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Josefson making strong showing at camp

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils
Jacob Josefson
In only three days of training camp, rookie Jacob Josefson is showing why the Devils were so high on him coming into the new season.

The 19-year-old center scored a shorthanded goal for the Red team in Monday’s intrasquad Red-White scrimmage, and has continued to make a strong impression on veteran linemates David Clarkson and Dainius Zubrus.

So far, the consensus  seems to be that if Josefson’s not quite ready for the NHL, he’s very close.

“It’s early, but I’m impressed,” said Clarkson, who scored on the power play. “I think the kid has been skating well, he moves the puck well, and he’s a very good kid. Great skater. I like guys that like to wheel with the puck and he likes to go with it. Today was fun playing with him. All camp has been good and he’s just a great kid. I think time will tell, but he’s done really well.”

Josefson has spent the last two seasons with Djurgardens of the Swedish Elite League and made it to the finals last season against fellow Devils’ prospect Mattias Tedenby of HV 71. He improved to eight goals, 12 assists for 20 points in 43 games last season from the five goals, 11 assists he had the previous year.

He won a silver medal with Sweden at the World Junior Championship in 2009, and collected three goals, three assists in six games of the 2010 tournament, when the Swedes took home the bronze.

Scoring shorthanded on Martin Brodeur is likely something he’ll remember for a while, even if it was only a scrimmage.

“I got a little bit lucky there to get the puck with me,” he said. “I just tried to get it on goal and it went in. It was a great feeling.”

The Devils’ first-round pick in 2009 has benefitted from the chance to center two experienced NHLers.

“They’re great players and they make it really easy for me out there,” Josefson said. “They talk with me and it was really fun to play with them.”

Clarkson describes Josefson as having a confidence that's rare for his age.

“You see a lot of rookies come into the League and they’re lacking the confidence,” he said. “They have the skill, but they’re lacking that confidence and he seems to have it. He seems to not be scared to take the puck and go, he seems not to be scared to get hit. It’s impressive the confidence that he has out there and I think that’s what makes him the player he is.”

MacLean liked what he saw from the Josefson line as a whole.

“I thought they had a good day,” he said. “I thought all three of team played really well. He’s a young guy and he has a lot of poise. I thought they had some great opportunities. Some of them seemed to click, which is good. It’s one scrimmage, but it’s nice to see. Clarky with a nice shot there, so it was good.”

Josefson is working to improve and adjust to the new pace of play.

“Everything is on a higher level here,” he said. “Everything is going faster and all the players are better. It’s a little bit different, a lot straighter on the net, stuff like that.”

On and off the ice, he’s gotten help from the number of Swedes at this year’s camp. In addition to offseason signings Johan Hedberg and Henrik Tallinder, Josefson’s also close with Tedenby and Alexander Urbom. Marcus Nilson, Josefson’s teammate last year in Sweden, is attending camp as a tryout.

“The veteran Swedes have helped us very much and talk with us,” Josefson said. “They told us what it’s going to be at camp, what to do. I couldn’t be happier to have them here.”

Nilson, who played nine NHL seasons before going to the KHL two years ago, has been a key supporter.

“He’s been over here a lot of years, too, so he knows what it’s all about,” Josefson said. “Henrik and Johan, too, they’re very helpful. They’re great guys, all of them.”

Josefson will have more to prove if he gets a chance to play in exhibition. The Devils open the preseason at Philadelphia on Tuesday, then visit Madison Square Garden on Thursday. Their first home preseason game is this Saturday, Sept. 25, against the Rangers.

Jersey’s Team opens the regular season at Prudential Center versus the Dallas Stars on Friday, Oct. 8.

“Today was a step for him,” MacLean said. “It was an intrasquad game and he looked good. But now you get into exhibitions as you go through it, you have to see how guys handle the grind. It’s going to be a grind here as we go forward. We play an exhibition game tomorrow and every other day, so you see how it goes on. There’s a lot more things that goes into than your rest and see how you handle all that stuff.”

There’s no denying Josefson’s showcasing plenty of upside in only his first NHL training camp.

“Yeah, he’s a good player,” said the coach. “For a young guy, he seems to have a great understanding of the game at both ends of the ice, which is a positive.”

In Monday’s scrimmage, Alexander Vasyunov’s goal at 2:53 of overtime clinched a 4-3 victory for the White squad. They rallied from a 3-1 deficit on markers by Ilya Kovalchuk and Brian Rolston early in the third.

Clarkson’s tally made it 3-1 Red with 1:57 left in the second. After Tim Sestito’s first-period goal opened the scoring for White, Jason Arnott capitalized on a nice feed from Patrik Elias to tie the game at 1-1 in the second. Josefson’s goal broke the stalemate.

Brodeur (White) and Hedberg (Red) played the first two period. Jeff Frazee relieved Brodeur to start the third and Mike McKenna came in for Hedberg.

After two days of drills, the players enjoyed scrimmaging for the game conditions and the opportunity to get a better feel for new linemates. Elias has been the left wing with his former linemate, center Arnott, and right wing Jamie Langenbrunner.

“Yeah, because that’s a game, a simulated game,” he said. “You have to slow yourself down, speed up and make little plays and keep your head up a little bit, think quicker. It was good.”

Zach Parise continues to skate on the left side of Travis Zajac’s line with Kovalchuk on the right.

“Drills and all that stuff is definitely a lot different,” Parise said. “I think after the first couple of shifts, the pace is so much different than the way we’ve been playing. It’s a little bit of an eye-opener. It happens ever year: now’s the time to start getting ready to play.”

• MacLean said he’d know his starter for the preseason opener on Tuesday morning. For now, Brodeur and Hedberg won’t be splitting games.

“They’re not going to be in the same game together early,” MacLean said. “But we’ll make that decision as we move forward. I’ll talk to [goaltending coach] Chris [Terreri] and Lou and [special assignment coach] Jacques Caron and we’ll make that decision what goalies are going to get it and how they’re going to play, and we’ll manage that.”
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