1. Holtz Puts Pen to Paper
Ever since his name was called at the 2020 NHL Entry Draft and he flashed his smile, Devils fans have been waiting to hear more about Alexander Holtz and when he'll be one step closer to arriving in North America.
Well, that wait is no longer, with the signing of his three-year entry-level contract that begins in the 2020-21 NHL season. One of the more important notes of his new contract is that on top of the ELC he has signed an AHL amateur try-out contract which will allow the 19-year-old to warm up to the North American game with the Binghamton Devils for the remainder of the year. His quarantine period, after arriving in New Jersey, will end by the weekend. He is expected to join Binghamton on the ice in Newark this Saturday.
Holtz said he was honored to sign his contract and is looking forward to getting on the ice and adapting to regular play on North American ice.
"It means a lot. Of course, it's smaller ice here, so I think that helps my game more," Holtz said. "Because I'm a shooter, and you're getting more shooting spots here on the smaller ice. It's a nice opportunity I get to play some games here before moving on to next season."
2. Humbling Company
Holtz has turned heads in the Swedish Hockey League ever since he arrived as a 17-year-old. The SHL is comprised of players in their 20s and 30s, and Holtz stepped in to play against men as early as 17. It's notable that the forward finished 10th in scoring in his rookie season with 16 points, including nine goals. But more so than where he ended up on his Djurgardens team, it's where he ranked among his other peers, the U18's that Holtz built the most impressive numbers.
His nine goals and seven assists led all under 18 players, while his nine goals put him in a distinguished category. Those nine goals were tied for the third-most by an under-18 player in league history, while only Peter Forsberg and Markus Naslund scored more in their U18 years than Holtz did.
3. Studenič is on the Board
The smile said it all. A life-long dream finally accomplished. Marián Studenič came streaking down the wing, off a nifty pass from Mikhail Maltsev, and turned on the jets. He joked that he closed his eyes and took the shot. And in it went for his first NHL goal. Studenič scored on Rangers netminder Alexandar Georgiev.
"It was something special. I couldn't believe it. When I scored I was just out of my mind, it was like a dream. I'm going to remember this for my whole life, for sure."
4. Foote Makes Debut
In that same game, Nolan Foote made his NHL debut. And just after Studenič's first NHL goal, Nolan picked up his first NHL point. It was a heads-up pass from the wall to Nick Merkley and eventually cleaned up by the captain Nico Hischier to tie the game at 3-3.
"That first game, you can expect a lot of different things," Ruff said post-game, "I thought nervous to start with, I thought as it went on, he got a little more comfortable. He made a play on one of the goals for us, I think he started to feel a little bit better. I think what was hard was that we had to kill so many penalties, and he's not a penalty killer so he had to sit there for long periods of time and when the game got tight, we went down to three lines. I think for a first NHL game, he handled the game well."
Foote had the single assist in 8:07 of ice time.
5. Lots Of Company
Foote is the sixth player this season to make their NHL debut with the club. He joins Ty Smith, Mikhail Maltsev, Yegor Sharangovich, Tyce Thompson and Studenic in making their debuts. Foote is also the third player out of that group to record a point in their first NHL game. Smith did the same, with a goal in the season opener, as did Thompson with an assist. Maltsev picked up his first point, a goal, in his second game, as did Sharangovich. Studenic wasn't far behind, with his first point coming in his fourth game.
6. Feel the Emotion
Some may call it a misconduct; others see the value in the passion. Jack Hughes was called for his first misconduct when he smashed the boards with his stick multiple times after he was called for a tripping penalty.
Whether it was deserved or not is not the question here, but more so the aftermath of the misconduct was the most important part. Lindy Ruff was asked about it in his post-game media availability and he stood up for his young player.
"I like Jack's emotion," Ruff said, "I think he was frustrated like I was with a couple of calls, they went down easy at times. He's just frustrated, and I think that frustration and emotion is a good thing."
7. Leaders Lead
It feels good to write this, even for a second time this season. But the return of Nico Hischier really does something for this team. And while Nico may seem like the silent type, he's demure and goes about his business quietly. So I wanted to know what it was like to have that type of leadership back on your New Jersey Devils bench.
And much to my enjoyment, it turns out Nico is one of, if not the loudest member on the Devils bench. Here's some insight from head coach Lindy Ruff on what it's like to have someone like Nico, the Devils captain, back on his bench:
"He's awesome on the bench. When you see a good play, you can hear him. When someone's blocked a shot, he's one of the first guys to make sure everybody knows, 'hey let's get up and let that guy know.' When we scored the other night and got the second one, he's the voice you're going to hear 'come on, we're right here, we're right back, one more goal and we've got these guys on their heels.' So he's a guy that leads. Leads first by what he's doing on the ice and second by being vocal, encouraging and positive. And then there are times when there are mistakes made where he's holding his teammates accountable."
It was such a pleasure to sit down for a candid one-on-one with P.K. Subban for the Speak of the Devils Podcast. There was one burning question that in all my years of knowing PK, I've wanted to ask. And so I took the opportunity.
Subban has so much going on outside of his hockey world. He has a production company, social media platforms with over a million followers on each. He's a busy man with his hands in many things. And let's be frank, that's not typical of NHL players, at least to have it all so public. And for that, Subban has been criticized in his career. It's something I never quite understood, understanding that we are all humans with multiple interests. So I asked PK, surrounding all the criticism he's faced, "Do you feel misunderstood?"
Here's what he had to say.
"There are a lot of people that are misunderstood. You could say that everybody is misunderstood if you read the media," Subban said. "If you read and listen to the media, how many people that write things actually know the people that they're talking about?
"I obviously don't focus on trying to please everyone. You can't please everyone in this world. For me, I don't pay attention to that. I look at myself in the mirror and I'm happy with the person that I see. I continue to try to be better at my job every day in the ways that I can be."
9. The OHL
It appears that Devils prospects, defenseman Mike Vukojevic and forward Graeme Clarke, will play the remainder of the hockey season in the AHL with the Binghamton Devils. The two, who are still of OHL age, would have had to go back to their OHL clubs, the Kitchener Rangers and the Ottawa 67s respectively, had the Ontario government lifted COVID restrictions to allow the league to play.
Instead, the two will remain with Binghamton and continue to develop under coach Mark Dennehy and his coaching staff.
Vukojevic has played 15 games in the AHL and has accumulated eight points (1G-7A), while Clarke came in and went on a tear with nine points, five goals and four assists, in his first 18 games with the club.
10. A Partnership
I think the organization will really benefit from the setup this year having the AHL team play in Newark while working within COVID-19 protocols. It's really allowed Lindy Ruff to develop a relationship with the man who is developing the talent on the farm, Mark Dennehy. Ruff shared that the two, when both in Newark and around the arena, share daily conversations. Ruff shared a bit of insight into the things the two head coaches discuss:
"We have great conversations about individual players, we talk about situations. We talk about dealing with young players, the growth of young players, what would you do in this situation, how would you handle that situation. It really has been seamless between himself and me, where, a lot of times we're trading talks on the offensive side of the game, the defensive side of the game, where different players are at. If I miss a game, I'll go ask how certain defensemen played down there, who did you like, who were your top forwards, what did you like about the game. So, just ongoing conversations."