New Jersey Devils Roster: Sergei Kalinin New Player Profile


The New Jersey Devils will be icing a new-look roster in 2015-16. Gone are long-time Devils like Scott Gomez, Steve Bernier, Peter Harrold, Bryce Salvador, Mark Fraser, and Dainius Zubrus, among others. In their place will be several young guns who have worked their way through the system in addition to recent acquisitions.

In this piece, I want to look at the Devils’ first free agent acquisition of the summer, forward Sergei Kalinin. The 24-year old was born in Omsk, Russia, where he played for the KHL’s Avangard Omsk.

Kalinin’s professional hockey career began in Omsk where he played for Avangard Omsk’s minor league affiliate, Omskie Yastreby, of the MHL. At 19-years old, Kalinin scored 36 points in 54 games, leading Omskie in points.

In 2010, Kalinin was invited to the World Junior Championships, representing his native Russia. As the right wing on a line with Evgeny Kuznetsov and Maxim Kitsyn, Kalinin had three points in seven games, including the game-tying goal against Sweden in the semi-finals. The rest of the year, however, was unspectacular for Kalinin, who tallied only one point during the 2010-11 KHL season.

In 2011, Kalinin took on a defensive role on Avangard Omsk, which led the league in goals against that year. He finished sixth on his team in points – 18 in 53 games – and helped lead Avangard Omsk to the Gagarin Cup that year. The future looked bright for Kalinin and Avangard.

In the 2012-13 season, Kalinin moved around the lineup as a result of numerous foreigners coming over to the KHL during the lockout. His scoring rate remained stagnant, with eights points in 26 games. Avangard made the playoffs that year but were bounced out in the second round.

Not much changed for Kalinin in 2013, but Avangard’s lack of offense caught up to them and the team wound up missing the playoffs. Kalinin scored 17 points in 52 games.

As the hometown boy, Kalinin was named captain of the KHL’s Avangard Omsk at just 23-years old. With the new leadership role, Kalinin upped his game significantly and made the permanent move to center. He tallied career highs in games played (58), goals (12), assists (13), points (25), penalty minutes (49), and faceoff win percentage (50.3%). Avangard returned to their days of low-scoring hockey and returned to the playoffs.

Kalinin, however, was unable to lead his team throughout the playoffs because of an on-ice incident against first round opponent Barys Astana. Kalinin took a huge hit into the boards in game six that wound up knocking off his helmet, sending him head-first to the ice, causing convulsions. He was sent immediately to the ICU where he recovered for 10 days before being sent back to Omsk.

A video of the injury is embedded below. Warning: this video contains graphic footage. You have been warned.

Kalinin, who had to miss the World Championship in June because of his injury, reached free agency and decided to head to America to give the NHL a try. On May 29, the Devils announced that they signed Sergei Kalinin a to a two-year entry-level contract (which is standard protocol for a player of Kalinin’s age).

Upon signing, Kalinin went to New York where he underwent and passed neurological examinations, which allowed him to attend the Devils’ prospect camp in July, Having never played North American hockey, Kalinin will likely need a longer time to acclimate to the new style. However, he has been mostly positive about the change, saying (in this translated interview): “I have no problem with the ice surface or the physical play. Both for me and the [New Jersey Devils] was important to understand that I was fully healed.”

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  • In New Jersey, Kalinin fits in multiple roles. His speed and playmaking skills (which are on full display in this video) make him a forward with offensive potential. More so, his size – 6’3, 215 lbs. – and his defensive awareness are his claims to fame. Kalinin has never scored at a top-line level, but has always managed to find success in various roles. Additionally, his faceoff skills are developing to the point that he could be the Devils’ faceoff ace along with Travis Zajac.

    At this point, it would be unwise for John Hynes to consider Kalinin a top-six forward, although he could make an impact from the third line. In all likelihood, Jacob Josefson will start the season centering the third line. Putting the newcomer with Josefson could help turn the third line into a solid two-way anchor that can stop opposing offenses. In a way, it could be like the “Madolfo” era when Jay Pandolfo and John Madden played almost all of their shifts together. Essentially, Kalinin is another Jacob Josefson and his game at even strength will help the team move on from Steve Bernier.

    Could Sergei Kalinin be the perfect complement to Tuomo Ruutu and Jacob Josefson on the third line? Could Josefson and Kalinin be the new “Madolfo?” Jim O’Connor-USA TODAY Sports

    On the power-play, Kalinin does not have the goal-scoring potential that Bernier had last year. Bernier’s physicality near the net was the product of over a dozen years playing professional American hockey. Kalinin will need to work on his physicality in order to be that type of force. On the penalty kill, the Russian forward has a lot to offer, from his size and faceoff ability to his forechecking and defensive reliability. He should see time in the penalty kill rotation.

    What do you think? Will Sergei Kalinin be that top-nine right wing that the Devils desperately need? Leave me a comment with your thoughts on the Devils’ acquisition. Thanks for reading!

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