Goaltending duo tops small group of New Jersey Devils CHL prospects

By Jared Ramsden
Photo: Goaltender Maxime Clermont along with fellow 2010 draftmate Scott Wedgewood (not pictured) will be looked to one day try and fill the large shoes goaltending legend Martin Brodeur currently fills. (Photo courtesy of www.olympiquesdegatineau.ca)

This is perhaps the smallest class of CHL prospects the Devils have had in quite some time. If not for the addition of goaltenders Scott Wedgewood and Maxime Clermont who were both drafted last summer, the Devils would have been down to only two prospects playing major junior in Canada. Three of the four prospects are from the QMJHL, while the other, Wedgewood, is playing in the OHL.

OHL

Scott Wedgewood, G, Plymouth Whalers
Acquired: 3rd round (84th overall) in 2010
August 14th, 1992. Ht: 6’0 Wt: 192 lbs.

The Devils went a little off the board when they took Wedgewood in the third round of this past summer’s draft, but he’s definitely justifying his selection with his play thus far. Hidden behind workhorse starter Matt Hackett (MIN) for the past two years, Wedgewood has emerged from the shadows and just over two months into the OHL season is proving that he was ready for the starting gig in Plymouth. He was expected to battle with Matt Mahalek for playing time, but as the season has gotten closer to the half way point, it’s becoming clear that Wedgewood is going to be the Whalers bell cow between the pipes for the rest of the season.

Wedgewood is near the top of many of the significant goaltending statistical categories in the OHL. He’s played in 22 games, which is just two games less than he played in his first two seasons combined. He sits tied for second in that category. He’s also tied for second in goals against average (2.48), save percentage (.920) and shutouts (2). He is tied with three other goaltenders for third overall in the league with 12 wins. He has been scorching hot in the month of November, going 7-1 with a miniscule 1.65 goals against and an eye-popping .947 save percentage. One of his seven wins was a 3-0, 37 save shut-out of the Saginaw Spirit, one of the top teams in the league.

Wedgewood is a technically sound, hybrid style goaltender with good puck-handling skills. Thus far this season, he’s seemed to thrive with a heavier workload, seemingly getting better and better each game he plays. Much like Steve Mason in London a few years ago, Wedgewood patiently bided his time as a backup, and it’s obvious he practiced hard and learned a lot from sitting on the bench. He’s played a big part in the Whalers early season success. Martin Brodeur’s run in New Jersey is going to come to a close sooner rather than later, and Wedgewood is giving the team a legitimate hope between the pipes for the future.

QMJHL

Maxime Clermont, G, Gatineau Olympiques
Acquired: 6th round (174th overall) in 2010
December 31st, 1991. Ht: 6’0 Wt: 201 lbs.

Clermont may have been selected later than fellow netminder Scott Wedgewood, but he was the more highly touted goaltender going into his draft year, despite his struggles while playing for Gatineau last year. He fell to the sixth round where the Devils drafted him this past summer, and thus far, the work-horse netminder looks to be a late-round steal with the way he has played in the early going.

So far for the Olympiques, Clermont has played in 21 games (third most in the league), and has won 13 of those games. His goals against average sits at a steady 2.45, and he also has a respectable .900 save percentage. He’s also recorded two shutouts. The soon to be 19-year-old has only allowed more than three goals in four of his starts and in his last 10 starts, Clermont was won seven of those games.

Clermont possesses good overall athleticism and has good size standing at 6’0 and weighing in at just over 200 pounds. He is not afraid to come out of his crease and challenge shooters and his rebound control is above average. Clermont has helped keep Gatineau in contention in the tough TELUS West division sitting just a few points behind the Montreal Rocket and Drummondville Voltiguers thus far this season, and playing for one of the lower scoring teams in the league, Clermont will play a big role in determining just how far the Olympiques can go this year. Clermont has shown early on this year that he has the potential to eventually emerge into an NHL caliber netminder.

Eric Gelinas, D, Chicoutimi Sagueneens
Acquired: 2nd round (54th overall) in 2009
May 8th, 1991. Ht: 6’3 Wt: 189 lbs.

Now in his fourth full season of junior hockey, Gelinas is starting to turn that raw potential into production as he is maturing and getting better by the minute. He is also emerging as a leader as given the honor of wearing an "A" on a solid, yet unspectacular Chicoutimi squad. In 24 games, he’s recorded four goals and nine assists, to go along with a minus-5 rating and 27 penalty minutes. Perhaps the most interesting stat for Gelinas is a team-leading 75 shots thus far, which shows a growing confidence in his offense skill-set.

After sticking around training camp in New Jersey much longer than most people thought, it’s evident he’s starting to think the game at a higher level and starting to grow into and fill out his sizable frame. His strong play did not go un-noticed by the Devils as he parlayed his strong camp into getting to appear in a pre-season game. Gelinas has a very fluid skating stride for a big man with above average, and still improving offensive skills. His defense is still somewhat raw, but he’s getting better in this area. He’s absorbed a lot from being at the last two Devils training and rookie camps and it appears that the sky is the limit for Gelinas. His outstanding long-term potential is starting to slowly blossom.

Ashton Bernard, LW, Cape Breton Screaming Eagles/Campbellton Tigers (MJAHL)
Acquired: 6th round (174th overall) in 2009
February 5th, 1990. Ht: 6’4 Wt: 197 lbs.

December has only begun but Ashton Bernard has already played games in the three leagues and four different teams this season. He’s bounced around from the QMJHL (three games), the BCHL (one game) and two different teams in the Maritime Junior Hockey League, where he currently resides playing for the Campbellton Tigers. There he’s played in nine games, scoring two goals and three assists, to go alon
g with 39 penalty minutes. For a 20-year-old, the fact that Bernard is not playing in the QMJHL says a lot about his future as a professional. It would be very surprising if the Devils signed Bernard, as his potential and upside is very limited.