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New Jersey Devils Prospect Update: Five Takeaways from Development Camp

Development camp is a good chance to compare prospects at various stages of development. Here are five takeaways from camp.

Syndication: The Record
Lenni Hameenaho made a strong first impression in camp.

New Jersey Devils development camp saw some new and old faces trying to make good impressions on management whether hoping to earn a contract or become a viable option for a call-up to the big club. Here are some takeaways:

Takeaway 1: Lenni Hameenaho Made A Strong First Impression

First impressions are key in all aspects in life, but especially in hockey. This year’s second round pick, Lenni Hameenaho certainly made a strong one in camp. Hameenaho has been playing against men with Assat in the Liiga and it showed against the other prospects in the annual three on three tournament where he and Artem Shlaine (more on him below) each had three points in the final game. Hameenaho scored two including a penalty shot deke goal against Jakub Malek that looked all too easy. Hameenaho also earned the primary assist on Shlaine’s first of three.

You can read more about the annual three on three tournament here in an article written by Devils staff on NHL.Com.

Hameenaho also looked strong in the Devils scrimmage on Friday at times, but did not control the play as often as he did in the 3 on 3 scrimmage. What impressed overall, other than the scoring, is Hameenaho’s strength around the net and ability to win puck battles, something the 2nd round pick will need to continue to do to ultimately earn a spot on the Devils roster. Expect Hameenaho to return to the Liiga next season to work on his skating and other details of his game, especially his two-way play, which he will need to refine in order to be an effective NHLer one day.

Takeaway 2: Artem Shlaine Should Earn An ELC

One should be hesitant to read too much into prospect camp, but after a strong break-out collegiate season producing career highs in goals and points, Artem Shlaine seems to be picking up where he left off. During the 3 on 3 round robin scrimmage last week. Shlaine seemed to find instant chemistry with Lenni Hameenaho, scoring a hattrick in the final game for Team Stevens to earn the victory. Throughout camp, one could really see the confidence in Shlaine’s game that hasn’t been there before.

Shlaine is 21-years-old and will be entering his fourth year of college. If I were the Devils, especially with the lack of center depth in the system even after signing Chris Tierney to a two-way deal last week, I would strongly consider inking Shlaine to an ELC this summer. Utica would be the perfect place for Shlaine to work on rounding out his game. The Devils currently only have 39 players under contract, second lowest in the NHL, so burning a contract spot on the roster should Shlaine not pan out, is a very small risk and one that I believe is worth taking.

Takeaway 3: Santeri Hatakka May End Up More Than A Throw-In

Another player who seemed to impress the Devils brass in camp, especially GM Tom Fitzgerald, is Santeri Hatakka. The 22 year-old defender came over as an “extra” in the Timo Meier trade to balance out the contracts for San Jose, but may end up more than that. Hatakka, who was injured at the time of the trade and did not suit up for Utica last season, has two points (both assists) in nine NHL games for the San Jose Sharks in his career, but spent most of the last few seasons with the Barracuda in the AHL.

In an article for, James Nichols reports that Tom Fitzgerald was so impressed with Hatakka’s play in camp that he messaged the Sharks Director of Player Personnel, who happens to also be his brother Scott, to probe (and probably needle) him as to the reason the Sharks included Hatakka in the deal.

Even with a strong camp, one should temper their expectations with Hatakka. As Sheng Peng of San Jose’s Hockey Now, explained to James Nichols in the same article.

He’s [Hatakka’s] clear NHL-caliber on his feet, but he’s still got to refine a lot of defensive details to make an NHL impact. He was thrown off track from that last season with his season-ending upper-body injury, so he’ll probably need plenty of AHL time this season to catch up on his details.”

At 22 years-old, this will be a make or break season for Hatakka’s long-term NHL prospects, Although the Devils blue line is crowded, this is the final year on the deals for depth defensemen Colin Miller and Brendan Smith. One would expect Simon Nemec to take Miller’s spot next year full time, but a 7th defenseman’s role will be up for grabs on the big club. With a strong season, Hatakka could be in the mix for that promotion.

