Despite the overall record, the New Jersey Devils have succeeded in one tremendous area this season in terms of developing youth.The New Jersey Devils made a smart move in giving players from Albany some time in the big leagues. While the team continues to plunge in the league standings, the youth of the team has been showcased in tremendous light.
Players such as John Quenneville, Blake Pietila and Blake Coleman have each experienced time in Newark this season, and each has contributed in their own way.
Hockey runs in the family name. His brother plays, his second cousin is a three-time Stanley Cup winning coach and Islanders defensemen Johnny Boychuk is his uncle. John Quenneville saw two games in December before rejoining the main roster on Mar. 16. He scored his first career goal against the rival New York Rangers on Mar. 21. He also added an assist and was awarded the third star of the game.
The Devils lack a number one center, but their youth at the position has potential. As much love the fans have for Adam Henrique, he is a number two center. Travis Zajac has been awful since he lost the two 30-goal a year guys he was playing with. Quenneville still needs to come into his own but he has potential. Scoring against a division rival is a good way to score your first goal. The team hopes he can do more of that.
Blake Pietila played two games in November before being recalled in March. He struggled initially, posting a -6 in six games with two penalty minutes. In his two most recent games, however, he has looked much better. He is a +2 with an assist. However, with Mike Cammalleri returning from injury, he was recently demoted to Albany. It sucks because he was just starting to play well, but that’s how the game goes.
The Devils biggest issue is that they lack scoring. In his 10 games that he played, he managed nine shots on goal. While none went in the net, he’s a player that can move the puck towards the net. With Albany this season, he has 10 goals and seven assists. He will get to build on those totals while Albany fights toward a playoff spot.
Blake Coleman has been a player that has had a questionable run with the team. He played five games in January and returned to the team just before the end of February. In his first stint, he managed his first career NHL assist in a huge win over the Minnesota, at the time the best time in the Western Conference. He recently scored his first NHL goal in an overtime loss to the Dallas Stars. An issue recently is that he is taking too many penalty minutes. In his last five games, his has 15 penalty minutes. Granted that has a fight in an emotional win against an arch rival counted in, but he has taken two penalties in two of his last four games. He will need to tone that down.
Like Quenneville, Coleman plays center. Coleman would fit will into the third line center role. He plays a physical game and has potential to score goals. He has seven points in 14 games with Albany this season. 19 penalty minutes in 18 games played is concerning but he is young and has time to learn. He must also learn to make better passes and the Devils have a solid forward for the bottom six.
Why Joseph Blandisi has played more games for Albany this year that New Jersey is incomprehensible. Last season with the main roster, Blandisi had five goals and 12 assists in 41 games last season. He has three goals and six assists in 23 games for the main roster, while he has seven goals and 16 assists in 28 games for Albany. Why was he demoted for his good play last season?
Blandisi is a physical player. A grinder that has put up points could be a good second line winger in the NHL. He could be what David Clarkson used to be for the Devils a few years back. He will be a restricted free agent this upcoming season so the team will need to resign him. A bridge deal would be good to see him play a full season. Why not one in the middle of a rebuild?
The Devils has let their young stars shine in a miserable season that is almost over. Things should be the same in the last few games. With all the draft picks the team has, they could add to the talent pool.