Slovakia versus Denmark, Canada versus USA and Sweden versus Russia. See you then!

Devils’ Prospect Blackwood Named to OHL Postseason All-Star Team

Mackenzie Blackwood, the Devils’ 2nd round pick (42nd overall) back in the 2014 Entry Draft, has been named to the Ontario Hockey League’s First All-Star Team. The OHL made the announcement on Thursday and the Devils’ website announced it via a post by Eric Marin on Friday.

Blackwood, who played the 2015-16 season with the Barrie Colts, finished the year with a 28-13-0-0 record. He had a 2.72 goals against average, tied for the OHL league lead in save percentage (.921) and had three shutouts. All of this comes from Marin’s article on the Devils’ official website.

Marin also gives Blackwood’s career numbers: a record of 84-42-2-2, a 2.94 goals against average, a .910 save percentage and six shutouts in 139 games played. He helped lead the Colts to the OHL’s Central Division championship this past season.

Blackwood received 49 voting points. According to the OHL website, the players receive “five points for a first place vote, three for a second place vote and one for a third place vote.” Players were voted on by position by the OHL’s general managers. There is a slightly different voting system for defensemen, due to there being two of them voted to the team.

According to the OHL’s website, the OHL’s First All-Star Team also consisted of:

  • Christian Dvorak (Center – London Knights)
  • Matthew Tkachuk (Left Wing – London Knights)
  • Mitch Marner (Right Wing – London Knights)
  • Mikhail Sergachev (Defenseman – Windsor Spitfires)
  • Rasmus Andersson (Defenseman – Barrie Colts)
  • Kris Knoblauch (Coach – Erie Otters)

Congratulations to Mackenzie Blackwood on this tremendous honor.

Russia Blanks Norway at Worlds; Blackwood Named OHL Goalie of Year

Team Russia kept pace in Group A at the World Championships by shutting out Norway on Monday at the Ice Palace in Moscow.

Russia got goals in the first period from Ivan Telegin (assists to Dmitri Orlov and the Devils’ own Sergei Kalinin) and Artemi Panarin (assist to Vadim Shipachyov) and a third period goal from Roman Lyubimov (Alexei Yemelin and Orlov with the helpers) to top Norway 3-0.

In goal, Ilya Sorokin stopped all 27 Norwegian shots he faced while Steffen Soberg, at the other end of the rink, was 25-for-28.

Kalinin’s line read: one assist, one shot on goal and a plus-2 in 12:32 of ice time over 17 shifts.

Russia wraps up their preliminary round when they take on Adam Larsson and the Swedes tomorrow in Moscow.

Back on the home front, Devils’ prospect, goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood has been named the Ontario Hockey League’s Goaltender of the Year for 2015-16.

Blackwood, playing for the Barrie Colts, led the team to a 28-13-0-0 record and, according to the article on the matter put out on the Devils’ official site, had three shutouts and a goals against average of 2.27. His .921 save percentage was tied for the league lead. The Colts won their second Central Division championship in as many years in front of Blackwood.

Blackwood, a 19-year-old from Thunder Bay, Ontario, was the Devils’ second round draft pick last year (42nd overall) and, according to the Devils, signed an entry-level contract last December.

Blackwood played on Team OHL in this past season’s CHL Canada-Russia Series and played for Canada at the 2016 World Junior Championship. He was the OHL Goaltender of the Month in November and was named the second best shootout goalie as well as tying for the best puck-handling goalie in the Eastern Conference Coaches Poll for 2015-16.

According to the Devils’ site, Blackwood got 49 votes for this award, beating runners-up Devin Williams (Erie Otters – 47 votes) and Alex Nedeljkovic (Niagara IceDogs – 46 votes). He is also the OHL’s nominee for the Canadian Hockey League’s Goaltender of the Year, which will be announced on May 28 during the Memorial Cup in Red Deer, Alberta.

Congratulations to Mackenzie Blackwood on this tremendous honor.

Albany Devils Move to Second Round for First Time in Franchise History

The Devils AHL affiliate will be moving to the second round of the Calder Cup playoffs for the first time in their history. This comes off of a three games to one defeat of the Utica Comets topped off with a 6-3 win on Thursday night.

Albany defeated Utica in game one, 3-2 at the Times Union Center in the New York capital. They took game two, 2-0, also in Albany. The Comets staved off elimination in game three, winning 2-1 in overtime at the Utica Memorial Auditorium. But the A-Devils finished off the best-of-five Division Semifinals at Utica in the 6-3 romp.

