Defenseman Eric Gelinas was picked in the second round (54th overall) in the 2009 NHL entry draft by the New Jersey Devils. Gelinas, ranked as the Devils 5th best prospect by ILWT, was ranked 38th in 2009 in the final Central Scouting Service rankings for North American skaters.
Gelinas saw some action in the pre-season this year and is part of a young group of defenseman that the Devils have loaded up on in recent drafts. Players like Gelinas, Jon Merrill, and Brandon Burlon all do many things well in both zones, but don't seem to stand out in one particular area. Gelinas has bounced around the QMJHL since he was drafted by the Devils. Originally with the Lewiston MAINEiacs, he was traded to the Chicoutimi Sagueneens for the 2010 stretch run/playoffs. Earlier in this season he was traded to the Saint John Sea Dogs at the trade deadline as the Sea Dogs make a run towards the Memorial Cup.
To get an update on the progress Gelinas has made since the trade -and the QMJHL overall-I reached out to Jamie Tozer editor of Station Nation (http://stationnation.blogspot.com/) Station Nation is a site dedicated to providing information on the Saint John Sea Dogs. Similar to In Lou We Trust, Station Nation is not affiliated with the hockey club and is written by the fans for the fans.
Jamie does great work with providing content for the Sea Dogs, the elite team in the QMJHL this year. Not only can you find information about Gelinas, but you will also find information on some of the top prospects in the 2011 draft like Tomas Jurco, Jonathan Huberdeau and Nathan Beaulieu. I would also encourage you to follow Jamie on Twitter: @Station_Nation
Head after the jump for our Q&A.
Tom Stivali: The move to Saint John's was a 180 degree switch for Gelinas. In Lewiston and Chicoutimi he was on -and I am being nice here- teams that were mediocre. Gelinas teams didn't go past the first round in any of the QMJHL playoffs while he was there. Now he is with a loaded team that has 4 top 2011 draft prospects and a number of other players who have already been drafted by NHL teams. Can you give me your impressions of Gelinas as an opponent vs. Gelinas as part of the Saint John's team?
Jamie Tozer: I imagine Gelinas plays with a bit more comfort and confidence in Saint John compared to his past teams. Obviously the expectations in Saint John are to win, but he probably doesn't have the pressure on him that he has had in past seasons. When you have guys like Pittsburgh Penguins first-rounder Simon Despres and potential first-rounder Nathan Beaulieu also on the blue-line, you know if you make a riskier play or a minor mistake you have guys playing with you that can back you up.
Tom: At the next level most teams are looking for defenseman who can move their team out of the defensive zone, either with superior skating ability or a great pass, and start a rush into the offensive zone. Do you see these skills exhibited by Gelinas?
Jamie: I think he has shown a little bit of all of those things so far. I've been really impressed by his passing as he is very aware of his surroundings and is able to sense where his teammates are. Playing with such talented offensive players has probably helped out with that as well. The Sea Dogs are very high-temp and are quick with their transition so Gelinas is definitely getting the opportunity to show off those skills.
Tom: When talking to anyone about Gelinas what you typically hear in the first few sentences: "He was a converted forward." Is there still evidence of that and are there still basic defensive areas where he needs to work on?
Jamie: He does seem to very smart offensively compared to other defenseman. He has a cannon of a slap shot but often makes some other nice plays on the blue line. He is a very good passer and, especially over the past few games, has made hard and crisp passes from the point that either resulted in a goal or a legit scoring opportunity. As for his defensive abilities, there really hasn't really been any obvious problems that have stood out.
Tom: One of the things I have noticed by looking back at his stats in Lewiston/Chicoutimi is that he is active offensively for his team. He averaged roughly 3 shots per game with his former teams and with the Sea Dogs he is almost at 3.5 shots per game. How would you describe his shot? Booming slap shot or a more controlled wrist or snap shot?
Jamie: I think it's a bit of both to be honest. He has a really, really good point shot and it is something that has certainly been an asset to the Saint John power play since his arrival. He can let some bombs go even when he doesn't windup. He is quite accurate as well and isn't afraid to shoot wide or through some traffic to try and make something happen.
Tom: I have noticed that since he has joined Saint John's he has averaged around 3-4 hits per game, but it is tough to judge physical play based on stats. Coming into the 2009 draft one of the constant themes in the scouting reports on Gelinas was that he needed to be more physical in the defensive zone. A year and a half after those reports has Gelinas improved in this area?
Jamie: His physicality has been pretty consistent since joining the Sea Dogs. His not the kind of defenseman who takes a roughing penalty every game but he plays the body when he has too. He has had a few big open ice hits. Physical play is one of the few things that Saint John doesn't excel in that much. They have a few players who are known for their rough stuff, but generally the Dogs play a skilled, offensively driven game. A big d-man like Gelinas playing the body frequently would definitely help improve that area.
Tom: How is his ice time distributed? Does he see much time on special teams?
Jamie: He gets plenty of ice time and is usually on the first or second pairing. One of the things that the Sea Dogs coaching staff does is distribute ice time fairly. Obviously guys like Despres and Gelinas are going to get the bulk of the time, but even the younger players get the fair share of play in different situations. He'll be used in just about any situation.
From Jamie's answers it seems Gelinas can do a little bit of everything and most importanly play responsible defense. As this is more than likley the last year in the 'Q' for Gelinas, With a deep playoff run likely, I doubt we will see Gelinas lace up his skates for Albany in the next few months. I would expect him to compete for an NHL roster spot at next September's training camp, with the likelihood that he spends the year at Albany. It will be interesting to see how he shapes up versus Alexander Urbom next year as he adjusts to the jump in competiition to the AHL. His addition may also make players like Tyler Eckford, Olivier Magnan and other potential UFA/RFA defensemen easier to non-tender.
So what are your thoughts on Gelinas? Sound off below!