In what was already a somewhat interesting finale given the return of GM Lou Lamoriello to New Jersey and a possible final game for Patrik Elias in Devils red and white, now fans have more of a reason to watch tomorrow evening’s season finale against the Maple Leafs at the Rock with the announced callup of first-rounder Pavel Zacha and dual signing of fellow prospects Miles Wood – shown above scoring a goal for BC – and Steven Santini. In a interesting confluence of events, Zacha’s OHL team being eliminated on Tuesday and Wood/Santini’s seasons ending Thursday with BC’s loss in the Frozen Four paved the way for potentially all three of them to make their NHL debut tomorrow night. Perhaps there’ll never be a more striking example of past (Lou/Elias?) and future (Zacha/Santini/Wood) converging than this.
At least the news of Santini and Wood coming to terms on three-year ELC’s can shelve one of the main worries of this summer – and show how capable GM Ray Shero is of getting things done – as both were just over a year away from becoming UFA and both can begin their progression toward becoming professionals. Ironically that road started at the Prudential Center, as both were drafted in the 2013 draft which was held at Newark. Ironically that draft is better known for a trade (for Cory Schneider) and a more ceremonial pick (Anthony Brodeur), but Santini and Wood could become big parts of the team’s future as well. For tomorrow’s game Zacha will wear #37, Santini #38 and Wood #44.
Thankfully the joint arrivals of Zacha, Santini and Wood provide a needed positive buzz to a home finale that looked like it was going to be a bit melancholy with Lou coming back in another team’s suite and Elias possibly going out, along with the team’s four game losing streak that’s left their record frozen at 82 points (which will be NHL .500 if the team suffers another regulation loss tomorrow night). Currently the Devils should be slotted anywhere from 10-12 in the draft lottery depending on results tomorrow but either way they won’t have that many ping-pong balls to get into the top three though in some respects the future is now with potentially three key pieces all making their NHL debuts tomorrow. Sometimes getting a player in one otherwise meaningless game turns out to be a good thing, such as 2011 when Adam Henrique made his NHL debut and after the game Jacques Lemaire said that Henrique didn’t look like a rookie. Sure enough he won a job and played a key role in the Devils’ 2012 run.
UPDATE: I guess Shero wasn’t done yet after all, as the team also announced the signing of defenseman Josh Jacobs to an entry-level contract. Jacobs was in his first year with Sarnia after one year at Michigan State. No word yet on whether he’ll be the fourth Devil to make his NHL debut tomorrow.