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Net gains for the future

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils
Maxime Clermont was the second goaltender selected by the Devils at the 2010 Entry Draft.
LOS ANGELES – The Devils are preparing in earnest for life after Martin Brodeur.

Goaltending was the order of the day for Jersey's Team at the 2010 Entry Draft. After taking 6-3 defenseman Jonathon Merrill 38th overall with their first pick of the morning, the Devils tapped a pair of goaltenders: Scott Wedgewood (3rd round, 84th overall) and Maxime Clermont (6th round, 174th overall).

The Devils, who dealt this year's first-rounder to Atlanta in the Ilya Kovalchuk trade, had five picks in the final six rounds. They also selected offensive defenseman Joe Faust of Bloomington-Jefferson (Minn.) High School in the fourth round, 114th overall, and right wing Mauro Jong from Lugano of the Swiss League with the seventh pick, 204th overall.

Wedgewood, who just completed his rookie season with Plymouth (OHL), was the first goaltender drafted by the Devils since 2005, when they took Jeff Frazee 38th overall.

Wedgewood went 5-9-0 with a 3.26 goals-against average, .909 save percentage and one shutout in 18 appearances with the Whalers last year. He got into six games with Plymouth in 2008-09, going 0-2-0. A native of Etobicoke, Ontario, he turns 18 on Aug. 14.

Before Saturday, New Jersey had drafted just 12 goalies since taking Brodeur 20th overall in 1990. That's been the luxury of having one of the greatest goaltenders in history protecting their crease.

Brodeur, of course, is the NHL's all-time leader in wins (602), shutouts (110) and games played (1,076). He has been goaltending's gold standard for two decades, winning three Stanley Cups and four Vezinas as the League's top netminder.

Brodeur, 38, led the League last season with 45 wins and nine shutouts and shows no signs of slowing. Nevertheless, with their penultimate pick of the day, the Devils seized an opportunity to stock their system with another puckstopper.

In the sixth round, they took Clermont, an 18-year-old Montreal native who finished 24-31-0 with Gatineau (QMJHL) last season, his third with the Olympiques. Wedgewood and Clermont were ranked by 19th and 18th, respectively, among North American goaltenders by Central Scouting.

"It's a dream come true just being drafted," Clermont said. "You look at the Devils history, and being in the same organization as Martin Brodeur – it's unreal."

Surrounded by family when his name was called, Clermont wasn't ready to consider himself the heir to Brodeur's throne.

"I don't want to think about that too much," he said. "From now on, I know which organization I'm in, and I'm looking forward to take that step one day and go step-by-step."

He added: "Being the next goalie after Martin Brodeur would be something special, for sure."

As a young goalie who grew up idolizing Brodeur, Clermont has certainly thought about someday making his own mark on the National Hockey League.

"My dream is to play in the NHL," he said.

Though Clermont looks up to Brodeur, he doesn't copy Brodeur's hybrid style that's part stand-up, part butterfly, part improvisation.

"I'm not the same style as Martin; probably more blocking style," he said. "Butterfly for sure, but blocking style. I take up a lot of space in my net. Even though I'm only 6-0, I play like a 6-2 guy. My strengths are stopping and controlling rebounds."

The Devils also added another big defenseman on Saturday with the selection of Merrill, who's a product of the U.S. National Development Program. The native of Brighton, Mich., measures in at 6-3, 198-lb. He was ranked 21st among North American skaters by Central Scouting.

"I'm thrilled," Merrill said. "I can't wait to do whatever I can to play there as soon as possible and make an impact on the organization."

Merrill, who was born in Oklahoma City, called his style of play "steady, reliable," adding that he can "chip in offensively." He had a goal and eight assists for nine points in 22 games last season with the U.S. Under-18 team under the guidance of former Lowell Devils head coach Kurt Kleinendorst.

"He's very intelligent on both sides of the puck, makes good decisions, and defensively is good about keeping himself in good position," Kleinendorst said. "There are a lot of things to appreciate about his game, including his size and his dedication in the weight room."

Merrill wants to get stronger while "fine-tuning some of the tools in my game." He put on 30 pounds of muscle since joining the U.S. National Development Program and said he, "grew up as a person tremendously."

He thought he had a shot at going in the first round.

"Obviously, you always hope to go as high as you can and be the best you can be, but I'm just happy to be here at the Draft and get drafted at all," he said.

Merrill, who will attend Michigan this fall, grew up a fan of the Red Wings and future Hall of Famer Nick Lidstrom. He appreciates that he's now a part of one of the NHL's elite organizations.

"New Jersey is a real historic franchise," he said. "They've had a lot of really great players. To be a part of that is phenomenal."

Faust, 18, is 5-11, 190 lbs., and collected 13 goals and 27 assists for 40 points in 25 games last season with Bloomington-Jefferson. The right-handed defenseman was ranked 118th in North America by Central Scouting and will attend Des Moines (USHL) this fall.

Jorg, 20, has spent the last two seasons with Lugano of the Swiss League. The 6-0, 192-lb., right wing had a goal and seven assists for eight points in 44 games last season. The native of Chur, Switzerland, was ranked 68th among European skaters by Central Scouting.

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