We are only hours away from the start of the regular season. One of my favorite parts of any Devils game is when Mike Emrick notes the date and time a player made his NHL debut. Since I will be in attendance at the game tonight, I won't hear it live but I will be sure to check out the replay of the game when I get home so I can hear Doc note the presence of Alexander Urbom.
Urbom, the Devils 3rd round pick in 2009 (79th overall), is scheduled to make his debut tonight against the Dallas Stars. After the profile I did on Urbom and Lou Lamoriello calling him the team's top prospect I thought Urbom would make his debut at some point this year, but I am still surprised he made the opening day roster. How long he stays in New Jersey is anyone's guess, but before his debut I wanted to speak with someone who saw firsthand how Urbom progressed and played last year and ask him for some details on Urbom.
I contacted Bruce Luebke the play-by-play voice for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL where Urbom played last season. Bruce was kind enough to answer a few questions about Urbom and his style of play.
Bruce's blog Luber's Lounge has great information on the Wheat Kings and other happenings in the hockey world, so you should be sure to check it out. You can also follow him on Twitter @WheatKingsVoice
Continue after the jump to get Bruce's opinion on Urbom.
Tom: Were you surprised that Urbom has made the Devils opening day roster?
Bruce: I was a little surprised, considering it is a big jump from junior to the NHL for any player, let alone one that has just one season of North American hockey under his belt. Good on Alexander for being prepared and ready to make the most of an opportunity.
Tom: After being called an offensive defensemen by Devils GM Lou Lamoriello but referring to himself as more defensive minded, what category would you put Urbom in: Offensive Defenseman, Defensive Defenseman, or a Two Way Defenseman?
Bruce: I think I'd call him more of a 2-way defenceman. Not that I doubt Lou's assessment, but I don't think Alexander is going to be the type of player that'll quarterback you top power-play unit. He has some offensive upside, and will likely be a 30-35 point guy in his prime, but his forte is more on the defensive side and being a physical presence.
Tom: It is hard to get a sense on his role with the Wheat Kings with only highlight clips and boxscores to look at. Did he spend much time on the power play? Penalty Killl? Was he more likely to be in the offensive zone or defensive zone for a faceoff?
Bruce: Urby, as he was dubbed in Brandon, played in all situations for the Wheat Kings. He was on the top penalty-kill unit for most of the season, first or second team power-play and would be on the ice in a lot of key situations. He was the club's #2 blueliner (behind Florida's Colby Robak) for most of the season and was, probably, #3 (or, even 2b) once Brandon traded for Travis Hamonic from Moose Jaw and he recovered from his shoulder injury.
Tom: Which area(s) did Urbom improve on the most during the course of last season? What was his most impressive attribute?
Bruce: I think the area he most improved upon was the offensive part of his game. That included a nice finish to a rush in overtime in a playoff game versus Swift Current (he scored the OT winner). I also think he became more physical as the season wore on, as he became more accustomed to the positioning needed in the North American game as compared to what he was used to in Europe. I think he also got a little chip on his shoulder after being left off Sweden's WJC team at Christmastime.
(Editor's Note: You can view Bruce's recap of the Swift Current game here and you can also listen to the game highlights-as called by Mr. Luebke- which includes Urbom's game winner)
Tom: Fans and media love looking at young players and comparing them to a current NHLers. I am no different so let me then ask: Who is the closest player comp you can think of after watching Urbom last year?
Bruce: I'm not doing this on purpose to compare him to another Swedish player, but he reminds me of Mattias Ohlund. He's not going to run over a lot of players, or score a ton of points, but I think he'll provide solid play in every area of the game.
I want to thank Bruce Luebke again for his time and contributing to our site.
One of the things I am now surprisingly excited about is the eventual pairing of Henrik Tallinder and Urbom. Hank and Urby. Sounds like a Disney or Nickelodeon show. I can see both Doc Emrick and Glenn 'Chico' Resch having fun with those nicknames.
Now it's your turn, leave any comments below and thanks for reading.