ILWT Audition 2014: The Newest Devil: A Closer Look at Graham Black

The ILWT Audition process for 2014 continues with a submission from Writer C tzupes1. The focus of this post is about one of the prospects in the New Jersey Devils organization, the recently signed Graham Black.

At the end of April, I put out another call looking for new writers for In Lou We Trust to write about the New Jersey Devils. I've opened up the audition to the community at large in order to get some new perspectives and additional voices on the front page with regularity. Since then, I've received eighteen entries that met the submission criteria. Regardless of how they're received, I thank the writers of each and every one of them - you know who you are - for stepping up and submitting an entry.  (One more instruction for those who made submissions and received letters, by the way.  Please do not comment on your submission or any of the other audition posts.  This will help allow others to freely judge the work and show that you can handle online reactions.  No drama is the best drama.)

Throughout the this week, I will post each one under an anonymous name so you can discuss and critique the post without regard to who actually wrote it. I can ensure you that I did not change any of the content outside of formatting it in to the SBN platform.  To that end, please note that I don't necessarily agree with what the posts actually say. I'm just letting them stand on their own. Please be constructive in any criticism and do offer your thoughts about whether you liked (or disliked) the post in addition to discussing it's content. Don't be mean, but be fair.

Now, I assigned a letter to each writer based on when I received it.  However, I decided to mix up the letters in terms of order of posting.  So this process continues with the submission of Writer C tzupes1, who focuses on one of the prospects in the organization: Graham Black.

***

Last week, the New Jersey Devils announced that they had signed Graham Black to a three-year entry-level contract. Black, 21, was drafted by the Devils in 2012 in the fifth round (135th overall). He is a left shooting center, who is officially listed at 6'0" and 184 pounds on his player page. Black has spent the past few seasons as a member of the Swift Current Broncos in the Western Hockey League. Since being drafted, his game has continued to improve at the junior level, and he has begun to turn the heads of many Devils fans. But just how good will Graham Black be?

Below are Black's statistics for the Swift Current Broncos, taken from the Western Hockey League's official website:

REGULAR SEASON

SEASON

TEAM

GP

G

A

PTS

+/-

PIM

2013-14 Regular Season

Swift Current Broncos

69

34

63

97

18

43

2012-13 Regular Season

Swift Current Broncos

68

24

26

50

4

33

2011-12 Regular Season

Swift Current Broncos

71

17

33

50

3

49

2010-11 Regular Season

Swift Current Broncos

6

1

1

2

-4

0

Total:

214

76

123

199

21

125


You can see that as he has matured in his time in the WHL, his numbers and overall game have improved tremendously. Missing only three games this season, Black was the Broncos leading scoring in all categories, twenty points ahead of the next leading scorer Nathan Burns, and third in overall +/-. Black was also eighth overall in scoring this year in the WHL, behind notable names like top 2014 NHL draft prospect Sam Reinhart. Before this season, the continued criticism towards Black was that he was a streaky scorer, but he has since put silence to those criticisms and continued to consistently show up on the stat sheet day in and day out for the Broncos this season.

What many fans do not know but will soon find out, is that Black almost did not have a hockey career because he was diagnosed with Grave's Disease when he was 16. This illness, which is an autoimmune disorder that affects the thyroid gland, can cause severe fatigue, excessive weight loss, and disturb sleep, almost caused Black to quit hockey before he started taking medication to get it under control. At one point, the symptoms got so severe during his second full season in the WHL to the point where Black lost nearly 30 pounds. Despite his illness, Black still managed to enjoy full seasons of hockey and only missed eight games in his junior career. Many people may not even have realized that he was playing with such a terrible illness because of his remarkable durability. Black underwent a procedure on his thyroid last February to correct the issue and has since conquered the disease and blossomed into a star hockey player in the WHL. His streaky scoring woes and small size could have all along been attributed to this illness, and now that he was fully healthy this season, we may have seen the player that he could really be.

Overall scouting reports speak of Graham Black as a great skater with excellent speed. He uses this attribute in all areas of the ice, being a skilled playmaker with good vision and a nice shot release on offense. Although he has enjoyed more success offensively this season, Black has always been praised more for his defensive prowess on the ice. He works hard in the defensive zone by using his skating ability on the backcheck to cover all areas of the zone. Despite his smaller stature, Black is not afraid to play physical and lay hits. His gritty play and fierce determination, along with his skating ability make Graham Black one of the best defensive forwards in the Devils system. Hockey's Future projects Black as a two-way, third-line center who will be able to contribute on the penalty kill, but if he continues show more offensively, we may very well see another well rounded top-six forward who can contribute in all areas of the game in New Jersey.

Only time will tell now if Graham Black could be something for the Devils at the professional level. He will likely begin next season fully healthy in Albany where he will continue his development, and will have to prove that his final season for Swift Current was no fluke. No one really knows at this point, but Black could either be the next Adam Henrique (a good scoring top-six forward who contributes in all areas of the game), or the next Jacob Josefson (a skilled center with potential and great defensive play, but never enough contribution offensively) for the Devils. As was stated before, only time will tell now what Black will really become as he continues his development. Lou Lamoriello has been known to find hidden gems in the draft before. Could Graham Black be one of them too?

***

Now that you read Writer C tzupes1's post, I want to know what you think about it.  What do you think of the subject matter? What did you think about how Writer C tzupes1 wrote this post? Based on how it was written and what was it about, is this the kind of post you would want to see regularly at In Lou We Trust? Please leave your answers and other comments about this post in the comments. Thanks go to Writer C tzupes1 for the submission and thank you for reading.

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