Thanks to the New Jersey Devils YouTube account, the replays of their two games from the Prospects’ Challenge in Buffalo was made available to fans. As I’ve been jones-ing for some hockey, I wound up watching both games; first the victory over Buffalo, and then the loss to Boston. It gave me an opportunity as well to watch our prospects who I do not always have the ability to see play and quite a few of them went on to make positive impressions. Who played well? Who shows promise in our organization? Here’s my list:
John Quenneville: Quenneville was the guy who got the scoring rolling for New Jersey against Buffalo in the first game. He was one of the smoothest players on the ice, consistently making smart plays and helping to push the offense forward. Q may be a long shot to make the team just because of the number of forwards ahead of him, but he should get a good, long look in camp. For a guy who was picked 30th overall in a draft (a position that can be very hit or miss for draft picks) Quenneville is showing a lot of promise as a smart choice.
Nick Lappin: If this kid isn’t in New Jersey by the end of the season, I will be VERY surprised. Lappin had a reputation from Albany for being a shoot first guy and it showed in a good way during this game. His shot and his speed helped him to create a number of chances and he led the rush that resulted in Quenneville cashing in on the Devils first goal. With right wing being a position of organizational weakness at the moment, Lappin might just be the shot in the arm that New Jersey needs.
Brandon Gignac: A prospect of ours that was so new that I was still unfamiliar with how to say his name (for those wondering it’s seemingly Gee-Nyac) until I heard the public address announcer say it. Gignac finished with the highest points totals of all prospects over the weekend with 3 goals and 2 assists for 5 points in the 2 games. He played wing in the first game and center in the second while showing some promise at both. Some people may feel his stats are inflated due to his empty net goal against Buffalo, but the defensive play he made to swipe the puck and deposit it was excellent. Gignac played with energy, an active stick, and some skilled and was rewarded as a result.
Blake Speers: Speers was another guy who I had not seen much of up until this point, and he impressed me with his play during this tournament with 3 goals and an assist. He and Gignac played well with each other and Speers helped to push play forward with his speed and a bit of power as well. I look forward to seeing more from him in training camp and how he performs against NHL players.
Honorable Mentions: Pavel Zacha & Joseph Blandisi: Both showed poise and promise during the game they appeared in and played well, but neither really took over the game or put forth any points. Again, they were not bad, but I was looking for a bigger impact from one or both.
Steve Santini: There were some mistakes, but Santini put forth a solid effort on both nights. At this point I honestly feel I’m not stretching the truth when I say he’s a better defender than either Jo(h)n currently on New Jersey’s roster. Steve brings some snarl to a team that is for the most part devoid of physicality. With all the questions on the back end this year, I just don’t see Santini missing the cut unless he has a disastrous training camp.
Josh Jacobs: Jacobs played with Santini against Buffalo and with Colton White against Boston and played some good defense on both nights. Again, like Santini there were a couple of errors here and there, but that is to be expected from younger players. Jacobs could stand to contribute a bit more on the offensive side of things; it will be interesting to see how he develops further this season.
Honorable Mention: Colton White: White along with Speers both earned their entry level contracts with New Jersey after this game. While none of the defenders were true forces in this tournement, all 3 including White looked solid. He’s another player that I’m interested in watching grow this year.
Evan Cormier: 1 goal over 2 periods is definitely not a bad showing for someone who is still so young and yet to reach his full potential. Cormier looked poised and confident in the game against Buffalo, and while he was not as successful against Boston, I chalk the weekend up as a success overall for him. It will be interesting what the goaltending situation behind Cory Schneider looks like in a few years with both Cormier and Mackenzie Blackwood (who did not have a great game against Boston) moving through the system.
So there you have my picks for who looked the best for New Jersey against their opposition during this challenge. While other players showed up on the score sheet (such as Nathan Bastian) I felt these were the guys who had the best overall efforts and most impact on the games. Keep in mind as well this is just one viewer’s opinion and there are others who have seen these games that might have a different take. If you didn’t watch the games yet, I recommend you do as the action was quite good.
For those who watched/read results, what did you think of the performance of the Devils’ prospects? Who stood out to you in a good way? Did anyone stand out to you in a bad way? Who played in this tournament that you’re hoping to see in the NHL this season? Leave any and all comments below and thank you as always for reading!