Now that all New Jersey Devils' prospects are done playing for the 2013-2014 season, it's time to look back at the good and the bad. I'm going to start it off by naming superlatives for the Albany Devils. Overall, they were a solid team that relied on everyone to produce and do their part, but there were some disappointments, as well.
MVP & Top Forward - Joe Whitney
This was a no-brainer. Joe Whitney lead the team in scoring for the third straight season with 53 points (22g, 31a) - 13 higher than the next best player. His point total was good for .73 PPG and only two forwards (Harri Pesonen and Rod Pelley) played in more regular season games than Whitney.
Whitney also broke a few Albany franchise records during 2013-2014. He is now the franchise leader in goals, assists, and points. He didn't do much in his NHL debut, but he was a huge factor throughout the entire AHL season. He also had one goal in the four playoff games.
Top Defenseman - Seth Helgeson
There were a few players who could have earned this title, but I went with Helgeson. While Raman Hrabarenka was the top scoring defenseman with 21 points, he only played in 48 games. Similarly, Reece Scarlett had a strong rookie season with 20 points in the same amount of games. Dan Kelly played in 71 games and had 17 points while keeping a +13. While they were all strong players for Albany, Helgeson surpassed them all in my mind.
Helgeson played in all but one game this season (the season finally when a playoff spot was already clinched) and was huge in shutting down top lines in close games. With his partner, Corbin McPherson, he was part of the most reliable defensive pairing on the team while being the most tenacious. He wasn't good for many points, but he did his job every night against the toughest competition.
Best Rookie - Reid Boucher
While Jon Merrill was good enough to earn a regular spot in New Jersey, he didn't play enough in Albany to earn the top rookie spot for this team. With that said, we were all eagerly awaiting to see how Reid Boucher would perform at the professional level, and after a full season in the AHL, he performed. He was second on the team in goals scored with 22 in 56 games and he had 38 total points. He wasn't the strongest player defensively, but he did his job as a scoring forward. He did have one rough patch during the middle of the season after he was returned from his stint in New Jersey (in which played 23 games and scored two goals and five assists), but he came back from it when the team was making a push for the playoffs.
Top Goalie - Keith Kinkaid
Both Kinkaid and Wedgewood were great for Albany this season, but Kinkaid lead the Devils to the postseason for the first time since moving back to Albany. He was the third best goalie in the AHL with four shutouts, a 2.29 GAA, and a .912 SAV%. He also had 22 wins in 43 games played and was the Devils' best player in the Calder Cup Playoffs. He had a .932 SAV% in his four starts in the playoffs and kept the team in each game they played.
Most Improved from 2012-2013 - Kelly Zajac
As noted above, Kelly Zajac was technically a rookie this season. He played in just 14 games in the AHL during 2012-2013 due to injuries and playing part of the season in the ECHL. With his first full AHL season, Zajac was great - he played in 67 games and had 44 points (second on the team). That is compared to his 14 games and four points in his first season.
Best NJ Call-up - Jon Merrill
He was voted the best rookie for our ILWT 2013-2014 awards, so this is a pretty obvious one. There were many call-ups this season, and some of them were for a long period of time, but Merrill ran away with it. He didn't have the same offensive pizazz Eric Gelinas had, but he had more ice time, was more reliable, and he got better as the season went on.
Least Valuable Player - Alexander Urbom
Remember how upset we all were when the Washington Capitals claimed Urbom off waivers? And then he was brought back when the Caps waived him, and the traffic jam at defense became even more congested. In 32 games with Albany this season Urbom has 11 points, but was a -5 and seemed to get in the way more than he helped. He played in three of the four playoff games and was a -3. I don't expect him to do much more with the Devils with the number of strong defenders in the system, and the way his season turned out I am not upset about it at all. He was disappointing and unnecessary during the 2013-2014 season.
Best Scratch - Cam Janssen
Honestly, if I didn't have a full list of each prospect, I'd forget Janssen was an Albany Devil this season and I'm fine with that. He did next to nothing for the team in his 27 games played - he had three assists, 24 penalty minutes, and three shots on goal. I only wish he could have been scratched more often.
Most Anticipated - Damon Severson / Graham Black
I am the most excited to see what Black and Severson do in Albany next season. There are a bunch of players looking to start their pro careers in 2014-2015, but seeing what those two can do will be fun.
Severson is an offensive minded defender who got a good look in preseason last year and could make a difference right away in Albany. Black had a breakout season in 2012-2013 for the Swift Current Broncos scoring 97 points and proved he wont let his past struggles with illness get in the way of making an impact.
Who would you name to the superlatives above? Are there any you would add? Looking back at the season, who do you think can carry over their strong play to next year? Who do you hope to see off the roster? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below. Thanks for reading.