As we move towards the middle part of August, I wanted to take a look to see how Albany's roster is shaping up for the upcoming season. As expected, there has been a considerable amount of turnover from last year's team that finished in 2nd place in the Eastern Conference during the regular season. While the ADevils have lost a few key players, they have also signed some veteran AHL reinforcements to go along with New Jersey prospects that are turning pro. Some of the players listed below will either earn spots with the big club out of training camp, during the course of the season, or play in the ECHL. For purposes of this post, I'm going to include all players that could potentially feature for Albany this upcoming season.
In: LW/C Brandon Baddock (Edmonton - WHL), C John Quenneville (Brandon - WHL), RW Carter Camper (Hershey - AHL), RW Nick Lappin (Brown - NCAA), C Jan Mandat (Val-d'Or Foreurs - QMJHL), C Kevin Rooney (Providence - NCAA), LW Miles Wood (Boston College - NCAA), LW Luke Gadzic (Edmonton - NHL, Bakersfield - AHL)
Out: LW Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond (Syracuse - AHL), LW Matt Lorito (Grand Rapids - AHL), LW Chris McKelvie (Retired, Assistant Coach - Army), C Jim O’Brien (San Antonio - AHL), RW Brian O’Neill (Jokerit - KHL), RW Mike Sislo (San Antonio - AHL), C Graham Black (Springfield - AHL), RW Paul Thompson (Springfield - AHL)
Returning: C Blake Coleman, RW Max Novak, C Rod Pelley, LW/C Blake Pietila, RW Ryan Kujawinski, LW Ben Thomson, LW Ben Johnson
Let's start out with who's gone. Matt Lorito led the ADevils in scoring last season but signed with Detroit this summer. Mike Sislo and Jim O'Brien were 2nd and 3rd on the ADevils scoring list but both of them signed with Colorado. Paul Thompson was 4th on the ADevils in scoring but he along with Graham Black were moved to Florida in the Marc Savard deal. Continuing down the list we have Reid Boucher in the 5th spot but he figures to finally be a full time New Jersey Devils player this season. In the 6th spot was Brian O'Neill who decided to move to the KHL as a member of Jokerit. Also out of the orginaztion are PL3 who will be the enforcer for Syracuse (Tampa Bay's AHL team) and Chris McKelvie who retired and will be an assistant coach for Army. Albany will really need their new players to step up and replace some of that production in order to stay a playoff team.
Depending on how things shake out in regards to New Jersey's training camp, there are a whole group of new players ready to begin their professional careers with Albany. John Quenneville and Miles Wood are two of the more talented prospects that figure to see some time in the AHL if they don't make NJ's squad out of camp. Nick Lappin actually had a strong showing with 7 points in 12 regular season games and then 7 points in 11 playoff games for Albany last year after he signed following a successful collegiate career with Brown. He's one of my darkhorse candidates to make the jump to NJ at some point next season. Jan Mandat is an interesting AHL signing out of the Q who put up point per game numbers, albeit as 20 year old player last season. Could the Czech be a late bloomer? We'll have to see, but he'll certainly get an opportunity to showcase his talents. Moving on we have bottom 6 players in Brandon Baddock and Kevin Rooney to help provide some defensive stability.
In terms of veteran players, Luke Gadzic will likely act as the PL3 replacement while Carter Camp will be relied upon to replace some of the offense that the ADevils lost this offseason. The right handed center has put up 0.71 points per game in 328 AHL regular season games.
In terms of returning players, I'm looking forward to seeing what Blake Coleman can do now that he's healthy. It's a shame to see an injury cut any players season short, but for him to miss almost his whole age 24 season, it's even more frustrating. He's going to have to hit the ground running to show that he can be the offensive and physical force that he was for Miami a few years ago, with Albany now. Blake Pietila is another guy that will be challenging for a bottom line position in NJ with his strong defensive, physical game. Ryan Kujawinski will have a big chance to step up and be one of the top scorers for Albany this year. Ben Thomson, Max Novak, and Rod Pelley will help solidify Albany's lines with Pelley once again leading the team as captain. On a serious note, Ben Johnson has been going through his trial in Windsor this summer. I'm not going to speculate on his future.
In: Yohann Auvitu (HIFK - Liiga), Andrew MacWilliam (Manitoba - AHL), Steve Santini (Boston College - NCAA), Josh Jacobs (Sarnia - OHL), Karl Stollery (San Jose - AHL), Brandon Gormley (Colorado - NHL, San Antonio - AHL)
Out: Dan Kelly (San Jose - AHL), Brandon Burlon (Tucson - AHL), Marc-Andre Gragnani (Dinamo Minsk - KHL), Raman Hrabarenka (UFA), Joe Faust (UFA), Corbin McPherson (UFA)
Returning: Seth Helgeson, Vojtech Mozik, Reece Scarlett
Albany has seen quite a bit of turnover on the blueline with defensive mainstays Dan Kelly and Brandon Burlon signing deals elsewhere while Raman Hrabarenka, Joe Faust, and Corbin McPherson are still on the market but unlikely to return. Marc-Andre Gragnani's one year stay is over as he has moved back to Europe.
Remaining on the team are Seth Helgeson, Vojtech Mozik, and Reece Scarlett. They'll be joined by some combination of Yohann Auvitu, Andrew MacWilliam, Steve Santini, Josh Jacobs, Karl Stollery, and Brandon Gormley. I personally expect Santini and Gormley to make the NJ roster out of training camp, especially with Jon Merrill unlikely to be ready to start the year following shoulder surgery a few months ago. Auvitu, the reigning Liiga Best Defensemen and All-Star from last season is also a player that could earn a spot with New Jersey. Josh Jacobs has shown solid passing, defensive, and physical skills at every level he's played at. I think some time in the AHL to continue to round out his game as he gets used to the pro's would do him well but it's not out of the realm of possibility that he sees some time in NJ at some point during the season. Vojtech Mozik could also earn a spot on the right side on NJ's blueline but at this point I think he's on the outside looking in. Seth Helgeson will most likely anchor Albany's defense with AHL veterans MacWilliam (189 AHL games) and Stollery (276 AHL games). MacWilliam, like Helgeson, brings a solid frame (6'2, 230 lbs.) to go along with a bit of a mean streak. Karl Stollery is a bit smaller (6'0, 180 lbs.) but brings a two-way game and the ability to help out on the PP.
In: Mackenzie Blackwood (Barrie - OHL)
Out: Yann Danis
Returning: Scott Wedgewood, Ken Appleby
The Devils will start the 2016-17 season with 3 goaltenders under contract in the minor leagues. The highly touted Mackenzie Blackwood will be making his professional debut after a standout OHL career. The 19 year old netminder will most likely split time in a 1A/1B situation with returning veteran Scott Wedgewood. While getting Blackwood playing time is a priority, I'm sure they will be careful to not burn him out in his debut season. Wedgewood will be turning 24 years old in a few days and is coming off of a career year in the AHL that saw him put up a .933 SV% in 22 AHL games and make his NHL debut with 3 solid performances in 4 appearances for New Jersey. Hopefully that is a sign that he's turned the corner in his career after 3 lackluster seasons split between the AHL and ECHL, though I'm still not a believer. He’ll take on a bit of leadership role now that Yann Danis has departed the organization. Rounding out this trio is the 21 year old Ken Appleby who is coming off of a solid rookie season with Adirondack in the ECHL where he had a .924 SV% in 29 regular season games and a .920 SV% in 12 playoff games. He also made 8 apperances for Albany and if it wasn't for Blackwood, would probably be on the ADevils roster this season.
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!