One of my roles here at InLouWeTrust is to keep everyone updated on the happenings of the New Jersey Devils system prospects. I had planned to do posts on two specific days, Wednesday's and Saturday's but I may alter that based upon the Devils schedule. Wednesday's post will focus on Devils prospects playing in the NCAA, overseas (KHL, SEL, etc), and the Canadian or American junior leagues. Saturday or Sunday's post will focus on the two Devils minor league affiliates which are the Trenton Devils of the ECHL (East Coast Hockey League) and the Albany Devils of the American Hockey League. Including in that post will be recaps of the team's weekly action with special attention paid to any high performing prospects and even some good non-prospect performances.
Posts will contain an element of boxscore journalism (hopefully not too much), review of video I have seen, live game action and interviews/analysis from those that see these players every day (similar to this post about Alexander Urbom). If there are different areas/ideas you have please let me know in the comments section.
For the players I will be reviewing, (besides those at Albany/Trenton) I have gathered a listing of players from the Devils' media guide and past draft classes. If there is someone I overlooked please let me know.
There are a total of nine Devils' prospects playing in the various conferences of the NCAA. Luckily for Devils fans they are located in two primary locations: Michigan and the University of Minnesota.
Hoping to follow in the tradition of former Devils Brendan Morrison and John Madden, the Michigan Wolverines and head coach Red Berensen have three prospects currently playing at the pre-season CCHA #1 pick. These players are: Bradon Burlon-D (junior), David Wohlberg-C (junior), and Jon Merrill-D (freshman).
The Golden Gophers have two prospects on their squad with Seth Hegelson-D (sophomore) and Mike Hoeffel-LW (senior).
Junior Corbin McPherson-D (Colgate), freshman Joe Faust-D (Wisconsin), and Curtis Gedig-D (Ohio State) are not playing with any future teammates at the moment.
In the Canadian Junior Ranks the Devils have three players that are currently playing. They are: goaltenders Maxime Clermont (Gatineau-QMJHL), Scott Wedgewood (Plymouth-OHL), and defenseman Eric Gelinas (Chicoutimi-QMJHL).
Finally, the overseas players for which I will update statistics (and any major news/accomplishments) are Petr Vrana and Mauro Jorg. I will take requests to follow any KHL players, but I don't think any players that the Devils have rights to are worth following at the moment.
Also, on Sunday I will be posting a monthly feature which is the InLouWeTrust Top 20 Prospect List. This list will be based upon future value to the team. What's that mean? Read it on Sunday and find out!
Editor's Note: This post was written right before the news that Stephen Gionta and Patrick Davis would be called up to New Jersey and Tyler Eckford and Tim Sestito would be sent down to Albany. I will comment on that below.
This update will focus on the recent play of the Albany Devils. Albany, currently at a 5-3-0 record, which is good for fourth in the division Considering Matt Corrente, Jacob Josefson, Tim Sestito, Brad Mills, Tyler Eckford, Patrick Davis, Stephen Gionta and Olivier Magnan have all been promoted to the NHL, first year coach Rich Kowalsky has done a commendable job keeping the team together. I recently watched full replays of the team's 3-2 loss to the Syracuse Crunch and a 3-2 win over the Providence Bruins and wanted to provide my observations.
Before that I wanted to share some of the stat lines for certain players, listed below. There are no individual stat lines that jump out at you, but you can see a team not reliant on any one player/line with multiple players contributing to the team's success. (stats courtesy of hockeydb.com)
While the AHL squad has lost plenty of depth due to promotion, the addition of Alexander Urbom has helped stabilize the defensive unit. Urbom, based upon my estimation (since time-on-ice stats aren't available), is playing in excess of 20 minutes per game, is the primary power play quarterback, and is on the top penalty killing unit. In the games I viewed he looks very poised and confident with the puck. He often will carry the puck into the offensive zone but doesn't overcommit himself. He also hasn't treated the puck like a grenade either, which is certainly nice to see. On even strength, Urbom is typically paired with Mark Fayne, but, I also noticed that Urbom and Mattias Tedenby often end up on the ice at the same time. It could be pure coincidence but I thought that was interesting.
He still has some positioning issues that will get better with time and experience and still needs to fill out a bit to battle better along the boards for puck possession. Overall he does look good and can compensate for mistakes much easier in the AHL than if he had been at the NHL level. I wonder though if he would be better off in the more competitive Swedish Elite League to develop his game or if he played in a protected environment -similar to Mark Fraser last year-if that would be better.
The power play consisted of four forwards and one defenseman. Typical rotations of forwards included: Vladimir Zharkov, David McIntyre, Adam Henrique, Mattias Tedenby, Stephen Gionta, Michael Swift, Nick Palmieri, Patrick Davis and Nathan Perkovitch. The defenseman rotation/power play quarterback rotation was usually Urbom and Fayne. Dan Kelly also received some limited time. Mirroring their NHL parents Albany has a poor power play but a strong penalty killing unit. The power play team tossed passes back and forth from the point to the half boards and then a shot block or clearing would occur. They did score one power play goal when I watched them and that was a result of David McIntyre battling for a puck in front of the net and Zharkov knocked it in the net.
