This season, the New Jersey Devils have quite a large contingent of prospects playing junior hockey. With the addition of three prospects via the 2007 NHL Draft coming out of the CHL, combined with forward Tony Romano leaving the college ranks for the OHL, the Devils now have a total of seven prospects playing in the CHL. The aforementioned Romano, along with early-season sensation Matt Halischuk, Nick Palmieri and 2006 first rounder Matthew Corrente are all currently toiling in the OHL. Defensemen Kirill Tulupov and Kyell Henegan are playing the QMJHL, while defenseman Ryan Molle is the only WHL’er of the bunch.
Matthew Corrente, D – Niagara Ice Dogs
Acquired: 1st round, 30th overall, 2006
Just like last year, Corrente had another strong showing at the New Jersey Devils training camp, and stuck around until the final cuts were made. He missed the first few games of Niagara’s season due to still being in New Jersey, and when he did return, he was only able to suit up for a handful of games before missing close to three weeks with a ligament problem in his wrist.
Corrente was able to come back and play in late October, but may have rushed himself back into the line-up before he was back at 100 percent health. He likely would have missed even more time due to his wrist injury after returning to the Ice Dogs for one game, but as it turns out, in that one game, he was suspended for eight games as a result of a punch to the head of a Saginaw Spirit player. This may well have been a blessing in disguise for Corrente as it allowed him more time to properly rehabilitate his injury. In the five games Corrente has played in, he has scored a goal and two assists to go along with an even plus/minus rating and 13 PIM’s.
Corrente was chosen to play for the OHL in the annual CHL/Russia Challenge, and though there was some doubt as to whether or not he would be able to play due to his wrist injury, he was able to sufficiently rehabilitate his injury and play in both games for the OHL. He is eligible to return to the Ice Dogs line up the weekend of Nov. 23-25 after serving his eight-game suspension.
Though he has had limited game action this season due to injury and suspension, it appears as though Corrente is ready to put his disastrous 2006 season behind him. His stock in the organization is sky high after another stellar training camp with the Devils. He is a fiery competitor that plays well at both ends of the rink and has the skating skills to excel in the NHL. He is already signed to an NHL contract, and should he remain healthy, should be a force for the Ice Dogs in the season half of the season.
Nick Palmieri, RW – Erie Otters
Acquired: 3rd round, 79th overall, 2007
After being selected by the Devils in the third round of the NHL draft this past summer, Palmieri had an excellent showing at training camp in New Jersey. He suited up in a few pre-season games with the Devils before returning to Erie, but obviously left a good impression on Devils management as he earned himself his first professional contract, signing a three-year deal back in October.
Palmieri got off to a great start for the Otters, scoring three goals in his first four games, but unfortunately, he caught a cause of tonsillitis and mononucleosis in early October and was forced to miss a significant amount of game action. He just recently returned to the Erie line-up and has potted two goals in four games, including a game winner in overtime to help Erie snap an ugly 16-game losing streak. In nine games this season, Palmieri has five goals, a -4 rating and 23 PIM’s.
Hopefully for the Devils and Palmieri, he can shake off the rust from missing a month’s worth of action and stay healthy and produce for cellar dwelling Erie for the remainder of the season. He appears to have all the tools, including great size and skill to develop into a scoring power forward, something the Devils don’t currently have much of in their system.
Matt Halischuk, RW – Kitchener Rangers
Acquired: 4th round, 117th overall, 2007
Perhaps the most pleasant surprise among the Devils contingent of CHL prospects is the early season play of forward Matt Halischuk for the league leading and Memorial Cup hosting Kitchener Rangers. Not even ranked by CSS, this past summer, the Devils obviously saw something in Halishcuk, and so far, he looks like a fourth-round steal. Halishcuk is scoring just under two points per game and currently sits eighth in OHL scoring with 12 goals and 29 assists in only 23 games. With 41 points, he is well on his way to surpassing the 66 points he scored last season. His +13 rating is also tops on the team.
Halischuk, along with high scoring linemates Justin Azevedo and Nick Spaling, have helped get the Rangers off to a fantastic start this season as they have only lost three games all season long thus far. Among the early season highlights for Halischuk are four, four point games, along with a nine-game point scoring streak. In only three games this year has Halischuk been held off the scoresheet. He also was invited to play in the CHL/Russia Challenge for the OHL in late November.
Should Halischuk be able to keep up the torrid early season pace he has set thus far, he should have no difficulty eclipsing the 100-point plateau. He likely has already surpassed expectations for New Jersey with his strong start to the season. Though undersized, that hasn’t stopped Halischuk from scoring, and with boundless energy and strong play at both ends of the rink, he appears to have a good enough tool set to one day set foot in the NHL. He is definitely making his mark in the OHL and the Devils organization.
