It was only ten days ago when the Devils were in 12th place in the Eastern Conference and moving forward. As of this morning though, the team is now in 14th place, six points out of the playoff hunt and with six teams to jump over to get into the post-season. With a 3-4 record at home this month (and a 1-1 split away), it is not looking like this team can make up the deficits in the standings.
So what is next? With the trade deadline looming next week, New Jersey will be looking to pick up some talent for the future (in either picks or bodies). As we have said before, only Taylor Hall and Cory Schneider on the current NHL roster should be untouchable. Anyone else should have a price tag–some more than others. I would almost add Pavel Zacha to the untouchable list, but if some other team makes it worth the Devils’ making the deal, it should not be considered out of the realm of possibility.
Am I saying blow the team up? No, I am not. But I am saying that it will take awhile for this team to be a Stanley Cup contender, so why not get value for the older players while there is value to them? That includes Mike Cammalleri, PA Parenteau, Travis Zajac, Andy Greene, Ben Lovejoy and Kyle Quincy. All should be marketed heavily today, tomorrow, this weekend and early next week.
The Devils already made one trade, last weekend, sending Sergei Kalinin to Toronto for defenseman Viktor Loov. Kalinin was going nowhere fast with this organization and deserved a new start somewhere else. Loov has some potential. In his third season in North America, the 24-year old left handed blueliner is expected to make his debut for Albany this coming weekend. Thus far, the two-way defenseman has played very well in the AHL, but not successfully made the jump to the NHL. That said, Toronto did not give him much of a chance. Loov, who is responsible in his own zone, will get that chance here.
In addition to Loov (who should strengthen the blueline long-term), other young prospects are moving through the system.
Nathan Bastian (2016, 2nd rd) LW–Bastian is big and knows how to use his body to make plays. Bastian, currently a member of the OHL Mississauga Steelheads, has been more of a playmaker than a goal scorer, but is working on his north/south game and driving to the net. The Devils were so impressed with him, they signed Bastian to an ELC in October.
Blake Coleman (2011, 3rd rd) C–The reason that Coleman got a cup of coffee in the NHL last month is because he is performing so well at the AHL level. Although he did not show much while with New Jersey, he is an excellent offensive producer in Albany. Already 25 years old, it is not clear how much more he will develop, but he is a player to watch over the next couple of months to see if he will be resigned.
Brandon Gignac (2016, 3rd rd) C—Another player the Devils decided to sign to an ELC shortly after he was drafted, Gignac has been playing well for the Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL).Although he is a playmaking center with many more assists than goals this season, he steps up in big moments and thus far has five game winning goals this year.
Alexander Kerfoot (2012, 6th rd) C–Harvard’s co-captain in his senior year, Kerfoot has been a leader on and off the ice for the Crimson. He leads the team in points with 11 goals and 20 assists and leads forwards with 25 blocked shots. And as of last weekend, Kerfoot ranked 16th in the nation with a 1.24 points per game average.
Nick Lappin (free agent) RW–Just in case you are not aware of what Lappin is doing when since he was sent down to Albany, Lappin has posted 18 points in 21 games. The 24-year old has another season under contract with the Devils, so even if he is not recalled soon (he likely will be), expect to see Lappin make a push for a permanent job in New Jersey next fall.
Mikhail Maltsev (2016, 4th rd) LW–Quietly, because he is in Russia, Maltsev is making a name for himself in the VHL. It is the second tier league in the Russia, but Maltsev is only 18 years old and scoring almost a half point per game with limited playing time. And he has got size and good wheels. Maltsev is definitely a player to watch.
Michael McLeod (2016, 1st rd) C–The Devils first selection in this past summer’s draft, McLeod participated in the U20 WJCs and played okay (he was one of the younger players to participate). Where he has played well is in the OHL as part of the Mississauga Steelheads–but he has not dominated. Signed to an ELC in October, it is predicted that McLeod becomes an excellent two-way NHLer with size. Depending on the Devils’ needs to start next season, McLeod may be an NHL roster player that soon.
John Quenneville (2014, 1st rd) C–Quenneville was briefly called up to New Jersey earlier this season, but was not ready to compete at the high level expected of him over the next few years. The rookie pro is playing very well at Albany (37 points in 48 games) and will get a long look in New Jersey next fall.
Blake Speers (2015, 3rd rd) C–Captain of the OHL Soo Greyhounds, Speers is an offensive dynamo. He needs to get stronger on the puck, but he definitely can make things happen on the ice. Expected to turn pro next season, Sppers has played in the U20 WJCs and is already signed to an ELC.
Yegor Rykov (2016, 5th rd) D–Another player who was under the radar because he is playing in Russia, Rykov is now considered a top prospect after he showed what he was made of during the U20 WJCs. Currently skating with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL, Rykov is under contract with the team until June of 2020. The 19-year old will still be under 23 if he completes his commitment in Russia and then comes to North America.
Kenneth Appleby (free agent) G–At just 21-years old, Appleby is learning his trade. He has played in the ECHL and AHL over the last two seasons, moving up to sharing the primary duties in Albany this year.
Mackenzie Blackwood (2015, 2nd rd) G–Blackwood has been sharing the duties with Appleby most of this season. Both goalies are doing very well in their development. Of course, the expectations are higher for highly Blackwood, who looked very good in pre-season in New Jersey. With Keith Kinkaid a free agent after this season, it is very possible that the Devils give Blackwood (or even Appleby) the backup slot next fall.