A new season of New Jersey Devils hockey is nearly upon us. Today we will continue our season preview here on All About the Jersey by focusing on the goaltenders. The goaltenders at the NHL level will be familiar though the playing time situation could be something to keep an eye on as the season progresses. There has been some turnover among the goaltenders in the system across the AHL, junior, and European levels. 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 has been a member of the Devils since the 2013-14 season and their undisputed starter since the 2014-15 season. He was very effective for the Devils from 2013 to 2016 despite playing on some bad teams. In 172 games played he went 69-71-27 with a 2.14 GAA, .924 SV%, and 62.7 Quality Start% according to Hockey-Reference. His Goals Saved Above Average for those three seasons were 7.39, 21.17, and 13.97 respectively. Schneider’s strong play would come to an end in the 2016-17 season as he would play in 60 games with a 20-27-11 record, 2.82 GAA, .908 SV%, 45.8 Quality Start%, and -8.87 Goals Saved Above Average. He would follow that up last season with just 40 games played due to injury with a 17-16-6 record, 2.93 GAA, .907 SV%, 47.5 Quality Start%, and -6.22 Goals Saved Above Average. Of course we know now that he’s been battling a hip issue since the 2016-17 season which isn’t too surprising now that he’s on the wrong side of 30. He did manage a brief return to form in the playoffs last season with a .950 SV% in 4 games (3 starts).
He had offseason hip surgery which held him out of preseason action, though he was able to practice with the team. He’s likely to miss a few games to start the season but then reclaim his #1 job. I hope that his hip is now healthy and will allow him to return to being the goaltender he was before the issues. He is getting up there in age though so the Devils should proceed with caution to monitor his workload. It will be interesting to see how many games he plays in and how effective he is in his age 32 season in 2018-19.
Keith Kinkaid has been the Devils reliable back up since the 2014-15 season but found himself having to start more than usual last season. Coming into last season Kinkaid had appeared in 69 games with a 23-27-8 record, 2.68 GAA, .912 SV%, and 53.6 Quality Start%. Last season he put in a quality body of work by appearing in 41 regular season games with a 26-10-3 record, 2.77 GAA, .913 SV%, 50.0 Quality Start%, and was worth 0.55 Goals Saved Above Average according to Hockey-Reference. Kinkaid excelled when he had to step up to being the #1 with Schneider out with an impressive 30 game stretch from 1/16 - 4/5. In that time he went 21-7-1 with a .918 SV%.
With Schneider set to miss the beginning of the season due to recovering from offseason hip surgery, Kinkaid will once again have a great chance to prove why he deserves playing time. Even though Schneider will likely step back into his #1 role, a strong early season showing from Kinkaid could make Coach Hynes comfortable going back to Kinkaid quickly if Schneider isn’t performing. Kinkaid is also in the final season of his contract and will surely want to put himself in the best position to enter negotiations next summer. It will be interesting to see if the Devils have a goaltending battle on their hands this upcoming season.
The Devils acquired the veteran Eddie Lack right before the turn of the year last season as they needed an experienced #3 on the depth chart. The 30 year old netminder had spent the bulk of his career with Vancouver and Carolina with mixed results. He began last season with the Calgary Flames putting up a .813 SV% in 4 NHL games with the Flames and a .916 SV% in 5 AHL games with Stockton. In limited action with New Jersey he had a .903 SV% in 4 NHL games and .889 SV% in 16 AHL games with Binghamton. With Schneider’s health still being a concern as well as Binghamton needing an established goaltender, the Devils re-signed Lack to a cheap one-year deal for 2018-19. He’ll open the season as Kinkaid’s back up until Schneider returns and remain available to the big club as depth piece. He’ll challenge Blackwood and Johnson for playing time in Binghamton and hopefully push those two prospects to finding another level to their game. While his row may not be glamorous, it will be important to the Devils at both the NHL and AHL level this season.
The Devils drafted Mackenzie Blackwood in the 2nd round of the 2015 draft. At the time he was one of the rising goaltending prospects in the game due to his frame (now at 6’4, 225 lbs.), raw athleticism, and strong play in the OHL for Barrie. He would break out even further in his post draft year with a .921 SV% in 43 regular season games for Barrie as well as .915 SV% in 13 playoff games. He earned OHL Goaltender of the Year honors and really seemed ready to take the next step to pro hockey. In 2016-17 he had an up and down season with Albany in the AHL with a .907 SV% in 36 regular season games. He did well in the playoffs despite losing the opening series with a .928 SV% in 4 games. Last season did not go well for Blackwood at all though. He had an .882 SV% in 32 games for Binghamton and was rightfully limited in his playing time. A 5 game regular season stint in the ECHL with Adirondack did yield some positive results with a .920 SV%. He also made 5 playoff appearances and had a .964 SV%. It’s a small sample size but it seems he’s too good for the ECHL but needs to find a way to refine his skills to succeed at the AHL level. Blackwood doesn’t turn 22 until December and will still have another year left on his ELC after this season. It will be interesting to see how much playing time he can earn and if he can put a consistent, solid season together. The Devils will surely still be invested in the young goaltender due to his potential and age.