Tony Romano, C, London Knights
Acquired: 6th round, 178th overall, 2007
After making the jump from Cornell of the NCAA to the high-powered OHL London Knights, big things were expected from Romano in his first CHL season. He was supposed to combine with Patrick Kane (CHI) and Sam Gagner (EDM) to give the Knights a potent punch of offense. However, with Kane and Gagner starting (and likely staying) in the NHL with their respective clubs, Romano did not get off to a great start, and has only recently started to turn his game around.
It took Romano five games to record his first point of the season and eight games to finally record his first goal in London. Romano’s defensive play has left some to be desired thus far and even resulted in him being a healthy scratch at one point this season, but the Knights knew that they were getting a supremely skilled offensive minded player and had some work to do in terms of Romano’s play at the other end of the rink.
While October was a fairly forgettable month for Romano, his play in November has improved significantly and in turn, he has slowly but surely started to appear on the Knights scoresheet on a more regular basis. With eight points, including five goals in the month of November, Romano has doubled his point production from the previous month. On the season, he has seven goals and six assists in 23 games.
Though his play has still been spotty at best thus far, Romano has shown enough improvement as the season has progressed that he could be in line for a big second half to the season in London. There is no doubting his offensive gifts, but he must continue to improve his defensive play, and with that, he should see his numbers continue to go up. He has just recently started to see some time on the penalty kill for the Knights, which shows that his defensive play is starting to come around. Maybe the expectations going into the season for Romano were a tad inflated, but he still has plenty of time to make up for his slow start. Aside from Niklas Bergfors, Romano may be the most offensively skilled player in the Devils system, but they may just have to be a little patient with him.
Kirill Tulupov, D, Victoriaville Tigres
Acquired: 3rd round, 67th overall, 2006
Tulupov missed the first few games of the QMJHL season for Chicoutimi after suffering an injury on the opening day of the New Jersey Devils training camp. Upon his return to the Sags line-up, he had a great start, scoring two goals and two assists in his first five games, picking up right where he left off last season where he was arguably Chicoutimi’s best defenseman. However, due to the Sags wanting to go in another direction, among a host of other issues, he fell out of favor in Chicoutimi, saw his ice time get cut dramatically and as a result, was traded to the Victoriaville Tigres in early November.
He has only played in three games for the Tigres thus far, but in his first game he made an impact, garnering an assist, finishing +1 and getting first star of the game. Tulupov seems to have fit in well and has had no problem adjusting to his new team, and sticking up for his new teammates so far, playing a physical game and cranking out a handful of heavy hits. Tulupov has missed the Tigres past few games due to a minor neck injury suffered when taking a butt end in the face, but he should return to the line-up shortly. His combined totals with Chicoutimi and Victoriaville see him with two goals and three assists, to go along with a -3 rating and 27 PIM’s.
Tulupov had been playing well prior to his falling out of favor in Chicoutimi, so a fresh start in Victoriaville should help him continue his solid start to the season. The towering blueliner is one of a handful of promising blueliners in the Devils organization and should continue to see his standing in the organization rise as the season progresses.
Kyell Henegan, LW, Victoriaville Tigres
Acquired: 7rd round, 208th overall, 2006
Henegan is continuing his transition from defense to the wing in his first full season with Victoriaville. Now joined by fellow Devils prospect Kirill Tulupov in Victoriaville, Henegan is still the Tigres enforcer as he was last season, and currently leads the team with 40 PIM’s. He has also taken on a leadership role with team as he is one of the Tigres’ assistant captains. In 25 games, he has registered six assists to go along with a -8 rating. Henegan will have to continue to work on his all around game to earn himself a contract with the Devils at season’s end.
Ryan Molle, D, Swift Current Broncos
Acquired: 7th round, 207th overall, 2007
Molle has gotten off to a strong start with the Swift Current Broncos of the WHL this season, as the Broncos are currently fighting for the Central Division lead with the Regina Pats and Brandon Wheat Kings. He has already surpassed his point totals of last season, with one goal and six assists in 25 games. He has a -1 rating and 33 PIM’s. Molle is a key component to the Broncos penalty kill and is one of the Broncos steadier defensive defensemen.
Corbin McPherson, D, Cowichan Valley Capitals
Acquired: 3rd round, 87th overall, 2007
In 22 games for Cowichan Valley this season, McPherson has totaled seven assists and 25 PIM’s in 22 games.
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