Your 2008-09 Trenton Devils

The season starts tomorrow, and 20 players wearing Trenton Devils uniforms will take the ice for the first time in the 2008-09 season at Sovereign Bank Arena.

Here’s a look at the team, with headshots and quotes from selected players.

GOALIES  

 

#31 Jeff Frazee
Height: 6′ 0″
Weight: 191 lbs.
DOB: 5/13/1987

Frazee is considered by many to be a legitimate prospect and possible future Devil.  But he struggled at times during his collegiate career at Minnesota, and told me yesterday that he didn’t go into games there the way he had previously.

Head coach Rick Kowalsky stressed to me yesterday that this a tandem situation, and that neither Frazee or Jason Smith is a clear #1.  At least not yet.

Frazee spoke yesterday about how beneficial it was to have the experience of attending New Jersey Devils training camp alongside Martin Brodeur this year.

“That was a lot of fun,” he said. 

“You see a lot of the big name players that you grew up watching.  I mean, I grew up watching Marty (Brodeur), and it was quite an honor just to meet with him and be in the same locker room as him.”

#35 Jason Smith
Height: 6′ 3″
weight: 202 lbs.
DOB: 7/17/1985

Although Smith didn’t have the season he wanted last season — the personable Canadian suffered from being overused as well as dehydration according to head coach Rick Kowalsky — he still established himself as the team’s #1 goaltender in his first professional season.

Now in his second season, he faces a very real challenge from Frazee.  And that’s OK with Smith.

“The only thing I can worry about as a goaltender is focusing on what I have to do and play well,” Smith said.

“If I play well and Jeff plays well, it’ll make our team better.  And I want him to play well.”

When asked to compare last year’s team to the club that will be taking the ice this year, he offered some interesting comments.

“I feel like we have a better group of guys this year,” he said.

“I think we got better recruits this year and we really proved it this weekend.  We hardly scored four goals in a game last season, and we scored ten goals this weekend.  The few games this weekend made me think that it’s going to be a lot different this year.  It’s good to know you’ve got the guys in front of you that can put the puck in the net.”

DEFENSE  

 

#2 Matt Torti
Height: 6′ 5″
Weight: 210 lbs.
DOB: 1/18/1984

#5 Ryan Gunderson
Height: 5′ 11″
Weight: 178 lbs.
DOB: 8/16/1985

Ryan Gunderson was an ECHL All-Star last season, and a deserving one at that.  But according to head coach Rick Kowalsky, he’s only touched the tip of the iceberg.

“He looks even better this year,” said Kowalsky.

“His shot’s gotten better and his strength has improved.  He’s going to be our guy back there.”

#6 Dylan Quaile
Height: 6′ 2″
Weight: 198 lbs.
DOB: 11/12/1988

Quaile is just 19 years old and is already playing professional hockey, making him one of the youngest players in the ECHL.

Quaile told me that he roomed with veteran D-man Chris Dyment to try to pick up on some things that he was doing, and also to get a feel for the road trips.

He describes himself as an offensive defenseman.

“I like to rush with the puck and do what I can with it,” Quaile said.

“But since I’ve been here, I haven’t really looked at that end of the game.  The coaching staff here has taught me a lot about being a defensive player and working in the defensive end.”

For Quaile, who is fresh out of junior hockey, he’s had to make some adjustments to adapt to the pro game.

“For me, moving the puck quicker was a key factor,” he said.

“In junior, I think you had a lot of time.  But here, it’s a faster game.  You’ve got to react to different situations and bigger bodies as well.  Guys are coming after you that are like 230 pounds, so that’s one thing.”

#7 Robert Page
Height: 6′ 2″
Weight: 203 lbs.
DOB: 7/9/1985

#8 Matt Cohen
Height: 6′ 1″
Weight: 180 lbs.
DOB: 11/8/1985

# 26 David Leaderer
Height: 5′ 11″
Weight: 190 lbs.
DOB: 7/31/1986

#28 Chris Dyment
Height: 6′ 3″
Weight: 207 lbs.
DOB: 11/24/1979

FORWARDS

#9 Trevor Kell
Height: 6′ 0″
Weight: 185 lbs.
DOB: 6/23/1986

#10 Tony Zancanaro
Height: 5′ 6″
Weight: 165 lbs.
DOB: 6/4/1982

#11 Jim Henkel
Height: 6′ 2″
Weight: 185 lbs.
DOB: 5/25/1979

#14 Chris Poli
Height: 6′ 1″
Weight: 210 lbs.
DOB: 8/1/1984

Chris Poli might have been one of the players who could have come into the regular season under the radar for the Trenton Devils.

But by the sounds of it, it would appear he’s been one of the breakout players of training camp and the ECHL preseason.

Head coach Rick Kowalsky seems to agree.

“He played eight or ten games for us last year, but he looked really good in camp,” Kowalsky said.

“He had three goals in the exhibition (season), and that was with a bad groin, he wasn’t even supposed to play.  The last one he scored was an OT winner on a 2-on-2 where he beats the guy.”

#15 Matt Radoslovich
Height: 5′ 11″
Weight: 200 lbs.
DOB: 4/16/1983

#16 Tyler Burton
Height: 5′ 9″
Weight: 180 lbs.
DOB: 3/11/1985

When asked for a breakout player on this year’s Trenton Devils club, it only took head coach Rick Kowalsky a few seconds to come up with his answer.

“I think Tyler Burton’s going to be a really good player at this level,” Kowalsky said.

“He’s got a lot of spunk.  He’s a little guy, but he competes hard at both ends.  Offensively, he can get up and go.  He had a couple of nice goals in the opener.  He’s definitely a guy that, even though he’s a first year guy, we’re going to rely on him heavily.  He’s going to be a good power play guy.”

