There is no reason why this shouldn’t be the best Trenton Devils team in years.
All the depth that the Devils organization has been slowly building — essentially restocking a nearly bare farm system — is starting to trickle down to Trenton. Five more players have been assigned to Trenton from Albany, including G Dave Caruso, D Justin Pender, D Andy Thomas, F Jean-Sebastien Berube and F Trevor Kell.
The name that jumps off the page to me is Berube.
The Devils seventh round pick in 2008, Berube is a legitimate prospect in the organization, the first such player since Jeff Frazee, Kory Nagy and Nathan Perkovich to put on a T-Devils uniform. Hockeysfuture.com has him listed as a C-level prospect, although he does not rank among the Devils top 20.
Berube, just 20 years old, has played for Rouyn-Noranda in the QMJHL for the past four seasons. A feared fighter, Berube’s game has really rounded out, as he tallied career highs in goals (24) and assists (21) in 64 games last season. You look at this guy’s stats and think he can one day be the total package. With that kind of physicality and his penchant to put the biscuit in the basket, he’ll be an exciting player to watch develop this season.
This will not, however, be his pro debut. Berube appeared in one AHL playoff game with the Lowell Devils last year, going scoreless.
The other names? Well, they’re ones you know.
Caruso spent all of last season with Trenton after spending all but one game of the year before in the AHL. He really picked up his game down the stretch, and posted a 21-20-2 mark with a 3.06 GAA and .908 save percentage in 46 games last year. He will, most likely, enter the season as the club’s number one goaltender.
Pender…the problem with being honest in evaluating guys, is that sometimes they’ll come back the next season. I’m as critical of him as I am because I see what he can be. He really, really, really does have the potential to have a big impact on this club. If he’s worked on his shot and worked on playing a more physical game before the whistle blows…he could really be an ECHL-style Zdeno Chara. If he hasn’t? We’ll cross that bridge when we get there. He scored seven goals and added ten assists in 49 games last year.
Thomas is a solid addition to the Trenton blueline. Just 24 years old, Thomas has spent parts of the past two seasons at the AHL level — although last year he got just one game with Lowell. He played the other 71 with Trenton, and the durable D-man scored three goals and added 18 assists while posting 82 penalty minutes.
Kell…well, the captain is back. He’s back for a fourth season in the capital city. Last season, battling injuries and a lack of playing time during a stint in AHL Lowell, Kell appeared in just 44 games with the T-Devils, scoring 16 goals with 19 assists. If he can find the right partner on the penalty kill, he can turn it into more of an offensive opportunity for Trenton than a defensive situation, as he did with Jim Henkel in 2008-09.
Trenton’s camp roster looks like this:
Goaltenders (3): Dave Caruso, Anthony Felice, Jeff Lerg.
Defensemen (8): Gord Burnett, Justin Coutu, David Leaderer, Tyler Miller, Martin Nolet, Justin Pender, Jordon Southorn, Andy Thomas.
Forwards (14): Jeremy Akeson, Jean-Sebastien Berube, Ryan Ginand, Ryan Hayes, Matthew Kang, Trevor Kell, Matt Lombardi, Jeff Prough, Brett Valliquette, Garett Vassel, Taylor Vichorek, Matt Vokes, Darcy Zajac, Tony Zancanaro.
Albany is still carrying a lot of forwards, and ECHL teams can only skate ten forwards. This could get very, very interesting here in a few days. A few guys who think they have jobs locked in could be going home.
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com