The nearly three-week training camp period provided a lot of competition among players for roster spots, roles and playing time entering the 2021-22 regular season. Those earnings became official on Monday at 5 p.m. as the Devils submitted their 23-man regular-season roster to the NHL.
A few notables on that list included a couple of rookies in Dawson Mercer, 19, Marian Studenic, 22, and Colton White, 24, a pair of player tryouts (PTOs) earning contracts in Jimmy Vesey and Frederik Gauthier, and a journeyman looking to finally break into the league in Mason Geertsen.
As far as Mercer, the neophyte centerman proved his merit during the team's Prospects Challenge in Buffalo, the team's training camp scrimmages and preseason games. Mercer, the 18th-overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, finished camp with two goals, three points and a plus-2, while also holding his own in the defensive zone.
"There's always a player or two that opens your eyes. He was a guy that opened our eyes," Devils head coach Lindy Ruff said. "He really played well inside the scrimmages and played well throughout the preseason.
"He's been a pretty impressive young man so far."
Video: Freddy Gauthier | PRACTICE RAW 10.13.21
Despite Mercer's age, the team couldn't ignore how well he played. And even though some nurturing in the American Hockey League was a possibility, Mercer will begin the season in the NHL based solely on that criterium.
"Purely based on his play," Ruff said. "His play put him in a position that forced us to make a decision."
The other decisions, pertaining to the PTOs, were based on specific roles they can fill on the team.
"When you look at the specialty areas, we need players," Ruff said. "For Jimmy, it's a little bit of a different role (as a bottom-6), but he's done a lot of penalty killing in the latter games of this last couple years. We want to use him in that role. He's got great NHL experience.
"The same with Gauthier. He's a good penalty killer. He's a big man. He had a good training camp for us. He's a guy that we'd expect to be good inside the faceoff dot."
For the 26-year-old Gauthier, being offered a contract by the Devils was both a point of relief and satisfaction.
"I came here with the mentality of making the team. I came here to show what I can do," said the 6-foot-5, 239-pound center. "That was my goal all along. I was fortunate enough to get a contract to stay here.
"You come here not knowing what's going to happen. You could go home at any time. It's nice to get that contract and be able to stay here."
Geertsen has yet to play a game in the NHL despite being in the pro game for six-plus seasons at the AHL level. His ability to play both defense and forward is a luxury that the team can utilize in any circumstance. And the 6-foot-4, 227-pound swing player adds a pugilistic and tough nature that the team lacks.
"When you look at a guy in a certain role," Ruff said, "we're looking at them to help us in a certain area to make us a better team."
Video: Lindy Ruff | PRACTICE RAW 10.13.21