Takeaway 4: Cole Brown Has A Great Shot In Close

At the time Cole Brown was drafted by the Devils in the 6th round, I opined that he reminded me of another recent Devil’s six round pick at least on paper: Josh Filmon.

In their respective draft years:

  • Josh Filmon LW, 6’2, 159 pounds, drafted sixth round, 166th overall.
  • Cole Brown LW, 6’2 179 pounds, drafted sixth round, 164th overall.

And their similar statlines in their draft years:

  • Josh Filmon in WHL: 67 GP, 23 G, 22 A, 45 Pts.
  • Cole Brown in OHL: 60 GP, 17 G, 25 A, 42 Pts.

Another similarity Cole Brown demonstrated in camp to Josh Filmon, who more than doubled his goal totals to 47 last season, was a sniper of a shot up close. Brown hammered in a pair of goals during the 5 on 5 scrimmage that were very Filmonesque. Like Filmon when he was drafted, Brown still needs to work on his skating and has to round out his game. Also like Filmon, though not as lanky as Filmon (159 pounds) when he was drafted, Brown still would benefit from adding more muscle to his frame.

Even with the strong camp, I am not saying that Brown is a lock to score 40+ goals this year in the OHL like Filmon did in the WHL this past season. That remains to be seen. Still, it’s not often that a sixth round pick catches my eye in his first development camp in his draft year and I like Brown’s chances of breaking out more now than I did a week ago. So, that’s a start. It will be up to Brown to grow his game and earn better ice time with the Hamilton Bulldogs next year in order to improve his totals. Keep reading the prospect update throughout the year to see if he does.

I could have went with Seamus Casey or Topias Vilen here who both had strong camps or talked about the line of Josh Filmon, Samu Salminen and Petr Hauser, who looked like a potential Devils fourth line in the not so distant future. All would have been excellent options, but since I already discuss the progressions of those players regularly on the prospect update, I opted for one player who hasn’t been discussed by me before and for good reason: undrafted Cornell junior Ondrej Psenicka.

An unsigned winger for Cornell, Psenicka has been on the Devils radar for some time. The 6’6, 205 pound power forward was supposed to attend last year’s development camp, but had to cancel due to a bout with mononucleosis. This camp Psenicka turned heads in the scrimmages. As one would expect from a 6’6 power forward, Psenicka’s game excels around the netmouth, but the big winger also showed more than adequate speed for his size, while imposing his will on the forecheck and along the boards.

Psenicka impressed enough in camp to be listed as one of the standouts by the Hockey Writers (more on that article below) and the power forward was also featured in an article by James Nichols on Newjerseyhockeynow. In the Nichols article, Psenicka indicated that he wants to develop the offensive aspects of his game and models his play after Buffalo Sabre star Tage Thompson. With only eight goals last season in 34 games, Psenicka still has a long way to go to reach Tage’s level, but the tools are there if he can put it all together.

It appears the Devils agree but will be patient with the big winger. Although the Devils indicated that they “want to see him in the future” the immediate future for Psenicka will be to return to Cornell to further develop his game.

As the Devils start winning and trading more of their draft picks to acquire key pieces, finding undrafted potential players like Psenicka will be even more important. Although not currently Devils property, Psenicka will be one to watch in Cornell this season as he could very well end up in the Devils system the following year. Psenicka is worth keeping an eye on and at his size, he will be hard to ignore.

Other Notes From Camp

  • The Daily Record had some kind words for camp invite and NJ native RD Luke Rowe, who will be looking for a contract after this season. [Daily Record $]
  • Mentioned above, Josh Reinitz of the HockeyWriters posted his news and notes about the camp. In the article, he praises Seamus Casey as a standout player during the three on three tournaments and notes that Topias Vilen may be the most-NHL ready of those in camp. Other highlights for Josh Reinitz included the line of Josh Filmon, Samu Salminen and Petr Hauser, noting that in his opinion all three exhibited “NHL skill and speed.” [HockeyWriters]
  • Amanda Stein has the team’s camp recap on the Devils Website. [NHL.Com]


Now it is time to tell us what you think. What were your takeaways from development camp? Post them in the comments below.