The penalty killing unit featured forwards: Zharkov, Henrique, McIntyre, and Gionta. The defensive units were typically Fayne/Urbom and Murray/Kelly. The penalty kill unit was very effective with Gionta heading up the forward pairings and the goals they did give up were because of broken plays.
Vladimir Zharkov has also been impressive in the games I have viewed. His line, which typically includes Nathan Perkovitch and Michael Swift, was the most effective unit in generating pressure and scoring attempts on the opposition. Zharkov gets a lot of pucks on net and uses his speed to create offensive opportunities. He is used on both the power play and penalty killing units and I feel he is very effective on the penalty kill unit. While there are no stats to back me up on this, I would say that he has a very positive CORSI rating from what I have seen.
At this point, I don't see much reason to keep him in the AHL. He's a third liner in the NHL, who will grow in effectiveness with continued play at a higher level. Is Alexander Vasyunov(who I have nothing against) really a better option on the fourth line than Zharkov right now? The argument you could make, which is fair, is that he didn't score any goals last year in his 40 games played. My counter argument would be: So what. He had ‘bad puck luck' and goals will come. Has Rod Pelley scored a goal this season? Hasn't he still been effective? The goals/points will come but on a team with Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias, Jason Arnott, etc. any scoring Zharkov would provide should be ancillary. With Pelley's much improved defensive play this year, I see a future penalty killing unit with Pelley and Zharkov playing the roles of Madden and Pandolfo.
Tedenby was interesting to see. He was missing for long stretches and then all of a sudden he is running free on a odd man rush. He did score a goal in one of the games I watched and while it was a result of a late game scramble around the goal area, it showed me that he is willing to work hard to score. Some of his bursts of speed made me say ‘Whoa'. Granted it was against AHL competition, but it was still impressive nonetheless.
Maybe it's the go ahead goal last night that has skewed my opinion, but I also liked what I saw out of Brad Mills. He was hard working, got the puck to the net and made something happen. I thought he had a chance to make the team out of training camp and his progression through Yale, ECHL and the AHL is a great story.
Both Jeff Frazee and Mike McKenna were solid between the pipes, and I was impressed with Frazee's rebound control as there were not many opportunities that he gave up. His goals against were due to (1) a turnover in the defensive zone that setup a onetime for a Providence player in the slot and (2) a power play goal by Providence. McKenna is a gamer and fun to watch as even losing his helmet at one point in the Syracuse game didn't stop him from continuing to make saves.
AHL veteran Stephen Gionta (also the captain) has a motor just like his brother and is a good role model for the younger players on the squad. I am not sure if he will make it to New Jersey this year but if the Devils want to switch things up and send down Vasyinov, Sestito or a defenseman he may get a shot.
Overall, the AHL squad has been solid. All the forwards played ‘Devils Hockey', and helped out the defense via the back-check. A lot of speed on the team, but goal scoring seemed tough to come by. (sound familiar?)
In case you are curious I think the in game depth chart(s) would have looked something like this:
Nathan Perkovitch/Michael Swift/Vladimir Zharkov
Louis Robitaille/Stephen Gionta/Matt Anderson
Patrick Davis/Adam Henrique/Mattias Tedenby
PL3/David McIntyre/Nick Palmieri
Alexander Urbom/Mark Fayne
Chris Murray/Dan Kelly
David Leaderer/Harry Young
Jeff Frazee/Mike McKenna
Note that Mills was typically on a line with Gionta when he played in the game that I viewed. There were also many line combinations that occurred because of matchup concerns and the fact that there is so much special teams play in AHL games that line combinations get changed quickly allowing rest time for the power play/penalty killing units. Swift's line was probably the most effective from what I saw, while the other lines performed solidly but never generated much of an offensive attack.
Also, since I was viewing the games via AHLlive and sometimes the feed isn't very crisp and you can't see numbers on the players. This may result in some errors in the line combinations/defensive pairings listed above.
If you are curious about the highlights from each game you can view the highlights of the Devils/Crunch game here and the Providence/Devils game here.
I will get a chance to see the team in person in December as I am heading down to Atlantic City to see them play, and I will live tweet/blog from the game.
If you have a free couple of hours you can always download a game to watch via www.theahl.com. You can view games real time or download an older game to see the Albany Devils play. Older game downloads are $4, not a lot of money for one game.
I am happy that Stephen Gionta is getting a chance to make his NHL debut. Good for him. Patrick Davis? Didn't see much in the games I have watched and his line of 7 games played with 1 goal and 2 assists isn't very inspiring. I also believe that he would have to clear waivers to be sent back down to Albany. No offense to Patrick Davis but this should have been the time to call up Zharkov. I may have to start a FreeZharkov.com website to protest this. I just don't get it.
As mentioned above I will be posting the ILWT Top 20 Prospects List this Sunday so be sure to check that out, and on Saturday I will talk about my new favorite college hockey team, the Michigan Wolverines.
Any thoughts, excitement, etc. on what I looked at? Sound off below. Thanks for reading.