Development camp is a time for NHL teams to get all their prospects in one place to showcase their skating, stick-handling, and hockey IQs. Most of development camp is just getting players used to doing things at the NHL level like practicing and exercising. The rest is essentially bonding and trying to instill some of the franchise’s preferred characteristics. For most players, development camp is simply a time just to get acquainted with their future teammates, and learn about the NHL lifestyle.
This obviously isn’t the case with every player. For many high-end youngsters, now is their first big chance to impress the big club. Prospects have development camp, the rookie showcase, and preseason to prove they belong on an NHL roster. This is the first step for them, and while it might not be the most important, it is the first impression for a lot of these up-and-comers. Let’s see who has the most to prove at this years camp.
Joey Anderson…I fully expect Joey Anderson to make the final roster out of camp. He plays a position the Devils are in great need of at right wing, and brings a ton of versatility. He can be slotted up and down the lineup, and can play in all situations. Out of all of these players, Anderson may have the best shot, which goes to show how much Anderson has improved since being drafted in the third round (2016). Now is his chance to demonstrate his skillset and highly-touted leadership abilities.
Michael McLeod…The former 2016 first-round pick already attended two of these camps, and has yet to truly impress anyone. McLeod is an exceptional skater, but needs to show something more this time around. McLeod’s 2016-2017 season was marred with injury so it is hard to judge, but his production didn’t really increase like one would expect from a first-round pick in his D+2 season. Hopefully McLeod absolutely dominates this camp and makes a strong case for himself going into training camp.
Ty Smith…New Jersey’s defacto top prospect is making his debut at development camp. It will be exciting to see how Smith stacks up against the rest of New Jersey’s prospect pool. Smith isn’t exactly flashy but extremely skilled and smart, so look for him to make a couple of flashy plays during scrimmages. Smith has an outside shot at making the Devils, but if he somehow shows up with an extra pep in his step, those odds might significantly improve.
Mackenzie Blackwood…Blackwood has struggled to live up to his billing as the best North American goalie in his class, since being drafted in the second round three years ago. He has struggled to find consistency in the AHL. Blackwood is the closest New Jersey has in terms of a legitimate goalie in their system, so hopefully he can begin to piece together a more complete game. If one of Schneider or Kinkaid gets hurt this year, Blackwood could be called up so at some point, and should see some NHL time this season.