Rookies have reported for camp, and with that comes some fresh news for the New Jersey Devils. Early yesterday, they released their rookie camp roster and who’ll be in attendance for the Prospects Challenge in Buffalo, New York, this weekend. They also signed a couple of players to professional tryouts (PTO) and inked old friend Keith Kinkaid to a one-year deal to add some goaltending depth. Let’s get into the latest team news.
Devils Sign Kinkaid
I’m sure most Devils fans weren’t expecting a reunion with Kinkaid, but he’ll be part of the organization for this coming season after signing a one-year, two-way deal. He spent last season between the Boston Bruins and Colorado Avalanche organizations and even played in a few NHL games.
While Kinkaid has plenty of NHL experience, he’ll likely be AHL depth for the Devils this season unless worse comes to worst. His AHL numbers were solid in 2022-23, as he posted a .909 save percentage in 20 games with the Providence Bruins and a .918 SV% in seven games with the Colorado Eagles — the Bruins and Avalanche’s AHL affiliates.
The Devils’ quest for a goalie, such as Connor Hellebuyck, didn’t come to fruition this summer. Barring something unforeseen, they’ll enter the 2023-24 season with Vitek Vanecek and Akira Schmid as their NHL tandem. And they’ll now have two quality AHL netminders in Kinkaid and Erik Källgren, who’ll provide depth, especially until Daws returns from surgery.
The only caveat with Kinkaid is he will play for the Chicago Wolves, who don’t have an NHL affiliation, instead of the Utica Comets — the Devils’ AHL affiliate. But either way, the Devils should be in good shape goaltending-wise for this season.
Prospects Challenge Roster Announced
With on-ice sessions beginning today for rookies, the Devils announced their 24-man roster with players who’ll be attending the Prospects Challenge this weekend in Buffalo. Among those participating in rookie camp are Luke Hughes, Šimon Nemec, Chase Stillman and Graeme Clarke.
Though Hughes is participating in rookie camp, the team announced this morning that he will not be heading to Buffalo to participate in the Prospects Challenge. Given that he showed he’s NHL-ready in his five appearances a season ago, this is probably the decision for him. It’ll allow him to head into training camp rested and ready to go.
One surprise for the Prospects Challenge roster was the exclusion of Alexander Holtz. He has played in a couple of Prospect Challenges in previous years, but having not established himself in the NHL yet, it seemed like he’d be a good bet to head to Buffalo this weekend to get his 2023-24 season started on the right foot.
On the other hand, Holtz not heading to Buffalo seems like a good indication of where the organization thinks he’ll be this season: in the NHL. He should get plenty of opportunity to show he can play a top-nine and even top-six role during preseason games.
Latest News & Highlight
With the NCAA season getting close to underway, there’ll be no Seamus Casey or Devils NCAA prospects in Buffalo this weekend. Nor will there be Lenni Hameenäho, whose Liiga season got underway yesterday; he scored a goal in Ässät’s 4-3 loss to Ilves. Goaltender Nico Daws also won’t be in attendance, as he’s out until December after undergoing offseason hip surgery.
Devils Sign Willman to PTO & Another Mercer in Camp
Perhaps the Devils will have another PTO or two heading into training camp when veterans report next week on Sept. 20. But for now, Max Willman is the lone PTO the organization has heading into next week.
Willman did appear in nine games for the Philadelphia Flyers a season ago but didn’t register a point. He mostly played for their AHL affiliate — the Lehigh Valley Phantoms — where he totaled nine goals and 23 points in 54 games. The Devils likely brought him in to see if he can provide some forward depth for the Comets, given how stacked their NHL roster is.
If Riley Mercer’s name seems familiar to you, that’s because he’s the young brother of Devils forward Dawson Mercer. Riley is set to return to the Drummondville Voltigeurs in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) for the 2023-24 season. But the Devils are giving him a look during rookie camp anyway.
Riley is a goaltender and fared well with the Voltigeurs last season, posting a .902 SV% in 22 games and a .907 SV% in nine playoff appearances. He turns 20 in March, meaning he can get drafted as a double over-ager in the 2024 draft. But if not, perhaps the Devils have plans on signing him as an undrafted free agent next summer.