It should be an interesting season in Albany this year. As a hockey fan, I plan to enjoy the Albany Devils more than in past years. First, there are players on the team we all know from their history in NJ - Adam Henrique, Adam Larsson, Jacob Josefson, and Mattias Tedenby. I know I am excited to watch every one of those guys play this season, even if it isn't in Newark. A second reason to get excited for the Albany Devils is the New Jersey Devils of the future. Although they haven't made it to the NHL level yet, players such as Urbom, Gelinas, Burlon continue to develop, and are not that far from becoming regulars at the NHL level. Who will step up this season and join them as our future Devils? To me, this is all very exciting stuff. If none of the reasons I've mentioned so far compel you to tune in, one more reason to get on board with some Albany Devils hockey this fall: they are actually playing hockey, and it's now the top league in North America.
This is the first installment of our weekly Albany Devils roundup. Throughout this season, I will keep you updated on all the on-goings of the Albany Devils - results, statistics, and news. I plan to watch as many games as possible once the season starts, so I'll also provide my specific thoughts and analysis on the games I'm able to watch. Since no actual games have taken place yet, this is a recap of general news and events of the training camp, including the results of the 4 pre-season games the team played. I also provided stats for the pre-season games, and my thoughts on some of the players so far. Follow along after the jump for the details.
This year the Albany Devils camp took place in Amerihealth Pavilion since the ice was available. My understanding is that practice will shift to Albany, if not tomorrow, within the next few days. Camp began on ice Friday 9/28. Here is the complete roster attending training camp:
Forwards: Matt Anderson, J.S. Berube, Bobby Butler, Alexandre Carrier, Phil DeSimone, Bryan Haczyk, Adam Henrique, Mike Hoeffel, Jacob Josefson, Chris McKelvie, Scott Parse, Harri Pesonen, Tim Sestito, Mike Sislo, Mattias Tedenby, Joe Whitney, Chad Wiseman, David Wohlberg, Harry Young, Darcy Zajac, Kelly Zajac, Steve Zalewski
The Devils had a total of 36 players in camp this season with Albany, (22 forwards, 10 defensemen, 4 goaltenders) so there were two groups of practice every day. On game days, one group practiced and one group played in the game. Although there are technically no roster limits in the AHL, some cuts will most likely be made to the roster Monday or in the next several days. The team will almost certainly ship off at least one and probably two of the four goaltenders in camp as well as a handful of skaters to various ECHL teams. The Devils currently do not have an ECHL affiliate, so stay tuned for news on where these players end up.
All of the reports and recaps and interviews of training camp goings-on so far have come from http://www.thealbanydevils.com/news/. There are some updates from Tom Gulitti regarding Albany I have linked to as well. For those of you on twitter who want to stay up to date with news about the team as it happens, follow @AlbanyDevilsPR. I assume all of you are already following @TGfireandice.
Interviews with Head Coach Rick Kowalsky, Bobby Butler, Dan Kelly, Matt Anderson
Kowalsky spoke about what it will be like to have a more crowded camp than usual this season. Anderson talked about his experience with the Devils. Butler spoke about getting a fresh start and how signing with the Devils was an easy decision. Dan Kelly talked about how he tried to get bigger and stronger over the summer and also improve his speed.
Interviews with Kowalsky, Whitney, and Corrente
Corrente talks about coming into camp lighter and more fit. Whitney talks about his second camp and duplicating or building on his success of last season.
Recap of the intra-squad scrimmage, where Team White defeated Team Red 3-1. Goals for Team White by Josefson, Carrier, and Pesonen (en). Team Red goal by Mike Hoeffel.
Interviews with Josefson, Carrier, and Hoeffel - they all talk about their goal scoring plays. Alexander Carrier describes his go-to shootout move.
No one had full line combinations from the scrimmage, but I know from the Josefson interview that he skated with Parse and Pesonen.
Tedenby missed practice along with Zalewski. The official word from the Devils was both players were "resting". Both returned to play in scrimmages near the end of the week, so it seems there is no concern moving forward.
The Albany recap of the day features interviews with Kowalsky, Jay Leach, Parse, and Wedgewood.
Kowalsky discusses among other things, Harry Young's role with with team, switching to wing, and the reasoning behind that. More than having a crowded blue line, Kowalsky points to the benefits of having a tough guy on the wing rather than defense. He wants the team to be down 1 / 12 forwards rather than 1/6 defensemen when Young fights.
