Last season, for the first time in his career, Cory Schneider finally had the chance to become a bonafide #1 goaltender in the NHL. Schneider took the opportunity and excelled to be among the best in the NHL. His partner in the crease was Keith Kinkaid who is also returning in the backup role for this upcoming season.
With this stability at the NHL level, the Devils focused more on strengthening the goaltending position at the minor league and junior levels. No longer with the organization are former ECHL goaltender Maxime Clermont and former QMJHL prospect Anthony Brodeur. The Devils drafted highly regarded OHL goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood to give them a solid prospect in the crease going forward. They also brought Yann Danis back to the organization to challenge Scott Wedgewood for the starting position in Albany. Finally, Ken Appleby who has had a standout OHL career with Oshawa was brought in on a ATO to try to earn a professional contract. If he succeeds, he will start out in the ECHL but could very well end up challenging for a role in Albany.
Though the Devils are in the midst of a rebuild, goaltender is a strong position for them at the NHL level. Schneider will most likely be able to steal games once again for them while Kinkaid is a solid backup option. This preview will take a quick look back on last season before examining the prospect perspective and NHL outlook for this upcoming season.
A Look Back at 2014-15
|Cory Schneider||New Jersey (NHL)||69||26||31||9||2.26||0.925||5||43||87||21.17|
|Keith Kinkaid||New Jersey (NHL)||19||6||5||4||2.59||0.915||0||8||100||0.03|
|Keith Kinkaid||Albany (AHL)||13||7||2||3||2.19||0.923||1||8||89||3.15|
|Scott Clemmensen||New Jersey (NHL)||3||0||0||1||4.73||0.852||0||0||N/A||N/A|
|Scott Clemmensen||Albany (AHL)||27||12||11||2||2.23||0.918||2||13||95||2.80|
|Scott Wedgewood||Albany (AHL)||36||13||14||6||2.74||0.903||2||16||113||-10.21|
|Maxime Clermont||Albany (AHL)||6||5||1||0||2.32||0.906||0||2||110||-1.13|
|Maxime Clermont||Orlando (ECHL)||21||9||7||4||3.11||0.897||2||7||122||-11.58|
|Anthony Brodeur||GAT/DRU (QMJHL)||32||8||10||4||3.80||0.879||1||7||114||-11.90|
Last season, Cory Schneider was finally able to show that he is among the top goaltenders in the NHL on a full time basis. Despite playing on a bad team, he managed to finish 5th in SV%, 4th in Quality Starts, 6th in Quality Start%, and 3rd in Goals Saved Above Average according to Hockey-Reference. Keith Kinkaid would eventually win the backup job in New Jersey away from an aging Scott Clemmensen and proved to be solid with league average numbers which is fine for his role.
Things weren't so pretty without Kinkaid in the minors. For the most part, Scott Wedgewood and Clemmensen split time due to the fading prospect's inability to cement his role as the #1. Clemmensen was hot and cold but proved to be about league average by the end of the year. Wedgewood on the other hand was way below average which is no surprise given his minor league track record. Maxime Clermont had a few good games in Albany but mainly spent the year with Orlando in the ECHL. He often served as the backup and when he did play, he was below average compared to his peers. Unfortunately, that also falls in line with his minor league track record.
The Devils lone goaltending prospect in junior hockey was Anthony Brodeur. He struggled in his 2nd QMJHL season, losing his starting job in Gatineau and then being placed on waivers. He was eventually picked up by Drummondville where he saw himself in a backup's role once again. As the numbers point out, he was far below league average and the Devils opted not to sign him to a contract.
Minor League & Prospect Perspective
The goaltender tandem to start the season with Albany will be veteran Yann Danis and fading prospect Scott Wedgewood. Between the regular season and playoffs, Danis brings 313 games of AHL experience to go along with his 53 NHL games. The 34 year old returns to the Devils organization for the first time since serving as the NHL backup in 2009-10 where he appeared in 12 games with a .923 SV%. Since then he has spent a season in the KHL and 4 games in the NHL but has mainly been an AHL goaltender. His numbers have varied year to year lately but overall in his career, he is around the league average mark. Wedgewood has struggled since turning pro after a solid junior career in Plymouth. He posted a .900 SV% in Trenton (ECHL) in 2012-13 and admitted that he struggled to eat properly that season, thus gaining a lot of weight. In his first season in Albany in 2013-14 he split the workload with Kinkaid but managed just a .899 SV%. Last season, he was unable to keep the #1 job in Albany after Kinkaid was called up for good and managed just a .903 SV%. At 23 years old, he still has time but the numbers seem to indicate that his prospect status is quickly fading away. Will this be the year he breaks out? Or will he be splitting games with Danis all season?
After another sub-par season, the Devils parted ways with Maxime Clermont. Since they prefer to have 5 goaltenders in the organization, they brought in OHL standout, Ken Appleby on a ATO. He still hasn't been signed but the fact he's lasted this long and is now with Albany's camp seems to be a good sign. Here's how the 20 year old, 6'4, 205 lbs. goaltender has performed in his OHL career.
Last season was obviously his breakout year as he posted some of the best numbers in the OHL and won the OHL Championship and Memorial Cup (CHL Championship). It will be interesting to see what 2015-16 brings for him since his track record in the OHL isn't that long. Prior to his breakout season he was a backup for two seasons. He did show a lot of improvement in his second season compared to his first which does suggest that he has been progressing this whole time. I'm hoping the Devils give him a contract and let him start the season out in the ECHL.
With Anthony Brodeur not being offered a contract, the Devils decided to add a new prospect at the draft. They took the top ranked North American goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood from the Barrie Colts (OHL). Blackwood is known for his athleticism and 6'4, 215 lbs. frame to go along with it. Let's take a look at what he's done in his OHL career.
The first thing that stands out is Blackwood is becoming a workhorse for Barrie. He had a fine rookie season in 2013-14 in which he was about league average and then last season he showed a fair amount of progress across the board. The numbers and scouts both seem to like him which is certainly an encouraging sign. He's already off to a strong start this season with a .966 SV% through 2 games to go along with a shutout and 2 quality starts. It seems for the first time in a while, the Devils have a very strong goaltending prospect in the system. Expect him to continue to shine for Barrie this season and have a chance to represent Canada at the WJC.
There are a lot of unknowns for this year's Devils team, but that certainly won't apply to the goaltending. In Cory Schneider, the Devils have a workhorse that is among the top goaltenders in the league. Schneider is in the prime of his career at age 29 and should once again find himself among the league leaders in most goaltending categories. He appeared in a career high 69 games last season and I'd have to imagine he'd like to get around the 65+ mark again this year. Schneider will most likely be stealing games for the Devils again this season, despite the team that is iced in front of him.
After a few seasons with Albany, Keith Kinkaid has emerged as a solid, young, and cost effective backup for the Devils. Over the course of 20 games, he has a solid .915 SV% and 61.5 Quality Start%. He did well last year with scarce playing time which is important since he can expect more of the same this season. The Devils know that when Kinkaid plays, he will more likely than not give them a chance to win.
What are your expectations for Schneider and Kinkaid? Do you think Wedgewood can turn his career around this season? What do you want to see from Blackwood? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!