#17 Joe Gerbe
Height: 5′ 7″
Weight: 180 lbs.
DOB: 4/12/1979

After three years of putting in 70 hour work weeks back at his family’s construction company in Detroit, it isn’t hard to imagine how Joe Gerbe could get the itch to play hockey again.

So why did he come back?

“I just realized how much I missed playing,” he said.

“When I stopped playing, I wasn’t really all that ready to stop.  Just this last year, I really started to miss it and I wanted to come back.  My wife, we talked about it, and she knew that I needed to do this.  I needed to do this for myself and to move on and everything like that.”

When things started to slow down at the construction company this summer, it allowed the 29-year-old to get back in shape and come back for the first time since playing for Johnstown in 2004-05.  It also gave him some perspective on how fortunate he feels to be able to have this opportunity.

“Just this weekend, I was saying that just being out for the preseason game…after the game, I sat there and it was just a whole new feeling of happiness that was running through me,” he said.

“It just makes everything I did in the summer and all the waiting I did for the past couple of years just that much more worth it.”

Gerbe feels like he’s a different player from when he last played, saying he’s more mentally dedicated to the game.

“Now, I’m just a little more relaxed and I’m enjoying things a little more.  I wasn’t enjoying playing at all before.  Now, I’m just having a good time and I really enjoy it.”

As one of the older players on the team, Gerbe is hoping to lead by example.

“Being an older guy, you’re always kind of assuming that role,” he said.

“But for myself, I like to be one of the last ones off and one of the first ones on and hopefully I can lead in that way.  I always stay after and work out and hopefully I can lead in that way as well.  Hopefully the younger guys will say, ‘He’s an older guy and he’s working hard, we’ve got to work hard too to be able to keep playing at this level too.'”

It sounds like one of the younger guys on the team, Scott Bartlett, has already gotten that message.

“(Gerbe) is my style of player,” Bartlett said.

“After practice, he’s been kind of working with me and teaching me some of the skills that he’s picked up along the years.”

#20 Scott Bartlett
Height: 5′ 9″
Weight: 165 lbs.
DOB: 8/20/1985

It isn’t often you see ECHL players getting national attention.  But there was a story on first-year pro Scott Bartlett on NHL.com, detailing his incredible success at the college level.

“I feel very lucky that, for whatever reason, I did get that spot on NHL.com,” he said.

“It was a big thrill for me, especially coming out of college and a Division 3 program.  I was just happy, most of all, to see Middlebury get highlighted.  The program up there is kind of a hidden gem, and the coaches up there have done so much for me.  Especially the boys I played with for four years, for them to get their school out there on NHL.com, I got a lot of texts from them and a lot of calls.”

But none of that would have been possible had Bartlett not been as successful as he was with the small school, leading them to two national championships.

“It’s something I’ll never forget,” he said.

“It was an invaluable experience and pretty much something I’ll remember forever.  It gave me the confidence to be ready for whatever comes my way.”

Bartlett said that with all the character guys in the Trenton locker room, he didn’t think there would be any early expectations for him to become one of the team leaders based on what he’d done in college.

“I think with the organization as a whole, if you’re not a character guy, you’re not going to be here,” he said.

“That’s just a kudos to the standards that the New Jersey Devils set and it trickles right on down.  But I think everybody here is expected to be a leader in their own way.  Whether it’s carrying themselves properly away from the rink or in the dressing room.  So I don’t feel any pressure that way, and I’m hoping to lean on some of the guys we do have.”

#24 Thomas Harrison
Height: 6′ 2″
Weight: 225 lbs.
DOB: 3/11/1984

Being on the other end of an interview with Thomas Harrison isn’t so bad.

Being on the other end of one of his punches, however…that could be a little rough.

One of the league’s top enforcers, Harrison returns for another season after racking up over 200 penalty minutes last season.

“I’m a big guy, and I like to play hard,” Harrison said.

“I don’t go out there looking for fights or whatever, I like to look at myself more as a player who plays hard every night. That kind of stuff comes to me. I like to stick up for my teammates, and if that’s the case, that’s the case.”

Some players who fill Harrison’s role in the AHL and even the NHL will check out the other team’s roster or be curious to see if certain players are dressing on gameday. Not Harrison.

“You try not to concern yourself too much about that before the game,” he said.

“But in our division, we’re playing these teams every other night. You play a team six or seven times a year, you certainly get to know who the other guys are on the other teams. Everyone knows who everyone is. Yeah, you go out there and you run into certain guys again and again. But there’s a certain amount of repsect out there for one another, so it’s a good thing.”

Harrison spent his first full professional season in Trenton last year, but didn’t get a chance to participate in his first postseason after the Devils fell short. That’s something that motivated him for this year.

“Any time you miss the playoffs, it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth,” he said.

“We’ve got a few guys back here from last year too, and there’s no worse feeling in hockey than the regular season being over and you’re not playing in the playoffs. No one wants that taste again. Some guys have a bitter taste in their mouth, and we don’t want the season to end that way again. Certainly, anything short of the playoffs would be a disappointment.”

There was some buzz at media day about how Harrison had bulked up for the 2008-09 season, which is certainly something that anyone who wants to drop the gloves with him will be taking notice of. Harrison talked about how he’s trying to adapt to the ever-changing ECHL.

“I just wanted to lean up and try to become a better hockey player,” he said.

“The game’s changing, and you can’t be a one-dimensional player anymore. If you can’t skate, and you can’t shoot and you can’t keep up out there, you’re not going to be around in this league. Getting myself in better shape is going to help the team and help myself personally.”

#25 Jeremy Akeson
Height: 6′ 2″
Weight: 220 lbs.
DOB: 11/26/1984

#27 Eric Castonguay
Height: 5′ 11″
Weight: 194 lbs.
DOB: 9/18/1987

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

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