Last summer, there was a noticeable buzz at the New Jersey Devils development camp with top prospect Simon Nemec in attendance. This summer, there weren’t any household names such as Nemec’s in attendance, however, Devils fans still filled the standings with excitement on Wednesday for the 3on3 tournament, as well as Friday for the Red vs. White game. Despite the lack of star power last week, there were still plenty of standouts that should have Devils fans excited about the future.
“Great week,” said Meghan Duggan, the Devils’ Director of Player Development. “I think we ended here on an awesome note. Obviously, a nice game for the fans and all the stuff that’s here. We asked the guys, a group of 33 guys that were here, we asked them at the beginning of the week to just show up with intention and purpose every day. Those are the standards we’re setting in our organization and that’s exactly what they did. It was an awesome group of guys and we had a really fun week.”
The 33 players in attendance ranged from drafted prospects to undrafted invites. In both parties, there were certainly standouts that make you believe the Devils’ scouting department has been on point in finding players that could serve a purpose in the Devils organization at some point.
So who stood out, exactly?
The Devils’ second-round draft pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft certainly stood out above the rest. Casey’s skills this summer ranged from displaying his playmaking ability from the blue line, sound positional awareness, and the ability to create offense with the puck on his stick in small spaces.
Size has certainly been a concern regarding Casey. However, what stood out the most about the Devils’ defense prospect was his ability to use his stick really well defensively. The 5-foot-10-inch defenseman had no issues defending against fellow prospects that stood quite a few inches taller than him. He limited his opponents’ chances on the inside of the ice and kept them to the perimeter chances.
Casey will return to the University of Michigan this fall and continue his development by playing for the Wolverines. The NCAA competition keeps Casey in game action with NHL-sized opponents which is a net positive for the Devils.
It wasn’t a surprise to see how well Casey Developed in a one-year span. However, coming in at a close second is Josh Filmon. The Winnipeg native put on a bunch of muscle and really began to turn heads as a prospect with an NHL future. The Devils selected the 6-foot-2.5-inch forward in the sixth round of the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. At this point, he’s absolutely outplaying his draft status.
After scoring 47 goals with the Swift Current Broncos last season in the WHL, the 19-year-old forward put on about 15 pounds of muscle and is floating between 175 and 180 pounds according to Filmon himself. When Duggan was asked who stood out this week, Filmon was the first player she named as someone who opened a lot of eyes.
“Josh Filmon I think has been a really good player for us,” Duggan said. “He came into rookie camp and development camp and training camp last year after being drafted and opened some eyes. He’s got a big body. He’s got a great knack for scoring goals, he handles the puck well, he moves well. He scored 47 goals in the Western League this year. We challenged him, ‘You got to get bigger, you gotta get stronger than last year.’ He was responsive to that. He showed up, he’s gone up in everything. He emerged as a leader here. This is also what we want to see. There’s a lot of a lot of guys making changes and doing what we asked, but he’s a good example of it.”
After getting bigger and stronger and arriving this week a bigger player, Filmon certainly proved he knew how to create opportunities, protect the puck, and score goals all while utilizing his larger frame. By the end of the development camp, the Devils explained they felt they have a future impact NHLer in Filmon.
The Devils first selection of the 2023 NHL Entry Draft certainly stood out this week as well.
Hameenaho described himself as, “I’m more of an offensive zone player. I like to be with the puck and I think I’m smart with it. I like to create scoring chances for myself and my linemates.”
Everything leading up to the draft and following the Devils’ selection talked about how high of a hockey IQ Hameenaho possessed. It was on display this week as Hameenaho certainly was true to his word as a player who likes to create chances for himself and his linemates in the offensive zone.
However, something that wasn’t clarified in his prospect report was how good of a shot he has. Hameenaho scored quite a bunch in exhibitions this week. He’s used to playing against NHL-sized opponents as an 18-year-old playing in Liiga. His shot is heavy and Hameenaho puts himself in a good position to score. It was quite a surprise to see how quickly pucks left his stick.
Vilen explained this week that he wants to be the steal of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. The Devils selected the Finnish defenseman in the fifth round, 129th overall. He’s another prospect that spent last season in Liiga playing against opponents who are NHL-sized. Vilen should be making the leap to the AHL this season to play with the Comets.
One of Vilen’s best attributes is his speed. There’s a good pep in Vilen’s step that allows him to carry the puck well in transition. it also allows him to cover his opposition well in his own end. He appears to be a player projected to move well in all three zones.
Another desirable feature in Vilen’s game is his ability to read and react to the puck. Whether it’s on his teammates’ stick or his opponents, Vilen finds himself in a good position to receive pucks, start breakouts, or defend wherever necessary. His motor is already there. Everything else just needs to catch up but Vilen is another late-round prospect with promise to keep an eye on.
We’re gonna have more on Psenicka sometime this week, but it was hard not to notice the 6-foot-5 Cornell forward. Psenicka is an undrafted invite that the Devils have kept tabs on for quite some time.
His big body allowed him to outmuscle opponents and he showed some really good forechecking ability. He’s got some good offensive skills, too. The Devils certainly lack size and if the Devils decide Psenicka is part of their future, he checks a lot of boxes in terms of need.
He’ll return to Cornell for the upcoming season to continue his development.
Just like Psenicka, it was hard not to notice Malek due to his size. Standing at 6-foot-4 in the net, Malek covered plenty of twine making it difficult for his opponents to find any net to put the puck.
The Devils selected Malek in the fourth round of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft with the 100th pick. He posted some pretty good numbers in Liiga last season with a 2.15 GAA and .903 SV%.
This week, Maluk looked quick and composed in his net and showed the ability to not only make the initial save but stone his opponents on follow-up chances. He uses his size to his advantage rather than allowing it to slow him down. At that size and speed, you could see a professional goaltending future for Malek.
Honestly, there were a lot of players that showed out this week. Xavier Parent (or French Bratt as one of my colleagues likes to call him) showed some really good playmaking ability. He possesses an underrated, quick shot as well.
Both Cam Squires and Cole Brown displayed some solid offensive upside and scoring ability. They’ll both need to add a few pounds of muscle, but there’s a certain explosiveness in both of their abilities to score.
Chase Cheslock looks like your typical shutdown defenseman. Cheslock explained he really likes to study Boston Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo’s game as someone he styles himself after. His skating is a bit clunky, however, he’s returning to the USHL this season and is committed to the NCAAs University of St. Thomas for the 2024-25 season. He’s got plenty of time to develop.
Comets head coach, Kevin Dineen, had his son, Will Dineen, attending camp. He displayed a high motor and a shot that would definitely label him as a goal scorer opening some eyes with a few surprising snipes. It appears he’ll return to Yale next season to play in the NCAA, but don’t be surprised if we see him around the organization again.
Jaromir Pytlick and Petr Hauser were two additional big-bodied forwards that the Devils drafted in the mid-to-late rounds. Each displayed some offensive ability and they each created chances utilizing their size as one of the bigger forwards at camp. Pytlick showed a little more as a solid 200-foot forward.
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