Following the 1993-94 season, the AHL Albany River Rats lost five of their top eight scorers. The next season, rookie forward Steve Sullivan lead the club in scoring with 81 points. Current Albany Devils assistant coach and then-rookie forward Sergei Brylin was fifth on the squad with 54 points.
During the Calder Cup playoffs, rookie forward Steve Brule topped the team with nine postseason goals, rookie forward Vadim Sharifijanov netted the Calder Cup clinching goal at Fredericton, and rookie goalie Mike Dunham earned the Harry “Hap” Holmes award as co-MVP of the postseason.
In other words, the kids were all right.
Fast forward to the 2016-17, the A-Devils, fresh off a 102 point season, will go forward without their top-eight scorers from the club that finished a game shy of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Veteran captain Rod Pelley returns but which youngsters will make their own mark in boosting this edition of the A-Devils?
Selected in the first round of the 2014 draft by New Jersey, much is expected of Quenneville. The Edmonton, AB native has the ability to line up at center or left-wing. In 2015-16, Quenneville notched 73 points in 57 games with the WHL Brandon Wheat Kings. Leading the Wheat Kings to a WHL crown, the skilled center topped all postseason scorers with 16 tallies.
Quenneville is the second cousin of Chicago Blackhawks head coach and former New Jersey defenseman Joel Quenneville. John’s brother Peter is a prospect with the Columbus Blue Jackets and his brother David is a prospect with the New York Islanders. He is also the nephew (by marriage) of former Albany River Rats defenseman Johnny Boychuk. He’ll be the second Quenneville to wear an Albany uniform, joining Chad Quenneville, who skated in eight games in 1995.
— Albany Devils (@AlbanyDevils) March 13, 2016
Still technically a rookie, Albany fans are familiar with Lappin’s heroics from a season ago. After a four-year collegiate career at Brown University, the Brown product recorded seven points in 12 regular season contests with Albany. He also came up big during the Calder Cup playoffs, tallying five goals in eleven games.
After scoring a game-winning goal with 39.5 ticks left on the clock in a late regular season tilt against the Toronto Marlies, Lappin was back for more in the postseason. In Game 3 of the North Division Finals against the Marlies, he netted a game-tying, short-handed goal with 21 seconds remaining in the third period. Moving to the extra session, the Devils’ rookie forward then scored the game-winning, power-play goal at 18:40 into overtime, giving Albany a 3-2 victory.
— American Hockey League (@TheAHL) May 9, 2016
Lappin also gave the Devils a 2-1 lead in Game 7 but it wasn’t quite enough in the end. The Devils will count on the Geneva, IL native to be clutch this season.
Drafted by New Jersey in the third round of the 2011 draft, the Plano, TX native made a nice early impression with Albany last season. Unfortunately, Coleman was limited to 14 games, after incurring a season-ending shoulder injury, following a hit by Binghamton Senators defenseman Mark Fraser. Up to that point, Devils’ rookie forward was playing some feisty hockey, scoring four goals and racking up 19 penalty minutes.
Before joining Albany, the one-time RedHawks forward enjoyed a solid four-year college career at Miami University (Ohio), netting 20 goals in his senior year.
Look for Coleman to provide a jolt of energy and intensity for the Devils this season.
Drafted by the Devils in the sixth round of the 2014 draft, Baddock will give Albany some size, grit, and toughness. In four seasons with the WHL Edmonton Oil Kings, the rugged center ran up 480 penalty minutes. The Vermilion, AB native also displayed a scoring touch, netting 22 goals last season.
One could see Baddock paired up with another big guy in Ben Thomson this season.
— Albany Devils (@AlbanyDevils) July 6, 2016
Signed as a free agent in 2016, Mandat, a native of the Czech Republic, played four seasons in the QMJHL. Last season, Mandat posted 20 goals with the Val d’Or Foreurs. Albany is hopeful the right-handed shooting center can be another find like Matt Lorito or Joe Whitney.
Drafted by the Devils in the second round of the 2014 draft, Jacobs will get an opportunity on a blueline that lost five AHL veterans from last season. The Shelby Township, MI native did see one game of action with Albany last season, posting a plus-2 rating. Jacobs is a defenseman who can stretch the ice, displays smooth skating ability and can play at both ends of the ice. Last season with the OHL Sarnia Sting, the right-handed shooting defenseman was a plus-38, posting 24 points in 67 contests.
After spending three seasons with the OHL Oshawa Generals and winning an OHL championship in 2014-15, the North Bay, ON native signed with New Jersey. Last season saw Appleby buried on the depth chart behind Yann Danis and Scott Wedgewood and spending a lot of time with the ECHL Adirondack Thunder.
However, when he did play with Albany, the North Bay product shined in eight games, posting a 2.59 goals-against average, .904 save percentage and a shutout against the Rochester Americans.
In 12 Kelly Cup playoff contests, he was goaltending good in the neighborhood, posting a 2.31 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage.
Appleby joins the ranks of Keith Kinkaid and Richard Shulmistra, as big, athletic goalies minding the net for Albany.
Drafted by New Jersey in the second round of the 2015 draft, Blackwood gives the Devils yet another tall goalie patrolling the crease. The Thunder Bay, ON native played three seasons with the OHL Barrie Colts. The 2015-16 campaign saw Blackwood named the OHL Goaltender of the Year.
The former Colts goalie exudes a calm demeanor and his size and agility enable him to close quickly on pucks. Last season, the Thunder Bay product posted a 2.72 goals-against average and a .921 save percentage in the regular season. During the postseason, Barrie’s best backstop didn’t let up either, sporting a 2.71 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage, in 13 contests.
Michael Gwizdala covers the New York Islanders for The Hockey Writers. Michael is also an Associate Producer at WNYT NewsChannel 13. Additionally, Michael was once a Media Relations intern for the AHL Albany River Rats. Michael is a graduate of The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY.