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Features

Devils' top 10 prospects paced by Boucher, Matteau

Sunday, 08.03.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

Opportunity always knocks for those top prospects in the pipeline for the New Jersey Devils.

In 2013-14 the Devils recalled six players from their American Hockey League affiliate in Albany to replace injured starters. A seventh player, defenseman Seth Helgeson, was recalled on an emergency basis and practiced with the team but never got into a game.

"I think the organization sets the table with opportunity; that's the one thing I've seen over the three years I've been here," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "Some of the young players grabbed it and ran with it like Jon Merrill and Adam Henrique, and some haven't yet. We need a few of these guys to do that this year."

One area the Devils have successfully stocked with A-grade prospects is along the blue line. Merrill and Eric Gelinas stepped in nicely when called upon last season, and it appears several others are ready to make the jump.

"I would put our defensive depth up against any other organization in the NHL," DeBoer said. "It's a long list of guys that are either able to play or have the potential to play very soon."

Here's a look at the Devils' top 10 prospects, according to NHL.com:

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Schneider as No. 1 among Devils' five questions

Sunday, 08.03.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

After failing to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs a second straight season, New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer organized a meeting with his staff to pinpoint what went right and wrong in 2013-14.

In addition to their team, they discussed the success of the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings and the resurgence of the Eastern Conference champion New York Rangers.

"You're always looking for things you could do differently in order to make sure you're back in that group of elite teams the following season," DeBoer said. "I think it's a healthy exercise in finding ways not only to improve your own team but give some perspective. This is a tough League to make the playoffs, so just because you miss the playoffs doesn't mean you're a poor team. We did a lot of good things last year; we just have to find an extra edge."

Here are five questions facing the Devils:

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Gelinas' development critical to Devils' success

Sunday, 08.03.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer believes defenseman Eric Gelinas has the potential to be something very special.

Gelinas gave Devils fans reason to get excited about the future after scoring seven goals and 29 points in 60 regular-season games as a rookie in 2013-14.

An injury to captain Bryce Salvador early in the season gave Gelinas a roster spot and an opportunity to showcase his cannon shot from the point on the power play. Gelinas turned out to be a catalyst for the Devils, ranking second on the team among defensemen in goals (five) and points (17) on the power play. The Devils finished ninth in the NHL with a 19.5 percent efficiency and the 23-year-old played a key role.

If Gelinas can prove his first year in the League was no fluke and improve in a few areas, the Devils will certainly be in a much better standing in the Eastern Conference in April.

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New-look Devils try to re-establish playoff profile

Sunday, 08.03.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

NHL.com continues its preview of the 2014-15 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout August.

The road to the Stanley Cup Playoffs hasn't been an easy one for Peter DeBoer since he led the New Jersey Devils to the Stanley Cup Final in his first year as their coach three seasons ago.

But that was also a time when DeBoer had the services of All-Star forwards Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk, who combined for 68 regular-season goals and 16 playoff goals during that run to the 2012 Cup Final against the Los Angeles Kings. The Devils would score 146 even-strength goals in 2011-12.

Since then they've failed to qualify for the playoffs and, not surprisingly, have struggled offensively. The team totaled 110 regular season goals in the 48-game 2012-13 season, 67 at even strength. Last season, the Devils scored 197 goals, 136 at even strength.

Will the upward offensive trend continue with the depth general manager Lou Lamoriello has incorporated in DeBoer's fourth season?

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Canada expects pressure as World Junior camp opens

Saturday, 08.02.2014 / 10:50 AM / 2015 World Junior Championship

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor LNH.com

Pressure to win is nothing new for Hockey Canada. But that pressure will only be heightened this year.

The Canada national junior team summer development camp gets underway Sunday just outside Montreal in Brossard, Quebec. It's there that 41 players will take their first few steps to earn a chance to play in the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship, which begins Dec. 26 in Montreal and Toronto.

It's one thing to represent Canada in the WJC, it's quite another to do it at home. Playing the tournament in Canada's two biggest cities adds another level of pressure to this year's event.

Canada coach Benoit Groulx of the Gatineau Olympiques in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League knows this. But four months before the start of the tournament, he's not worried about the pressure.

In fact, he's embracing it.

