NEWARK, N.J. -- At the time New Jersey Devils forward Adam Henrique was given a full-time shot in the NHL two seasons ago, he was coming off his most productive season as a professional in the American Hockey League.
Henrique, who led the Albany Devils with 25 goals and 50 points, seemed like the logical choice when Travis Zajac sustained an Achilles tendon injury that forced him to miss much of the season. The 2008 third-round draft pick (No. 82) would ultimately make the most of the situation, finishing as a finalist for the Calder Trophy as the NHL's top rookie in 2011-12.
The loss of wings David Clarkson (free agency) and Ilya Kovalchuk (retirement) in a span of seven days in July has presented the Devils with some tough choices entering the 2013-14 campaign. The team added forwards Jaromir Jagr, Michael Ryder, Ryane Clowe and Rostislav Olesz during free agency to help alleviate the offensive burden, but there's also a strong possibility that one or more of the organization's top prospects will spend considerable time with the big club as well.
"It's real premature to start talking about [prospects that may earn a role with the team out of training camp]," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said.
"We're hoping for surprises, and hoping there's a young guy who can step in and grab a job and not let it go and contribute all year. It's a big jump and there's no rushing that development, so I think we're all taking the approach that there is an opportunity here on this team. With Kovy's departure and some of the turnover, we'll see who steps forward and tries to grab a job."
DeBoer and his staff began their evaluations on Thursday when the Devils opened the on-ice portion of their training camp at AmeriHealth Pavilion.
One player on everyone's radar is 2011 fourth-round pick (No. 99) Reid Boucher, who has spent the past two seasons with the Sarnia Sting in the Ontario Hockey League. The 5-foot-11, 195-pound versatile wing, signed to an entry-level contract by New Jersey on March 13, could turn out to be a draft-day steal.
Boucher led the league with 62 goals, 12 more than any other player, to surpass Steven Stamkos' club record of 58. He also led the league in power-play goals (21) and finished fifth with 95 points. In 11 games with the Devils' American Hockey League affiliate in Albany, Boucher had three goals and five points.
Much like Henrique prior to 2011-12, Boucher is coming off a productive season heading into his first full professional campaign.
Does he feel he can duplicate what Henrique was able to do if he is promoted to the big club?
"I'd love to do that," Boucher told NHL.com. "I'd love to get a chance and do whatever I can to hang on to that spot, but the hardest thing to do is keep that spot once you get there. If I do get a chance, I'll probably be the hardest working guy I can be and try to earn it."
Boucher has a different mindset heading into the 2013-14 campaign, knowing that he will begin the year in either Albany or New Jersey.
"My goal here is to make the team like everyone else, so I have to do the best I can to perform for the coaches and prove I deserve a shot," Boucher said. "I did a lot of conditioning and weight training [in the offseason] and core work to gain weight without putting on fat … I tried to put on lean body mass, and I'm up to 190 pounds right now and feel great."