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With the aforementioned Larsson and 25-year-old Mark Fayne emerging as the new faces of the Devils defense among the otherwise aging corps, there is a logjam of defensive prospects in the Devils system. These young players won’t likely see much NHL time this season, however, once one or more of the Devils older defenders move on, they will find their chance.
With highly regarded prospect Jon Merrill (University of Michigan) coming up fast behind, the lockout gives these young players an important opportunity to show why they belong in the NHL.
If not for his recent injury, 21-year-old Gelinas would have had the advantage. Scoring an outstanding 37 points in 75 games for the baby Devils last year, Gelinas shows the most offensive acumen out of the Albany D-core. Not only can he score, but his physical presence is also developing quite nicely. Not far behind is the Swedish Urbom. Also, at 21-years-old, Urbom has seen thirteen NHL matches—along with two seasons in Albany—and has even scored two goals for the big club. Both players are bruising defenseman with decent offensive ability.
Burlon only netted nine points in 57 games last year for Albany, so it will be interesting to see if he develops more of an offensive game or if he commits to a solid-positional role.
At 24, and with the lowest potential upside, Matt Corrente is the odd man out. Playing for the AHL Devils (both Albany and the defunct Lowell Devils) since 2008, he has only seen action in 34 NHL games. Corrente is a tough defenseman, however, he has been passed constantly on the depth chart; 5th-round draft pick Fayne unexpectedly shot to the NHL and ex-Devils Mark Fraser and Matt Taormina both beat Corrente to steady roster spots in years before. It seems as if every time Corrente is poised to join the NHL club, another surprise player scoops up the last roster spot. In order to avoid becoming redundant, Corrente needs to have a monster year. Playing better than any other defenseman on the Albany Devils (other than Larsson) will be the only way Corrente will see any more NHL time with the Devils. Once Gelinas, Urbom or Burlon pass Corrente on the depth chart, it will be hard for him to claw his way back.
With Larsson and Fayne in the pros, these guys in the minors, and Jon Merrill coming soon, how can you not be excited at the future of the defense? The Devils have the luxury of having a wealth of promising defensive prospects and competition will only bring out the best in them. Some will flounder, others will become trade bait, but one or two will certainly flourish, becoming NHL regulars.
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