The New Jersey Devils rebounded nicely after dropping the first game of the Prospects Challenge in Buffalo 6-4. With Akira Schmid in net, the Devils largely dominated the contest, but ultimately fell 2-1 to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Unlike Friday, the Devils struck first courtesy of a Graeme Clarke power play goal. Clarke – a third-round pick of the Devils just a few months ago – picked up a loose puck that shot out of a scrum along the boards and sniped one home from the slot (video below). Soon on after, the Penguins answered with a goal of their own after a puck found the back of the net after a Devils’ loss in the face-off circle.
The scoring would not pick up again until the second period when Devils’ prospect Jeremy Groleau didn’t close out fast enough and allowed a Penguins’ player to cut to the net and beat Schmid. The 2-1 score would hold up, even though the Devils were given multiple chances via the power play to tie the game up. These chances even included a 5-on-3 and a 6-on-4 advantage.
The final shots total was 36-22 in favor of the Devils, which correctly depicted the fact they controlled most of the play. Schmid – who performed well during the third period of Friday’s game – picked up where he left off and stopped 20 of the Penguins’ 22 shots.
Forward Jesper Boqvist – who also impressed Friday’s game – showed once again why there is so much hype surrounding him. His success started early as he snatched the puck away from a Penguins’ forward and set up Clarke for an early chance. He was also able to draw one of the many Penguins’ penalties in the third period. Once again, Boqvist was rewarded for his efforts as he tallied an assist on the Devils’ only goal of the game. For someone who’s considered on the bubble to make the roster, he has sure made a great first impression thus far.
The 18-year-old, third-round selection is regarded as a goal scorer and showed exactly that in Saturday’s contest. Through the first two games, his offensive skill has been on display as is evident in the video above. However, it is apparent he will need to work on his defense as he progresses. Either way, it has been a solid start to the Prospects Challenge for Clarke who will return to his OHL team, the Ottawa 67’s.
One of the names that jumped out to anyone looking at the tournament rosters is the 2018 17th overall selection, Ty Smith. Unfortunately, his play so far has been a bit underwhelming. Smith’s play in the defensive zone has been interesting, especially in Saturday’s contest, as on numerous occasions he had difficulties clearing the puck from the zone. These failed clears resulted in a number of turnovers and Penguins’ chances.
Don’t let the perceived defensive struggles make you ignore Smith’s offense game. In the offensive zone, he has looked relatively smooth while also being in charge of the Devils’ power play. Ultimately, it has been a bit underwhelming in term of Smith’s overall game. However, expect a much better performance come camp as the reigning CHL Defenseman of the Year is bound to impress.
As mentioned above, Schmid was solid. He came in relief of goaltender Gilles Senn on Friday and stopped all eleven shots he faced. He followed that performance up with 20 stops on 22 shots. In total that is good for a .939 save percentage. It is unlikely he plays again on Monday as Evan Cormier will most likely get the nod. Either way, it has been a very promising showing for the 19-year-old 2018 fifth-round pick.
Next Game: Monday @ 9:30 AM vs. Boston, Stream on newjerseydevils.com (blackouts may apply)