Joe Whitney of Boston College, seen here holding up the NCAA National Championship trophy in 2010, has been invited to the Devils' developmental camp. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Today began the week-long prospect developmental camp for the New Jersey Devils in Newark. The vast majority of those at camp are young players who have already had a taste of the NHL, prospects who are largely set in the minors for the time being, and a few extra bodies to round out the camp roster.
The camp is closed to the public, and there doesn't appear to be any plans of an open day or anything like that. Which may be fine, since the whole point of this camp is to get the young players together in front of management and see how they're progressing in the middle of the offseason. There will be drills, a few scrimmages, and plenty of off-ice work; and you may find that interesting so I can sympathize being closed out. Though, it's not for everyone, as Travis Hughes explained during his experience at the Flyers' prospect camp, it can be quite boring and may not mean a whole lot in the big picture. Training camp and preseason will be much more important for determining roster spots in New Jersey, anyway. This might help for potential minor league signings, though without an ECHL affiliate, the team may stray from that.
That all said, Tom Gulitti and Rich Chere are the ones to follow for Devils development camp coverage. Gulitti is particularly active on Twitter, so be sure to follow @TGfireandice during the day if you can.
Onto the point of this post, I provided a quick summary of the non-drafted Devils prospects at last summer's developmental camp. For this year's camp, 43 players have been invited to camp and 42 are actually there. Most of them have been drafted by New Jersey or have played in Albany last season. 11 are undrafted and do not have their rights owned by New Jersey. Let's learn a little bit more about the11 unfamiliar players. After the jump, a quick summary of those players who are at the Devils' prospect developmental camp but aren't Devils prospects.
Gulitti got the full list of the roster as well as noting which coaches are there this morning at Fire & Ice. (Aside: Thanks to Jacob Shepherd for FanShotting it earlier in the day.) Also, I should highlight that there is one player on that list who won't be at camp and one omission. The omission is Jon Merrill of Michigan. Nothing is wrong with him. Merrill is just taking classes over the summer as reported by Tom Gulitti. Mattias Tedenby is on the roster, but he won't be at camp due to circumstances outside of his control. Namely, his visa. As reported this afternoon by Gulitti, Tedenby is still in Sweden because of an error on his visa. Per Josefson, Tedenby didn't make any mistake, but the Swedish embassy did. Therefore, not only did he miss the first day of camp, but he'll miss the whole week because of someone else's error. In a word: unfortunate. This explains why the roster has 43 on it, and only 42 are in Newark.
The camp roster consists of 4 goalies, 15 defensemen, and 23 forwards. From that roster, 2 defensemen and 9 forwards make up the 11 additional players invited to camp that aren't Devils prospects or in their system in anyway. Let's break it down.
The Two Undrafted Players Who Were at The 2010 Developmental Camp: Bryan Haczyk, Scott Arnold
Yep, these two were invited to last summer's camp and they are here again. Arnold completed his freshman year at Niagara University with 16 goals and 6 assists in 34 games. This is not his first camp of the summer, as he went to Calgary's camp last week according to Niagara's website. His teammate Bryan Haczyk is a local product, straight out of Nutley, NJ. Haczyk completed his senior year at Niagara, got 3 games with the now-defunct Trenton Devils, and now is looking to break into pro hockey. Haczyk had a productive senior year with Niagara, finishing second on the team in scoring with 28 goals and 17 assists in 35 games. I guess they did well enough to warrant a second invitation. We'll see if it leads to anything.
The Non-Haczyk College Hockey Players Who Finished Their Senior Year in 2010-11: Brett Leonard, Joe Whitney
Bryan Haczyk is a small forward who's done with college. There are two more like him at this camp. Brett Leonard is coming out of the University of Vermont. According to the university's profile page on the player, Leonard isn't known for being big (5'6", 168 pounds), didn't put up a lot of offense, missed his entire sophomore season, and was praised for his penalty killing work and reliability by his coach in a brief quote. What I'm saying is that I wouldn't expect him to torch the D in camp.
Joe Whitney is a more interesting invite, however. He's also not big (5'6", 172 lbs.), but he has been quite productive with Boston College. In addition to being a member of their 2009 national championship team, Whitney had a monster freshman year with 11 goals and 40 assists and earned all-NCAA tournament honors in the 2009 Frozen Four according to the school's profile page on him. Per HockeyDB, he racked up 5 goals and 29 assists in his senior year, bringing his college career to a close with 40 goals and 102 assists. Clearly, he was a playmaker. Let's see if he can translate that to the pro game at any level. Out of all of the undrafted/unsigned invites, I would be most curious in how he does. If you want to read more about Joe Whitney, please check out these Whitney-related posts at BC Interruption.
