As the New Jersey Devils rookie camp has begun, some final arrangements are happening for the Devils’ main camp that begins next week. The Devils announced yesterday that defenseman Thomas Hickey will join the team on a professional try out (PTO) during training camp and preseason. Today, the team announced that forward Zach Senyshyn has also signed a PTO with New Jersey and will join the camp roster.
Part of the reason why veteran players are brought into team camps every season on PTOs is to help fill out the roster for preseason game. As per Section 15.4(c) of the NHL Contract Bargaining Agreement, all teams must dress at least 8 veterans for any exhibition game. A veteran is defined as someone who:
- A skater who played in 30 or more NHL games in the last season.
- A goaltender who dressed (not played) in 50 or more games or played in 30 or more NHL games in the last season.
- A player picked in the first round of the most recent NHL Draft.
- A player who played at least 100 NHL games in their career.
As teams play 6 to 8 preseason games per season (which is by rule of 15.4(b), by the way), teams often bring in players on PTOs to help meet these requirements such that they are not forced to play a lot of their veteran players on the roster in most preseason games. With the Devils’ own schedule having two back-to-backs in the first week of preseason, bringing in Hickey will help the Devils meet the veteran requirement for games while letting others play later.
The other part of the reason is why it is a try out: to try to earn a contract in the NHL. They have been left behind in the free agency market for one reason or another. Therefore, preseason is their chance to show that they can still contribute in the NHL and get that all-important contract by the end of preseason. This applies to both Hickey and Senyshyn, who are at very different points of their careers. Both need a pro contract somewhere and soon, as the 2022-23 season in North America is coming closer.
Hickey broke in to the NHL in the 2013 season with the New York Islanders. He was a regular defender for the Isles, and good for 18-25 points per season from the 2013-14 season through to 2017-18. A concussion cut short his 2018-19 season to 40 games. Hickey would remain outside of the NHL until a return to the Islanders in March 2021 as additional injuries undercut his time with Bridgeport of the AHL. Hickey played just 2 games for the Isles last season, 29 for Bridgeport, and was loaned to the Ontario Reign, which lasted 15 games. His 5-on-5 numbers will not wow you; he was clearly a third-pairing player for the most part with the Isles. The 33-year old is presumably looking to play for a team that has a NHL opportunity. Between the very busy blueline in Utica and the also-busy blueline in New Jersey, it will not be easy. I would like to think that if Kevin Bahl, Nikita Okhotiuk, Reilly Walsh, or even Simon Nemec are going to get a shot at the NHL, then they should be able to out-perform Hickey. But that will be see something to watch for in preseason games.
Senyshyn is much younger than Hickey but far, far less successful in terms of NHL success. Hickey has played in over 400 NHL games. The 25-year old right winger was picked at 15th overall in 2015 and has played a total of 16 NHL games between the 2018-19 and 2021-22 seasons. He scored one (1) NHL goal, which was way back on April 4, 2019. He has two (2) NHL assists, which both came against Montreal on November 5, 2019. Senyshyn has been a mainstay of the AHL Providence Bruins. He had his most productive season in the ‘A’ last season with 19 goals and 31 points in 51 games. Senyshyn was traded to Ottawa last season with a late pick for Josh Brown and a late pick. With Belleville, Senyshyn put up just 3 assists in 16 games. Oof. If Hickey is looking to find his way back into the NHL, then it looks to me that Senyshyn is trying to get his pro career back on some kind of track in North America. I am unsure if there is another spot for a veteran among the Utica Comets. And there are players looking to make the team at wing in New Jersey such as Fabian Zetterlund and Tyce Thompson among others not in rookie camp. Best of luck for Senyshyn in trying to salvage his career.
Again, part of the purpose of PTOs is to have enough veterans for preseason games, and so Hickey will meet that requirement. Senyshyn does not meet the requirements of 15.4(c) for a veteran, but is here to provide further competition at right wing. It’s common for training camp and preseason. Now the Devils have a pair of PTOs coming in next week. We’ll see how it goes. Do you have any feeling or reaction to either PTO? Please share it in the comments. Thank you for reading.