Forward Joey Anderson is the focal point along with Binghamton Devils’ Head Coach Mark Dennehy in this edition of the Profile Series with questions and answers from a member of The Panel. This is the fifth in a series with the first regarding Defenseman Josh Jacobs, then Goaltender Gilles Senn and rookie Forward Mikhail Maltsev followed with Nathan Bastian that was recently featured on MSN. Com.
The Binghamton Devils went from the basement to a playoff spot within the span of 31 games. They were the hottest group in the AHL winning their last 24 of those 31 that landed them within a striking distance of third place Utica Comets and second-place Rochester Americans in the North Division before the COVID-19 epidemic shut down the remaining season.
The absolute turning point for me that this club was no joke was the series with Hershey as the BDevils swept the home-in-home weekend of Feb 14th-15th against the Bears. A 4-3 OT win in Binghamton followed by the next night with a 4-2 victory in Hershey. That would eventually lead to the BDevils winning their last 13 of 14 before another weekend series in Laval that would have been crucial in the standings if it wasn’t for the cancellation.
That more than solidified their spot for a post-season appearance with much of the 4th Quarter remaining. One positive thing to take out of this is heading towards the fall as I’ll focus on the roster during the off-season with much of the team returning.
Mark Dennehy, as I have often referred to him as Coach MD, found his way to the pros after serving as head coach of the Merrimack College Warriors for 13 seasons (2005-’18). In just his second year for the BDevils, one of his pupils just graduated to the NHL for the second time in as many seasons. That player was 2019-’20 AHL All-Star Joey Anderson representing the Binghamton Devils at the annual event.
With an overall record of 62-65-0-11 in 138 games for the BDevils, Coach MD has helped turn the franchise around. In what has been a time of frustration for fans fed up with losing in the past, there is hope for the future with stability in winning for Binghamton.
Reflecting on this is from Dave Rogan in the 3rd Quarter Grades & Evaluations concerning Coach MD;
“Remember Q1 when the team lost a half dozen two goal leads? Ancient history. This team just keeps coming, and if not overcoming deficits, is winning games in the third. These improvements come from coaching. One thing I’d like to see down the stretch is more of Gilles Senn. His play is worthy of being the #1, yet the “system” has been alternating goaltenders regardless of who they are or who the opponent is. In my opinion, Senn deserves at least 2/3 of the starts down the stretch if his play continues to be strong.”
Joey Anderson is a native out of Roseville, MN, and a 3rd Round pick in 2016 by the NJDevils, 73rd overall. The 5’ 11”, 190 lb. forward scored 15 goals and 19 assists in 44 games this past season for the Binghamton Devils before being recalled by New Jersey on Feb 3rd. Anderson saw his majority on the first line wing with Ben Street and Brett Seney while participating on the special teams on a consistent basis.
After Anderson began the 2019-’20 campaign in Binghamton, he was rewarded once again as Newark, NJ saw the potential the 21-year-old had to offer. He scored 4 goals and 2 assists in 18 games for the parent club this season before the suspended play. Anderson also spent time for NJ last year before an injury left him on the sidelines for a substantial length of time.
However, with success comes competition. With Nick Merkley (RFA) and Janne Kuokkanen joining the cast alongside the emergence of players like Mikhail Maltsev, Egor Sharangovich, and Marian Studenic, it won’t be easy. Jesper Boqvist will be battling for a spot in the line-up this fall alongside Bastian. The up and coming Fabian Zetterlund and Nate Schnarr should be in the mix at some point down the road in perhaps a supporting role sooner than later.
Although Anderson’s ELC contract has recently expired, I’m going to assume he’ll be re-signed at some point during the off-season, but if not, he’ll be an official UFA.
I turned once again to Dave Rogan and he had this say for the 3rd Quarter Grades & Evaluations.
“We’ve probably seen the last of him in the 607 unless we make the playoffs. Continued his strong play in Q3 albeit short, 4G in 7 GP. Will finish the AHL campaign with 15G 19A in 44GP. Played in every situation, and should bring that versatility to Newark in the future. Can see him consistently scoring 10-15 at the NHL level, with potential for more if he’s given the ice time & special teams time he earned at the AHL level.”