The Player Who Tried Out at Training Camp Last Summer and is Here Again: Thomas Nesbitt
That's right, he tried out in last year's training camp, didn't get a contract, and went right back to Ottawa to play out his junior eligibility. I wonder how fans of the Ottawa 67's will think about going into their first Nesbitt-less season. After all, he's been there for 5 seasons. He's been good enough to keep getting games, and he put up respectable numbers on the team per HockeyDB, improving season by season. Though, putting up 60-ish points as an overage player isn't exactly confidence-inducing for a future beyond minor league hockey - even if he was used as a defensive forward, as indicated by this comment from last year's training camp preview.
The Players Who Aren't Even In College Yet (And You Should Know If You've Read ILWT's Prospect Profiles): Matt Killian, Peter McMullen
These two Delbarton players were profiled prior to the draft. I thought defenseman Matt Killian would be picked, not so much for forward Peter McMullen. Neither were picked in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. Still, it makes sense for the Devils to invite both of them. They're local, they're from a top local team, and they'll get an additional boost en route to the college game. Rather than repeat what I've written then, here are my profiles on Killian and McMullen, respectively. (Aside: Gulitti noted in this post at Fire & Ice that McMullen will play a season with Omaha in the USHL before going to Boston College. Interesting.)
The Undrafted Players With Familiar Last Names: Kelly Zajac, Rem Vanderbeek
As you may suspect, Kelly Zajac is the younger brother of Darcy Zajac, who is the younger brother of Devils center Travis Zajac. Unlike his brothers, Kelly plays for Union College in the ECAC, the same school Keith Kinkaid was signed from in the spring. Kelly is currently a junior and has been quite productive for Union, as he led the team with 13 goals and 29 assists in 40 games last season. Travis' brother Darcy Zajac was invited to last summer's camp and got a contract as camp began with Albany. While Kelly will likely go back to Union for his senior year, it wouldn't surprise me if a third Zajac ends up in New Jersey's system next summer.
Rem Vanderbeek is the son of Jeff, who's kind of a big deal as he owns the New Jersey Devils. Rem's a forward with Providence, who has seen very limited action (5 games) with the Friars in his first two years with the school, according to the school's website. I think Rem's here just to fill out the roster.
The Other Friar: Daniel New
The other defenseman at this camp is Daniel New of Providence. Per the school's profile on New, he's doesn't appear to be an offensive defenseman with his production, but he has been a regular on the team through his first three years at Providence. He's a junior, so like Kelly Zajac, this is more for the experience than anything else. I suppose he's a bit of a mystery as to what he could bring to the table. At worst, he'll just be another defenseman in the roster.
The Player Who May Be Known As "J.T.": Justin Barnett
When searching for information on "Justin Barnett," I had all kinds of trouble finding anything on this guy. Nothing on where he played hockey last season. Nothing at HockeyDB or elsewhere with any information. Did he go by any other names? Well, possibly as there's a lot more information about J.T. Barnett. I'm going to hope that J.T. is the same guy as who is at the Devils' camp.
J.T. is a winger in the WHL, entering his fourth season as a junior player. His first two seasons were with Vancouver, and he was acquired by Kamloops after 2009-10. He wasn't drafted, though there was some possibility of it in 2009-10. He has not been a big scorer, though he has stuck around in the WHL. Again, I think he's just filling out the camp roster. Here's some trivia, though: his dad is Mike Barnett, who most notable as an agent to some notable players (e.g. Wayne Gretzky, Brett Hull, Alexander Mogilny, Jaromir Jagr), serving as the GM of the Coyotes for most of the last decade, and currently serves in the Rangers' scouting department.
So What Does All of This Mean?
Well, if the Devils still had an ECHL affiliate and/or more room on the Albany roster, then one or two of these players could have been signed. Last summer's camp yielded the signings of Matt Anderson, who was an established AHL player anyway, and Darcy Zajac, who split his time between Trenton and Albany. This summer, who knows. Again, the purpose of this camp isn't to see who can get an "inside track" at training camp in September or even get a deal right now in the Devils' system. It's really to monitor how current prospects are doing and getting a closer look at some other players outside of the system, like most of the 11 players mentioned here. If the Devils come out of this with more confidence in even just one or two of these 11, it's a success of sorts.
While it looks like it will not be open to the public, appreciate what you can. After all, it's the last bit of actual hockey action for quite some time. 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. Thank you for reading.