"A lot of people are talking about pressure, and I think pressure is good," Groulx said. "It means we have a chance to win, it means we have a good team. There are teams who come to this tournament who say they have no pressure, but that means they don't think they will win. So for us, it's a positive. We are very aware of how big this will be, and that will be on the agenda for our week with the players. We're going to talk to them about it, but the players are also very aware of all that."

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Hurricanes need bounce-back season from Staal

Saturday, 08.02.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

Davis Harper - NHL.com Staff Writer

When Eric Staal is on his game, he is one of the NHL's best offensive players and the man who makes the Carolina Hurricanes go. When he's less than his best, as he was for much of 2013-14, Staal's lack of productivity puts Carolina's attack on life support.

Staal was the fifth-highest paid player in the League last season with a salary of $9.25 million; his cap charge was $8.25 million, according to CapGeek. But he had his worst full-season offensive totals (20 goals, 41 assists and a minus-13 rating in 79 games) since 2003-04, his rookie season. For a player on whom the Hurricanes rely in nearly every on-ice situation, those numbers translated into a 36-35-11 record and a 13th-place finish in the Eastern Conference, their fifth straight non-playoff season.

New coach Bill Peters expects his captain to bounce back this season.

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New coach, GM tasked with reviving Hurricanes

Saturday, 08.02.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

Davis Harper - NHL.com Staff Writer

NHL.com continues its preview of the 2014-15 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout August.

In some ways, this offseason has been an overhaul for the Carolina Hurricanes organization; in others, it has been a doubling down on the status quo.

On April 28, Jim Rutherford stepped down from the general manager post he had held since 1994, when the organization was still known as the Hartford Whalers. Taking his place is Ron Francis, who has held multiple positions with the Hurricanes, including vice president of hockey operations for the past three seasons, since retiring as a player in 2004.

Nine days later, Francis fired coach Kirk Muller and his staff after a second consecutive 13th-place finish in the Eastern Conference and an 80-80-27 overall record. The Hurricanes were unable to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs during Muller's three seasons at the helm, and their current five-season playoff drought is the longest in the conference.

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Power-play potency among Hurricanes' five questions

Saturday, 08.02.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

Davis Harper - NHL.com Staff Writer

With a new general manager and coach but an almost identical roster to the one that finished 13th in the Eastern Conference in 2013-14, the Carolina Hurricanes enter the 2014-15 season with questions up and down the lineup. General manager Ron Francis and coach Bill Peters will have their work cut out for them, on offense, defense and special teams, if they hope to end Carolina's five-season Stanley Cup Playoff drought.

Here are five questions facing the Hurricanes:

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Forward depth a question for Hurricanes lineup

Saturday, 08.02.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

The Carolina Hurricanes made three deep playoff runs in a span of eight years, including a championship in 2006, but they have missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for five straight seasons.

PNC Arena boasts one of the League's best playoff atmospheres, but it has been too long since the building has been full of standing, screaming fans in the spring. The Hurricanes have a new general manager and a new coach, but they don't have a lot of new players.

Two seasons ago the Hurricanes scored enough to be a playoff team, but their goaltending failed them. Carolina prevented goals better in 2013-14 only to have the offense disappear. Depth up front remains a problem, though the defense corps could be improved.

Here's a look at the projected 2014-15 lineup for the Hurricanes:

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McGinn, Fleury among Hurricanes' top 10 prospects

Saturday, 08.02.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

The Carolina Hurricanes have shown a willingness the past few seasons to give significant roles to players just a few months after they were drafted. Since the 2008-09 season Zach Boychuk, Jeff Skinner and Elias Lindholm all saw action as 18-year-olds, with varying levels of success.

But with Ron Francis taking over as general manager, the club could start preaching a bit more patience with its younger players in allowing them to develop physically into NHL players.

"Everybody needs to get stronger," Hurricanes director of defense development Glen Wesley said. "That's one of the things if the guy is coming from junior or college he has to get better at, if it's the American Hockey League or the National Hockey League. You're playing against grown men and it's a completely different game. That's one of the things you have to be prepared for when you take the next step in your development."

Here's a look at the Hurricanes' top 10 prospects, according to NHL.com:

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Quote of the Day

I don't care how big the goalies' equipment is, when you're taking a shot like Ovechkin took [Wednesday], it's going to go in.

— Former player Mike Bossy on Capitals' Alex Ovechkin being the fifth player in NHL history to score 30-plus goals in 10 straight seasons