I asked Dave about what he saw of Anderson that led to what some have speculated to be a permanent role for the parent club. I also touched base on the coaching staff that Dave offered in the Grades Reports and something extra towards the end for the Binghamton faithful;
With you following Joey Anderson for his duration in Binghamton, what stood out, in your mind, was the most telling tale that led for him to be called up for the second opportunity in as many seasons?
I am going to draw a comparison for Joey Anderson to a former Binghamton player who had to work on similar issues in the AHL, and is carving out a nice (and lucrative $$$) NHL career in Mark Stone. When Stone was here (91 GP over two seasons), Ottawa wanted him to work on his skating, improve defensively, and increase his scoring touch. The foot injury stalled things last year for Anderson, but I feel he’s shown improvement in these same categories over the course of just a little over 1/2 an AHL season (57GP). I’m not saying he’ll be a consistent 20G scorer at the NHL level like Stone (remember, he is six years younger), But I believe he is Top 9 NHL ready and will only get better.
Anderson saw time on the special units quite often this season compared to his rookie campaign for the BDevils. What do you see are his strengths that could help the big club out in moving forward?
Anderson seems to have the knack to be in the right place at the right time, being where the puck is going to be before it gets there. He displays a willingness along the wall and in front of the net, and has no qualms about blocking shots. He’s earned special team’s minutes on both the PP & PK. Although its not published, it wouldn’t surprise me if Anderson is the team leader in ice time. The flexibility to move him up/down the lineup is a nice asset to the big club.
Is there a chance he starts in Binghamton once again this fall with the forward depth that the Devils’ Organization currently possesses?
With a possible new regime in Newark, who knows what the roster will look like assuming everything starts on time. I believe Anderson will make the team out of camp. Barring any deals, here are my picks for the 13Fs for ‘20-’21:
I believe they won’t qualify Hayden and may let Rooney walk to make room for McLeod (who can still be sent to Bingo without waivers (i.e. flexibility).
If we can shift gears, I have known you have been a critic of coaches in the past that served their time behind the bench for teams in Binghamton and for good reasons. What changes have you witnessed that took place in turning the season around for the BDevils, preferably in the second half?
Improved special teams come to mind. The team languished at the bottom of both categories last season, but changes in both the special team’s philosophies (not to mention better personnel) have led to better and more consistent results. More importantly, the Coach has created a healthy competition for lineup spots that the players know they must fight for to maintain. For example, on January 10 Brandon Gignac had a nice game, scoring two goals in a 5-2 win. Two days later, Gignac notches the SO winner in a thrilling come from behind win. Where is the hot hand in the next game? In the stands eating popcorn (Gignac was back in the following game). The point is the Coach has the team’s attention, and they are pulling on the rope in the same direction. This intangible was key to the second-half success.
Coach MD has been masterful inducting defensive measures as well as managing neutral ice transformations before the shutdown. What part of his planning has favored you the most? And with regard, do you consider Mark Dennehy a future coach for the NHL, specifically in New Jersey?
As the AHL has truly become a developmental league, more and more parent teams force-feed their systems on their affiliate. Being married to Hynes’ system, which wasn’t working at either level, did no favors to Coach Dennehy. Coach has shown tweaking a system to your personnel (and home barn, Bingo’s Arena is narrower than the regulation 85’) is not like learning a foreign language, and has produced increased results. A prospect is better served in my eyes having played in a winning environment. Coach has put players in positions/systems to succeed.
Getting an NHL head coaching job is difficult. Of the four major sports leagues, it seems the NHL is famous for recycling coaches (Hitchcock, Laviolette, Tortorella, etc.) The last “unknown” coach to get an NHL head job I recall was Jon Cooper (although we in Bingo were more than familiar with his stellar AHL work). I definitely think Coach Dennehy could run an NHL bench, but given the recent troubles in NJ, I think ownership will go the name/experienced route (Gallant?) and try to keep both Dennehy and Fitzgerald to work with their prospects.
