It’s been five days since the New Jersey Devils played their last minutes of hockey for the 2011-2012 season. Some Devils fans may be finding this difficult as they are likely sorting through their options for keeping busy and coping with the recent loss. Now that the off-season has been drawn over their very hockey-conscious minds, the pursuit of the Stanley Cup Championship for next year is in the hands of Devils’ upper-management. While fans can encourage and make their personal choices as to what changes need to be made (if any), the best they can do is watch and listen in the upcoming months.
As fans may or may not have heard, Devils’ General Manager, Lou Lamoriello, announced earlier this week the team is opting to keep their pick for this year’s draft. Lamoriello could have abandoned their first-round pick for 2012 as is the stipulated agreement made with the NHL for the 2010 signing of Ilya Kovalchuk. Kovalchuk’s 17-year, 102 million dollar contract put the Devils beyond the league’s salary cap requirements, and as a result, mandated the Devils forsake a third round pick from the 2011 draft as well as any first-round selection within four years of Kovalchuk’s signing.
Giving up some fresh skates will have to wait, and the Devils will be making their first-round choice on draft day this coming Friday. The Devils are slotted for the 29th pick overall.
Prior to Friday’s draft, Devils fans and hockey fans in general are welcomed to watch the 2012 NHL Awards which is slated for Wednesday night at 7PM, ET. The award show will be presented by celebrities such as Ray Liotta (“Goodfellas”, “Observe and Report”,) Vince Vaughn (“Mr. and Mrs. Smith”, “Wedding Crashers”,) and Eric Stonestreet (“Modern Family”, “Almost Famous”.)
To be determined at this awards show is whether or not a Devils’ 2008 draft pick will be selected for the Calder Trophy. Adam Henrique was selected in the third round of the 2008 NHL draft (82nd overall,) and his counterparts nominated for the award are Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog. Both Nugent-Hopkins and Landeskog finished the regular season with more goals than Henrique, but placing Henrique closely behind the other two nominees on the point’s leader board was his 35 assists (Henrique finished with 51 points behind the 52 his fellow contenders tied for.)
Mitigating in Henrique’s favor- he played just 74 games and helped bring his team to the playoffs by replacing the injured Travis Zajac earlier in the year. Landeskog, who led all goalies with 22 goals, played a full, 82-game season. Neither Landeskog’s Avalanche nor Nugent-Hopkins’ Oilers made the playoffs in 2012 where Henrique tallied 5 goals and 8 assists in 24 games played.
The Devils last player to be awarded the Calder Trophy was Scott Gomez in 2000. The Avalanche and their current contender have been waiting for a year longer since their last Calder Trophy winner which was Chris Drury in 1999.
Whether or not Henrique wins the Calder Trophy next Friday, it will be exciting to see what decisions the Devils’ scouting system will be ready to make Wednesday in each appropriate round of selection. Teams higher in rank will surely pick those who will have great expectations for the teams they are selected to play for in coming seasons. Those expectations tend to come with disappointments from time to time in every sport.
Devils fans should not fret about their location in this year’s first round or about their picks throughout the draft in general. After all, and as stated, Adam Henrique was a third round selection in 2008.
Additional Notes: Danius Zubrus, a five-year member of the New Jersey Devils, turns 34 today. Happy Birthday Dainius!
Follow Sean McDermott on Twitter @HEYYuSUCK