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An Early Look at How Albany Is Shaping up for the 2014-15 Season

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The Albany Devils are coming off one of their best years in quite some time. Let's take a look at how their coaching staff and roster is shaping up for the 2014-15 season.

Johan Hedberg is now a full time member of the Albany Devils coaching staff.
Johan Hedberg is now a full time member of the Albany Devils coaching staff.
Bruce Bennett

The Albany Devils are coming off of a successful season that saw them make the playoffs for the first time in quite awhile. Like any minor league team they are facing a fair amount of turnover amongst the coaching staff and roster. Before we take a look at how they are shaping up for the 2014-15 season, here is a reminder on where to find their full schedule as well as their broadcast schedule.

Coaching Staff

Rick Kowalsky is returning for his fifth year in charge of the Albany Devils. Kowalsky has been coaching in the Devils system since 2006 when he became the Trenton Titans (later Devils) head coach. He has a 134-131-43 record with Albany per his HockeyDB profile.

Fan favorite Sergei Brylin is returning for his second season coaching the forwards in Albany as well as his third year overall of being in the organization since his retirement as a player.

Former Trenton, Lowell, and Albany Devils goaltender, Dave Caruso, resigned his role as Albany's goaltending coach after two years at the helm to spend more time with his family. Unsurprisingly, Johan Hedberg who was a special assignment coach for the Devils last year, slides into the vacated role for Albany for the upcoming season.

The promotion of Tommy Albelin to the New Jersey coaching staff following the departure of Scott Stevens left a hole on the Albany staff for a defensive coach. The Devils took a look at the past to bring in David Cunniff, a former Albany River Rat during the late 90's whose father John Cunniff coached both the New Jersey Devils from 1989 to 1991 over the parts of three seasons and the Albany River Rats from 1996 to 2001 before spending half of the 2001-02 season as an assistant in New Jersey. David was a forward but has plenty of experience coaching at the AHL level as an assistant coach with Cleveland from 2002 to 2006 and Worcester from 2006 to 2014, so handling the defense should be no problem.

New Additions

Player Pos. 2013-14 Team 2013-14 League
Damon Severson D Kelowna WHL
Graham Black C Swift Current WHL
Ben Johnson LW Windsor OHL
Ben Thomson LW Kitchener/North Bay OHL
Myles Bell RW Kelowna WHL
Joe Faust D Wisconsin NCAA
Paul Thompson RW Wilkes-Barre/Springfield AHL

Everyone on that list, except Paul Thompson, is about to enter their first year in professional hockey. I've written on these prospects and their NHL equivalencies and interviewed three sources to give insight into the junior prospects that are turning pro.

I haven't touched much on Faust in the past simply because he seems like an organization depth defensemen. I wouldn't be surprised if Albany's defensive depth pushes him to an ECHL role this year - wherever that may be.

I should also mention that Myles Bell hasn't been signed but the Devils still own his rights for another year and the fact he is in camp makes me believe a deal isn't that far off.

The interesting name on the list above is 25 year old right wing, Paul Thompson. The AHL site list him at 6'1, 198 lbs with a late November birth date. Thompson spent four seasons at the University of New Hampshire from 2007 to 2011 where he had 112 points in 140 games. It's worth mentioning that he was teammates with current Albany Devil, Mike Sislo, all four years of college. After college, he signed an ELC with the Penguins where he played with Wilkes-Barre in the AHL before being traded to the Blue Jackets organization and finishing the year with Springfield, also in the AHL. In 200 career AHL games he has 73 points and 223 penalty minutes, so I imagine he's there as a depth player. Here is his complete profile via Elite Prospects.

While it's possible the Devils may sign one of their tryouts to a two way contract or AHL deal, I haven't included them in this list simply because the likelihood of that happening isn't high. I also didn't include Scott Clemmensen on the list even though the possibility of him being in Albany seems around 50/50 at the moment.

