In putting aside the current woes for the Binghamton Devils, backed by a 6 game losing streak, we move forward with a look at two players on opposite ends of the spectrum for the future within the Organization.
First up, an unlikely candidate as a sudden point producer has emerged.
Pops Coming Along
It’s only been 11 games so far for Nikita Popugaev but he is finding his groove on his return back to NA soil. The Moscow, Russia native was drafted by New Jersey as a fourth rounder (#98 overall) in the 2017 draft and has bounced around a bit.
Before his recent departure overseas in Russia, the 20-year-old has played parts of three seasons in the WHL before he departed off to the KHL for a year and a half with the CSKA Moscow, followed by the Khabarovsk Amur before his sudden arrival here on a PTO for the BDevils last month.
At first sighting, I thought he would be better off lacing them up for Adirondack Thunder of the ECHL, but his play as of late has changed my thinking. Maybe I’m not alone.
I turned to Panel member @DuncanMRF for his thoughts as one of his prospects he is following for the 4th Quarter and this is what he had to say;
Has there been a more mysterious, frustrating #NJDevils than Popugayev these past two years? Now, with much of the AHL roster in the NHL, he's played top-line minutes and shown that he can use his size and shot on NA ice#AAtJBDevils— Duncan Field (@DuncanMRF) March 11, 2019
Popugaev registered his first AHL point last Friday with an assist on a timely pass from along the wall to a streaking Eric Tangradi. He then scored his first AHL goal on Saturday and added his second in Rochester on Sunday with both games going down in defeat. Pops was playing on the fourth line but recently moved up to the top trio with all the player movements that have taken place with Ryan Schmelzer at center.
His enthusiastic goal celebration was something special as he bent down on one knee and pulled back using his stick like an arrow to be launched. Kinda hard not to root for this guy with the limited window that has presented itself.
Duncan has a point, but will it last? Time will only tell.
Seney Sound in his Return
Brett Seney is back Bingo fans!
The London, Ontario native has been on a tear for the Binghamton Devils since his recent arrival backed with a 5 game point streak. After spending the first 11 games at the start of the 2018-’19 campaign for the BDevils, Seney was called up that endured the next 50 games for the NJDevils. During that opportunity, he registered 5 goals, 8 assists before his recent departure in favor of giving a look at several other players with contracts possibly on the line.
His size remains not a factor as Seney battles hard when pushed, a form of survival mode could be said for the 5’ 9”, 156 lb. forward while centering the second line with John Edwardh on the wing for the majority.
His one-touch passing is unique and at the same time relishes as a keen performer with on ice vision that is a rarity, especially at the AHL level. The only knock I’m having is the ability for him to finish when it comes to scoring.
Our Panel member @ChrisWasselDFS had this to say;
A few simple thoughts on Brett Seney. Yes his possession numbers relative to the team are bad (-7% compared to average). However, he is serviceable as a fourth line forward. Must learn over the summer to shoot more and get in better opportunities offensively. #AATJBDevils— Chris Wassel (@ChrisWasselDFS) March 11, 2019
This is my spin on Brett Seney.
Perhaps Seney could follow the same blueprint and not try to do too much when it comes to scoring goals, and instead be a role of a playmaker. I somewhat agree with Chris, but I’m more concerned about his aggressiveness that needs to be toned down resulting in some harmless penalties.
Corey Locke comes to mind in comparison to some physical attributes, as he was listed as a playmaker type and was able to make it work for him with 2 Calder Cups in his back pocket including one in Binghamton. However, you didn’t see the flare-ups as much, and so often from Locke in the past as you do with Seney. I don’t want to over-think this, but for the hard core fans, am I wrong?
That surely will be curtained with maturity one would hope if it is indeed a factor. Save your energy and read the ice while slowing the game to your abilities.
The 23 year-old is signed through next season.
Adirondack Thunder’s Latest News by Tracey
As the Adirondack Thunder begin the final stretch of games leading to the postseason, the team has suffered a similar fate to their affiliates, as injuries and numerous recalls have taken a toll.
Since the last Bingo Bites update, the team has gone 1-4-0-1, all against division foes, and find themselves not only far behind the North Division leaders, they are in danger of falling out of second place.
