3 Observations From Day 2 of Devils Training Camp

New Jersey Devils head coach Lindy Ruff and his staff believe the best way to prepare for a game is by playing some games, and the team’s schedule reflects that as three scrimmages were scheduled in an effort to see the compete level of the 56 players vying for a spot on the opening night roster. Yesterday the first game was played as Group B and Group C took the ice to showcase their skills and fight for bragging rights in the locker room.

Group B eventually won 8-1, but these scrimmages are not necessarily about the final score. It is about seeing who stands out and what line combinations and pairings will work once the regular season commences. The Devils have 16 players on expiring contracts and they will be looking to put their best skate forward to make an impact. New Jersey will be playing their first preseason game on Monday and their performances this weekend can indicate how much playing time they will receive next week.

Andreas Johnsson Dawson Mercer Jesper Bratt New Jersey Devils
Andreas Johnsson, Dawson Mercer and Jesper Bratt, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Before I break down some key observations from RWJBarnabas Health Hockey House, let’s discuss the players who appeared in the team’s first scrimmage of training camp.

The Lineups

Yesterday’s game gave fans an opportunity to see a few players who were plagued with injuries last season including Miles Wood, Jonathan Bernier, and Tyce Thompson. All three were members of Group C, who had a bit of a disadvantage against Group B, which was comprised of Nico Hischier, Jesper Bratt, and Damon Severson.

Here is the full lineup for both teams:

Group B (Team White)

Yegor Sharangovich – Nico Hischier – Jesper Bratt

Andreas Johnsson – Michael McLeod – Nathan Bastian

Mason Geertsen – Chase Stillman – Brian Halonen

Xavier Parent

Ryan Graves – Damon Severson

Tyler Wotherspoon – Robbie Russo

Michael Vukojevic – Jeremy Groleau

Vitek Vanecek

Akira Schmid

Related: 3 Observations From Day 1 of Devils Training Camp

Group C (Team Red)

Miles Wood – Erik Haula – Dawson Mercer

Nolan Foote – Brian Pinho – Tyce Thompson

Josh Filmon – Nolan Stevens – Jack Dugan

Samuel Laberge

Brendan Smith – John Marino

Kevin Bahl – Simon Nemec

Jarrod Gourley – Filip Bratt

Jonathan Bernier

Nico Daws

New Jersey’s Newly Acquired Veterans Waste No Time Making an Impression

Erik Haula

Group C scored one goal and that was courtesy of Haula’s deflection in the second period. He is a player who catches your attention when he is on the ice and has not taken his foot off the gas since training camp began. For the past two days he has been working on a line with Wood and Mercer and fans can expect to get another look at the trio today when they face Group A.

Brendan Smith

Fans learned that not only does Smith talk the talk, but he also walks the walk. During his media availability this summer he was asked what the process was like to get this team to the next step and he confidently said it starts right away.

“I think it all starts right at the get go and practice,” he said. “If you have a high level of competition in practice, you kind of see what you’re going to be going up against and then you play that way. How you practice is how you play… if you do that on a daily basis, I think that will give us the best chance to slide into a playoff position.”

Since Day 1 of training camp, Smith has displayed a high level of competition on the ice. When Mercer spoke at the podium on Thursday, he mentioned that Smith has a good pace and displayed competitiveness before camp officially opened, when it was just the guys skating. During the second period of play, the blueliner sacrificed the body and laid down to block a pass attempt. He leads by example and is not afraid to speak up when he is not happy with the effort of his teammates, even when it’s just a training camp scrimmage.

“I think when it comes to skates and getting prepared, you need to have that intensity. I would say the way [Team Red] showed up was not even close,” Smith said after the scrimmage. “And it became very frustrating for some of the older guys, and we had to speak up.”

Severson and Sharangovich Collect Two Goals Each

Severson had a solid outing for Group B. The 28-year-old scored back-to-back goals on Bernier in the first period and was all over the ice along with his defensive partner Graves. He is one of the players on an expiring contract, and there is a lot on the line for the Manitoba native as he looks to earn a new contract this summer whether it’s with the Devils or another team in the league.

Damon Severson New Jersey Devils
Damon Severson, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

One player who will reap the benefits of having Sergei Brylin as an assistant coach is Sharangovich. The 6-foot-2 forward scored two consecutive goals in the third period against Daws. In his first two seasons with the Devils, he started on the slower side but found his rhythm as the season carried on. He is poised for a breakout season and will continue to be a player to watch this upcoming week as preseason officially begins.

Bernier Keeps on Surprising

The Devils’ veteran goaltender took another step by playing half of the game for Group C. He has not been cleared by the doctors to play in an actual game but has been testing to waters to see where he is at in his recovery. The 34-year-old let in five goals, but at the end of the day, it did not matter as he is solely focused on progressing and eventually returning to the ice.

“I think the main focus for all of us is not to go in and out of the lineup,” he said. “You know, I want to progressively go into practice and games, and see what’s my limit and go from there. But at the end of the day, I don’t want to play for two weeks and then be out again for a week. I want to take the right steps and take my time to make sure that I don’t have too many setbacks.”

Quick Hits & Observations

  • Fans got their first look at Jesper Bratt versus Filip Bratt. The brothers are attending their first Devils training camp together and both signed new contracts this season. Younger brother Filip signed an AHL two-way contract with the Utica Comets of the American Hockey League while Jesper signed a one-year contract in August avoiding salary arbitration.
  • There is something about sixth-round draft pick Josh Filmon. While he did not score a goal in the scrimmage, my eyes kept gravitating to him whenever he was on the ice. The 18-year-old has been a standout since the prospects challenge and is preparing himself for a great season in the Western Hockey League.
  • Tyler Wotherspoon sent Simon Nemec head first into the opposing bench. A member of the staff and Vanecek assisted the 2022 second-overall pick in getting back to his skates and into the game.

Today Group A will take the ice to challenge Group C. Fans will be thrilled to know that Jack Hughes, Ondrej Palat, Dougie Hamilton, and Alexander Holtz will all take part in the team’s second scrimmage. Like yesterday, the game will be streamed on the team’s website with Matt Loughlin and Sam Kasan calling the action.

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