One group practiced in the morning while the other group scrimmaged Adirondack in the afternoon. The Devils jumped all over Adirondack, getting out to a 3-0 lead and going on to win 5-3. Raman Hrabarenka scored, and Mike Sislo and David Wohlberg each scored twice for the Devils. Kinkaid and Wedgewood split the goaltending duties roughly 50/50. Kinkaid gave up
2 goals 1 goal and Wedgewood 1 gave up 2.
Interviews with Mike Sislo and David Wohlberg, as well as a recap and box score of the game.
Devils played their second exhibition game, knocking off the Connecticut Whale 3-1. Burlon, Pesonen and Darcy Zajac scored. Hrabarenka picked up two more assists. Hrabarenka, Burlon, and Pesonen were all over the score sheet in both of the first two scrimmages. Frazee and Clermont split the duties in net. Clermont gave up the 1 goal.
Interviews with Frazee and Darcy Zajac. Darcy Zajac seems like he is enjoying camp and doing pretty well for himself so far.
This was the only game we had the full depth chart, so here it is:
Forwards: Pesonen-Henrique-Sislo; Wohlberg-Josefson-Parse; Hoeffel-Zalewski-Anderson; Young-D. Zajac-Berube.
Defense: Gelinas-Larsson; Leach-Urbom; Kelly-McPherson.
Also according to TG, Harry Young fought Zach Fitzgerald and appeared to hold his own. That's good for Young, since Kowalski basically indicated Young's role on this team would be as a tough guy. He may have injured his hand in the fight, but he did return to the game.
Albany prevailed 2-1 on 2 shorthanded goals by Scott Parse and Jacob Josefson. Sounds like it was a tightly contested game. Wedgewood and Kinkaid split the duties in net, with Kinkaid giving up the lone goal.
Interviews with Kowalsky, Parse, and Wedgewood.
Kowalsky talks up Pesonen's game in this interview and describes him as a gritty player who seems to get under the skin of the opposition. Sounds like he's a bit of an agitator out there. Good to know. He also talks about Parse shaking the rust off and looking good out there. One of the more informative Kowalsky interviews so far.
The Devils played their final pre-season game Saturday night in Binghamton. It didn't go as well as any of the others, as they lost 6-3. Scoring for the Devils were Butler and Tedenby (both in their first games) and Mike Sislo, who had a strong camp with 3 goals in 3 games played.
Here is a list of all the stats for the Devils players in their pre-season.
I put together a chart split by position for comparison, and added stats for the goaltenders.
Note: I had to estimate the shots against split for Kinkaid / Wedgewood in the first scrimmage. The only available information was that they each played half the game and faced a total of 48 shots, so I just split the shot total in half. Every other count is exact, and the goals against totals are all correct. The goaltenders split all of the games 50/50, so no one played more than 1/2 of a game at a time.
The bigger name players were pretty much entirely held out of the first two pre-season games, most likely as the coaching staff figured out who will make the roster among the depth players. For example, Adam Henrique only appeared in one scrimmage (Friday) and was held off the score sheet. Mattias Tedenby and Bobby Butler only appeared in Saturday's game and they both scored. Josefson played the final two games putting up a goal and an assist, as did Larsson, who registered two assists.
Among the forwards, Sislo and Pesonen and Wohlberg did very well among the more active players. All 3 of them played in 3 of the four games and appeared often on the score sheet. Sislo put up 3 goals, Pesonen 1 goal 2 assists, and Wohlberg 2 goals. In Friday's scrimmage, Pesonen and Sislo skated on the top line with Adam Henrique. This is a good sign for both of those players having strong camps and impressing the coaching staff so far. Kowalsky talked about Pesonen's tough gritty play, which was a good sign since he was a relative unknown coming into camp. Sislo continues his rise up the depth chart. He seems poised to prove to myself and the other writers at ILWT we should have ranked him higher (I believe I gave him the lowest rank of all). I hope his success carries over to the regular season. Its possible he could get Top 6 minutes, although I have to think he will fall in just below Butler and Parse on the right wing, and could have a third line position coming out of camp.
