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Quenneville made strong impression at Devils camp

by Mike G. Morreale

NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils wasted no time introducing first-round pick John Quenneville to the rigors of professional hockey.

In a puck-possession drill that opened a morning session at development camp, the No. 30 pick in the 2014 NHL Draft went 1-on-1 against 2012 first-round choice Stefan Matteau, who spent last season with the Albany Devils of the American Hockey League.

"He has shown talent and has size to him; he reminds me of me in my first year," Matteau, a No. 29 pick, said. "He's a good player and will be an NHL player for sure."

As you would expect, the matchup was intense and physical. Matteau used his 6-foot-2, 220-pound frame to shield the puck when he had possession. Quenneville (6-1, 185) exhibited speed and hand quickness when it was his turn to play keep-away at center ice.

"It was nice doing that puck-possession drill," Quenneville said. "I guess, competition-wise, Matteau is a pretty good guy to go up against. He's a big body and made it tough on me, but he makes me a better player and I enjoyed it."

Quenneville closed his day with a nifty goal against 2013 seventh-round pick Anthony Brodeur, the son of Martin Brodeur, during a 3-on-3 scrimmage.

A second cousin of Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, and nephew (through marriage) of Boston Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk, Quenneville had 25 goals and 58 points in 61 games as a center with the Brandon Wheat Kings in the Western Hockey League last season.

Scouts like the fact Quenneville has good hands, a hard shot and a tremendous motor.

"He's a good kid and I was impressed with him in the scrimmages," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "This is the first step in his development on the road to the NHL. He's a ways away, but it's nice to see him in person and on the ice."

Quenneville, who turned 18 in April, can play center or wing but prefers the middle.

"I'm comfortable in both positions but I'm best suited at center; that's where I would help the team most," he said.

Quenneville had nine goals, 21 points and was a plus-13 in his final 22 regular-season games for the Wheat Kings, and had five goals, 13 points and a plus-4 rating in nine WHL playoff games.

"Leadership is super important," Quenneville said. "Going into my 18-year-old year in Brandon it's going to be my third year on the team. I think taking a leadership role is going to be not only important for myself as a player but for the team.

"Leadership is important when the team needs direction. I want to be that guy for our team. We have a lot of good, young guys coming into Brandon and I want to show them how to do it the right way."

Brandon's top line of Quenneville, right wing Jayce Hawryluk (Florida Panthers, No. 32, 2014) and 2015 draft-eligible left wing Jesse Gabrielle accounted for 13 goals and 31 points in the WHL playoffs. They likely will remain intact to start this season.

After missing the 2013 WHL playoffs with the worst record in the Eastern Conference, the Wheat Kings earned the seventh seed in the East and upset the second-seeded Regina Pats in four games.

"The win in the first round of the playoffs against Regina was my most memorable hockey moment so far," Quenneville said.

He said he doesn't feel more pressure in camp as a first-round pick.

"There are a lot of good hockey players here and I just want to show up and work hard," he said. "I'm not too nervous about stuff like that. I'm pretty confident in my skills. I talked to Coach DeBoer and it was more of a get-to-know-you talk. The coaches are teaching lessons on what we need to do on the ice and it was nice learning from them."


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