The Albany Devils have become fun to watch. Since the return of Jacob Josefson to the Albany lineup the Devils are 4-1 and are now sporting a four game winning streak. Josefson, playing with Adam Henrique and Matt Anderson (the Albany AHL All Star Representative), has accounted for 6 points (1 goal, 5 assists) since his return. The trio has scored a total of 8 goals in the past five games. It's an interesting line since you never really have a sense of defined roles, as they all share responsibilities. Josefson might be listed as the center, but all three players take faceoffs and back each other up by playing center in the defensive zone.
Even in games where that line hasn't scored they have helped change the pace and flow of the Albany games. From a team that only was scoring on transition plays and dump-and-chase plays the team seems to have morphed overnight to a team with the ability to score off the rush. More importantly they are rolling three solid lines. All the lines can generate a nice cycle in the offensive zone, play solid defense AND put the puck in the net. After the call-up last week of Mark Fayne, the Albany lineup typically looks like:
Adam Henrique-Jacob Josefson-Matt Anderson
Stephen Gionta-Michael Swift-Chad Wiseman
Alexander Vasunov-David McIntyre-Louis Robataille
Pierre Luc-Lotorneau Leblond-Brad Mills-Patrick Davis
Defensive Pairings: (Post Mark Fayne)
Olivier Magnan-Harry Young
Alexander Urbom-Dan Kelly
Rob Davison-Tyler Eckford
After the jump I have more thoughts on some of the Albany players.
First, one thing about Albany: They always play hard. Even when they are down 4-1 in the third period they are still trying to forecheck. When I watch the games I tend to listen to the broadcast of the opposition (AHLLive gives you the option to choose) and one thing that I hear often is how hard they play. That said, some of those same announcers also have commented that the New Jersey Devils have played the trap since 1993. Prospects updates below:
Jacob Josefson-Because of the poor season of the parent club and his contract status it's likely that Josefson stays in Albany for the remainder of the year. In my opinion this is a good thing. Josefson had played in the SEL against men for the past three years and then pretty much jumped right to the NHL, so I think some time in the AHL is perfect for his development. Josefson gets to adjust to the smaller North American rinks, work on being more aggressive with his shooting and gets to be the best player on the ice for his team. Coach Kowalsky had many kind words about Josefson here (thanks to Jared Ramsden @CalDevil3219 for tweeting that link out) and in addition called Josefson (after one game back) his best puck handler in the offensive zone. I agree. He manages the power play from the side boards very effectively. Though he does need to shoot more, I know that the coaching staff at Albany is encouraging him to do so. While the scouting praise on Josefson has always been that he is a solid two-way player (Jarrett Stahl type) I don't think we should discount his offensive potential. A player that slipped in the draft, (mock drafts from 2009 had him going as high as pick 8) prompting the Devils to trade up to take him, is looking pretty good in Albany right now.
Adam Henrique-In my earlier report on Albany I wanted to give Henrique a pass since he was adjusting to the AHL after 4 years in the OHL, the last few scoring at will with the Windsor Spitfires. I'm glad I did because he is looking great right now, playing like an AHL veteran. With 22 points in his last 21 games (a lower body injury had him missing a few games), he is now ranked 11th in the AHL for rookie scoring. Playing with Josefson and Anderson, the game has started to slow down for him. He skates well, handles the puck better than advertised and his special teams play is solid. I thought playing on the wing with Josefson might be problematic for him, but he has proved to be more tenacious than I thought when fighting through checks on the end boards. Even before Josefson returned Henrique already had generated some good chemistry with Matt Anderson and their line was becoming the team's #1 line. Josefson has just made the line much more dynamic and I expect big things from Henrique and this line the rest of this season.
Alexander Urbom-Urby finally added his first AHL goal last night (an empty netter) and now has a total of 13 points and at a plus rating of 6 is tops among Albany defensemen in both categories. That said, he doesn't seem as comfortable in the offensive zone as I thought he would be and I have not noticed him as a factor on the power play. He is both positioning himself and using his size much better to help his defensive zone play. He isn't trying to do too much to move the puck forward, and is fine with taking what the defense will give him instead of trying to force a bad pass. Considering this is his third league in three years he has adjusted well. Looking at the fact that he has a similar contractual status to Josefson he should probably remain with Albany for the remainder of the year.
Tyler Eckford-It's hard to believe this is the same player who played in the AHL All Star game and made a cameo in New Jersey last year. He has been healthy scratched a few times this year. When playing, he has been relegated to power play time and third pairing responsibilities. He is still effective running the power play but at even strength doesn't look dynamic. I would be shocked if he is retained past this year.
Darcy Zajac-A few months ago I had a post that included some information about Zajac, courtesy of Brad Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald, and Brad alluded to him as a John Madden type player. After watching him play for Albany (he was recently demoted back to Trenton but per Kowalsky not because of his play) I can see the comparison. His skating ability and the way he plays the game show me that he has much more to offer the organization than simply being Travis's little brother. He was a nice sparkplug on the 4th line and while he only had 2 points in 15 games, I would expect him to get a full time shot with Albany next year.
Patrick Davis-Davis, a 4th round pick in 2005 is a solid player, contributes on special teams, but the goal scoring potential that got him drafted hasn't developed enough to where I think he will be an impact player at the NHL level. He has already passed through waivers twice this year and at this point is a good depth player for Albany to have.
Thanks for reading. If you are curious about any of the other Albany players, feel free to ask a question in the comments below.