The A-Devils reached some firsts in their ten-year franchise history. According to Kevin Zalaznik of TheAlbanyDevils.com, the game three overtime loss was the first overtime playoff game in Albany Devils history, as the only other one in the franchise’s history came on April 15, 2010 to the Worcester Sharks when the team was still known as the Lowell Devils and located in Lowell, Massachusetts.

This is also the team’s first trip to the North Division Final where they will take on the Toronto Marlies, who swept the Bridgeport Sound Tigers three games to none in the their first round series.

Some familiar names to fans of the New Jersey Devils have popped up among the league leaders this playoff. Reid Boucher is tops on the A-Devils with six points, good enough for third overall in the league in scoring (he is also eighth overall in goals with three). Damon Severson is sixth overall in the league in scoring with five points (he leads the AHL in assists in this young playoff tournament with five). Scott Wedgewood is sixth overall in the league with a 1.93 goals against average and tied for first in wins with three along with three other goaltenders. He ranks ninth overall in the AHL with a .922 save percentage.

The next hurdle for the A-Devils is the Toronto Marlies. The Marlies were number one overall in the AHL in record, with a 54-16-5-1 mark, good for a .750 winning percentage and 114 points. The Devils finished second overall with a 46-20-8-2 record, a .671 percentage and 102 points. This will be a true clash of two of the best teams in the AHL in the regular season. It should make for some good hockey.

In other Devils prospect playoff news, John Quenneville has been lighting up the Western Hockey League playoffs, leading his Brandon Wheat Kings to within a game of the WHL Final. He has 12 goals this postseason, and had a goal and an assist in Brandon’s 4-2 win over the Red Deer Rebels Wednesday to go up three games to one in the WHL Eastern Conference Finals, according to the Devils’ official website via the WHL’s Twitter feed. They also mention that he has five goals and an assist in the first four games of this series and 22 points overall in the playoffs (12 goals and 10 assists). He is second overall in scoring for the WHL playoffs.

The Devils’ website also reports that should Brandon win the WHL and advance to the 2016 Memorial Cup, they will not be facing Mackenzie Blackwood and the Barrie Colts, who lost in the Ontario Hockey League’s Eastern Conference Finals to the Niagara IceDogs. The IceDogs swept the Colts with a 3-2 victory on Wednesday. Niagara and the London Knights will clash in the OHL Finals. Blackwood finished with a 6-5 record in the playoffs, had a 2.71 goals against average and a .915 save percentage and posted one shutout. All of this information comes via the Devils’ website.

With the Albany Devils still active in the Calder Cup playoffs and John Quenneville and the Brandon Wheat Kings still vying for the WHL title, there is still plenty of hockey left to be played within the New Jersey Devils system.

Blackwood Third Devils Prospect to be Named OHL Player of Week; Quenneville, Wheat Kings Rolling

According to the Devils’ official website, Mackenzie Blackwood is the third Devils prospect playing in the Ontario Hockey League to be named that circuit’s player of the week this season. He was named player of the week for the playoff week ending April 17.

Blackwood, a goaltender for the Barrie Colts, led his team to a second round sweep of the North Bay Battalion and into the Eastern Conference Finals against the Niagara IceDogs.

In the period that named him player of the week, he went 3-0-0-0, had a goals against average of 1.31 and a .956 save percentage. According to the Devils’ press release, he also had a shutout against North Bay.

Blackwood is a second round pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. The other Devils prospects to be named OHL player of the week were: Pavel Zacha of the Sarnia Sting (November 16-22) and Blake Speers of the Soo Greyhounds (March 14-20).

In other prospect news, the press release also discusses John Quenneville and his Brandon Wheat Kings as they make their way through the Western Hockey League’s playoffs. The Wheat Kings have moved on to their second WHL Eastern Conference Final in two years. They will face the winner of the Red Deer Rebels and the Regina Pats semifinal series.

Quenneville is tied for his team’s lead in playoff scoring. He has seven goals and nine assists for 16 points in eleven games. Those seven goals include two shorthanded goals. Quenneville was chosen 30th overall in the first round of the 2014 Entry Draft by the Devils.

Devils Prospects Nominated for OHL Awards; Three Devils Head to World Championship

­­­­Although the Devils’ season ended sooner than fans would have liked, there is still some hockey glory (and honors) left for Devils’ prospects and roster veterans to claim.

