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Rookie Camp opens at AmeriHealth Pavilion

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils
Stefan Matteau

The Devils opened their 2012 Rookie Camp on Monday, welcoming prospects to AmeriHealth Pavilion for a week of conditioning and development.

“The objective of this is to give an orientation as to what the philosophy is of the organization,” Devils’ President/CEO/GM Lou Lamoriello said. “We had a meeting last night and we talked about a lot of things A to Z, as far as getting accustomed to the trainers, getting accustomed to the locker room, getting accustomed to everything that we do.”

The next few days will help prospects get over their nerves. All of them hope to take one more step toward reaching the NHL.

“Just so that they get acclimated so that when they come to training camp, those who will be invited, they will come in here with some confidence and some comfortability, and not in awe,” Lamoriello said. “It's so that you can get the most out of them. Nervousness will be taken out. It's almost a slow growth.”

Day One of camp featured two morning sessions followed by a scrimmage. Albany head coach Rick Kowalsky, who led the drills, was helped out on the ice by special assignment coach Scott Stevens, ex-Devil Sergei Brylin, and goaltending coaches Jacques Caron and Chris Terreri.

Lamoriello already knows one thing about this year’s prospect group.

“I discovered that our defense and goalies were pretty good,” he joked after the afternoon's Red-White scrimmage. The game was scoreless after two 20-minute periods and a five-minute 4-on-4 overtime. Reece Scarlett's goal in the fourth round of the shootout capped a 1-0 victory for the White team.

“First time I think I've seen a scrimmage of this nature,” Lamoriello said. “Usually, it's trying to keep the goals out in this kind of scrimmage. But I thought the goaltending was great. There were some good opportunities. There were also some players here, college players, who we invited here just to fill out [the roster] who are local. We'll get a better look by the middle of the week at our drafts [picks] and where they're at.”

2012 first-rounder Stefan Matteau suited up in Devils gear for the first time since being selected 29th overall at last month’s NHL Draft. He’s the son of former Ranger, Stephane Matteau, whose infamous double-overtime goal ousted the Devils in Game 7 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Final.

With a last name so closely linked to the club across the river, Matteau acknowledged it was a little weird donning the red and black.

“A little bit,” he said. “Especially with what’s happened in the past, my dad’s name. Having the whole game jersey, it’s definitely an honor. It’s a pretty weird feeling.”

A left wing, Matteau scrimmaged on a line with Blake Coleman (3rd round/75th overall, 2011) and Mike Sislo. He admitted to being a nervous on his first day.

“It’s my first pro camp,” he said. “We’re wearing the game jerseys and everything, so it’s obviously a little bit intimidating, a little bit nerve-wracking. But I felt better and the week should go up from here.”

Lamoriello likes what he sees in Matteau’s game. The 6-2, 200-lb., product of the U.S. Development Program will play next season with Blainville-Boisbriand (QMJHL), where dad, Stephane, is an assistant coach.

"He's a physical player. He's solid. He's an 'A' prospect, there's no question," said Lamoriello, who believes this year's camp features eight “A” prospects.

Scott Wedgewood and Keith Kinkaid shared goaltending duties in Monday's scrimmage. Maxime Clermont and Chris Rawlings guarded the nets for Red.

The GM is bullish on the Devils' future in net. Re-signing Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg secured the club's short-term prospects between the pipes. As for planning beyond Marty and Moose, remember the names Keith Kinkaid (free agent signed April 18, 2011) and Scott Wedgewood (3rd round/84th overall, 2010).

"We have a couple of young goaltenders, you saw a couple of them today, who we have really high hopes for, but that's potential," Lamoriello said. "They have the potential. It's a question of how quickly they can adjust and what they can do, but they're good goaltenders."

Kinkaid, 23, was the ECAC's top goaltender in 2011 and posted a 17-20-3 mark in 2011-12, his first season with Albany (AHL). Wedgewood, who turns 20 next month, went 28-10-3 with Plymouth (OHL) last season. He went 2-0-0 in three appearances for Canada at the 2012 World Junior Championship with one shutout and a 2.42 goals-against average. 

"I think Keith Kinkaid has made excellent progress going from college and what he's gone through," Lamoriello said. "And Wedgewood, certainly, coming from junior and where he was two years ago. When we drafted him he was a backup goaltender, then he went to the World Juniors. You saw him out here today and he's a prospect. Once again, when you get to the real shooters, so to speak, the ones who are coming at them every day, you find out. They're both 'A' prospects."

Coach Peter DeBoer is expected to arrive at camp on Wednesday. Lamoriello said DeBoer's assistants could be named this week.

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