Going into a huge 3-in-3 weekend on home ice, Adirondack has a record of 31-22-5-3 and 70 points, 13 points behind first place Newfoundland, who visit Glens Falls this weekend for a pair of games. The Thunder lead third place Maine by one point, and fourth place Manchester by two points. Only nine points separate teams 2 through 7 in the division.
Adirondack will have to keep their position without several key regulars in the lineup, thanks to injuries across the organization. Forwards John Edwardh and Brian Ward remain on recall to Binghamton, while past Binghamton PTOs Conor Riley and Alex Sakellaroupoulos were picked up by other AHL teams. The team is relying on a fresh out of college goaltender to carry the workload for the time being.
But this situation pales in comparison to last week’s events.
Fighting for One of Their Own
Last weekend, Adirondack held a two-day Stick it to Cancer event at the Cool Insuring Arena. The team wore special purple jerseys that were auctioned off to fans after Saturday’s game, with proceeds going to a local hospital’s cancer treatment center. Fans had the opportunity to paint the ice surface with messages to loved ones following Friday’s contest.
Little did anyone outside the locker room know just how personal this weekend became for a member of the team.
Forward Shane Conacher, the younger brother of Syracuse forward Cory, had been out of the lineup since December 31st. No information was revealed by the team or by the ECHL as to why. Conacher had rejoined the team to practice in late February, then did a community appearance on Tuesday night. On Thursday, the 24-year-old Ontario native dropped a bombshell: just after the New Year, he was diagnosed with Stage 1 testicular cancer, and had surgery at Roswell Park in Buffalo to remove a mass.
Friday night, on the first night of the Stick it to Cancer weekend, Conacher returned to the lineup, and the game was nearly a storybook finish. With 1:23 remaining in the game, and the Thunder trailing Worcester 2-1, he tied the game with his 9th goal of the season. In the ensuing shootout, Conacher took the ice in round 3, with Adirondack down 1-0 and needing a goal to stay alive. He again came through, pushing the shootout to seven rounds before the Railers eventually grabbed the extra point.
Colby Sissons (ELC): Sissons scored his first ECHL goal against Worcester on March 3rd, his only point in 9 appearances. He was recalled to Binghamton on Monday to replace another former Thunder defenseman, Colton White, who earned his first recall to New Jersey.
Mike Szmatula (camp invite): Szmatula leads all Adirondack skaters and is third among ECHL rookies with 24 goals. He has 40 points in 51 games.
Conor Riley (PTO): Riley has 17 goals and 13 assists in 51 games. He is currently on his second AHL PTO of the season, joining the Providence Bruins on Friday.
Jake Linhart (camp invite): Linhart has 25 points (5 goals, 20 assists) in 52 games.
Alex Sakellaropoulos (PTO): Sakellaropoulos has appeared in 31 games, posting a 19-5-3 record with a 2.38 GAA, a .919 save percentage, and three shutouts. He ranks seventh among ECHL goaltenders in goals against average. After missing a week of action due to illness, Sakellaropoulos earned his third AHL PTO of the season, joining Springfield for a 3 in 3 weekend to back up former B-Sens goaltender Chris Driedger.
Non-Devils You Should Know: Amateur Try-Out Season Begins
With injuries and AHL callups taking its toll on the lineup, the Thunder have turned to the college ranks to fill some roster spots. Adirondack had a very good crop of college players come in last spring—Ryan Schmelzer came to the Thunder after finishing his senior season with Canisius and turned his successful stint into an AHL contract with Binghamton.
Szmatula joined the team after finishing his final year at Minnesota and is not only having a breakout first full season, he has been part of an AHL training camp and has two separate AHL PTOs under his belt. Keep an eye on these names, as they may soon be showing up on the Devils’ radar.
Logan Thompson, G: Thompson has temporarily taken over the Thunder net with Sakellaropoulos out of the lineup. In 5 starts since joining the team from Brock University in St. Catharine’s, Ontario, the 22-year-old is 1-3-1 with a 2.79 goals against average and .913 save percentage. Prior to Brock, the Calgary native spent three years with the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings. He also was invited to Washington’s rookie camp last summer, then spent time in Capitals training camp before joining the Badgers.
Derek Petti, F: Petti joins the Thunder after completing his senior season at Merrimack, where he was a former teammate of current Devil Brett Seney. In 28 games with the Warriors, the Massachusetts native posted his best collegiate numbers with 7 goals and 11 assists. He is scoreless in three appearances since arriving in Glens Falls.