The New Jersey Devils have two of their organizational prospects currently playing at the University of Minnesota. Forward Mike Hoeffel (2007 draft, 2nd Round, 57th overall) and defenseman Seth Hegleson (2009 draft, 4th Round, 114th overall) are two of the key contributors on a Golden Gopher team currently tied for 5th in the NCAA's WCHA conference.
Hegleson was selected in the 2009 draft in which the Devils loaded up on defensemen with size and skating ability. With selections of Hegleson, Eric Gelinas, Alexander Urbom, and Curtis Gedig the Devils invested heavily in the futue of their defense. Out of the defensemen selected Hegleson is more defensively focused than the others offering s good compliment to more offensively focused players like Eric Gelinas.
Hoeffel, assistant captain with the Golden Gophers, is playing in his last year of college eligibility. Last year he was playing well in his junior year before coming down with mono in mid January. Before the illness he had 18 total points (11g-7a) in his first 23 games. In this, his senior year, he is currently 3rd on the squad in scoring with 15 total pointsa and he leads the team with a plus/minus rating of +9. Hoeffel who also played for the US squad in the 2009 World Juniors will likely be a Devil in a few months time. An Albany Devil, but a Devil regardless. (unless the Gophers make it to the Frozen Four, which I hope they do. Preferably against Michigan in the Championship game...)
In an effort to get a better sense of how Hoeffel and Helgeson are progressing at the
After the jump I ask Ryan some questions about both Hoeffel and Hegleson.
Starting off with some questions about Mike Hoeffel:
Mike Hoeffel Career Statistics:
Tom Stivali: Given that this is Hoeffel's senior season how do you think the coaching staff feels he has grown during his time at Minnesota?
Ryan Cardinal: I think overall the staff has been please with Hoeffel and how he's progressed. Obviously the talent pool at the U isn't what it used to be a few years ago since the program is pretty down right now, but Hoeffel has been one of their better players over the past few seasons.
Tom: Before he was drafted by the Devils a few of the early scouting reports on him indicated that he had limited 'hockey sense' in the offensive zone. From your assessment of his play, do you think that is accurate? (Or is that just one person's opinion repeated through various sources)
Ryan: He is for sure a more offensive player than a two-way or defensive forward, but I wouldn't say his 'hockey sense' is off the charts or anything. One thing to remember is that he plays the vast majority of his games on an Olympic-sized ice sheet, so with a bigger kid like Hoeffel, that kind of limits what his game probably will be at the pro level. For a kid with a great shot, he doesn't find holes in the offensive zone as much as you'd like to take advantage of said shot, but he's gotten better at using his body to get in front of the net on the power play, so he's progressed in some ways, but still things he can do better.
Tom: Is he a presence on special teams play? His 7 PP goals last year (leading the team) would seem to indicate he is a fixture on that unit, but what about the PK unit?
Ryan: He may have been on the PK a little bit as an underclassmen but he's not really cut out for that, at least given his current role w/ the Gophers. But yes, he's a fixture on the PP and generally is the guy in front. I don't think he loves that roll of "taking the beating" in front of the net, but the Gophers don't have many big forwards. So, in a perfect world, he's probably be on the wing and using his shot to score versus taking up space in front, but he's adjusted well and I'd say is a nice asset to their PP.
Tom: As Hoeffel's college career comes to a close, what is one facet of his game that you believe Devils fans should be most excited about?
Ryan: I don't know if he'll project to be a top six forward at the pro level at this point, but he's a strong skater, and if he buys into a third line type guy, I think he could do really well in that role since he has good size and will always have the ability to pop in goals since his shot is great (just doesn't hit the net enough).
Now some questions on defenseman Seth Helgeson:
Seth Helgeson Career Statistics:
Tom: Most look at his size and figure he's a bruising, physical defenseman. Is that the style of defense he prefers to play, or is he looking to expand his skills beyond utilizing his size?
Ryan: He's for sure the physical type that isn't going to 'wow' anyone with his offensive skills. He's hurt a bit by playing on the big ice, since I think he played on an NHL-sized rink more often, he'd stand out more. He's got a mean streak in him that can't come out as much at the college level for obvious reasons, but he's a decent skater, makes the smart play (even if it's not glamorous) more often than not. You don't find yourself saying 'WTF' a lot when he's on the ice, which is nice.
Tom: What has been the Minnesota coaching staff expectation of his development at this level? Has he progressed to where they want him to be or are they still looking for him to do more, like contribute more offensively?
Ryan: I doubt the staff expects much from him offensively, and I'm sure they are very happy with where he's at right now. He's in their top four, kills penalties, and is just a solid guy that you don't worry too much about back there. For a sophomore, he's doing great. The offensive upside is probably not much at all, but he could be a Matt Greene type at the pro level, if he keeps filling out, size-wise. He takes his fair share of penalties, but that comes with the territory with defenders like him.
Tom: On his NHL draft profile his former USHL Sioux City head coach said 'At the next level, Seth will have to learn how to play with an edge more consistently as he is just figuring out how to use his body to his advantage' Has Helgeson heeded Knott's advice and used his size to his advantage?
Ryan: I think so, yeah. Again, in college, you can't cross the line as much as in major junior or pro hockey, but he's stood up for teammates and shown a side where you can say "yes, he's got an edge to him." The body thing is still a work in progress a bit since you can only do that so much on the big ice without risking getting way out of position. He's still pretty young too, and for sure will need some AHL time after he's done in college, so by then he'll be filled out more and I see him as a useful 5-6 type defender someday if he keeps on the path he's going down.
So Devils fans, thoughts on Hoeffel and/or Hegleson? How do you feel about the Matt Greene comparison for Hegleson? Do you think, like I do, that Hoeffel can surprise and might top out on a second line? Thanks for reading and sound off below. Thanks again to Ryan Cardinal from GopherPuckLive.com!