As we move towards the end of July, I wanted to take a look to see how Albany's roster is shaping up for the upcoming season. Some players have already moved on from the organization since the start of free agency, such as 4 time leading scorer LW Joe Whitney, who is now a member of the Islanders organization. Devils minor league veteran C Tim Sestito has moved on to play for Dinamo Riga in the KHL, RW Myles Bell who spent most of last year in the ECHL will now play for Stjernen in Norway, and G Scott Clemmensen has retired to become the Devils goaltending development coach. Other players that will not return are D Mark Fraser, D Corbin McPherson, and G Maxime Clermont.
There are still a few former ADevils from last season that are free agents without much certainty over their future such as LW Chris McKelvie, C Scott Timmins, C David Wohlberg, C Kelly Zajac, RW Alexandre Carrier, RW Cam Janssen, RW Darcy Zajac, D Mike Keenan, D Eric Baier, and D Joe Faust. It is notable that Faust was in development camp so perhaps he has/will have an AHL deal for next season. Baier has already re-signed with his ECHL club in Orlando.
The Albany Devils have signed LW Matt Lorito and RW Max Novak to AHL deals. Lorito impressed in a brief run at the end of last season when he joined the organization after his college career ended. Novak also featured in a few games at the end of the season.
The Devils have signed a few players that could see time in Albany next season. C/RW Sergey Kalinin from Avangard Omsk of the KHL and D Vojtech Mozik from HC Plzen in the Czech league have been brought in with a great chance to earn a spot in New Jersey. Should they not do that, Albany will be an option. Veteran and former Devil, G Yann Danis has returned with a solid chance to be the #3 goaltender on the depth chart and could very well be the starter in Albany. Offensive minded D Marc-Andre Gragnani was brought back to North America after spending a season in the KHL and most recently leading the Swiss league in scoring by a defenseman. He previously played in 325 AHL games and had 234 points to show for it.
The next group of players I want to focus on include those prospects that are turning professional. C Joseph Blandisi is coming off of a huge season with Barrie in the OHL where he had 112 points in 68 games as an overager. C Ryan Kujawinski had a solid season to cap off an up and down OHL career that saw the former OHL 1st round pick put up 184 points in 231 games. C Blake Pietila who excelled in the faceoff circle for Michigan Tech the last 2 seasons will make his pro debut this fall. Unlike Blandisi and Kujawinski, Pietila isn't known for his offense but is considered a solid defensive player which was what helped get him selected to the USA U20 team for the WJC in 2013. C Blake Coleman will also get a chance to test himself at the next level this fall. The former Miami University and Indiana Ice standout will turn 24 in November and is someone that may not need a ton of AHL time before getting a look at the NHL level. He did really well the past 2 season for Miami in producing goals and shots and is someone that always plays a hard, physical game.
As you will see below, Albany also has some familiar faces returning. Captain C Rod Pelley is back for another season to mentor the younger players. RW Paul Thompson, who has a shot to play in New Jersey, is also under contract after a breakout year that saw him score 33 goals in 73 games. Fast LW Ben Johnson will look to earn a full time spot in the AHL this season after spending some time in the ECHL late last season. LW Ben Thomson and C Graham Black also look to improve upon their rookie campaigns. RW Mike Sislo who has seen some time in New Jersey is back for another year to be an offensive threat for the ADevils. Veteran defensemen Brandon Burlon, Dan Kelly, and Reece Scarlett also return. D Seth Helgeson is another bubble player that could split time between New Jersey and Albany this upcoming season. G Scott Wedgewood returns, with a chance to earn the starting job, but he will still be looking for his first solid season as a pro.
Bubble players to me include LW Stefan Matteau, LW Reid Boucher, C Sergey Kalinin, C Jim O'Brien, RW Paul Thompson, D Raman Hrabarenka, D Vojtech Mozik, and D Seth Helgeson. In my projection I'm going to say that Matteau, Boucher, and Kalinin are likely to start the season in New Jersey. For the defense, I'll add in Helgeson to that mix. Below is what, at this point in time, Albany's roster could look like to start the season:
LW: Lorito, Johnson, Thomson
C: O'Brien, Black, Blandisi, Kujawinski, Coleman, Pietila, Pelley
RW: Thompson, Sislo, Novak
LD: Gragnani, Burlon, Kelly
RD: Hrabarenka, Mozik, Scarlett, Faust?
G: Danis, Wedgewood
*Players are listed in no particular order and naturally there will be some guys shifting on to the wings.
How do you feel about the way Albany is shaping up for next season? Which players do you think are likely to get a chance to earn a spot in New Jersey? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!