Top Storylines of New Jersey Devils' 2013-14 Training Camp
The New Jersey Devils will open their training camp for the 2013-14 season this week. A tumultuous summer that saw the Devils acquire exciting new talents and lose out on others has guaranteed a multitude of storylines as camp moves along.
On many levels, this New Jersey team will look very different from the one that missed the playoffs last year.
In fact, in each facet of the game, the Devils will be looking to new players to step up and fill holes.
Training camp is an exciting time of year because it means that hockey is just round the corner. For young players trying to break into the league, it is an opportunity to prove themselves.
Without further ado, here are the biggest storylines heading into the Devils 2013-14 training camp.
The Martin Brodeur/Cory Schneider Dynamic
When general manager and team president Lou Lamoriello traded the Devils' first-round draft pick for Cory Schneider in this year's NHL Draft, it set the stage for a very interesting competition.
During a draft night press conference, Lamoriello referred to both Schneider and Martin Brodeur as "number-one goalies," writes Joe Yerden of Pro Hockey Talk.
Head coach Pete DeBoer essentially echoed that sentiment when he told Tom Gilluti of The Bergen Record that Schneider was "a fantastic 1A."
As long as both players stay healthy, they will each see plenty of playing time this year considering the Devils play a league-high 22 back-to-back game sets.
If DeBoer carries his back-to-back set strategy of playing a different goalie in each game in 2014, then Brodeur and Schneider are each guaranteed at least 22 starts.
That should give enough of a sample size for comparing the two, but do not be surprised to see the comparisons start long before then.
Although Brodeur is slotted as the opening day starter and nothing Schneider does will change that, these two goaltenders will be judged on a head-to-head basis as camp moves along.
That's not necessarily a bad thing. While both players will likely decline to call their competition anything but friendly, nobody wants to be replaced or ride the bench.
Although they'll be wearing the same jerseys when the season starts, when Martin Brodeur and Cory Schneider inevitably face off in a full scrimmage during camp, there will be no illusions about what they'll be playing for.
Which D-Man Is Ready?
During the Devils' prospects camp in July, Lou Lamoriello made it clear that he expects to see at least one new face on defense this year.
"Ill be shocked if there's not a young defenseman, at least one, in the lineup," he told Mike Vorkunov of The Star Ledger.
Right now, the Devils have one open slot that they can put one of their prospects in. It is always possible, of course, that if more than one young player impresses Lamoriello, he will make a move to create more space.
Although there is one spot right now, it is not yet clear who will fill it.
Jon Merrill and Alexander Urbom will probably enter camp as the front runners, but there are at least four defensemen with a legitimate shot at the job.
In order to win the roster spot, one player will have to prove that he can be consistent and compete at the NHL level.
The most effective place for a young player to prove that he is ready is in the preseason games. The better New Jersey's young defensemen play in practice, however, the more ice time they will see in the games.
With four or five players competing for one or two spots, the competition is going to be fierce and will make for one of the most exciting storylines of this year's training camp.
New Look Special Teams
In 2012-13, Ilya Kovalchuk and David Clarkson were on the ice longer than any other forwards when the Devils were on the power play.
When camp opens this week, they will both be gone.
Even with Kovalchuk and Clarkson on the ice, the Devil's power-play percentage was only good enough to finish 21st in the league at 15.9 percent efficiency.
With those players gone, however, Pete DeBoer is going to have to scramble to put a competent unit on the ice just to avoid having that number drop even lower.
DeBoer did not shy away from the issue when he recently gave Tom Gilluti of The Bergen Record an interview.
"We've got to spend time on our special teams," he said, "...It really is critical that your special teams are above average. That's where our focus will start."
Training camp will be the place for DeBoer to mix and match different players to see who clicks.
Patrik Elias and Marek Zidlicky are carryovers from last year's power-play unit. DeBoer also said that he is looking forward to seeing Jaromir Jagr contribute on special teams.
Beyond that, Adam Henrique, Travis Zajac, Michael Ryder, Andrei Loktionov and Ryane Clowe will all figure to have some kind of roll on the power play.
Exactly what those roles will be, however, will be determined over the course of the next month.
Much has been made about how old this Devils team is. Training camp, however, is the time for young players to shine.
Adam Larsson and Adam Henrique will both benefit from a full training camp as they try to bounce back from disappointing seasons. Andrei Loktionov will attempt to use this training camp as a springboard to build upon his surprising success from last year.
Those three players, however, will be playing on opening night.
The more intriguing story is which young forwards will make the team that are not yet guaranteed a spot.
Much like the defensive competition that training camp will host, there will be a handful of young offensive players vying for only one or two spots at forward.
Competing for roster spots will be Rostislav Olesz, Jacob Josefson, Mattias Tedenby and Stefan Matteau, among others.
While Olesz was signed as a free agent this summer, Josefson, Tedenby and Matteau all spent time with the New Jersey Devils at different points of last season.
Pete DeBoer told Tom Gilluti that Tedenby and Josefson are both knocking on the door. Matteau, who can probably use another year of development, has stated his desire to make the team as well.
There is nothing set in stone for these young players yet.
They will all have the opportunity to prove that they are ready to take the next step for the New Jersey in the NHL, and it all starts this week.