New Jersey Devils development camp took place last week at Barnabas Health Center, which temporarily housed all of the Devils top prospects. As described by many who attended, this was the best development camp the organization has had in years. The ice was full of speed, skill, and hockey sense. It’s certainly a great sign for this team’s future that their camp is getting such rave reviews.
Earlier during the week, New Jersey announced that John Quenneville and Brandon Gignac wouldn’t participate in the on-ice portions of camp for precautionary reasons. Swiss goaltender Gilles Senn would take part in a limited capacity. This is a big hit for Gignac who was seemingly making strides to getting a pro look. He’s still undersized but after impressing at last year’s Rookie Showcase along with another successful year in the QMJHL, he was looking poised for a push to get his nine games. Quenneville is relatively safe as he should start the season in New Jersey despite this set back.
The story of the week was obviously Nico Hischier. The 2017 first overall pick had a very successful camp, showing off all the attributes the Devils saw in him. His agility and stickhandling were on display in the three-on-three tournament, and Red versus White scrimmage. A couple people pointed out that Hischier looked winded at times. This shouldn’t be a problem as Hischier himself said he’s only been able to get on the ice a couple times since the draft. It’s certainly been a hectic couple of weeks for Hischier, so a month to rest and train should do him some good.
A couple of stand outs from the three-on-three tournament were Pavel Zacha and Jesper Boqvist. Zacha is one of the more seasoned prospects and it showed as he routinely looked a cut above the rest of his peers. Zacha exhibited poise with the puck and wasn’t hesitant to utilize his heavy wrist shot. Hopefully this translates into this NHL season. Boqvist showed why some thought he might be a first rounder. His quickness and skill were on full display as he and Fabian Zetterlund showed chemistry throughout the tournament. Boqvist has the offensive game to succeed at the NHL level; it will just come down to whether he can shore up his defensive game and add some muscle.
Michael McLeod was a stand out in during the scrimmage. Once he was given some space, he was able to show off his speed and create some offense. Blake Speers also capped off a great week at the scrimmage. Speers showed some skill in the three-on-three and notable chemistry with Hischier as well. The scrimmage further helped him make a case to be one of New Jersey’s right wings this season. Reilly Walsh was shot into the conversation for most promising defensive prospect as he netted two goals and made some nice defensive plays in the scrimmage. Walsh will play big time college hockey this year at Harvard, where he’ll hopefully continue his progress.
Steve Santini continued to show why he will be a very good NHL defenseman with his on ice play. This camp is not only about the on ice drills and scrimmages, but off ice bonding and lessons learned. One of the more interesting aspects of this camp is the decision to room first overall pick and future of the Devils Nico Hischier with veteran Steve Santini. With all eyes on Hischier, it’s easy to notice what this says about how the organization views Santini. They trusted him with mentoring and keeping an eye on their prized center. Many forget about Santini as he gets lumped into the failure that is the Devils defensive core. Santini is one of the few bright spots and, outside of Damon Severson, is one of the few defensemen that projects to be in the future plans of Ray Shero.