The Devils have seen some turnover in the goaltending department compared to last season. Notably they traded away Scott Wedgewood, opted against bringing back Ken Appleby, and didn’t sign prospect Evan Cormier. They did bring in a former NCAA Champion in Cam Johnson. The 6’1, 205 lbs. goaltender turned 24 in July so he’s already getting up there in age in terms of prospect status. Johnson is a former University of North Dakota standout who spent 4 seasons at the school from 2014-18. He played in 2 games as a freshman, had a .935 SV% in 34 games as a sophomore en route to a title, fell off a bit as a junior with a .903 SV% in 37 games, and finished off with a .910 SV% in 29 games as a senior. He signed his one-year ELC last spring and played in 3 games for Binghamton on a try-out contract to get his feet wet in the pro game. It’s difficult to see how the goaltending situation in Binghamton will play out but I would figure that Lack and Blackwood will challenge for the #1 spot and Johnson could be the odd man out. I think due to Lack being the organization’s #3 and Blackwood still having more regarded prospect status, Johnson could be a candidate for ECHL play at points this season. With that said he’ll definitely be able to force the issue should he produce wherever he gets his chance. I’m intrigued to see what type of season he can put together as a rookie in 2018-19.
Akira Schmid was drafted by the Devils in the 5th round of the 2018 draft. The 6’5, 205 lbs. netminder has shown the ability to utilize his large frame to cover the net, especially up high. He’s earned praise for his strong puck tracking skills to make stops despite facing a lot of traffic in front of his net. He’s still working to improve his lateral ability as he has struggled to move side to side to make saves. He’s come up through the SCL Tigers system playing his youth and junior hockey in his native Switzerland. Last season he was the regular starter for the Langnau U20 team, made a relegation appearance for SCL Tigers, and spent 4 games on loan to EHC Thun of the Regio League, the amateur championship in Switzerland. Schmid decided to make the move to North American hockey and was drafted in the CHL Import Draft by the Lethbridge Hurricanes. In his only appearance with the team he made just 20 saves on 27 shots in 56:32. Yesterday, CTV Lethbridge reported that he had been placed on waivers to help the team retain their two European defensemen as the CHL has strict roster limits. It will be interesting to see if another WHL team picks him up, if he passes on through to the other CHL leagues, or if he opts to return to junior hockey in Switzerland. This is far from an ideal start to the season and his North American career but at the age of 18 he still has plenty of time on his side to rebound.
Gilles Senn was drafted by the Devils in the 5th round of the 2017 draft at the age of 21. No doubt they were attracted to his 6’5, 192 lbs. frame and raw puck stopping skills. He’s been in the HC Davos organization since the 2011-12 season when he joined them as a junior player. He would make his professional debut in the NLA during the 2014-15 season with 4 games played and follow that up with a 6 game appearance during the 2015-16 season, while still serving as the U20 junior teams starting goaltender. He’s been the main goaltender for the senior team since 2016-17 when he put up a .911 SV% in 34 NLA regular season games and followed that up with a .905 SV% in 30 regular season games last season. He’s been about average to slightly below average when compared to his colleagues so it’s not a big surprise that HC Davos brought in veteran Anders Lindback to be their number #1 to start the 2018-19 season. Senn hasn’t seen action in any of the first 5 games of the season but seems to be the preferred back up to Lindback. Senn’s main competition the past 2 seasons, Joren van Pottelberghe is already going out on a short term loan so it seems Senn would have the upper hand to earn the #1 job should Lindback falter. Senn also figures to get games in domestic cup competitions. While losing his #1 job to start the season is a negative, I think having to compete with a veteran like Lindback could be a good learning experience for the 22 year old. It will be interesting to see what transpires this season for Senn as he’s in the last year of his contract with HC Davos.
What are your expectations for Schneider this upcoming season? How much playing time do you think Kinkaid will earn? How do you feel about Lack as the #3? What are you hoping to see from the prospects such as Blackwood, Johnson, Schmid, and Senn? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!