NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils and their fans certainly breathed a sigh of relief earlier this month when veteran goalies Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg decided to re-sign with the organization for two more seasons each.
It wasn't so much that the pipeline of Devils goalie prospects was thin; rather, there's never a definitive timetable as to when a young goalie is prepared to make the professional jump. As it is, Brodeur's longevity has allowed New Jersey an opportunity to gradually replenish its goalie cupboard.
"We're here to win, and right now, the two goalies we feel we have will give us the best chance at winning for a lot of different reasons," Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello said of Brodeur and Hedberg. "We have a couple of young goalies we have high hopes for … they have the potential. It's a question of how quickly they can adjust and what they can do."
Despite having seven picks at the 2012 NHL Draft, the Devils decided against selecting a goalie, choosing instead six forwards and one defenseman. It's obvious the organization believes the goalie of the future already is in the fold.
There's a strong possibility that one of the four goalie prospects participating in this week's development camp at AmeriHealth Pavilion could be the future face of the franchise between the pipes. A fifth -- 2005 second-round pick Jeff Frazee -- was excused this week as he prepares for his wedding.
Among the group of goalies present were Scott Wedgewood (third round, 2010), Maxime Clermont (sixth round, 2010), Keith Kinkaid (free agent, 2011) and Chris Rawlings (camp invite).
Of that group, Wedgewood and Kinkaid would appear to be the frontrunners ready to make the jump when Brodeur and Hedberg decide to call it a career.
"They're both 'A' prospects," Lamoriello said of Wedgewood and Kinkaid. "Kinkaid has made excellent progress coming from college and Wedgewood coming from juniors and where he was two years ago. When we drafted [Wedgewood], he was a backup goalie, and then he went to the World Junior tournament and now here he is."
The Devils signed Wedgewood last March to a three-year entry-level deal.
"I'm going to be sad the day Marty decides to hang them up as he's been in that goal for as long as I can remember," Wedgewood said. "For us, it's a big shoe to fill once he retires, but someone else has to step in. Obviously, there will be a lot of spotlight on us, but I think, mentally, I've come a long way.
"I don't think I'm ready for it right now, but being here, gaining experience and exposure, will get me there so hopefully when the time comes and they want you to be that guy, you're ready."
Wedgewood went 28-10-3 with a 3.02 goals-against average, .911 save percentage and three shutouts in 43 games last season with the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League. He has a 61-39-5 mark with six shutouts, a 3.08 GAA and .908 save percentage in 122 games with Plymouth.
"I know goalies take time and I've been developing a lot more over the past few years since I've been picked and kind of know what it takes after seeing some guys go through it," Wedgewood said. "Seeing [Brodeur and Hedberg] signed for two more years kind of gives it a timeline when you should be ready to get up there, so these are two important years for me."
|Scott Wedgewood |
Wedgewood played in three games for Canada at the 2012 World Junior Championship in Edmonton and Calgary, going 2-0-0 one shutout, a 2.42 GAA and .916 save percentage to help Canada win the bronze medal.
"The caliber we play [at World Juniors], the fans and the environment were something you really had to cope with," he said. "I think my mental game has come a long way."
The native of Etobicoke, Ont., was the first goalie drafted by the Devils since Frazee in 2005. The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Wedgewood also is pretty deft at controlling the puck outside the goal crease.
"I used to be a defenseman until I was 12 so I played the puck," Wedgewood said. "I know how the player thinks and I can still shoot even though I'm a goalie. When you watch Marty, the Devils defense doesn't even come back sometimes. He's a QB back there. Having that in your repertoire can only help."
Three rounds after picking Wedgewood in 2010, the Devils added Clermont, marking the first draft since 1997 in which the franchise chose two goalies (J.F. Damphousse, first round; Scott Clemmensen, eighth round).
Clermont, who signed a three-year entry-level contract with the team in August 2011, spent much of the 2011-12 season with the Kalamazoo Wings of the ECHL following four seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with the Gatineau Olympiques. He went 13-10-3 with a 3.42 GAA and .891 save percentage in 31 games.
Born in Brodeur's hometown of Montreal, Clermont also played two games for the Albany Devils of the American Hockey League, going 1-1-0 with a 2.01 GAA and .925 save percentage.
In April 2011, the 6-3, 180-pound Kinkaid agreed to a two-year, entry-level contract. Born July 4, 1989, Kinkaid joined the Devils after spending two seasons at Union College.
"I think the future looks bright, but I'm kind of biased," he said. "There are a lot of good goaltender prospects in this organization, so one of them has got to have it in him."
Kinkaid finished his college career 37-18-6 in 63 games, with a 2.18 GAA and four shutouts. He was named a 2010-11 AHCA first team All-American and first team All-ECAC and also claimed the Ken Dryden Award in 2011 as the league's top goalie after finishing 25-10-3 with a 1.99 GAA.
"It was kind of overwhelming when the Devils signed me (as a free agent April 18)," the native of Farmingdale, N.Y., told NHL.com. "The Devils were my favorite team and I have always admired Martin Brodeur … I wore his number (30) at Union. It's unbelievable to be a part of an organization so close to me and one I grew up watching."
In 42 games with Albany, Kinkaid went 17-20-3 with three shutouts, a 2.94 GAA and .904 save percentage.
"This is a great organization and obviously a good situation for me, so I'm trying to make my best of it," Kinkaid said. "I'm just trying to get better on the ice and off the ice as a person. It's important to be honest and humble … that goes a long way even if it doesn't show on the ice."
Rawlings, who is at Devils camp on a tryout, just completed his junior season at Northeastern University. The 6-foot-5, 210 pound native of North Delta, B.C., appeared in 31 games for the Huskies in 2011-12, going 12-14-5 with a 2.71 GAA and .916 save percentage. He ranks fourth on the school's all-time list with 39 career victories.
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