And finally, like myself, you have been a long time hockey fan since the early days in the City. If you could, name your top 5 players of all-time for Binghamton and reasons why?
You saved the toughest for last. My family has had season tickets since hockey came here in 1973. I estimate I’ve been to over 2000 pro/college/junior/high school/beer league games. We’ve seen quite a few players go through here, many who have gone on great NHL careers (Sergei Zubov, Alexei Kovalev, Jason Spezza, Erik Karlsson). But I’m going to focus on guys who not only had numbers but an impact on this little town that could that’s had pro hockey 47 years and counting.
1.) Rod Bloomfield, Broome Dusters 1973-1978.
The diminutive center (5’6”) was the team’s first star when many fans thought the only difference between the red and blue lines was color. Scored 497 points in four NAHL seasons including 173 in his ‘77 MVP season. Despite his size, was extremely fiesty, averaging over 100 PIMs a year. Stuck up for himself, fighting the notorious Bill Goldthorpe on several occasions. Was one of the few NAHL’ers to make the jump to the AHL in ‘78. Was a point per game player even at the higher level, but was hit in the face with a puck midseason, and the resulting eye injury forced his retirement.
2.) Randy MacGregor, Broome Dusters 1973-1980; Binghamton Whalers 1980—1983
MacGregor emerged from Bloomfield’s shadow, and was the only NAHL player to have sustained success at the next level. He logged over 600 games in a Binghamton uniform (374 AHL) scoring 189G 286A & over 1200 PIMs. A power forward with the added gift of outside speed coupled with determination and toughness. Hard work got him a cup of coffee with the Hartford Whalers in 1982, scoring a goal against the Flyers in the first of his two career NHL games. His son resides in the area, & he and his family remain season ticket holders.
3.) Peter Fiorentino, Binghamton Rangers 1990-1995; 1996-1997; B.C. Icemen 1997-1998
The Ranger era of Binghamton hockey was a rough and tumble (yet honest) time. Plenty of physical play, numerous fights, but nothing of the ilk of today’s staged fights of having to fight after a clean open ice hit. Fiorentino epitomized that from the blue line playing a tough brand of hockey and always sticking up for his teammates. Accumulated 1659 PIMs in a Bingo sweater (183 his “low” mark). If you ever get bored, look up the ‘90-’91 B-Rangers on hockeydb to see the all the tough hombres John Paddock could throw at you each night. That ‘91 team had about 100 PIMs less than the first three years combined of the Binghamton Devils. Fiorentino not a meathead, he has taught history at a local high school for several years.
4.) Denis Hamel, Binghamton Senators 2003-2006; 2007-2010
Holds franchise AHL record for GP (438) & goals scored (203) including a league high 56 in ‘05-’06. Served as Captain during some dark years for the franchise where prospects were rushed to Ottawa, and little effort was given to add support throughout the lineup. A tireless worker on and off the ice. Was usually first to practice, and turned the lights out when he left, fitting the veteran leadership role every AHL team needs. Won the prestigious AHL Yannick Dupre Award in 2008 for community service.
5.) Robin Lehner, Binghamton Senators 2010-2013
Endeared himself to the Binghamton faithful forever coming in net down 3-1 in the opening round of the playoffs to fuel a run to the city’s only Calder Cup as 19 year-old rookie in 2011. Struggled out of the gate on a bad Bingo team the following season, receiving “tough love” as he called it from the fans. Continued to improve, and when he left midway through his third season for good, he was the top goalie again on the circuit. Is now on his fifth NHL club. Has been outspoken on social issues such as mental health, substance abuse, and equality proving there are more important things in life than hockey.
HONORABLE MENTION: Peter Sidorkiewicz, Ross Yates, Don Biggs, Andre Benoit, & Ryan Keller.
Thanks Dave, for your thoughtful insights and thanks to our readers for checking in!
I’ll also note the all-time, Top 5 list of players for Binghamton is a very difficult chore to follow up on so a great job nonetheless in your efforts, and thanks for the trip down memory lane! (You can follow @RogieVachon30 on his Twitter link)