Establishing Depth is a Goal for the 2022 New Jersey Devils Rookie Camp

The New Jersey Devils will begin NHL rookie training camp this Tuesday, September 14. The veterans will report the following Tuesday, September 21. In the meantime, the Devils will play three games in Buffalo for the 2022 Prospect Challenge. The team’s preseason begins Monday, September 26. Summer is almost over, as is the non-hockey offseason for NHL teams. However, this leads to a question: what is the purpose of rookie camp?

From what I understand, the reason these players are coming in a week early is to get NHL rookies – prospects with and not with the Utica Comets – in shape before those who should be part of it. alignment. Getting a bit more time to drill, scrimmage and those exhibition games will give coaches and team staff more information as to whether the player has progressed or could fill a bigger role than he wants. had. In other words, it’s about giving them the opportunity to earn future opportunities when veterans show up for camp and when NHL preseason games begin. Why would a team want to do that? In a word: depth.

Training camp and pre-season are used to determine roster composition for the start of the season. The maximum a team can have at any one time is 23 active players. A team must use a maximum of 20 players for matches. However, a team will absolutely use more than 20-23 players in an 82-game season. Injuries will happen. Poor performance will require change. Management can trade for the roster, pick ups (and loses) waiver transfers to trades and maybe even a signature. It’s a long season in the NHL and the grind is real with several weeks of 3-4 games in a 7 day week. A team will need to establish a depth chart beyond the 13th attacker or 7th defender.

In the case of the New Jersey Devils, they may have to prepare to use at least 20 forwards and 9 defensemen at some point in the 2022-23 season. Why these precise figures? Because that’s the minimum number of players used in those positions over the past twelve seasons. (And having 3-4 goalies in the lead is also a plus.)

Number of Devils players by position who have played at least one game this season.
NHL.com

Of course, there can be outliers like the 7 goalkeepers used last season. However, the Devils often had to go 3–6 defensemen further than the traditional six-man blue line in a season. At least 8 other attackers were used. A total of 41 players is the most the Devils have used in the last twelve seasons and it has happened three times.

It’s true that some of those numbers are a result of the team not being good for most of those seasons. To sell players, someone had to be called in to take their place. However, that’s kind of the point I’m trying to make. A lot of summons will be made throughout the season for one reason or another. This means a team needs to know who they can call from Utica beyond one or two players. This is determined initially by how those players perform in rookie camp prior to the start of the season. That’s the reason for this camp: to help establish depth beyond the 23-man roster.

Of course, it’s not as simple as choosing the next man on the list for the job. The context of the call is important. If, say, Brendan Smith gets injured and a defender needs to be called up, then whoever is high for Smith may be different than if, say, Damon Severson was out. The duration of the order can also play a role. Someone more experienced may get the call for an extended game, while a younger person may get shorter one- or two-game calls to see how they fare. How players fare in Utica also plays a role in terms of who gets called up. If, say, Nolan Foote catches fire and the Devils need a forward, then maybe he gets a call he otherwise wouldn’t get. Likewise, if someone in Utica is injured, they cannot be called out. And if the player is seen as having a future in New Jersey – Simon Nemec comes to mind here – then there’s a balance the team has to manage between giving someone a chance in the NHL and letting them. expand to a lower level (and, in Nemec’s case, let an ELC slip into 2023-24). The most important point is that the depth chart will change as the season progresses. And the next best forward or defenseman (or goaltender) may not be called up if he’s not suited for the role New Jersey needs to fill at the moment.

Yet all of that is set for this season to some degree by the work that is being put in place ahead of the 2022-23 season. It starts this week for many players who could come to Newark, if only for a necessary call. How fit they are showing up – it’s the season of the best shape of your life – when it comes to physique. How much they took away from last season and can demonstrate improvements in drills and scrums matters. Their performance in exhibition games is important. A good impression can be set now. This could lead to later opportunities, whether later in training camp and preseason (Jesper Bratt is proof of that) or during the actual season and New Jersey needs someone in Utica to be a devil for a few games or more (like Nico Daws last season).

The depth will go deeper than the 23-man roster that makes up the opening night squad on October 13. This week will begin the process of establishing who those players are for at least the start of the 2022-23 campaign. It’s not necessarily exciting or fanfare-worthy who the 17th or 18th striker is; the 9th or 10th defender; or whether Nico Daws or Akira Schmid should be the team’s No. 3 keeper. But as past seasons show, they can spend their time in the NHL just fine – even if it’s just for one game. Good luck to everyone. Above all, do not injure yourself during the Prospects Challenge.

Finally, no, as of this writing, a roster has yet to be announced. The purpose of this article is quite general. When one is announced, we will have a post for it. Thanks for the reading.

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