By Steve Lichtenstein
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Eventually week’s Devils improvement camp in Newark, all eyes have been glued on Nico Hischier.
Nevertheless, New Jersey’s 18-yr-previous No. 1 general draft selection, who signed a 3-yr entry degree contract after Saturday’s spirited scrimmage concluded the 5-day occasion, wasn’t the one prospect to make a great impression.
The camp roster was stacked with skillful skaters. Gamers resembling Miles Wooden, whose velocity and physicality have been apparent throughout his 60-recreation rookie marketing campaign, and Pavel Zacha, the Devils’ dazzling 2015 first-rounder, have already confirmed their NHL worthiness. Others, like 2016 first-spherical choice Mike MacLeod and Blake Speers, have an honest shot of creating the large membership out of the upcoming coaching camp.
John Quenneville, one other prior prime draft selection who began to get going for New Jersey within the latter levels of final season, was unable to take part within the camp’s on-ice actions resulting from an damage. Additionally notably absent was Alexander Kerfoot, the Harvard standout who the Devils have till Aug. 15 to get underneath contract or else danger dropping him in free company.
(Aspect notice: Can we PLEASE eliminate this ridiculous U.S. school participant loophole within the subsequent spherical of collective bargaining? It makes a mockery of the entire draft course of. I imply, how lengthy after Aug. 15 will Kerfoot be a New York Ranger, like Jimmy Vesey and Kevin Hayes in prior years? If a drafted school participant can’t come to phrases after a sure interval, he ought to return into the subsequent draft, like in different professional sports activities.)
Prepared or not, right here or not, all the above-named skills have one factor in widespread.
None of them are a defenseman.
Whereas the promising group of younger forwards bodes nicely for these trying to see the Devils increase their anemic assault after a 183-aim output, the league’s third fewest in 2016-17, the shortage of NHL high quality and amount on the again line is equally regarding.
Devils common supervisor Ray Shero is keenly conscious of this difficulty, noting the group’s general weak spot on the place to the media after watching Kevin Shattenkirk, the highest free agent defenseman, bypass New Jersey for the brilliant lights of Madison Sq. Backyard earlier this month.
Sadly, until Shero pulls one other certainly one of his commerce heists out of his hat, various outdoors reinforcements…