In his third year in the Devils organization, Trenton’s captain put together a nice campaign, but injuries and a relatively unproductive AHL call-up limited him to just 44 games this season, a career low for the usually durable 23-year-old.
An occasionally physical presence who is relatively reliable on both ends of the ice, Kell seemed to be hurt by the departure of Jim Henkel, whom he teamed with on the penalty kill on 2008-09 — both of them were able to generate many offensive shorthanded chances, but Kell only tallied one shorthanded marker this season.
Seems like T-Kell’s been around forever, but he turns 24 tomorrow. He hasn’t really made an impact at the AHL level since 2007-08, and doesn’t really appear to be in the Devils plans…and he’s never really been able to put together a pro season like the one had with Sarnia in 2006-07. Kell’s a nice player at the ECHL level, but for the benefit of his career, would be better suited in another organization.
#10 Tony Zancanaro (71 GP, 18 G, 30 A, 48 PTS, +2, 83 PIM)
Now 28 years old, Zancanaro is the most tenured member of the T-Devils, having been a member of the team since 2006-07 — the last year of the Titans era. The team’s best faceoff man and one of their stronger defensive players, the undersized center turned in his finest professional season last year, posting career highs in goals, assists, points and penalty minutes.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that he’s been in the organization for 3+ seasons and has yet to see an AHL call-up. It seems unlikely to think that would change in 2010-11 if he returned.
At just five feet, six inches tall, Zancanaro is a fan favorite. You can’t really say that any players sells tickets in Trenton, since the games are largely unattended, but Tony does have a bit of a cheering section every time he’s out there. However, the organization clearly does not care about things like this. See: Henkel, Jim. I wouldn’t mind seeing Zancanaro back as a second or third line center and PK specialist, but I don’t think he’ll be brought back.
Dealt from the Blues organization, The St. Louis born Combs came all the way from Alaska to Trenton and seemed to flourish on the NHL-sized ice surface, compared to the Olympic-sized rink the Aces played in. At times, the 22-year-old was the best forward on the ice in Trenton. And, like many players with his experience level, there were times he looked lost.
But there’s no doubting that Combs is a fairly skilled offensive-minded forward — he tied for second on the team in goals (23) despite having only spent the final two-thirds of his season in Trenton. If he can show some more consistency, improve his skating stride and devote more attention to the defensive side of his game, Combs could eventually develop into a decent prospect for the Devils.
Already having put three AHL games under his belt with Peoria last season, if Combs does come back, he could contend for a spot on the Opening Night roster in Albany in 2010-11 with a strong training camp.
#14 Chris Poli (36 GP, 13 G, 26 A, 39 PTS, +10, 31 PIM)
In 2+ professional seasons after four years at Brown University, the 24-year-old Poli has played in just 55 games. The fact that he’s scored 22 goals in what essentially amounts to three-quarters of an ECHL season shows that when he’s healthy enough to be out there, there’s no doubting that Poli is one of the most talented players on the ice surface.
But that’s just the problem, he hasn’t been able to stay healthy. Unquestionably a dazzling playmaker who has the talent to at the very least compete at the AHL level, the Devils have given Poli two seasons to put together a full season, and he hasn’t been able to come close. His 36 games last year were easily a career high.
Poli will be 25 when the 2010-11 season kicks off, and would likely start the year in Trenton if he returned to the organization. Regardless of where he plays, it’s obviously a make or break season for him. I don’t think you could blame the Devils front office for more or less giving up on him, but given the fact that he could be a difference maker down the road, he may very well get one more shot.
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com