Kunes was dependable — he played in all 72 games for the T-Devils last season — and led all of the team’s defensemen in points. He also was very hesitant to shoot the puck despite being the quarterback of the power play, and was a defensive liability at times. The undersized blueliner needs a standout skill if he wants to both get a chance at the next level and avoid comparisons to another much-maligned power play specialist, Ryan Gunderson. Thing is, Gundy made it to the AHL. Will Kunes? Perhaps. It seems likely he’ll return to the Devils organization last year…whether he gets a chance in Albany is up to him.
#2 Slavomir Tomko (48 GP, 9 G, 22 A, 31 PTS, +12, 63 PIM)
Tomko was acquired early in the season from Wheeling. He impressed me quite a bit during the 2008-09 playoff series while he was with Elmira, and I was pleased with the acquisition. Offensively, he was probably Trenton’s best defenseman. It’s not unfair to say he was an offense-minded D-man, but that obviously led to some shortcomings defensively as well. Tomko is a solid defenseman at this level, but outside of a brief call-up, probably isn’t going to see any significant time at the AHL level. Considering he’s not a “Devils guy,” in that he was somewhat of a non-prospect who was acquired from outside of the organization, and I can’t see him coming back next year.
#26 David Leaderer (72 GP, 9 G, 16 A, 25 PTS, +9, 40 PIM)
What’s not to like about Dave Leaderer? Apparently, you’ll have to ask the Devils organization. The most solid and best all-around defenseman the T-Devils had last season, Leaderer played all 72 games of the ECHL season and was passed up numerous times when Lowell needed someone to fill in. I’d take him back in a heartbeat, but why would he want to come back? Leaderer would be a solid sixth or seventh defenseman for someone at the AHL level right now, and unless he was promised that opportunity — or at least given a chance at it — by New Jersey, he should look elsewhere for playing time.
Thomas came to the Trenton Devils with a half-season of AHL experience. He didn’t exactly increase that too much last season…if I remember correctly, he got a very brief look in Lowell during one of their games in Newark against Hartford and was quickly returned. Defensively solid and adequate offensively, the Devils would be wise to bring back the 24-year-old.
#27 Justin Pender (49 GP, 7 G, 10 A, 17 PTS, -8, 100 PIM)
Didn’t like him. Let me get that out of the way now. I don’t mean that as a person…I rarely talked to him…but as a player, I didn’t like him. Pender will go as far as his rocket of a slapshot will take him, but that rocket of a slapshot rarely hits the net. He’s a big, imposing presence, but he didn’t use his size to his advantage enough. He also played undisciplined at times, and would get burned on occasion by smaller, more skilled forwards on other teams. All the more reason I bet they bring him back.
I’m on the fence about Coutu. I think he came on a bit towards the end of the season…he started jumping into the play more and showing more of an offensive side. He really strikes me as more of a stay at home defenseman, but I’m not sure he can really pull that off. Coutu’s discipline came into question quite a bit last season…there were times where he make you scratch your head with some of the penalties he’d take. But he’s a good team guy, and earned his call-up to Lowell. He’d likely be welcomed back.
Murray was another player who brought some AHL experience to the Trenton Devils last year. There were times, however, where I thought he looked somewhat disinterested while playing in the ECHL. I’m not sure he’d be at the top of the list to add to his AHL game total this time around, so I doubt he’s back in 2010-11.
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com