Pavel Zacha, who made a splash with two assists in his NHL debut in the season finale against the Toronto Maple Leafs last week, has been nominated by his major junior club, the Sarnia Sting, for the OHL’s Most Outstanding Player of the Year award. Zacha and the Sting were bounced early from the OHL playoffs and he will likely appear for the Albany Devils in the AHL’s Calder Cup Playoffs, kicking off next week. The OHL’s Most Outstanding Player of the Year award is voted on by sportswriters and broadcasters who cover that league, according to the Devils’ website’s press release.

Another future Devil skater is up for an award in the OHL as well: Blake Speers of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds is in the running for Most Sportsmanlike Player of the Year. This award is “voted on by the OHL’s member teams.” He had just 42 penalty minutes in 68 regular season games. The Soo Greyhounds’ season just ended yesterday at the hands of the Erie Otters in the OHL playoffs.

A Devils’ goaltending prospect is also in the running for a major OHL award: Mackenzie Blackwood of the Barrie Colts has been named as a finalist for the OHL Goaltender of the Year. Blackwood had 28 wins this season and was ranked first in the league in save percentage (.921) with three shutouts. His Colts are doing a little better in the OHL playoffs, having knocked off the Mississauga Steelheads in the first round and are in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Niagara IceDogs, having beaten the North Bay Battalion in the second round. This award is also voted on by the OHL’s teams.

On the World Championship front, Keith Kinkaid, Miles Wood and David Warsofsky will all be joining John Hynes’ Team USA squad at the international tournament in May to be held in Russia.

In addition, Devils video assistant, Matt DeMado was named the US team’s video coordinator according to the Devils’ press release on their website.

Of the three, only Warsofsky really has major international tournament experience. He won a gold medal in 2010 at the World Junior Championship and a bronze with the Men’s National Under-18 Team at the 2008 Under-18 World Championship.

Wood previously represented the US at the 2015 World Junior Championship. The US did not medal in that event. Kinkaid has no previous experience representing the US in a major tournament.

So, while the Devils’ NHL season has come to an end, there is still plenty of hockey left and plenty of accolades still to gather on and off the ice.

Devils Prospects Honored in Various Leagues

The Devils website today released a list of Devils prospects who have been honored by their various major junior and college hockey leagues.

In the Ontario Hockey League, “Devils prospects finished in the top three of seven different categories in the 2015-16 OHL’s Coaches Poll, which recognizes players in 20 different skill categories within their own conference.”

Sarnia Sting superstar Pavel Zacha was named Best Penalty Killer in the OHL’s Western Conference. He was also second in Hardest Shot. Zacha’s Sarnia teammate Josh Jacobs tied for second in the Hardest Worker category with Jonah Gadjovich of the Owen Sound Attack.

Barrie Colts goalie Mackenzie Blackwood was voted Best Puck-Handling Goalie, tied with Alex Nedeljkovic of the Niagara IceDogs for first place in that category in the Eastern Conference. Blackwood also finished second in the Best Shootout Goalie category.

Blake Speers of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds was voted third for Best Stickhandler in the Western Conference, he tied at that position with Jeremy Bracco of the Kitchener Rangers. Fellow Devils prospect Colton White, also of the Soo Greyhounds, tied for third in Best Defensive Defenseman category with Chris Martenet of the London Knights.

Congratulations to all the Devils prospects who ranked in the coach’s poll in the OHL.

Moving over to the NCAA, Steven Santini of Boston College was named the Best Defensive Defenseman in Hockey East. Congratulations to Santini for receiving this honor from Hockey East.

The Devils future looks to be in good hands, as some of these categories really stand out. Zacha is being tagged as a future superstar in the NHL and to see that he is disciplined enough to be a top penalty killer in the OHL is very encouraging. His hardest shot voting goes along with his 58 points that is second on the Sting (he has 28 goals and 30 assists). According to the Devils’ press release, he also has 10 power play goals.

Blackwood seems to be following in the Martin Brodeur mold with his puck handling ability. Add to that that he is tied for first in the OHL in save percentage (.922), fourth in shutouts (3) and fifth in wins (27) and fifth in goals against average (2.68) and you have a really well rounded goaltender. In a recent interview with Deb Placey on an MSG broadcast, Devils Assistant GM Tom Fitzgerald said that Blackwood could easily challenge Keith Kinkaid for the backup spot behind Cory Schneider as early as next season. That is how highly the Devils brass thinks of Blackwood.

Santini, in becoming the seventh Boston College player to be named Best Defensive Defenseman in Hockey East conference history, had 17 points on the season according to the Devils’ website and a plus-23 rating. One of the most telling stats for him is that he had 50 blocked shots in 37 games.

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.