Departures

Player Pos. Team League
Harri Pesonen LW Lausanne NLA
Alexander Urbom D Severstal KHL
Mike Hoeffel LW Springfield AHL
Mattias Tedenby LW HV71 SHL
Harry Young D Retired
Artem Demkov RW HK Sochi KHL
Riley Boychuk LW Free Agent
Curtis Gedig D Adirondack AHL

As you can see from the list above, Albany isn't going to be missing any key players, unless you count the graduations of Jon Merrill, Eric Gelinas, and Adam Larsson to New Jersey. It is still possible they lose a player like Reid Boucher or Stefan Matteau to the big club but both are likely to see some time in Albany this season.

Pesonen had a solid two year stay with Albany, appearing in 139 games and putting up 67 points. However, he never impressed enough to earn more than 4 games with New Jersey and was unable to cement a spot with the big club. He's gone on to play in the Swiss league.

By now Devils fans are well aware of the struggles that Urbom and Tedenby both had in trying to make the NHL as full time players. With numerous young defensemen at every level of the prospect system, Urbom wisely chose to sign to play in the KHL where he is more likely to have success. Tedenby actually intended to play in the KHL, signing with HC Lev Praha but ended up back in Sweden when HC Lev Praha decided to sit out the year due to financial problems.

Hoeffel, Demkov, and Boychuk are all career minor leaguers in North America that went separate paths. Hoeffel will try to make an impression with the Blue Jackets farm club, Demkov is back to play for KHL expansion franchise HK Sochi, and Boychuk is currently a free agent.

After a successful junior career and four year minor league career, Harry Young has decided to pursue a career in law enforcement with the Windsor Police Department. I wish him the best as he moves onto the next chapter of his life.

Though Curtis Gedig never played for Albany, it was in the plans, so much so that Lou Lamoriello told Tom Gulitti that he was being signed to an AHL deal in August. It appears Gedig, being 23 years old and seeing the current depth chart for defensemen in the organization, decided to decline that offer and exercise his rights as a free agent. He recently attended a Flames prospect camp and is in their main camp to try and earn a contract in an organization where he would have a better chance of eventually earning a NHL spot. He was one of my favorite players to watch the past few years in college so I wish him the best.

Returning Players and the Depth Chart

Below are all of the new players and returning players together. I want to point out that the depth chart isn't meant to be a line projection of any sorts or a ranking. It's just to give an idea of the minor league players the Devils will have this year.

LW C RW
Boucher Timmins Sislo
Whitney K. Zajac Thompson
Matteau Black Janssen
Johnson Sestito D. Zajac
Thomson Pelley Bell
McKelvie Wohlberg

Once again these aren't suggested lines or anything of that nature. A player like Boucher could end up in New Jersey or on the right wing for Albany.  Young players like Johnson or Thomson may shift positions for playing time over the likes of Janssen and Darcy Zajac.

The Albany Devils have a nice mix of young and old players this season. Boucher, Sislo, Matteau, and Kelly Zajac return for another year of development. Prospects like Black, Johnson, Thomson, and Bell come into the team for the first time. Productive AHL players like Whitney and Timmins are back as well as character guys like captain Rod Pelley and alternates Tim Sestito and Chris McKelvie to provide leadership.

Defense
Helgeson Severson
Scarlett McPherson
Hrabarenka Burlon
Kelly Faust

Helgeson and Severson should be the two most important defensemen for Albany whether or not they play on the same pair. Both are in line to be amongst the first call ups should an injury crisis hit. Scarlett, McPherson, and Hrabarenka are still interesting players to follow though their upsides are limited. Burlon, Kelly, and Faust aren't exciting but Kelly should serve an important leadership role on the team.

Goaltenders
Kinkaid
Wedgewood
Clermont

It's very possible Clemmensen and Kinkaid switch roles. I'd also expect Clermont to go out to an ECHL club once again. So far it hasn't been announced where the Devils will be sending their ECHL players to this year.

Your Take

With all of these changes to the coaching staff and roster, do you feel better or worse about this upcoming season? Do you think Albany can make the playoffs for the second year in a row? What players are you looking forward to seeing the most in Albany? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!