Happy Labor Day!
Stephen Gionta has always been on the border of NHL and AHL. He has shown that he can survive in the AHL but hasn’t dazzled in the NHL.
Gionta, brother of Montreal Canadiens captain and former New Jersey Devil Brian Gionta, started his Junior Hockey years in the North American Hockey League (NAHL) with the Rochester Jr. Americans. He was only there for one season, 1999-00, and had 11 goals and 15 assists in 41 games.
He then participated in the U.S. National Development Team until 2001-02 (2 seasons) but only totaled 3 goals and 7 assists in 42 games. Gionta then decided to play in college and played for Boston College in the famed Hockey East conference. He would spend 4 years there and would have 90 points.
He went undrafted and tried out for the Devils AHL affiliate at the time, the Albany River Rats. He signed and played at the end of the 2005-06 season and had 6 points in 3 games. The River Rats would then turn into the Lowell Devils the next season and would spend 4 more seasons with the Lowell Devils until they became the Albany Devils. With Lowell, he had 2 30+ point seasons and had 29 points another season.
When Lowell became Albany, Gionta played in 54 games for Albany and had 30 points. He also played in 12 games for the Devils that season but did not find a point.
In 2011-12, he slumped a little in Albany playing in 56 games but only had 16 points this time around. He was then called up to play in 1 regular season game in which he scored a goal. He then played in 24 games during the Stanley Cup Finals run and had 7 points.
In 2012-13, he played in 11 games with Albany during the lockout and had 5 points. He would then play in all 48 games last season and had 4 goals and 10 assists.
What to Expect
I think we can expect Gionta to start in the AHL this season. The Devils would be looking at having two RW’ers on the bench as healthy scratches. With Jaromir Jagr, Michael Ryder, Dainius Zubrus likely moving over to RW, and Steve Bernier, the Devils have their 4 lines pretty much set and Krystofer Barch will already be a healthy scratch as it is.
Gionta could use the AHL time. He is clearly a player with some talent and with his contract granting him 2-ways (last year it was only 1-way for the 2012-13 season), he could use that time to develop in Albany instead of riding the bench in the NHL. Although he is already 29, about to turn 30 (October 9th), he still could contribute on a 3rd or 4th line in the future.
I think that even if he spends most of the year in Albany, the Devils will probably re-sign him once his contract expires next summer.
Stay tuned for the next preview. The man that will apparently be fighting for a spot on the 3rd defensive line, Mark Fayne.