I let this one marinate for a little while. The New Jersey Devils opened training camp last week and we’re already at the preseason. To be honest, it hasn’t been the most exhilarating camp. Last season, there were plenty of players battling for a roster spot, whereas this fall, most of the roster is pretty much set. However, in this Devils mailbag, you asked, and there’s still plenty to answer.
Let’s get to some questions.
Is this one of the more competitive training camps compared to previous seasons? Seems like a lot of players fighting for limited spots. – @LittlestOfMen
Who do you think makes the team out of camp? Holtz, Clarke, Nemec, Foote? Does anyone seem like they have an inside track?@JM8289
The question can be answered in a couple of different ways.
@LittlestOfMen was directing the question more at rookies competing for roster spots. Some of those names include Graeme Clarke, Nolan Foote, and Alexander Holtz. This is one of the few questions that we had heading into training camp this year as the majority of the roster already feels set.
I’ll say this, though. My belief was that Foote was going to come into camp and take ownership of the one roster spot available in the forward group. However, Holtz has come into camp and made a positive impression. He’s stuck by the side of Nico Hischier and Timo Meier the entire time, even when Lindy Ruff put the lines in a blender for the split-squad games.
At this point, I anticipate Holtz making the roster out of camp, and deservedly so. It’s been his spot from the get-go and it doesn’t feel like much of a competition.
Don’t get me wrong, Foote has looked strong and I’m continually impressed with Clarke and his evolution. I might be more impressed with Clarke than Foote at this point. Clarke has been quick in both body and mind, playing aggressively in all three zones. It’s cliche, but the Devils have a good problem on their hands with Holtz, Foote, and Clarke all looking strong in camp.
In a different vein, this has been quite a competitive training camp as a whole. The entire team knows the expectations have been raised. Even in scrimmages, no one is pulling punches. The locks for the roster aren’t taking anything for granted and it’s evident on the ice.
Does Fitzy make a play at goalie before the season? @JetsFanNick
All summer, General Manager Tom Fitzgerlad kicked tires on the goaltending market. He checked in on Connor Hellebuyck, Linus Ullmark, and Jusse Saros. There may have been more, but those are the ones we know about.
The issue was the market for these goaltenders was bloated. He’s already sacrificed some future in acquiring Meier and I don’t believe he wants to mortgage too much more at this point.
The organization believes in Vitek Vanecek and Akira Schmid. Last season, the belief was that the Devils just needed consistent goaltending and it would bring the organization to a new height. Under Vanecek, the Devils did, in fact, get the consistency for the majority of the 2022-23 season. As a result, the Devils had their best season in franchise history.
Schmid was a welcomed surprise as well. New Jersey always felt they had something with Schmid but didn’t quite know how soon he’d arrive. He took the reigns in the postseason when the team needed him most. What’s most impressive about him is his ability to keep his cool in the crease no matter how big the game being played in front of him is. After a summer of training and a new mentality for Vanecek, the Devils believe they have the right formula in net.
Who made the most weight room gains over the summer?@GregKfromNJ
The rosters we receive still reflect the heights and weights of players from prior seasons. In fact, I don’t think Nico Hischier’s weight on the roster report has changed since he’s been drafted.
However, one important player who has definitely bulked up is Luke Hughes. Hughes told New Jersey Hockey Now that he gained a self-proclaimed seven to eight pounds of muscle over the summer. That puts him at approximately 192 pounds heading into this season.
Of course, it’s good news when a young player puts on a little muscle in the summer. In L. Hughes’s case, he was already playing against NHL-sized opponents while at Michigan playing in the NCAA. Therefore, he didn’t look out of place in his first few NHL games. This year, he’ll be even faster and stronger. He should compete for the Calder Trophy.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Holtz actually trimmed down a bit. He’s leaner and as a result, faster. Shrinking down in size a little bit hasn’t taken away from his strength, however. Holtz looks fast and strong and appears to have the inside track to make the opening night roster.
Lastly, Josh Filmon told us over the summer at the Devils development camp he gained about 15-16 pounds. He was given the business by Cam York Monday night but kept himself in the play. 15-16 pounds ago that might not have happened.
Will the Black Jerseys return this year? @matt12r
Plain and simple, yes. The Devils are bringing back the Jersey jersey as their alternate for the third year in a row.
At some point, we expect the color green to return to a uniform at some point this season. It may just be a revival of the heritage jersey released last season. It could end up as the Stadium Series or something similar.