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And Then There Were 38: New Jersey Devils Cut 21 Players from Training Camp

The New Jersey Devils made their first round of cuts from training camp, returning six players to juniors and demoting 15 other players to their AHL affiliate in Albany. With 38 players left, I touch on the tough decisions that lie ahead.

If you want to see this shot from Reid Boucher, then you'll have to check out an Albany game.
If you want to see this shot from Reid Boucher, then you'll have to check out an Albany game.
Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Tomorrow is the halfway mark of the New Jersey Devils' preseason schedule for this month.  However, the organization has made some tough decisions today by cutting their training camp roster down to 38 players.   Many of the 21 players who were demoted to Albany or returned to their junior teams won't surprise you.  However, there are a few notable names both in terms of who's leaving Newark and who's still there for now.   Tom Gulitti at Fire & Ice has the full list of who was cut. Here's a synopsis:

To Juniors: Ryan Kujawinski (Kingston, OHL), Myles Bell (Kelowna, WHL), Ben Johnson (Windsor, OHL), Remy Giftopoulos (Windsor, OHL), Graham Black (Swift Current, WHL), and Anthony Brodeur (Gatineau, QMJHL)

Of those six, the only one that jumped off the page was Bell.  I didn't think he was eligible to go back as he's 20 years old.  Then again, I'm not quite sure what the cutoff date for overage players are for the WHL or the Canadian Hockey League.  Bell was born on August 13, 1993 so he clearly was ahead of it.  Oh well.   Everyone else has plenty to work on at the junior level.  Though I'm not terribly concerned about Giftopoulos, as he was here on a try-out.

To Albany: Let's break it up by position

Goalie - Maxime Clermont

Defensemen - Seth Helgeson, Raman Hrabarenka, Reece Scarlett, Corbin McPherson, Dan Kelly

Forwards - Reid Boucher, Harri Pesonen, Darcy Zajac, Mike Hoeffel, Joe Whitney, David Wohlberg, Ben Thomson, Chris McKelvie, Riley Boychuk

I don't think anyone is truly surprised these players did not make it to New Jersey.  Maxime Clermont is the fifth wheel on a bicycle at his position.  Defense is loaded in New Jersey and with Eric Gelinas, Alexander Urbom, and Jon Merrill sticking out, these five defenders weren't going to get a look in a game.

Forward is a different story. Reid Boucher played in both preseason games, which one would think may mean a team would want to keep him around.  Apparently, the coaches have seen enough and feel he should go down now.  I fully expected Boucher to play in Albany by the end of camp, I just didn't expect it to be now.  Then again, it's not like he was particularly good in either game.  According to this post by Gulitti earlier today, Pesonen has been sidelined with an groin injury in the past few days.  I suppose the decision to move him down now was made in part of that; he would recover with the team he'll likely play with in 2013-14.  Darcy Zajac also got a game and suffered in between two useless players; but Albany's the right spot for him -  along with the other six.  Among them,  I would have liked to have seen Whitney get some minutes.  I'd be interested to see what he could do against teams comprised of AHL talent he's used to playing against and some NHL talent.  He did lead Albany in scoring so it's not as if he'd be totally lost; but I'm not the one watching the guys work it out in camp.  I don't think he'll be anything more than a depth call up but it would have been nice to see.

For these fifteen, while their time in New Jersey's camp is done, their competition continues.  There are some AHL-signed players to contend with and New Jersey will move more players down to Albany quite soon.  Spots will be limited.  Clermont is definitely ECHL-bound when Scott Wedgewood and Keith Kinkaid move upstate.  There will likely be a logjam on Albany's blueline to match New Jersey's.  Even forward could be tricky as the Devils are loaded with bottom-six talent.  Alas, there are only a few more than six spots for them.  It may be disappointing for them to leave the AmeriHealth Pavilion and the Prudential Center so soon, but they can't be that way for too long.  It would be even more disappointing to get moved down another level.

