NEWARK, NJ - On Friday, October 4, the Prudential Center opened its doors with a Red Carpet Arrival for the New Jersey Devils. As hundreds of fans lined the carpet to greet their favorite players, the official start to the new season began.
In front of a sell-out crowd at Prudential Center, the Devils kicked off their 2019-20 campaign and they're off to the races. It's time to take a look back on the week that was for the Devils.
A promotion, new addition and watchful eyes on Ty Smith all make up this week's 10 Takeaways, presented by Ticketmaster:
If you weren't listening carefully, you may have missed it. Earlier last week, John Hynes mentioned that Mike Kadar has joined the organization. When Hynes was answering questions about Ty Smith returning to junior, Hynes mentioned the hiring of Kadar and his important new role within the Devils structure. This is a new role within the organization that will allow management and coaches to keep better track of prospects and their development, particularly off the ice.
Kadar has been brought into the fold as Manager, Prospect Strength, and Conditioning. In his role, Kadar will travel to visit prospects in Devils organization in their respective leagues, to help evaluate, educate and put into practice off-ice habits, exercise, and regimens.
He's a three-time Stanley Cup winner with the New Jersey Devils and now, after six years as an assistant coach with the Devils AHL affiliate, Sergei Brylin has been promoted. Sarge, as he's known, is now Associate Head Coach of the Binghamton Devils.
He'll continue to work alongside head coach Mark Dennehy and assistant coach Ryan Parent. In his seventh season with the Binghamton/Albany Devils, Brylin continues to bring his 1000-plus professional games experience into the fold, as one of only five players to play on all three Devils championship teams and continues to help develop the next generation Devils talent.
Ty Smith seems to be making the best of returning to the WHL after participating in the Devils training camp. He's off to a fantastic start. He was named WHL Player of the Week, for the week ending on October 6th, 2019. Since returning from Devils training camp to Spokane, Smith has six points and a plus-3 rating in his first three games. Over the course of Spokane's two wins in three games, Smith had three goals and three assists.
In three games, Smith is already up to three goals with an entire season ahead. Smith had seven goals for Spokane all of last season.
Eric Weinrich, one of the Devils Development Coaches, and a former defenseman will spend lots of quality time this season with Smith.
I spoke with Weinrich earlier this week and he told me that he's been in communication with Smith since he returned to Spokane. The plan is for Weinrich, who is based on the West Coast to be "making regular trips out to see him and watch him practice and play and we will set up a good plan for him."
Weinrich added that while Smith was clearly disappointed in returning to junior "he seems ready to embrace the challenge of the season and what lies ahead." He also added that Smith appears to be "very determined to have a great season."
He says that Ty is a "proud person who expects success" and working with Weinrich will be part of the process in helping Ty achieve his future goals.
There was a special moment during the home opener that maybe not everyone was able to see, and it happened right in front of the sold-out crowd's eyes. When Travis Zajac was introduced to the crowd and he skated towards center ice, there was a very special guest waiting for him. It was also a moment Zajac has called one of the most special of his career.
Each player was greeted by and stood next to a young New Jersey girl hockey player. For Zajac, that meant his five-year-old daughter Veronika. Veronika has only just started skating and "was so nervous," Zajac told me.
"She was excited the whole week," Zajac told me. "So was I. That was probably the coolest moment of my career so far. Just being on the ice with her, knowing how excited she was to be out there and being able to share opening night with her was pretty cool."
"I'm proud of her, because she just started skating too," he added. "She's pretty young still, the youngest girl out there and in front of thousands of people. She had a smile on her face, she was proud of herself, you could just tell."
I owe an apology to Blake Coleman. I was the first to walk into the Devils locker room after the home opener on Friday night against the Winnipeg Jets. It was a tough loss for New Jersey, but it was an even more painful one for Coleman. During the second period of play, Coleman was caught by an errant high-stick from teammate Taylor Hall. Immediately, Coleman crouched over holding his face and gingerly skated his way right off the ice and down the tunnel.
For some reason, beyond my better judgment I went to talk to Coleman right after the game. The poor guy had a small cup in his hand where he was spitting blood into between questions.
I felt awful.
From where I was sitting, I could see the team doctors jump out of their chairs too. This wasn't just a stick to the face, the collision with the blade of Hall's stick left fiberglass jammed in his mouth, which was immediately pulled out. And while his teammates were continuing to play against the Jets, Coleman was having a root-canal in the back. The procedure continued after the game, before the departure for Buffalo, extracting a nerve and completing a full root canal.
In all? Coleman missed just four-minutes of play.
And who knows, maybe just maybe that root-canal gave Coleman some kind of magic powers. Because on his first shift after his in-game dental work, he scored what may very well go down as the craziest goal of his career and could potentially hold up as the league's "Goal of the Year" through the entire season.
Video: WPG@NJD: Coleman nets outstanding one-handed goal
One-handed, backhanded and with defenseman Dmitri Kulikov essentially taking a ride on his back, Coleman flipped the puck off the end of his blade, catching Jets goaltender Laurent Brossoit off-guard and scored without even looking.
The building and players on both teams looked like they were in disbelief of what had just happened.
Coleman is off to his hottest start in his career, recording three points in two games. In the season opener, Coleman recorded his fourth career two-goal game. Prior to this season, the fastest Coleman recorded three points in a season was by game eight (2018-19, three goals).
Coleman became the 16th different Devils player to score multiple goals in the season opener. Last season, both Travis Zajac and Kyle Palmieri each scored two goals in the opener versus Edmonton in Sweden.
Nico Hischier ended the 2018-19 NHL season sitting on 99 points in his career. Point 100 came in the second game of the Devils 2019-20 NHL season, with a secondary assist on Kyle Palmieri's first goal of the season, Hischier reached the 100-point mark in his first 153 games of his National Hockey League career.
Hischier became the seventh Devils player to record 100 points before their 154th game. He joins, Greg Adams, Alexander Semak, Valeri Zelepukin, Kirk Muller, Aaron Broten, and Scott Gomez. Hischier is the first player reach the mark since Gomez did in the 2000-01 season.
In case you missed it, Jesper Bratt is opening his doors to his fellow countryman Jesper Boqvist this season. Now teammates, for the first time since they were teenagers in Sweden, they're teammates once again in New Jersey. For Bratt, he's been here for two full seasons already, so he's taking in his friend to help him adjust to what life is like in North America and in the NHL.
"Jesper [Boqvist] is an easy guy to be around," Bratt said. "It's going to work out really well."
I tried to get Bratt to say whether he'd be laying down rules as the boss of the household, but he wouldn't quite bite on the question. He did joke however that he'd have to "kick out" Pavel Zacha in order to make room for Boqvist, but conveniently Zacha was already set to move that week into his own place.
So how will the chores be divided up? "We haven't talked about that yet," Boqvist joked on the Devils Official Podcast. "We'll probably split that and do both things, 50/50."
Trust me, I'll be following up on this one in a couple of weeks to see just how things are going and how high the pile of dishes in the sink might be!