Eric Gelinas is big, had a strong rookie season in pro hockey, and was very productive for a defenseman. I cannot stress that last point enough. When putting together everyone's rankings for the overall Top 25 Devils Under 25 List, it became clear the organizational need played a role. It helped explain Reece Scarlett coming in at #11, for one example. As another example, need definitely helped explain Reid Boucher ending up at #12. Scarlett's the closer comparison for Gelinas as they are both defensemen. The New Jersey Devils have been short on offense from the blueline for years. Gelinas could provide help with that issue - and soon.
#7 - Eric Gelinas - D - Height: 6'3" - Weight: 192 lbs. - Age: 21 - 2012-13 Team: Albany (AHL)
When Gelinas was drafted back in 2009, he was coming off a strong season with Lewiston and scouts appreciated his offensive abilities. While the production dipped in 2009-10, he rebounded in 2010-11 and ended up on a powerhouse of a Saint John team. Gelinas wasn't only putting up points, but he was a contributor to a squad that earned the 2011 QMJHL Championship and the CHL Memorial Cup. Not a bad way to end a junior career.
However, he really opened up eyes with what he did in Albany in 2011-12. Gelinas stepped into the Albany lineup and not only did he get significant amounts of ice time, but he scored quite a lot. To put it in perspective, Gelinas' 16 goals put him tied with Vladimir Zharkov for second most on the team and his 37 points put him fourth in overall scoring on Albany. If that doesn't wow you, then this little tidbit will: no other defenseman in the entire AHL scored more than Gelinas' 16 goals. Half of them came on special teams. Gelinas' 8 power play goals led Albany, a team that appreciated each and every one of them since they ended up next-to-last in power play conversion rate last season. While he may have enjoyed the better part of shooting luck (he shot 10%), you can't argue with results. Gelinas' first pro season definitely moves him up to the higher tier of Devils' defensemen prospects
You also can't argue with some of his other traits. Corey Pronman listed his skating, hands, and his shot as strengths as part of his profile on Gelinas at Hockey Prospectus. Yes, he's 6'3" and he is a mobile defender. He's not going to be plodding around on the ice, which is key since it's hard for any player to make good decisions and react to plays if he struggles at getting around. The fact that he's got such a large frame is a plus - on paper.
Apparently, one of Gelinas' weaknesses is the physical element. This was pointed out back when he was drafted, and two of the weaknesses Pronman has in his profile Despite his size, it seems he could still add more muscle. Moreover, it seems he could stand to be more aggressive at times. I don't want him to become a PIM-machine, but getting into battles along the boards for pucks and throwing checks shouldn't be an issue. It's something defensemen of all kinds have to deal with one way or another despite their size. It's something I think he can learn, though. Maybe it'll come with the other area he could stand to improve in: defense. It's not that he's particularly bad at it, but he could stand to make some better decisions at times. Sometimes it'll be tied into when and how to get physical. Again, it's something that he can learn - experience helps in this regard - and he does have some time to learn it.
A few weeks after our rankings, Gelinas was injured in training camp and has not returned to the team since. It's unfortunate since Gelinas could demonstrate his improvement this season. If there wasn't a lockout, it wouldn't surprise me if we saw him Newark for a couple of games just to see how he would do. If he can produce at the next level, then he's set since it's a glaring need on a blueline that doesn't produce a lot of offense. If he doesn't do so right away, I wouldn't fret. He is only 21, for one thing. It's clear he's got offensive abilities and he can skate well, he would just have to refine those areas. The parts of his game that need work - the physical and defensive components - can be improved upon. He's not in a now-or-never situation and his potential of an offensive defenseman is too enticing to give up on. There's a lot to like about Gelinas, and I don't think he's too far away.
As a result, almost all of us ranked him clearly within our respective top tens. He already fills a glaring need for Albany. He could potentially fill a glaring need for New Jersey one day. He's got a large frame, he can move very well with his frame, and he can both shoot and pass the puck well. It speaks to the Devils' defensive depth among their younger players that Gelinas is the fourth highest ranked defenseman on our overall list. Nevertheless, a high ranking such as this is completely deserved. Hopefully Gelinas gets back into action with Albany soon and we'll see what happens from then on.
Now that you know where we ranked Gelinas, we'd like to know what you think about the player. Do you think #7 is too high, too low, or just about right? When Gelinas comes back from injury, what do you expect out of him at Albany? Can he repeat his production rates from last season? Can he improve on what others have tagged as weaknesses? Do you think we'll see him in New Jersey for a couple of games if/when the NHL season returns? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the player in the comments. Thank you for reading.