Earlier this morning, Tom Gulitti reported that the Devils finally made their first cuts of training camp. In total, 13 players were assigned to the Lowell Devils and 5 were returned to their respective junior teams. The fight isn't over for those who've been demoted to Lowell as a number of those cut are still on tryout contracts - they could end up in Lowell, end up signed but sent to Trenton, or not make the organization entirely.
Incidentally, all the prospects who played in the Devils-Rangers preseason game are still with New Jersey. So if you're a Nicklas Bergfors, Vladimir Zharkov, or a Mark Fraser fan, you have to be pleased with this. Junior-eligible defenseman Alexander Urbom and center Patrice Cormier are still with New Jersey, signs that they are having a good September so far. Also, some who have not played with the Devils roster are still around, such as defensemen Matthew Corrente and Tyler Eckford and center Michael Swift. Whether or not they'll survive the second cut or make the team is entirely another question, but they passed the first test.
The full list of players cut and a quick thought about each will come after the jump.
Players returned to Lowell:
Goaltenders - Dave Caruso, Mike McKenna. Caruso will fight to retain his back up goalie position in Lowell between Gerald Coleman (who was not cut yet) and Mike McKenna. I feel bad for McKenna, though. He's gone from getting 15 NHL games last season with Tampa Bay and to the real possibility of ending up in Trenton as he's 5th or 6th on the depth chart on paper.
Defensemen - Matt Cohen, Matt Taormina. The former ECHL All Star Cohen and Providence College aluminus Taormina will likely stay in Lowell as both were signed by the AHL club back in August. Not that they should necessarily relax, as New Jersey could be sending back 5 defensemen when it's all said and done. They'll be competing to impress John MacLean enough to give them regular time.
Forwards - Eric Castonguay, Kevin Cormier, Stephen Gionta, Brad Mills, Kory Nagy, Nathan Perkovich, Louis Robitaille, Brad Snetsinger and Myles Stoesz. Brad Snetsinger, Kevin Cormier, and Eric Castonguay got call ups to Lowell last season for a few games and I'm sure they're willing to make the most of this year's Lowell camp to be regulars there. Again, if New Jersey keeps a few former Lowell forwards up, the better their chances will be. I was impressed by Castonguay from the developmental camp scrimmage, so I personally would like to see him take the next step up. Myles Stoesz and Louis Robitaille will also be fighting (maybe literally) to convince the organization that they should move up a level (in Stoesz' case) or return to the AHL (Robitaille played in Europe last season).
Kory Nagy and Nathan Perkovich will be playing their first full season of professional hockey. They will earn a spot for their first pro hockey team - if they work hard, it'll be with Lowell in the AHL and if they don't do well enough or get passed by it'll be with Trenton in the ECHL. Stephen Gionta and Brad Mills were Lowell regulars last season, so they should remain there.
Players Returned to Junior
To the Windsor Spitfires - Center Adam Henrique and defenseman Harry Young will be return as 20 year old players to help their team defend the OHL championship and the Memorial Cup. Henrique is the one to watch among the two, in my opinion, due to his great 2008-09 season. He had a point per game during last season (1.125 to be exact), contributed 8 goals and 9 assists for Windsor in the OHL playoffs, and tied with Jamie Benn to lead the 2009 Memorial Cup in scoring with 4 goals and 5 assists. I know he'll turn 20 in a junior league, but if he builds on that, it wouldn't surprise me.
To the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles - Left wing Ashton Bernard will return to the QMJHL with his third team in 5 seasons as 20 year old
goon fighter enforcer. The Devils stockpiled on those sorts of players (Leblond and Andrew Peters are up with New Jersey, Lowell's camp has Robitaille, Stoesz, and Cormier for that role), so he'll need to work on that.
To the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies - Left wing Jean-Sebastien Berube will also return for his final year of junior hockey. He seems to be a more skilled enforcer as he's put up double digits in points along with his triple-digit PIM totals. Perhaps the two will say hello in the Q when Cape Breton plays Rouyn-Noranda.
To the Regina Pats - Defenseman Matt Delahey will return for his final year of junior hockey. As a veteran on that blueline, it would be great to see if he becomes a leader for the defense in addition to his own development as a stay-at-home defender.
For all the players who were cut from the New Jersey camp, I wish you all the best of luck and fortune in Lowell or your respective junior teams.
So it's time to have your say. Are you liking the chances for Niclas Bergfors, Vladimir Zharkov, and/or Patrice Cormier in making the New Jersey Devils after passing the first cut? Are any of these players striking your interest even though they will be playing at a lower level to start next season? Do you have any hope for the junior players returning for their final years of junior hockey? As always, please leave your thoughts in the comments.