The last entry on our Top 25 Devils Under 25 List, #6 Mattias Tedenby, was about a player who got plenty of NHL experience quickly once he came over to this continent and it was made clear he needs more work. This entry is almost in contrast to Tedenby. It is about a player who plays defense and projects out to be a defensive-minded defenseman. It is about a player who has a large frame and knows how to use it effectively. Most of all, it is about a player the New Jersey Devils have brought along more slowly. While Tedenby needs to work on his issues in Albany, this player may be ready for the next level after progresssing in the AHL. That player is Alexander Urbom.
#5 - Alexander Urbom - D - Height: 6'3" - Weight: 216 lbs. - Age: 21 - 2012-13 Team: Albany (AHL)
Urbom was drafted out of Djurgarden in 2009, after his first season in cracking the Djurgarden professional team. Curiously, he moved out of Sweden to play for a strong Brandon Wheat Kings team, as the Wheat Kings had his junior rights. He showcased his large frame on defense, he got used to the physical nature and smaller rink in North America, and he even put up a good number of points for a defender. Urbom played well enough in Brandon to justify going pro in the following season.
As far as professional debuts go, Urbom had quite the first year. He actually started the season in New Jersey due in part to how he performed in training camp. He played seven games and then was sent down to Albany for the rest of the season until New Jersey's final game of the season, where he was recalled and scored a goal. Urbom was (and is) on an entry level contract, which means that if the player plays more than 9 games and he's under 20, his contract can slide to the next year. As a result, young players get a few NHL games to see what they can do and then decide whether it's worth keeping around. Urbom didn't play a ton of minutes in his first seven games, so sending him down was the right course of action. As such, he got 72 games of AHL experience to get used to the pro game. The fact he was recalled for the last game of the season was a sign that the team was interested in seeing the results of a first pro season. Urbom put up some points in Albany, but it became clear he would not turn into an offensive defenseman of any kind.
Last season further drove that point home. That's not a knock on the guy. If anything, Urbom further improved his game in 2011-12. He's worked his way up the depth chart in Albany and became one of the team's top defensemen. He was also their lone representative at the AHL All Star Game, which is a pretty big compliment of Urbom's performance in 2011-12 since he isn't an offensive player. Urbom's big, strong, and he knows how to play physically without taking too many penalties. He's actually a pretty good skater, which helps him in all kinds of situations. He's good at making good decisions in his own end both with and without the puck. He's fine on defense, it's just that he doesn't have many offensive skills. In any case, Urbom did get five games with New Jersey to fill in back in December. Again, while limited in minutes (and scored this one goal), it's another sign the Devils have been keeping a close eye on him.
Essentially, I get the sense that the Devils really like Urbom and think he could be a solid NHL defenseman. I can't disagree, and I doubt the other writers would either. Neither would Corey Pronman, who noted that Urbom could very well be a second-pairing defenseman in his short profile on the player. That may not seem all that much, but it would be really beneficial if he could become such a player. While New Jersey has plenty of defensemen in New Jersey and in the system, some of them are starting to show their age. When, say, Anton Volchenkov or Bryce Salvador stop being as effective, Urbom could be the one to replace their roles. Depth is partially why they have been able to just test the waters with him with some short call ups to see how he'll do. I do think they have long term plans for him. If the powers that be don't think he's ready for a longer stay in the NHL yet, then it can't be too much longer. After all, that entry level contract ends after next season so don't be surprised if you see him at the Rock before then.
Urbom has been given a few NHL games, he's been progressing with Albany, and his skillset appears to be rather good for a defensive defenseman prospect. All this and he's not even 22 just yet. (He will be on December 20, for what it's worth.) As a result, we all ranked him fairly high on our lists. He doesn't have as much NHL experience as some of the players below him, but his path is clear and all signs point to him getting to the next level. Once he gets there, he may stick. As with the other writers, I'm looking forward to it when it happens. Obviously, it can't be right now. There's a lockout and Urbom's been out with the dreaded "upper body injury" since October 21. But I suspect it'll be in the near future.
That's our take on Alexander Urbom, now we want to know yours. Do you think we ranked him too high, too low, or just about right? What do you think of Urbom as he enters his third professional season of hockey in North America? What do you expect him to do in Albany once he gets healthy again? Assuming there is even a NHL season, how many NHL games do you think he'll play in? Do you agree that he has a long term future here in New Jersey? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Urbom in the comments. Thank you for reading.