One way or another, Jeff Prough was going to be playing hockey this season in the capital city. He just didn’t think it would be in Trenton.
After two consecutive seasons with at least 30 goals and 60 points under his belt for the T-Devils, Prough seemed ticketed for a spot with the Devils new AHL affiliate in Albany. Instead, he finds himself back at the Sun National Bank Center, stuck in the ECHL.
“I thought I had a good chance of sticking up there this year, but unfortunately things didn’t work out that way,” he said.
“I got sent back here and I’m taking it as a positive to just get better and improve on some things. I want to play well enough so when they do need a guy, I’ll be one of the first guys to get called back up.”
While Prough certainly isn’t sulking around the locker room, it’s hard not to get frustrated with having to return to Trenton considering he’s essentially played his way out of the league.
“Obviously, you want to play at that next level and you think that you deserve it,” Prough said.
“But at the same time, I have some things that I need to improve on as well. It’s not going to make me a worse player coming down here and working on those things. I’m a pretty positive person, and I’m just trying to take this as a positive and get back to working hard and play how I’m capable of playing.”
Problem is, with the newfound depth in the organization, there are a lot of players competing for only a few spots. In fact, those spots might not even exist. Albany is currently carrying 29 players, and that’s a fact that hasn’t escaped Prough.
“They have a lot of guys up there that are returning, a lot of veteran players and older guys who’ve earned their spot,” he said.
“It’s hard to beat those guys out as well as having some things in my game that I can improve on. There are parts they want me to work on. So I’ll just try to do that.”
Prough said he’ll be working on making quick plays and keeping his feet moving while in Trenton — “Sometimes when I get in trouble, it’s if I’m not moving my feet” — and becoming a better all-around player by working on his defense.
He may have more opportunities to do that, as the depth of the organization may work in his favor in that regard. As Prough was at times the focal point of the offense over the past two seasons, a more talented group of players around him may help take some of the pressure of him and allow him to become that all-around player that he feels will get him a better shot at the next level.
“I never really thought of it as pressure, but it’s a good pressure, I guess,” he told me.
“I expect myself to contribute offensively and score some goals. I guess I put the same amount of pressure on myself this year to do the same thing. It’s harder almost once you’ve done it once, it’s expected. You’ve got to keep pushing. But I think with the more depth we have at forward, we’ll have more contributions offensively and I think overall we’ll have a better offense and that will help us get more wins and get more goals.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com