According to the Devils’ website, the team has re-signed free agent forward Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond. The 30-year-old Levis, Quebec native was the Devils’ seventh round choice (216th overall) in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. He played the first six years of his professional hockey career with the Devils organization, moving between Albany and Lowell (the Devils’ former AHL affiliate) and Trenton (the team’s former ECHL affiliate) and New Jersey. He made his NHL debut in a 2008 game against Dallas.
In 37 NHL games total for the Devils, he had no goals and three assists to go with 91 penalty minutes. He played in 27 of his 37 games in 2009-10 (a career high).
He had spent the last two seasons in the Pittsburgh organization with the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins of the AHL (where he played under current Devils coach John Hynes). He played in one game with Pittsburgh (January 15, 2014 against Washington). The last two years in the AHL saw him record two goals and four assists for six total points. However, he finished third in the AHL in penalty minutes both of those two seasons.
Letourneau-Leblond was originally traded away from the Devils to Calgary in July of 2011 and in 2011-12 played three games with the Flames and 50 with the AHL’s Abbotsford Heat. He also spent 2012-13 with the Norfolk Admirals of the AHL where he notched three goals, five assists and eight points along with 98 penalty minutes in 33 games.
In some related Devils news, the team has restructured the Albany front office either because of or as the reason for the departure of Chris Lamoriello. Ray Shero, who is Executive Vice President and General Manager of the New Jersey club, will now serve as the AHL Devils’ governor, while New Jersey’s Assistant GM, Tom Fitzgerald will now serve as GM of the Albany club.
Much of this restructuring is thought to be the catalyst that led to Chris Lamoriello leaving the Devils organization, as it was unclear what his role would be with the new roles being assumed by Shero and Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald had previously served as Assistant General Manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins under Shero and joined the Devils on July 24, 2015.
Another item of note was the announcement of the schedule for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. The tournament (a joint venture between the NHL and the NHLPA) will run from September 17 to October 1, 2016 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. The best-on-best international hockey championship will feature eight teams: Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Sweden, USA, Team Europe and Team North America. The teams will be split into two groups: Group A with Canada, Czech Republic, Team Europe and USA and Group B featuring Finland, Team North America, Russia and Sweden. The inclusion of the two “all-star” teams (Europe and North America) are the wildcards in this tournament and should make for some interesting action.
The preliminary first round (a round robin) will kick off on Saturday, September 17 and feature Team Europe versus Team USA at 3:30 PM and Canada versus Czech Republic at 8 PM. September 18 features Russia and Sweden at 3 PM and Finland against Team North America at 8 PM.
Monday, the 19th features Czech Republic against Team Europe at 3 PM and Team North America versus Russia as the 8 PM game. That Tuesday, Finland will face Sweden at 3 PM and Canada will take on the USA in primetime at 8 PM. On Wednesday, September 21, Team North America will take on Sweden at 3 PM while Canada will face Team Europe at 8 PM. Thursday, the 22nd finishes out the prelims when Finland and Russia square off at 3 PM and Czech Republic and USA faceoff at 8 PM.
The single elimination semifinals take place from Saturday, September 24 and Sunday, September 25. The best-of-three finals take place from Tuesday, September 27 to Saturday October 1 (if necessary). All games will be broadcast live on ESPN in the United States as well as Sportsnet and TVA Sports in Canada. Complete broadcast schedules will be announced at a later date according to the press release on NHL.com.
The World Cup, which replaced the old Canada Cup tournament in 1996 has been held on again/off again over the last twenty years. The United States won the first incarnation back in 1996, defeating Team Canada on their home ice in Montreal to claim the title, and the team is looking to make a strong showing in next year’s edition. Part of that will hinge on their goaltending and NHL.com looked at the short list of frontrunners for the starting goalie position for Team USA. Included were Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings and the Devils’ Cory Schneider. Although the article concedes that both Bishop and Quick have more big game experience than Cory (especially Quick), they do note that Schneider has stats that almost mirror both of them.
Cory’s 2.26 goals against average and .925 save percentage in 69 starts is on par with what the others did last season (Quick in particular had a 2.24 GAA and a .918 save percentage in 72 games for comparison’s sake). The article also noted that Schneider, despite playing 260 less minutes than Quick, faced 86 more shots than the LA netminder and allowed eight fewer goals.
What all of this means is that Cory should definitely warrant an invite to camp for Team USA and should he have a good showing, he could very well be the team’s starting goalie come tournament time.
Schneider is really starting to come into his own as a starting goalie in the NHL and getting the nod to start for his country in a major international tournament would really do a lot to boost his confidence even further. Even the idea that he is in the discussion, despite playing for a team that missed the playoffs last season, with a two-time Stanley Cup winner in Quick and a goalie that is fresh off of going to the 2015 Stanley Cup Finals in Bishop, says how much he has come and the sky is certainly the limit for him should the team continue to get better around him. Schneider’s being on Team USA’s radar shows that he is quickly evolving into one of the elite goalies in the NHL.