Mackenzie Blackwood said he sees himself as a member of the New Jersey Devils for a long time.
The 23-year-old rookie goalie, who could be a restricted free agent after this season, has spoken to his agent and hopes something can be worked out to continue his growth and development with the other young players on the roster.
"I don't really know exactly how it's all going to transpire, but whatever it is, I like [New] Jersey," Blackwood said Monday. "I love playing here and I'd love to play here for a long time, so I'm sure we can figure something out and hopefully it can go smoothly."
Blackwood, who returned home to Thunder Bay, Ontario, one week after the NHL paused the season March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus, leads rookie goalies in wins (22), starts (43), saves (1,328) and shots against (1,452). He has a 2.77 goals-against average, .915 save percentage and three shutouts in 47 games.
"What [Blackwood] did this season, the consistency that he played with, the confidence that he showed ... we feel we're in a very good place as far as a present and future goaltender is concerned," Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald said April 16.
Blackwood is one of seven Devils 23 or younger, including forwards Jack Hughes, 18; Nico Hischier, 21; Jesper Bratt, 21;Joey Anderson, 21; Michael McLeod, 22; and Pavel Zacha, 23.
"I think it would be really exciting if we can all develop together," Blackwood said. "Guys like Jack, Nico, myself, Bratt and [Pavel]. If we all can stay together, stay in like a little group here and then as the years go on, we'll get better together and build that bond ... I think that's how you build a winning team.
"I want to be a part of that, and I see myself being a part of that. So it's definitely a place and a situation where I see myself being for a long time."
Blackwood is 8-2-2 with a 2.28 GAA, .937 save percentage and two shutouts in his past 12 games. He made an NHL career-high 52 saves in a 4-3 shootout win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Feb. 16 and had an NHL career-best 171:37 shutout streak from Feb. 6-13.
"I like playing a lot," Blackwood said. "I just think that playing a lot is a good way to develop yourself, especially early on. There's a fine line between being rested and playing a great amount, so you want to try and find that and then balance it as best you can. I think from the end of December on, we did a good job of managing workload, especially because I did play so many games early on. I was happy with the way everything went for me in terms of atmosphere."
Video: NJD@VGK: Blackwood denies Holden, robs Stastny
He said he owes a lot to veteran goalie Cory Schneider, who has two seasons remaining on a seven-year contract he signed with the Devils on July 9, 2014.
"[Cory] has been unbelievable for me," Blackwood said. "First off, he's a great dude, he's a great human being. When you're coming into the League, you don't feel nerves around him. He helps you feel comfortable in the situation you're in and he really helps you through tough times and good times. I couldn't have been luckier to be in the situation I was. I'm fortunate I have built the relationship that I did with him."
Blackwood emerged as the potential goalie of the future for New Jersey after Schneider started 0-6-1 with a 4.65 GAA and .852 save percentage in nine games and was assigned to Binghamton of the American Hockey League on two occasions.
"I love this team," Blackwood said. "(The Devils) are the ones who gave me the opportunity to first come up and play and all the players in the organization ... they're great people, great players and they're really young and it's exciting to see what's going to happen in the future."