Devils: River Rats update

By Grethe Kvernes

Let us get the obvious out of the way first: the Albany River Rats are<br />not off to a good start to the season

The Albany River Rats are not off to a good start to the
2003-04 season. After the first nine games, the River Rats have only recorded
two wins, two ties, and one over-time loss, and find themselves at the bottom
of the East Division of the AHL. But while the River Rats continue to struggle,
several rookies and prospects are already making an impact, and this time we
will introduce two young Russian forwards, and also take a brief look at the
River Rats’ goaltending woes.


Young Russian rookie right wing Aleksander
Suglobov (8 games played, 3 goals, 3 assists)
has seemingly had little trouble adjusting to North American hockey. In the
games he has played, Suglobov has already displayed plenty of speed and
excellent puck handling skills. With the River Rats, the 21-year-old Suglobov
is receiving a ton of icetime, and is also seeing time on special teams. On the
power play, Suglobov has sometimes been playing the point, unleashing what is a
deadly but still fairly inaccurate shot. At times, the very intense Suglobov
will carry the puck for too long in the offensive zone, trying to create plays
completely on his own instead of passing to better placed teammates. However,
this lack of on-ice vision should be possible to improve on with more
experience and ice time.


Although he is a new face on the River Rats, Russian right
wing Maxim Balmochnykh (4 games played, 1 goal, 1 assist) is not new to
North America or to the AHL, having previously played for the Cincinnati Mighty
Ducks. After spending the last year in Russia, the 24-year-old Balmochnykh
appeared at training camp for the New Jersey Devils this past September, only
to disappear again before the season began. Many thought they had seen the last
of the feisty winger, but news finally broke of a personal family tragedy that
had forced Balmochnykh’s return to Russia. In the few games that he has played
since his return, Balmochnykh has shown that he is a terrific skater with
excellent speed, great puck handling skills, soft hands, and a fiery attitude
to go along with it.


On the other end of the ice, the River Rats have found
themselves in a bit of trouble. Finnish goaltending prospect Ari Ahonen
underwent arthroscopic surgery sometime in late September or early October to
repair an undisclosed knee injury. Ahonen is believed to be returning to play
sometime in November. In his absence, 26-year-old Scott Clemmensen has been the
only goaltender in the AHL to start every single game for his team. Despite
getting pummeled by an average of over 29 shots per game, Clemmensen stands
with a respectable 0.910 save percentage.


In the December update, we will take a look at the progress
of a couple of Finnish forwards, and a talented young Canadian center.


the New Jersey Devils prospects on Hockey’s Future message boards.