In a fitting conclusion to the Devils’ development camp week, GM Ray Shero announced an ELC agreement with top overall pick Nico Hischier, and also showed the number he would be wearing going forward (he was #33 this week but everyone knew that was just a filler number since only semi-established players get numbers under 30 in development camp). While some may find the choice noteworthy, I do think too big a deal is made about the #13 in general – which was embargoed here for the longest time under Lou before Mike Cammalleri was allowed to wear it again after the regime change. It is nice that they used the old jersey to display Nico’s new number, rather than the contreversial new jerseys, which look a bit off without the bottom stripe.
Wish I could offer more on camp week – I suggest reading guys like Andrew Gross, Chris Ryan and Leo Scaglione for that – but I wasn’t taking an off day from work just to go to the 3-on-3 scrimmages Wednesday. I thought of going today to the final red and white scrimmage but didn’t feel like rushing there a half hour or more early just to be sure of getting a seat in our small practice rink. Sounds like it was a compelling game with team white beating team red 6-5 in a fifty-minute scrimmage that has two twenty-five minute ‘halves’ (with a running clock). I was looking forward to seeing the stream of it tonight – which is what the Devils have done in past years, offering the stream of the scrimmage a few hours later – but apparently the Devils won’t be posting it online this year, which is dissapointing. You would think they would want to capitalize on the buzz of Nico and the other young kids as much as possible and milk it for more public consumption, especially considering there probably won’t be much Devils-related after this week for the next couple months.
If I had known they wouldn’t be posting the stream I probably would have gone today, but to be honest it’s a bit of a weird dynamic to watch an intrasquad scrimmage anyway, at least for me. I went to the ones they had the last couple of years and you don’t really know which ‘side’ to root for or whether you should be rooting for goals or great saves/defensive plays. Given most of our top prospects these days seem to be forwards, I probably would have been inclined to root for a pond hockey type game so more of the forwards could shine but you want everyone – especially the main guys to do well. While I did want to watch Nico and see a few of the other kids, being a season ticket holder I’ll get other opportunities to do so anyway.
One thing that did stand out to me reading a couple of the recaps of camp week was this quote from Tom Fitzgerald (assistant GM) giving a general overview with an interesting nugget at the end:
“I think the biggest thing that jumped off the page to me, especially today, is the skill set of these kids,” Fitzgerald said. “We’ve added a lot of skill over the last couple of years and that’s real exciting, it really is. That’s what we set out to do and the goal was to get younger and have more skill and build through the draft and develop your players and that’s what we’re doing. It’s an exciting time. We had 33 skaters here, 30 of them draft picks, that’s pretty impressive. I know there are teams that invite a lot of free agents just to fill out. We don’t have to do that anymore. We’ve got our own kids.”
It hadn’t really occured to me to think of something like that, but it did seem like in the last few years we had a ton of meh, who cares camp invites – which makes sense in hindsight considering we only had 13 total draft picks from 2013-2015. Almost that many players were drafted this year alone (11), with ten of the eleven able to attend camp this year. Our only big-name that couldn’t participate in camp this year was 2014 first-rounder John Quenneville, who had a twisted ankle but should be ready for training camp. Quenneville like many of the players who played this weekend will get an opportunity to compete for a spot in training camp though.
In recent interviews, Shero indicated they likely wouldn’t do much more in free agency – hinting they’d only pursue guys on one year contracts and PTO’s. He did indicate they were still looking to improve a defense that’s largely been unchanged since last year other than essentially flipping a 2nd rounder and Jon Merrill for Mirco Mueller. It’ll be interesting to see what they have planned up front, especially at RW which has a couple of open spots in the middle six waiting to be claimed by either kids or established players moving over from the left side, and how they sort out the LW/C questions over who plays where on what line. Odds are those will be ongoing stories during camp.
Barring a trade though, seems like we’re now heading fully into the dead sports summer Derek referenced in a prior post. Doubly dead considering the Mets’ meltdown and the Yankees’ collapse. Not much going on sportswise in NY/NJ unless you’re excited about Giants camp next month, which Giant fans should be. As far as us Jet fans…well we’re now in the same place the Devils are, embracing the total rebuild. Back to the Devils, it does seem they’re going in the right direction but unfortunately going into the right direction still means bumping into the wall that is the Metro division in the immediate future. As optomistic as I am that eventually things have to get better under Shero and scouting director Paul Castron, I can’t really make an argument for this team as currently constituted not to finish last again in the division, particularly as long as the fire drill defense is still an issue.
As such it’s weeks like this one that are going to be among the highlights for Devil fans this year, or the pre-camp Prospects Challenge showdown in Buffalo which the Devils are participating in again this year along with the Sabres, Bruins and Penguins in a four-day, three-game round robin. Camp itself will be intriguing although the Devils have only two preseason home games this year, against the Caps and Rangers early in the preseason. I can’t say I’ll be looking forward to the new-ish jerseys though it’s almost fitting with all the kids we’ll be playing that the new home jerseys look like practice uniforms. Amazingly it’s still two and a half months till the 2017-18 Devils open for real in the first week of October against the Avs. Can’t say I’ll be posting much till at least the beginning of training camp though, barring something newsworthy happening in the next two months so hopefully everyone has a good summer!