Matt Lombardi #24 of the Boston College Eagles is now in the New Jersey Devils prospect camp. Here, he is trying to score in the Frozen Four against Wisconsin. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Today, the New Jersey Devils' prospect camp has begun in Newark. There will be drills, practices, scrimmages, and so much more for the future of the New Jersey Devils hockey club throughout this week. If you want all of the news from the camp, there is one man to follow and that's Tom Gulitti at the always-crucial Fire & Ice. He's all over the camp with quotes, updates, and other information. By the way, thanks to C.J.Richey121 for FanShotting the roster release earlier.
43 players are at this prospect camp and more than a few are here for the first time. The team's official web site breaks it down the roster by position and Gulitti has a similar breakdown along with how each player was acquired; what intrigues me about this roster is the number of new names on the list. We already know a few of them, as they were drafted a few weeks ago. Yet for most of these unfamiliar names, they're here to show the Devils staff what exactly they can do for the first time. With a good camp, they may convince the coaches and management that they are worth a contract for some team (Albany, Trenton) in the Devils system. It's not a full training camp, but it's definitely important for those players especially.
I dug up what I could find on these new names that haven't appeared in past prospect camps. For all we know, perhaps the next undrafted New Jersey Devil could be right here; it's best to learn as much as we can now. It's more likely that a few of the next Albany or Trenton Devils are right here, but that's OK if it'll strengthen those teams as well.
One more thing, Gulitti has noted that there will be a scrimmage open to the public but a date and time hasn't been settled on yet. Hopefully there will be more advance notice than last year's public scrimmage, despite how many turned out for the free event.
The Prospects Who Were Drafted and Here for the First Time: Jonathan Merrill, Scott Wedgewood, Joe Faust, Maxime Clermont, Mauro Jorg
The entire 2010 draft class is here, of course, for the first time. I don't think any of them are expected to do much other than to show off their potential. All will go to college or back to their junior teams, except for Jorg. Jorg, who is 20 and has played pro hockey in Switzerland, could be competing for a deal. I don't know how he's regarded or what his plans are, but I think it would be great if he could get familiar with North American hockey as soon as possible.
The Prospect Whose Brother is Someone You Know: Darcy Zajac.
Yep, he's Travis Zajac's younger brother. He's a right wing, he's coming out of North Dakota, and he was signed to a 2 year deal by Albany today according to Gulitti. Zajac had a fine career at UND, making the All-WCHA Academic team thrice. He was never a big scorer in college, though, so expecting that he'll blossom offensively in the AHL may ask for too much. Still, this camp will be his time to make his case as why he was signed beyond being Travis' brother.
The Prospect Who's Not Really a Prospect but a Potential Comeback: Eric Chouinard
That's right, former first round draft pick (1998, Montreal, 16th overall) Eric Chouinard is in this camp. He's never played enough games in the NHL so he actually qualifies here. Chouinard has played in Europe (mostly Germany) in recent seasons, per HockeyDB. That he's here at a prospect means he must be serious about giving North American hockey another shot. It's been 4 seasons since he last was in the AHL, and that could be where he begins any sort of a comeback. He'll do well to do well in camp despite being surrounded by youth.
The Prospects Who Need An Introduction as They Are Unsigned by Devils: Matt Anderson, Scott Arnold, Ryan Hayes, Bryan Haczyk, Matt Lombardi, Aaron Lewicki, Jeremie Malouin, Jordan Skellett, Dan Kolomatis, Angelo Tsaganeas
Among this group of 10, only Kolomatis (a defenseman) and Tsaganeas (a goaltender) aren't forwards.
Dan Kolomatis played for the Chicago Steel of the USHL last season, racking up a few points (17) and even more PIM (75). He's a local, having come from Basking Ridge. I'm not sure where Kolomatis will go after two seasons with Chicago, so any information on him would be great.
Tsaganeas is coming out of Sacred Heart as a senior (he only played one game last season) and he's also a local player. Given he's one of six goalies on the roster and doesn't appear to have played all that much for Sacred Heart, he's probably here for depth.
The Devils have invited 7 unsigned and undrafted forwards who haven't played pro hockey, and one who has been in the AHL for a number of years. I'm assuming the scouts saw a few players they liked among their travels and figure here is the best place to give them a shot before considering contracts. Admittedly, I'm not familiar with Trenton's or Albany's roster needs or limits, so perhaps they need forwards badly.
