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Devils celebrate top high school hockey players

by Gordy Stillman / New Jersey Devils
Kendall Cornine and Ryan Bogan received Player of the Year honors for the 2014-15 NJSIAA season. Both also took photos with Jordin Tootoo. 

In addition to hosting the NJSIAA hockey championships every March at Prudential Center, the New Jersey Devils honor and celebrate local student-athletes who might one day wear an NHL sweater. More than 20 high school students were recognized during the 2014-15 season, covering a wide range of the Garden State’s top players.

Along with the NJSIAA, the Devils have been recognizing Players of the Month since 1992-93. Each month, seven players are selected by nominations from coaches around the state and voted on by local media. Each celebrated student receives tickets to a Devils game, dinner near the arena, and a plaque and photo with a Devils player.

After receiving his Player of the Month award for December 2014, Matt Kidney poses with Jacob Josefson to commemorate the moment. 

Some players were captains of their teams, like St. John Vianney High School’s Matt Kidney, who led the state in points when he was selected as a December honoree. Attending a game in January, Kidney said the celebration gave him added motivation to help his team try to reach the state finals and return to The Rock. While that didn’t work out for Kidney and his team, maybe being recognized helped Brandon O’Callahan rise to the top.

O’Callahan and the Ramsey Rams made it all the way to the Public B finals before falling to the Middletown North Lions in an exciting championship game at Prucential Center. Joined by teammates and fellow All-Tournament Team players, Will Danz and Alex Whelan, O’Callahan got to watch the Devils host the Montreal Canadiens for the final time this season on April 3.

Beyond the Players of the Month and the All-Tournament Teams, the Devils also honored Ryan Bogan and Kendall Cornine as the Players of the Year. Both attended a game in March, where during an intermission they chatted with Ken Daneyko and Deb Placey on MSG. Bogan was honored earlier that month, as part of the Non-Public All-Tournament Team and celebrated Christian Brothers Academy’s state championship. Cornine, a captain of Morristown-Beard’s girls’ team, won Player of the Year honors for the second consecutive year.

After years under the coaching of Bruce Diver, Director of the Devils Alumni Association and head coach for Morristown-Beard’s girls’ team, Cornine is set to attend Rochester Institute of Technology in the fall. Bogan, meanwhile, has another year of high school to look forward to.

Brandon Rozzi, a 17-year-old goalie who played his final season at Red Bank Catholic High School, spoke about how thankful he was after being recognized as one of February’s Players of the Month. “It’s really a tribute to my teammates and how well they played in front of me,” he said. Red Bank won its conference before being eliminated in the first round of the state tournament.

Along with Rozzi, January Player of the Month Robbie Wiatroski received his plaque before the Devils took on the Pittsburgh Penguins on Retro Night. After receiving their plaques, both had the chance to get a photo with Devils center Stephen Gionta. The senior right wing said being recognized as a Player of the Month was a “great accomplishment.” Wiatroski has been on Central Regional’s team since it was founded two years ago.

For the sophomores and juniors, hockey fans can expect to see the developing players back on the ice next winter, with the chance to return to Prudential Center in the 2016 NJSIAA Ice Hockey Championships. Seniors have options between junior leagues and playing for NCAA teams, and there’s the chance a familiar name or two will be called during the NHL Draft in June.

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