Welcome to New Jersey Devils News & Rumors, a weekly segment that will be released every week this season. Since our last edition, the team has struggled, dropping four straight games against the New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Dallas Stars, and Philadelphia Flyers.
Defenseman Ryan Graves spoke to the media ahead of the team’s matchup against the Flyers and said the team is not necessarily playing bad hockey, they just aren’t finding ways to win.
New Jersey remains the top team in the Metropolitan Division with 44 points and a record of 21-7-2. That does not mean that head coach Lindy Ruff is taking it easy on his team and not holding players accountable for their actions.
Practices have been intense, and after an awful turnover that led to the Flyers’ game-winning goal, it appears Damon Severson could be a healthy scratch on Dec. 17 when the team hosts the Florida Panthers. The veteran blueliner turned the puck over, which led to Travis Konecny’s goal in the third period.
Latest News & Highlights
After the game, the Devils’ head coach was not pleased with his defenseman and called the play “totally unacceptable“. The team held a practice this afternoon in Newark, and Severson was utilized as the extra defenseman with Kevin Bahl paired with Brendan Smith. Fans will most likely have to wait until tomorrow night to see which six defensemen the coaching staff will deploy against the Panthers.
Dan MacKinnon Discusses New Jersey’s Prospects
During the first intermission of the Devils game versus the Flyers, senior vice president and assistant general manager Dan MacKinnon joined Matt Loughlin and Bryce Salvador of MSG Networks to talk about some of the young talents within the Devils organization.
Luke Hughes is currently in his sophomore year at the University of Michigan. He has 18 points (three goals, 15 assists) in 20 games and will represent the United States at the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship, which begins later this month.
“Luke obviously a tremendous talent, a very strong team there in Michigan,” said MacKinnon. “He’s the leader on the back end. Early reports out of the US camp for the World Juniors has been tremendous. He’s going to be a big driver for that team. It’d be great experience for him before he likely turns pro.”
Near the end of the interview, Loughlin asked what the plan is moving forward for the youngest Hughes brother, and MacKinnon was honest saying, “I don’t think it’s any secret that the plan is for him to join our organization at the end of this college season.” He did preface by saying these situations are always fluid and to be determined.
Seamus Casey is a freshman and teammate of Hughes at the University of Michigan. He is a 5-foot-10, 178-pound defenseman, who has 16 points in 20 games.
“[He’s] tremendously mobile and our group has been so impressed with his start to the year,” said MacKinnon. “Obviously, we thought we had a pretty good player in the second round, but how he has come out the gates at Michigan as freshman has been really impressive.”
Another University of Michigan defenseman who the Devils selected 120th overall in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. He has five points (two goals, three assists) in 16 games this season. MacKinnon talked about the 20-year-old’s development.
“We think Ethan does a really nice job,” he said. “Obviously, when you’re playing behind some of that high end talent you have to carve out your own identity, and I give them a lot of credit. He’s a tremendous competitor. He plays all three zones hard, he’s consistent. He does have some offense to his game as well. Namely it’s his shift to shift consistency and competitiveness that we like and he’s also mobile.”
Blackwood Begins Conditioning Stint in Utica
On Dec. 13, the organization officially announced that goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood was assigned to the Utica Comets of the American Hockey League on a conditioning loan. He practiced with the Devils affiliate team on Tuesday and met with the media to talk about getting the opportunity to get more reps in.
Related: Devils Need a Bounce Back Season from Blackwood in 2022-23
“I’m coming along pretty good,” Blackwood said. “The knee is healing up good. The game is coming back. Obviously, coming down here and getting my own net instead of sharing (with Vitek Vanecek and backup Akira Schmid) is huge for me to get the reps that I need,” (from ‘Goaltender Blackwood ready for stint with Utica Comets’, from Daily Sentinel, 12/13/22).
The 26-year-old was the Comets’ starter on Dec. 14 versus the Laval Rocket. He allowed a goal on the first shot he faced 50 seconds into the opening frame. Utica would eventually lose the game by a final score of 5-2 as Blackwood allowed four goals on 22 shots. Their next matchup is on Dec. 16 against Cory Schneider and the Bridgeport Islanders.
That’s all for this week’s News & Rumors. Be sure to check back next week to find out the latest happenings surrounding the Devils.