Of these forwards, Jordan Skellett stands out because A) he's 203 pounds along with his 5'11" height and B) he picked up 88 points as a 20-year old for Saginaw last season. The optimistic look here would be that he's a late bloomer; but I wouldn't get my hopes up for a 20 year old who put up big totals in a junior league just yet. A shot in the AHL may be more likely to start.
Here's a brief listing of what I could find on the other forwards:
Matt Anderson - I think that this is Matt Anderson. Former forward out of UMass-Amherst, has played for the Chicago Wolves of the last 4 seasons. Given that he's not on Chicago's books anymore, I would think that he'll be using this camp to try get a deal to play in Albany. Again, assuming I have the right Matt Anderson here.
Scott Arnold - The only thing I could find with respect to Scott Arnold was that he played for the Brockville Braves as a LW last season and he will go Niagara next season; or that he once. Given that he's listed on the camp roster as a LW, which could very well be the man. Though I would think the Devils are just giving him a look before he goes off to college.
Ryan Hayes - He's coming out of Plymouth of the OHL as an overager. He does have one accomplishment of note. Hayes won the Dan Snyder Memorial Award as Humantiarian of the Year last season. I'm sure the Devils got a good look at Hayes while scouting Wedgewood, so he could have a decent shot of getting into the system with a good camp.
Bryan Haczyk - Another Jersey-born player, but unlike Arnold, he's coming out of Niagara University. Well, perhaps not actually coming out since the NU site touts his return, but the Devils want to get a look at him all the same. He had a career year last year, so how he does in his fourth year may warrant another look later on. UPDATE: dsarch on Twitter let me know that he was a big part of that Seton Hall Prep team that stomped it's way to the state parochial and overall championships in 2003-04. Here's a summary of those games from that season. Thanks to dsarch for the tip.
Matt Lombardi - No, it's not that Matt Lombardi. He was a senior forward for Boston College last season. For some reason, the player pages for BC aren't updated to include 2009-10, so I can tell you per HockeyDB that he put up 7 goals and 7 assists in 42 games in his senior season. While the point totals aren't something to get thrilled over, you should be intrigued that he was a walk-on at BC and worked his way up to become an assistant captain of the team.
UPDATE: Brian of BC Interruption saw plenty of Lombardi and gave me some information on him. First, here's his full stat line per the Hockey East website from last season. Second, here's what Brian had to say:
I think it's overlooked that Lombardi was a senior leader on a team that won 2 National Championships in his four seasons at BC. Lombardi went on a tear in this year's postseason, with 5 of his 7 goals coming in the postseason. Of those 5 goals, three came against Maine in the Hockey East Championship Game (his first career hat-trick which just so happened to include the game-winner in overtime). He went on to be named Hockey East Tournament MVP.Here are highlights of Lombardi's 3 goals in the Hockey East final. He also scored a shorthanded goal against Alaska in the first round of the NCAAs.I think you're getting a good role player who can be a solid contributor to the Devils. He's not a flashy goal scorer like Brian Gionta, but Lombardi can probably find a role on a 4th line.
Brian set up this fanshot at BCI so check that out as other BC fans chime in with more about the forward. I feel his invitation is a lot more interesting now. Thank you to Brian for all of this information.
Aaron Lewicki - Another senior coming out of college, Lewicki leaves Ferris State after four years with decent enough numbers. The school's bio on Lewicki is a definite must-read. Among other accomplishments, he was a highly regarded scholar-athlete at Ferris State and won the school's Jimmy Swears Courage Award in 08-09. Note that the bio for his senior season actually lists how he played for the school. Again, he'll likely use this camp as a chance to make his case for a contract.
Jeremie Malouin - He's young (only 18), Acadie-Bathurst Titan are proud he was invited, and he apparently brought some beef to Titan given he averaged close to 2 PIM/game last season. Given that I don't see Ashton Bernard on the camp roster, I suppose he's going to represent the gritty side of the QMJHL in this prospect camp. Given that he's 18, surely he'll be going back to Acadie-Bathurst for another season, right?
A quick scan through the list and you'll find that there's a lot of character among this list. There are a couple of scholar-athletes, a winner of a sportsmanship award, and a few younger guys to get an idea of how they may project later on. Most will be looking for jobs either in Trenton or Albany rather than New Jersey; but again, perhaps the Devils will uncover someone with serious potential within this group. I wish them all the very best of luck this week.
What do you think of these unfamiliar names on the Devils prospect roster? Do you have high hopes for any of these players? Do you know anything about any one of these players that I missed? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments. (By the way, the other prospects will be covered tomorrow.)