The Devils goaltending situation across all levels of the organization is largely unchanged from a year ago. Cory Schneider and Keith Kinkaid will look to hold down the fort for New Jersey. Mackenzie Blackwood, Scott Wedgewood, and Ken Appleby will compete for playing time with Binghamton at the AHL level. Evan Cormier will continue his development with Saginaw in the OHL as he'll try to earn a contract from the Devils. Recent draft pick Gilles Senn will continue to ply his trade in Switzerland. This post will touch on each of these goaltenders, discussing what they did last season and what role they could play this season.
Cory Schneider was an absolute rock in goal for the Devils since joining the team for the 2013-14 season. After splitting time with Martin Brodeur that season, he would claim the #1 job for good from the 2014-15 season on. Over his first 3 seasons in New Jersey he put up a 69-71-27 record with a .924 SV%, 2.14 GAA, 12 shutouts, and 62.7 Quality Start% to establish himself as one of the top goaltenders in the league. He also earned a reputation for keeping the Devils in more games than they probably deserved to be and helped steal a few points for the team. Unfortunately, his play would drop off in the 2016-17 season to the tune of a 20-27-11 record with a .908 SV%, 2.82 GAA, 2 shutouts, and 45.8 Quality Start%. Usually among the top of the goaltender leaderboard in Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA), Schneider went from 7.39 in 2013-14 to 21.17 in 2014-15 to 13.97 in 2015-16 to -8.87 last season. Essentially his performance hovered around league average to below average. With that said, the lack of goal scoring and pressure by the offense coupled with an error prone defense in front of him certainly did him no favors.
Schneider will be entering his age 31 season and is still very much capable of being one of the top goaltenders in the league. While last season was a disappointment, his track record suggests that a bounce back season could very well be in the cards for him in 2017-18. He'll once again have to handle the bulk of the schedule while dealing with a questionable defense in front of him, but he has proven himself in the past of being more than capable of handling that situation.
Reliable backup Keith Kinkaid re-signed for 2 more years with the Devils over the summer. Since earning the backup job in the 2014-15 season he has appeared in 68 games with a 23-27-8 record along with a .912 SV%, 2.69 GAA, and 53.6 Quality Start%. Last season was his finest as he appeared in 26 games with a 8-13-3 record with a .916 SV%, 2.64 GAA, 52.2 Quality Start%, and 2.33 GSAA. His game and performance won't "wow" critics but he's proven he can put in a solid, league average performance as a backup which is more than what most backups out there have done.
Kinkaid will once again serve as the backup as he enters his age 28 season. It's never easy to play behind one of the top goaltenders in the league as opportunities tend to come few and far between, but it's a role that Kinkaid has found a way to perform in. The Devils know that they can put Kinkaid out there and he'll give them a chance to win more often than not.
Minor League and Prospect Watch
Selected by the Devils in the 2nd round of the 2015 draft is the Devils top goaltending prospect, Mackenzie Blackwood. After a standout OHL career he turned pro last season at the age of 19 to play for Albany as his 20th birthday would fall in December. Overall his numbers look quite pedestrian with a 17-14-1-3 record along with a .907 SV%, 2.55 GAA, 40.0 Quality Start%, and -0.98 GSAA. As I wrote back in July, 2016-17 was really a tale of two season for the young netminder. In 14 games in 2016 he had a .884 SV%, 23.08 QS%, and 15.38 Really Bad Start%. In 22 games in 2017, he had a. 920 SV%, 50.00 QS%, and 9.09 RBS%. Blackwood is still very young, is regarded as one of the most athletic goaltending prospects out there, and has shown improvement in his skills. This season he'll have a chance to earn the undisputed #1 spot for Binghamton and a strong performance could very well bolster his prospect stock and make the Devils management take notice.
Scott Wedgewood missed most of last season due to a torn labrum in his right shoulder. He was limited to just 10 appearances for Albany with a 5-3-0-0 record along with a .912 SV%, 2.18 GAA, and 0.88 GSAA in that small sample size. Prior to last season, Wedgewood was looking to build off the first successful year of his pro career where he put up a .933 SV% in 22 games for Albany and had a decent very brief stint in New Jersey. Overall his AHL career is filled with subpar results that don't inspire confidence in him having much of an NHL career. At age 25 he finds himself in limbo as he's not that young anymore, has an established backup in NJ ahead of him in Kinkaid, and is likely to be passed over on the depth chart by prospects like Blackwood should they continue to develop. He'll definitely challenge for the #1 spot in Binghamton and could serve a mentor for Blackwood and Appleby. With that said, I don't think the Devils will prioritize giving him time over prospects like Blackwood and Appleby. Wedgewood is going to have to force them to give it to him with strong play.
The Devils signed Ken Appleby out of the OHL where he also found success, albeit as a late bloomer, like fellow prospect Mackenize Blackwood. The now 22 year old has split the past time between the ECHL and AHL. Last season he went 17-14-1-0 with a .903 SV%, 2.63 GAA, 56.25 QS%, and -4.33 GSAA. As I wrote in July, his struggles were opposite of Blackwood's. In his first 16 starts Appleby had a .930 SV%, 68.75 QS%, and 0.00 RBS%. For whatever reason, he slumped in his final 16 stats with a .877 SV%, 43.75 QS%, and 37.50 RBS%. It will be interesting to see what type of performance Appleby can put up this year. I think he could end up being the odd man out in Binghamton with Blackwood getting the bulk of playing time and Wedgewood the rest. Though he's proven himself to be above the ECHL level, another stint there to get regular playing time until he's needed in Bingahmton should injuries/call ups occur could be a solid move for him.
The Devils selected Evan Cormier in the 4th round of the 2016 draft after his first full season as a starter in the OHL. Cormier is a talented goaltender that has struggled with consistency issues over the course of his OHL career. Last season he was tasked with being a workhorse on a rebuilding Saginaw team that often found themselves pinned back in their own zone. On his day Cormier could look like a top goaltender in the OHL but all too often found himself fighting the puck and struggling to make stops that he was more than capable of making. All told his 2016-17 season was step in the right direction as he finished with a 23-19-5-2 record along with a .899 SV%, 3.23 GAA, 57.14 Quality Start%, and 0.84 GSAA. The OHL is a highly offensive league hence his league average performance despite a .899 SV%, as that is a solid mark for that league.
Saginaw will look to Cormier to continue on his upward trend and to take them back to the playoffs. It is possible that they could look to trade the soon to be 20 year old if they get off to a rough start. Regardless, Cormier is going to get to play a lot of meaningful minutes and it will be on him to prove to the Devils that he deserves a contract. This season is absolutely crucial for the Devils prospect.
Gilles Senn was drafted by the Devils in the 5th round of the 2017 draft as a 21 year old. He's already earned the starting spot for HC Davos in the NLA so he has experience playing against older competition. Last season he appeared in 34 games with a 16-14-3 record along with a .911 SV%, 2.64 GAA, and -5.43 GSAA. There is certainly room for improvement there so hopefully he can continue to develop while playing a big role for HC Davos this season. Goaltenders are unpredictable but Senn is a real wildcard. Clearly there is something that Shero and his scouts like about his game enough to use a draft pick on a multiple time overager.
Do you expect Schneider to rebound after a rough 2016-17 and get back to his usual level of play? Are you confident in Kinkaid as the Devils backup? How do you see the goaltending situation in the minor leagues playing out? What do you want to see from Blackwood, Wedgewood, and Appleby? What do you think of Cormier and Senn as prospects? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!