The Devils will play three preseason games in the next four nights with 38 on their roster.  At a minimum, they'll need to make the tough decisions for 15 more players.  Here is who is left by position:

Goalies: Cory Schneider, Martin Brodeur, Keith Kinkaid, Scott Wedgewood

Defensemen: Andy Greene, Mark Fayne, Adam Larsson, Bryce Salvador, Marek Zidlicky, Peter Harrold, Anton Volchenkov, Eric Gelinas, Alexander Urbom, Jon Merrill, Damon Severson, Brandon Burlon, Harry Young

Forwards: Patrik Elias, Adam Henrique, Travis Zajac, Jaromir Jagr, Ryane Clowe, Michael Ryder, Dainius Zubrus, Jacob Josefson, Andrei Loktionov, Rostislav Olesz, Stephen Gionta, Steve Bernier, Ryan Carter, Mattias Tedenby, Mike Sislo, Krys Barch, Cam Janssen, Stefan Matteau, Rod Pelley, Tim Sestito, Damien Brunner (on a try out)

At first glance, there are some easier cuts to make than others.  Kinkaid and Wedgewood will not play in New Jersey unless one of Schneider or Brodeur get hurt.  Harry Young and Brandon Burlon have not got into a game yet and I'd be shocked if they do.  That's two more to move.  Damon Severson is still here and even got into a game but I don't see how he lasts beyond next week.   At forward, it's not so clear but I don't see how the Devils keep Mike Sislo, Rod Pelley, Tim Sestito, and Cam Janssen given all of the players ahead of them.  The Devils know exactly what they can do - and so I'm a little surprised they survive while Boucher goes down first - and it's not much.  Oh well. I also think Matteau is due to be sent down to Albany.  That probably would be best for his development at this point of his career.  He's talented enough for pro hockey, he's eligible to play in it, and he won't have to deal with the Q.  He'll play against better talent while learning the game.  I think he'll get a preseason game first before he gets demoted, though.  That's ten players out of a potential fifteen that will eventually have to be cut in my eyes.

The remaining five players to cut isn't so clear difficult.  The Devils will likely carry seven defensemen.  I don't think Gelinas, Urbom, or Merrill will begin in New Jersey.  However, the coaches seem pretty high on Gelinas, who's received two games and looked pretty good in both.   If there's a push for an eighth defenseman - or someone else gets dealt (Aside: I really, really, really hope it's not Mark Fayne) - then he may have the inside track for that position.  He would address a need: an offensive-minded defenseman who can skate well and shoot the puck.  I think they'll all end up in Albany to start the season.

Over at forward, it's pretty much a given that Krys Barch will be on the team as the designated goon so there's really two spots to fight for.  That only becomes one if/when the Devils sign Damien Brunner.  It may not be a guarantee, but if he can show that he can do what he did in Detroit without Henrik Zetterberg, then I think New Jersey will give him a contract.  It's going to be a struggle between Tedenby, Olesz, and possibly Gionta.  I'd like to think Josefson and Loktionov are safe given their usage in the last two games and that both made their presence known.  Olesz has also appeared in both preseason games so far and I do think he can fit in right away in the bottom six.  He didn't seem too slow and he was given some responsibilities beyond even strength in both games.  Tedenby did well in his one preseason game and he does bring some speed to the table, though it's questionable whether he can do much more.  Gionta is the experienced one and DeBoer's comments in this post by Gulitti, which raises a similar question, he could be safer than we may think.  If it were me, I'd rather dump Barch than Gionta, Olesz, or even Tedenby but it's not up to me.  How much these guys get in the next few games along with how they perform will go a long way for management to make the decisions they'll need to make.

Are you surprised by any of the players cut today?  Who do you want to make the New Jersey roster that may not be guaranteed to make it?  When do you think the next round of cuts will be made?  Will it be all 15 in one go or do you think they'll space them out?  Who do you want to appear in a preseason game that has not done so yet that is not named Elias or Jagr? Please leave your answers and other thoughts in the comments.  Thank you for reading.