The time was 8:41 a.m. on Thursday, September 22nd; Media Day throughout the entire National Hockey League had come and gone, and it was 2022, 4th Round Pick, Goaltender Tyler Brennan, who stepped out on the ice first at AmeriHealth Pavilion at Prudential Center, followed by Mackenzie Blackwood. As to no surprise, Lindy Ruff and the rest of the New Jersey Devils coaching staff in the organization were split into three groups, giving the Utica Comets coaches chances to work with the second and third camp groups.
Patrik Elias was in the house taking in all the sites of the first day of camp. Ryan McGill, who’s brand new to this Devils coaching staff and the organization, is looking to bring some fresh air to this organization from the NHL down to the ECHL this season. McGill has also been one to lead in his role, and it comes as no surprise that he was very vocal and hands-on and had a game plan being instructive with drills in the first group this morning.
Group One consisted of Palat, Hughes, Hamilton, Walsh, Tatar, Clarke, Holtz, and Brennan. It was great to see Graeme Clarke back on the ice and skating alone for quite some time after he wasn’t able to get a full go in Prospect Camp last weekend.
We got our first look at Ondrej Palat in a New Jersey Devils uniform, even if it was a practice jersey, with the 31-year-old veteran signing a five-year, 30 million dollar dear on July 15th earlier this summer.
Palat says one of the biggest changes coming from Tampa to New Jersey was that in Tampa, about 20 kids were running around, and with this team, there are kids that he’ll lead that are just 20 years old.
We always say they’re young, but they’re already big names with a couple of seasons behind them. It’s time to get better defensively and win more games because those guys are well. They’re extremely skilled.”
Palat is very happy that he’ll be able to have his number 18 back, courtesy of Devil; Dawson Mercer.
“Merc is an awesome guy, I appreciate it, I thank him for that. I gave him a little gift.” Palat also saw Mercer wheel around before media day officially took over.
Palat was paired with Jack Hughes and Alexandre Holtz for day one of camp.
In some fantastic news, MacKenzie Blackwood seems to be as healthy as ever after a very troubling season for the 25-year-old. This year he’s definitely got some competition in the net for his starting job as head coach Lindy Ruff has made it very clear that there hasn’t been a definitive answer to who will start on opening night for the New Jersey Devils.
“They’re great goalies, they’re here to try and win the net and play. But same with me. I want it just as bad as them, if not more.” said Blackwood referring to Vitek Vanecek and Jonathan Bernier possibly pushing for the starting job.”
Blackwood also revealed to reporters that his neck and back are officially pain-free.
Group Two of Day One consisted of Vitek Vanecek, Nate Bastian, Jesper Bratt, Yegor Sharangovich, Nico Hischier, Ryan Graves, and Damon Severson.
Utica Comets coaches Kevin Dinnen and Ryan Parent worked with the second group while Ryan McGill stayed out there working with Severson. For those unfamiliar with McGill and Severson’s history, he was his defensive coach during a Subway Series game in Canada. McGill also coached against him in the WHL.
Hischier with a statement saying, “We’re just a better team. It’s (that) simple. I’ve just got a good feeling.”
Even though it remains a mystery where rookie defenseman Filip Bratt will end up in the Utica or Adirondack to begin the 2022-23 campaign; his older brother Jesper says, “It gets cooler and cooler every day.” (Seeing his brother in the same locker room, together for now).
Patrik Elias wheeled around with the afternoon’s final and third group of training camp.
Wood, Haula, Mercer, McLeod, Smith, Marino, Bernier, Poulter, along with Daws, were on the ice for the final group. They were joined along with Dinnen, Parent, and Comets goaltending Brian Eklund.
In a surprise, it was Bernier taking most of the reps and carrying quite the role as it seems like Devils management is trying to see what they are looking to do with the 34-year-old veteran. You could always buy him out. I don’t see the option to send him down to Utica to begin the season before waivers officially take place, as that would really screw up their development system they’ve got going on. You could trade him, sure. But ultimately, I see the Devils keeping three goaltenders to start the season from top to bottom. His leadership, experience, and veteran presence can’t be overlooked, and I truly believe they are keeping him to start the year or at least until the RFA deadline on December 1st or until Brennan finishes up his season in the WHL in late March, early April at the latest.
New Jersey has brought seven goaltenders, 18 defensemen, and 31 forwards to begin camp.
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