There weren’t any significant transactions over the last few days, but the New Jersey Devils still made some additions to the organization. We’ll start by looking at the signing of defenseman Dmitry Kulikov, who joins the team on a one-year deal. The Devils also finalized their coaching staff by hiring Chris Taylor as an assistant and Dave Rogalski as their goaltending coach.
Plus, a look at how Devils’ prospects have fared over the last week.
Devils Add Kulikov for Defensive Depth
On Thursday afternoon, the Devils signed Kulikov to a one-year contract worth $1.15 million. The Russian defenseman had spent the last three years with the Winnipeg Jets, where he had 27 points across 170 games.
Though Kulikov isn’t the defenseman he was when he entered the league, he should give the Devils some depth. He won’t provide much offense, and he’s just OK in transition, but he’s a decent defender. His even-strength defense has been worth a goals above replacement (GAR) of 2.6 over the last three seasons, and he’s a fine enough penalty killer. His RAPM chart shows a slight positive defensive impact at even strength, but it also confirms the Devils shouldn’t expect much offense from him:
Kulikov should fit in somewhere on the Devils’ third pair, even if they add another blueliner. He can play either the left or right side so that versatility helps. If top prospect Ty Smith makes the team, it’s easy to see Kulikov slotting in on the left side with Smith opposite him. And that should make for a pretty decent third pair.
Chris Taylor, Dave Rogalski Join Ruff’s Staff
Rogalski will serve as the team’s new goaltending coach after Roland Melanson left the team earlier this offseason. The 39-year-old spent the last three years as the St. Louis Blues’ goaltending development coach and played a part in their goalies’ skill development, among other things. Devils’ goaltending legend Martin Brodeur served as the Blues’ assistant general manager from 2015-2018. He likely has some familiarity with Rogalski, so it definitely wouldn’t be a surprise if he played a role in the hiring.
Taylor, on the other hand, has plenty of connections to the Devils:
He might not be a familiar name to most, but the Devils seemed to have made a great hire in Taylor. He was the Rochester Americans’ (AHL) head coach for the last three seasons and compiled a 115-66-33 record. The Americans were not brimming with high-end talent, either, so he did the best getting the most out of them.
With the two hires, Ruff’s staff will now consist of Taylor, Rogalski, Mark Recchi, and Alain Nasreddine. Recchi will work with the power play and the team’s forwards, while Nasreddine — the lone holdover from John Hynes’ staff — will continue his duties working with the penalty kill and defensemen. All in all, it’s a solid group that should have a positive impact on the Devils moving forward.
Devils Prospects Roundup
There were plenty of Devils’ prospects in action overseas this week, so let’s catch up on how they did.
- Seventh overall pick Alexander Holtz had a goal in one game, but a COVID-19 outbreak hit Djurgardens, forcing them to postpone their other two games of the week.
- 18th overall pick Dawson Mercer hasn’t played in a game since Oct. 11. But don’t worry, it’s because his team — the Chicoutimi Sagueneens — don’t have another contest on their schedule until Oct. 30. To date, he has four goals and six points across four games.
- 2019 fifth-round pick Arseni Gritsyuk had an impressive week in the MHL — the Russian junior league — totaling three goals and an assist in two games. He has four goals and nine points in six MHL games this season.
- Nick Merkley continues to shine playing in the Liiga (Finland), where he’s on loan until the NHL season starts. He has two goals and seven points in nine games and is playing top-line minutes for Ässät.
- Yegor Sharangovich’s loan with Dinamo Minsk (KHL) continues to roll on. He collected two goals in two games this week and has nine points in 17 games. He’s also wearing the C for Dinamo Minsk.
- Fabian Zetterlund has found a place to call home on loan until the NHL and AHL seasons begin. AIK of the HockeyAllsvenkan announced that Zetterlund joined them on loan after New York Islanders’ prospect Oliver Wahlstrom suffered an injury that’ll keep him out for an extended period.
- Janne Kuokkanen is producing in the Liiga, where he has three points in five games for Kärpät. Like all prospects on loan, he’s eligible to be recalled by the Devils once training camp begins.
The Devils’ roster is coming into shape, but it still wouldn’t be a surprise to see them make one or two more additions. We’ll have that covered for you when it happens, plus some posts analyzing the organization’s farm system after the 2020 Draft and where it stands now.
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Advanced stats from Evolving Hockey
Alex Chauvancy is a New Jersey Devils writer for The Hockey Writers who has a penchant for advanced stats, prospects, signings and trades. He previously wrote for Devils Army Blog, a New Jersey Devils fan blog, from 2015-2017