Although line combinations were not always available for these games, Friday's were available. Wohlberg skated with Josefson and Parse, which is also a good sign beyond his 2 goals in the first game that this young man is showing the coaches something during camp so far. Wohlberg could also have played his way into a third line role with his performance thus far in camp. He is at least behind Pesonen and Tedenby at left wing. It would seem based on camp so far that the top six should look something like this:
Its certainly possible Teddy and Pesonen could be flip-flopped, but I have a feeling Kowalsky might leave Teddy with Josefson. We'll see.
As to the rest of the depth, I think we could see a bottom six of:
I'm not sure where Joe Whitney fits in right now. He played in two pre-season games and was held scoreless. He is not top-6 material on this current team. I am not sure if he has a spot locked up in the bottom six. Take your pick with the fourth line at this point. I would guess other guys like Wiseman, Anderson, DeSimone, and the Zajacs could be in the mix for playing time as well. Note that Kelly Zajac did not play in any of the pre-season games, I'm not sure why. It's very possible he is injured. I didn't see any word from the team regarding his status. It will be interesting to see how the lineup shakes out over the next few days. There will probably be some rotation among the bottom six as the season gets started. As mentioned before, Albany can keep a much larger roster than an NHL club.
On defense, Hrabarenka and Burlon stood out among the players who saw more ice in the scrimmages. Hrabarenka earned himself a contract through his strong play. He was in camp on a tryout.
Brandon Burlon was probably the most consistent performer of the pre-season. He registered points in all 3 games he played. Eric Gelinas was held off the scoresheet in his 3 games. It is tough to get a sense of how Gelinas performed overall, since I have no detail about his play. Its possible he played well but didn't score. Adam Larsson had an assist in each of his two games played. Matt Corrente and Eric Baier only appeared in one game each. I'm not sure if this was due to injuries or other circumstances. Baier appeared in the first game and then not again, so it is possible the Devils decided quickly that his play was not up to par. Its also possible there is another explanation which I am not aware of. Corrente appeared in only the final game. This was the same for Tedenby and Butler, both higher end talent. Perhaps Corrente showed enough in camp that there was never a doubt as to his place on the roster, and he was held out for that reason. We should find out over the next few days.
My guess as to the defensive pairings:
Just as with the forwards, I expect there will be a good bit of variation with the bottom pairing, at least through the early part of the season. I'm not sure how many of the 10 defensemen in camp will be kept. At least 8 would be my guess.
Regarding the goaltenders, they all have pretty cool masks. On the ice, Kinkaid got the most work overall and seemed to be pretty steady throughout. Frazee got shelled last night after not giving up any goals in his first appearance. Wedgewood was the most effective. Clermont was the only one who did not appear in at least two games. I expect him to be shipped out to the ECHL, so most likely that is why he only appeared once. It seems like Wedgewood did all he could to land a spot with Albany this season. Hopefully it works out for him.
I would love to see a Kinkaid / Wedgewood tandem in Albany this year, but I doubt the Devils ship out Frazee, the most senior of the netminders. Frazee probably has no trade value at this point in his career.
My guess is that Kinkaid has won the starting spot in Albany. I think it is his spot to lose, and hopefuly he gets the bulk of the work this year. Wedgewood could be sent to the ECHL to be an every day starter rather than a backup in Albany. He could also be sent back to the Plymouth Whalers as an overager, but I doubt the Devils will do that, and I really hope they don't. I definitely want to see him play at some pro level this season. Since it's his first pro season, maybe its more beneficial for him to play every day in the ECHL instead of getting 20 games as a backup in Albany? I'm not sure. I know I'd like to see Wedgewood in Albany. I'm not sure if this is me being selfish because I want more opportunity to watch him play this year.
I would like to see: Kinkaid-Wedgewood in Albany. I think we will get Kinkaid-Frazee.
So, overall the first week of camp is complete, and we look forward to the first regular season game for Albany this Saturday evening against the Manchester Monarchs, the AHL affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings. It will be sort of like a Stanley Cup rematch. Ok, not really. But there will be at least 4 players on the ice who played in the Finals last year-- Henrique and Josefson for Albany, Slava Voynov and Jordan Nolan for Manchester.
Now I'd like to know everyone's thoughts on the Albany Devils. Are you excited to watch our young stars in action starting on Saturday? Any players in particular you have your eye on this season? Do you agree with my depth chart? Who would you place differently? Thanks for reading, and please join in the discussion with your thoughts, questions, and any comments relating to the Albany Devils.