Devils' fans have dreaded these days for a long time now.
Thoughts are swirling and rumors are flying about New Jersey's long time All-Star goaltender Martin Brodeur and his future with the organization. There are, of course, no reports stating that he will retire after this season, but the feeling amongst fans is that Brodeur's time is running short in the NHL.
After all, the man is playing his 19th season in the league. Most players don't get past 10 seasons.
While the hope for Devils' fans is that the end of Brodeur's career will be smooth and painless, the question still remains: What does New Jersey do after Marty?
Many fans think that New Jersey is ill prepared for this day to come, but the truth is that they have been drafting young goaltenders in anticipation of Brodeur's retirement for years.
Be that as it may, not many people know about the Devils' prospects and whether or not they will be the solution to the problem in the long run.
Here is a look at the top four prospects in goal for the New Jersey Devils.
Wedgewood was drafted by the Devils in the third round of the 2010 NHL Draft. He is currently playing for the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL and has been there for four seasons.
Although Wedgewood's numbers started off wobbly, he has improved each season he has played. This season he is currently posting a 3.01 goals against average and a .904 save percentage.
At 19-years-old, it's not out of the realm of possibility that he could stay in the OHL for another season or two while he develops further.
Currently, Wedgewood is splitting time on the Canadian World Junior Hockey Team and is posting some good numbers there as well. He started the most recent game against the Russian Junior Team, but was taken out due to an injury.
In any case, it is promising news that he is performing at a high level at such a young age. Hopefully the injury will not be too serious and he'll will be able to recover.
If he can maintain his level of play and continue improving, it is conceivable that he will move up to the pros soon. Where will he fit? It is tough to tell right now.
However, there is no doubt that he is one of the top prospects for New Jersey to watch over the next two seasons.
Frazee has long been considered the Devils' number one goaltending prospect, but over the past few seasons things have changed in the New Jersey system.
The addition of a few more prospects coupled with Frazee's roller coaster career, has made it tough for Frazee to retain his title as the heir to Brodeur's throne.
During his rookie season in the AHL in 2008-09, Frazee was unbelievable. He broke a number of team records including wins and shutouts, and was named to the AHL All Star game. However, that has been about his only bright spot in the past four years.
Since then, he has struggled to maintain the starting spot in the AHL, even though he signed a two year contract with the organization this past summer.
The truth is, six years after being drafted by New Jersey, Frazee is still struggling to make it to the NHL. This season may be his last chance to prove himself.
Jeff is currently playing with the Albany Devils in the AHL and has posted a mediocre 5-8-2 record. He has, however, posted some decent numbers of his own. With a 2.52 goals against average and a .900 save percentage, it may be the case that Frazee is holding his own while Albany is struggling as a team.
Either way, with so much competition coming up through the system, including his partner on the AHL squad, Frazee will need to find a way to separate himself from the pack once more if he hopes to take over at the NHL level.
Currently the second goaltender on the AHL roster for the Devils, Kinkaid has been splitting time with Jeff Frazee throughout the season. While he has started 19 games to Frazee's 15, Kinkaid has failed to separate himself in any spectacular fashion.
Kinkaid played at Union College where he had quite a stellar career. He was awarded the Ken Dryden Award for being the best goaltender in the ECAC and helped lead Union to their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament. It's safe to say that at the college level, Kinkaid was one of the best in his class.
While this is his first season at the professional level after being signed as a free agent last spring, Kinkaid is going to have ample opportunity to prove himself this season and next. With a shakeup looming over the heads of every goalie in the system, there may be an opening for Kinkaid to show his talents.
Although his rookie season has been less than stellar to this point, Kinkaid has shown that he is capable of winning. At the professional level, that can be one of the most important traits in a goaltender. Confidence can either aid or kill a young goaltender's career.
If he can find a way to learn from his mistakes, Kinkaid could have a very successful career and could be the answer the Devils are looking for.
All things considered, Maxime Clermont is somewhat of a joker-in-the-deck for the Devils as far as their prospects go. At times, he has shown that he has the poise and skill to be a Hall of Fame goaltender at the NHL level. Other times, he has fallen behind the pack.
Clermont is currently playing for the Kalamazoo Wings in a backup role. He was called up for one game under emergency conditions for Albany and performed admirably, but has seen nothing more than that. The best place to find information on Clermont is from his time with the Gatineau Olympiques of the QMJHL.
During his time at Gatineau, Clermont was up and down but finished in spectacular fashion. The Olympiques rode on the back of Clermont in the 2010-11 playoffs as he posted a 2.22 goals against average and a .927 save percentage.
Gatineau found themselves playing for the 2011 President's Cup because of Clermont's stellar play. Even though they lost in six games, it is worth noting that Clermont played his best when it mattered most.
As it is right now, Clermont is right in the middle of the pack with the other three prospects for New Jersey and it is anyone's job to win once Brodeur calls it quits.
If he can improve his play in the ECHL, he may find himself competing for a starting job at the AHL level before the season is over. Once that happens, it's anyone's guess as to where things go from there.