Four players made their NHL debuts during the 2012-2013 season with the Devils - Jeff Frazee, Keith Kinkaid, Harri Pesonen, and Eric Gelinas. Three of these four players will be back with the Devils organization next year (Jeff Frazee recently signed a contract with the HC Valpellice in the Italian Elite.A). While none of the three who are remaining with the Devils made a major impact in their game(s) played, getting that first NHL game under their belts could help them a lot if they get the chance with the big club again next season. As John wrote yesterday, Gelinas may get his shot in New Jersey next season, and having played even just one game should help his nerves as he competes for a spot. Here is a look at how each player performed during their first shot with the New Jersey Devils.
Kinkaid was recalled by the Devils when Brodeur was injured. He sat and watched Hedberg struggle to win a game, and many fans were calling for Kinkaid to get a shot. His time finally came on March 5 against the Tampa Bay Lightning - the Devils were losing 3-0 late in the second period when Peter DeBoer finally decided enough was enough and he pulled Hedberg. Kinkaid was tested with thirteen shots and he saved twelve of them, including this beauty on Steven Stamkos just over a minute into the third period,
Later in the period, Kinkaid let in his only goal against of the game, but the Devils responded to his valiant effort with goals from Henrique (shorthanded) and Elias (powerplay). While the Devils ended up losing 5-2 (Tampa Bay scored an empty net goal to end the game), Kinkaid performed well in the spotlight.
If there were an injury to either Brodeur or Schneider next season, I would expect Kinkaid to be the first goalie called up. Having even just over one period of NHL experience likely allowed him to get the jitters out and he should be set if given the chance.
Of the three players discussed here, Pesonen played in the most NHL games during 2012-2013. In four games from March 16 - March 25, Pesonen averaged just over nine minutes per game. He played with Patrik Elias and David Clarkson in his debut against the Montreal Canadiens and, while he wasn't a liability, he didn't do much. He didn't get any points during his time in New Jersey, but did get two penalty minutes in a 4-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes (Brodeur's first game back from injury). Here is one of Pesonen's highlights from that game,
While I don't think Pesonen will get a spot on the NHL team this year, I wouldn't be surprised if he was used in a way similar to last year. If injuries occur, Pesonen has showed that he can hold his own in New Jersey without being a defensive liability.
Unlike Kinkaid and Pesonen, Gelinas has the best shot of making it in New Jersey for the 2013-2014 season. While his spot isn't definite, he will be looked at during camp to see if he has what it takes.
Gelinas made his NHL debut on April 25 in the Devils last home game in 2013 - a 3-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Gelinas was quiet in his first game - he was paired with Peter Harrold and was not a liability by any means. He got one shot on goal and two missed shots and played just over fifteen minutes in the contest.
After his first game, Lamoriello said he liked what he saw - and that he performed better than Alex Urbom, another top defenseman in Albany who had made his NHL debut in 2010-2011. He has been mentioned by Lamoriello on multiple occasions along with Urbom and Merrill about the possibility of getting a full time spot in the NHL next season, so having the opportunity to get that first game under his belt last season will be good for his nerves and expectations coming into camp.
Last season saw three players hold their own in their first stint at the NHL level. While Kinkaid will most definitely be playing in the AHL, assuming both Brodeur and Schneider remain healthy, Pesonen and Gelinas could get their shot at a roster spot in the NHL. Of the three, who impressed you the most in their NHL debut? Who would you like to see back in New Jersey next year, whether it is as a regular or called up when necessary? What Albany players would you like to see get a shot in their NHL debut next season? Feel free to discuss in the comments section below. As always, thanks for reading!