Alex Urbom is ready to crack the Devils Line-up
The New Jersey Devils and director of scouting David Conte are less then a month from possibly the most important NHL drafts in the franchises history. The Devils own the fourth overall pick, their highest pick since they took Scott Niedermayer third in the 1991 draft. A great deal of excitement comes with having a top 5 pick and rightfully so. But, New Jersey already has a wave of young players in the organization that could have a positive impact within the next couple of seasons.
The Devils has a nice crop of defenders coming up for them. Five of the Devils top 10 prospects are defenseman including Matthew Corrente that played solid minutes for the big club before he was injured last season.
1. Alexander Urbom – D Albany (AHL) 2-21-23,-9, 72 GP – The 6’3 205lb Swedish defenseman Alexander Urbom played eight games with the Devils last season and was impressive in limited action. He is regarded and a shut-down defenseman with some offensive potential. His size and skill give him a good shot at cracking the line-up in the upcoming season. He has the best shot of making an immediate impact on the big club.
2. Jon Merrill – D Michigan (CCHA) 7-18-25,+11, 42 GP. The number one ranked prospect in the organization, Jon Merrill just finished an outstanding freshman campaign for Michigan. He is still not quite ready to make the jump to the pro’s but already has many in the organization excited by his potential. He has already committed at least another year to school but 19-year-old Merrill has the size and skill to make him a future top pair defenseman for New Jersey but he has yet to fill out his 6’3 201 lb frame. Fans will have to sit tight for a couple of years before they have a chance to see Merrill compete as a pro.
3. Brandon Burlon – D Michigan (CCHA) 5-13-18,+14, 38 GP Brandon Burlon has already decided to leave the University of Michigan and turn pro. That’s music to the ears of many Devils fans. Burlon tied his career-best with five goals and set new career-highs with 13 assists and 18 points in 38 games this past season for the Wolverines. The offensively gifted blue-liner is a smooth skater with all the mobility of a top flight power play quarterback. The 21 year-old, second-round pick in 2008, would certainly help address New Jersey’s need on the back end. Even with his penchant towards leading an offensive rush, Burlon can still be a steady reliable defender in his own end. Expect him to see some time in Albany before he’s ready for the NHL.
4. Eric Gelinas – D Saint John (QMJHL) 12-32-44,+15, 62 GP Gelinas is tall and lanky. His 6′ 4″ 190lb frame has not even come close to filling in but when he does expect to see him get time as a mid-level defenseman for the Devils. Even though he recorded 44 points in 62 games, the converted forward is better suited as a defensive defenseman and is less likely to lead the rush up the ice. Gelinas just turned 20 and still has a couple more years of development before he could be of any help to the Devils NHL roster.
The Devils have several concerns upfront and should try and address them during the upcoming draft but they do have some potential players ready to help out.
1. Adam Henrique – C Albany (AHL) 25-25-50,-3, 73 GP – The Devils are in need of some help up the middle and Albany standout Adam Henrique seems like a natural fit. The gifted two way center just completed a solid 50 point season with New Jersey’s top minor league club. Henrique is the number 6 ranked prospect in the Devils organization. Hockey Futures described him as “having a style of game that will make him fit easily into the organization. He’s a sound two-way center who excels on face-offs and the penalty kill. Henrique has good offensive skills and instincts, but hasn’t really got a chance to showcase them just yet. His intensity wavers from time to time, but that is common for most players his age.” Henrique is a smart player that likes to get his hands dirty, ala Jay Pandolfo. He has shown a certain maturity that you don’t typically find in younger players. He could be a nice fit on third line as early as next season.
2.Alexander Vasyunov – LW Albany (AHL) 8-17-25,-3, 50 GP Vasyunov has spent the last three season in Albany and it’s time for him to take the next step or the Devils should move on. The Devils used Vasyunov for 18 games with minimal results. He has a ton of offensive skill but doesn’t like to mix it up and plays a passive defensive game if he plays any defense at all. His small frame and lack of strength could be a problem for him against bigger stronger defenseman. At this stage of his development he has not shown enough offensive upside to give anybody the impression that he’ll be anything more then a role player for the Devils.
3. Mike Hoeffel – LW Minnesota (WCHA) 13-11-24,+8, 35 GP the 22-year-old winger finished four full seasons with the University of Minnesota before briefly joining Albany at the end of the last season. He has decent size and is a strong skater. His high energy fore-check makes him a valuable piece of any hockey team. He is a smart player that lacks a ton of offensive skill but could add valuable minutes as a member of the checking line in the next couple of years.
1. Jeff Frazee – G Albany (AHL) 11-15-3 2.90 GAA, .902 SVPCT, 33 GP Frazee is an athletic goalie that has the quickness and reflexes to make him a dependable netminder in the NHL. He does a good job of staying calm and not getting rattled but injuries have affected his play recently. After putting together a career best 28 wins in 58 games with a goals against average and .920 in the 2008-09 season, Frazee has failed to have another winning season and has yet to play more then 33 games. Now 24, If he remains healthy and New Jersey does not bring back Johan Hedberg or sign another back-up the job should be Frazee’s to lose.
2. Scott Wedgewood – G Plymouth (OHL) 28-18-2 2.99 GAA, .908 SV%, 55 GP A third-round pick last summer, Wedgewood has a solid first seasons as Plymouth’s starting goalie. He is highly regarded and could be the eventual replacement for Martin Brodeur. Wedgewood is still quite young so he still has time to prove himself as the leading candidate to lead the Devils in the future.
3. Keith Kinkaid – G Union (ECAC) 25-10-3 1.99 GAA, .920 SV%, 38 GP The addition of Kinkaid should be no surprise to Devils fans. The organization is looking to stock the system with possible replacements for the aging legend Brodeur. Kinkaid fits the mold of typical Lamoriello types of players. He’s American born, played college hockey and went undrafted. A definite diamond in the rough that the Devils hope will shine up very nicely.Two outstanding college seasons put Kinkaid on NHL scouts radar. At just 21-years of age the Devils have a change to mold him into a solid NHL goaltender.
The NHL draft is scheduled to be held on June 24–25, 2011, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. It’s the first time the Draft will be held in the state of Minnesota since the North Stars relocated to Dallas.
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My Crystal Ball: A Look at the Devils’ Future
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