Growing up in New Jersey Kenny Agostino wasn’t a fan of the New Jersey Devils, he and his family were fans of their biggest rivals – the New York Rangers. That changed once he made his NHL debut with the Calgary Flames and the Agostino family aligned themselves with that team. On Feb. 11 the Devils claimed the 26-year-old who was born in Morristown and grew up in Flanders on waivers from the Montreal Canadiens, becoming the sixth franchise he has been a part of.
They can all be Devils fans now. For the first time in a long time, his family and friends will now be able to drive minutes and not hours to see him play an NHL game on a regular basis. He made his debut with the Devils on the road but playing his first home game in the Garden State was something that was really special for Agostino.
“It was definitely special playing my first home game for the Devils with my parents and family in the stands,” he said on Feb. 17 following a 4-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres. “Maybe in warmups I took some time to look around. Prudential Center is an arena that I won a few (high school) state championships in, so it’s a familiar building for me. Tonight was definitely a special moment for sure.”
“It was weird being able to go over to the house and hang with them, take them out to dinner,” he said of seeing his parents after the Devils returned home from a midwestern road trip. “It was nice, it’s something I’d like to get used to.”
Two #NJDevils finished with new career-highs in ice time.
Blake Coleman played 25:45 tonight. His previous high was 19:58 on 1/31/19 vs NYR
Kenny Agostino played 17:32 tonight. His previous high was 16:34 on 12/31/18 (MTL at DAL)
— Craig Seiden (@CraigSeiden) February 26, 2019
Less than a week later Agostino would score his first goal as a Devil against…you guessed it. The New York Rangers. In that first home game saw 14:10 of ice-time which was his highest total with his hometown team until eight days later when he logged 17:32 when two New Jersey forwards were unable to finish a game against Montreal due to injury.
“It’s encouraging,” he said of the coaching staff trusting him with those minutes as a newcomer. “I think you have to keep earning it obviously, but it’s encouraging to start off with those minutes. I’m just trying to show that I can play responsible hockey on both sides of the ice.”
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) February 23, 2019
Agostino, who helped Yale win a National Championship as a junior in college, gave us some insight into what the process is like when a player gets claimed on waivers and if he knew anyone on the Devils team before his arrival.
The Hockey Writers: Having changed teams a few times already in your career is this change any easier for you or more challenging?
Kenny Agostino: I don’t know, I don’t know if you ever get used to it (laughs). I think this situation was probably the hardest of all of my ‘changing teams’ because usually, it’s in or before training camp. Midseason, especially like this, wasn’t easy. But I just try to take it a day at a time, and the guys have been great making me feel welcome and comfortable. There’s some emotion at the beginning of this because I get to play in front of my home crowd and for my home state. After that, it’s just a hockey game and sticking to what makes me a good player.
THW: What’s that process like when you get claimed on waivers? The Devils are on the road and you have to meet up with them in St. Louis…
KA: It was a whirlwind experience. I got the call post noon, until noon you don’t know how it plays off. I got the call from my agent that I got picked up. Obviously, my first reaction is excitement and then it’s logistics. I have to bear down (smiles) and pack for however long it’s going to be. I got the call that I gotta get to an airport and meet the team in St. Louis. It’s tough meeting the team on the road. But the training staff, the equipment guys, my teammates, and coaches have really helped make me feel comfortable and welcome. It really does make the transition easier.
THW: What’s your first conversation with the coach like? Is he telling you what they expect of you, why they claimed you?
KA: It was more of a welcome to the team. I remember John Hynes from development camp in Pittsburgh (who drafted him in 2010), but they did a really good job of not overwhelming me with too much. They just said: we like you as a player, we’re really excited to have you, and basically told me not to think too much. They gave me the layout of their systems, which is a little different than what I was playing in Montreal, but just play. Which is a nice, simple message to hear.
THW: Are there any familiar faces here that you may have played with or crossed paths with during any of your previous stops?
KA: Steven Santini works out at Ben Prentiss Performance, which is where I train in the summer, so it’s nice to have a familiar face with him. Kyle (Palmieri), we didn’t really play against or with each other too much growing up. He was a year older than me and we never played each other on travel teams. One year in high school we did play against each other, I ran into him a few times in summer skates and we do private lessons together here and there over the years. We weren’t really that close with each other but again it’s a familiar face, which always helps.
Through his first eight games in a Devils uniform, Agostino has three points (1g-2a) and 12 shots on goal.
Dan Rice is in his 9th year of reporting for THW & has covered NJ Devils home games for 15+ years at various websites. He began his journey working for legendary broadcaster/writer Stan Fischler from 2002-04 & completed an internship at the ECHL; he also has been writing features for the NWHL (nwhl.zone) website since 2016.