The 2010 trade deadline marked a dynamic change in the New Jersey Devils organization, as GM Lou Lamoriello went against his principles to acquire star forward Ilya Kovalchuk—giving up a 1st round draft pick to make it happen. After sending a 5th rounder to Toronto in exchange for Martin Skoula, the Devils went to the 2010 NHL Draft in Los Angeles with just five selections.
With Martin Brodeur aging, the Devils drafted a goaltender for the first time since they selected Jeff Frazee 38th overall in 2005. The organization then continued its trend from the 2009 draft by adding more depth on the blue line.
Overall, New Jersey walked away with two defensemen, two goaltenders and a forward. Only one player from this class has graduated to the NHL and become an everyday starter. Three more prospects are developing in Albany, whole another was a bust and not re-signed by the organization.
Jon Merrill, D, USA Hockey National Team Development Program (USHL) – 2nd Round, 38th Overall
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games Played: 118
One of the better draft picks by the organization in recent memory, Merrill was a talented defenseman with plenty of upside. He boasted great puck skills, skating ability, and size. Most scouts agreed that he had the potential to become a top-pairing defenseman. He also had an off-ice incident which dropped his stock from a first to a second rounder.
He did not take long to show his worth as he made an immediate impact for the University of Michigan during his freshman year. Merrill played in 42 games, scoring 25 points and was a plus-11—helping the Wolverines advance to the Frozen Four Championship.
Unfortunately, Merrill would miss the first two months of his sophomore and junior seasons due to a team-imposed suspension followed by a vertebrae injury. Despite his off-ice issues, he matured as a junior and earned praise from head coach Red Berenson. In both cases Michigan struggled with him out of the lineup.
When he returned, the team went on consecutive second-half runs into the post season. He would only play in 40 games in two seasons, adding four goals and 18 assists. When his junior season ended, Merrill left school and signed his entry-level deal with the Devils. He played in 12 games for Albany to finish the season.
In 2013-14, Merrill started the season with Albany before being recalled in November for his NHL debut against Minnesota. He was injured in that game but returned in the winter. He rarely showed signs that he was a rookie and performed very well—so much so that he was arguably the Devils best defenseman in the second half of the season. In 52 NHL games he scored 2 goals with 9 assists with a minus-3 rating. He also helped Albany reach the AHL postseason, where they lost to St. John’s in the first round.
The dreaded sophomore slump would hit Merrill in 2014-15, and he struggled to rediscover his form from a year ago. The firing of head coach Peter DeBoer did not help things as Merrill saw his ice time cut in favor of the improving Adam Larsson. He did himself no favors with his breakdowns in the defensive zone, including a handful of highlight reel moments featuring Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby that he was on the wrong end of. Merrill is expected to bounce back, but whether that will be with the Devils or not is up in the air.
Watch this 2010 NHL Draft Look Back video featuring New Jersey Devils top pick, Jon Merrill.
Scott Wedgewood, G, Plymouth Whalers (OHL) – 3rd Round, 84th Overall
NHL Games Played: None
With Jeff Frazee’s development not going as planned, the organization’s depth in the crease needed life. They injected it with Scott Wedgewood, a player who management heavily scouted leading up to the draft and were confident could potentially groom into an NHL starter.
Wedgewood’s junior career with the Plymouth Whalers warranted those expectations. He performed admirably as Matt Hackett’s back-up in his first two years. His most notable feat was a 70-save effort in Game 4 of the OHL playoffs against Windsor. After Hackett left, he became the starter and would stay in that role for the next two years.
As the number one goaltender, he amassed a 56-28-5 record with a 3.00 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage. In his final season of major junior, he led Plymouth to an OHL West Division title.
He also played in three games for Team Canada at the World Junior Championships. He shutout the Czech Republic, had a 30-save effort against the U.S. in a 3-2 win, but was pulled against Russia after allowing four goals in an eventual 6-5 loss. Canada would finish the tournament with a bronze medal.
In 2012-13, Wedgewood began his pro career with the now-defunct ECHL Trenton Titans. He proved to be a workhorse as the team was overmatched, forcing the Ontario native to play a near-perfect game every night in order for the Titans to compete. He played 48 games for Trenton, playing three per weekend at times, and was 20-22-5.
The Titans finished last in the Atlantic Division, while Wedgewood posted a 3.22 goals-against and a .900 save percentage. He made five starts for Albany by the end of the season, but by then he was drained and could not replicate the same level of performance.
In 2013-14, he was promoted to Albany for good. He shared the crease with Keith Kinkaid who started most of the games due to his strong performance along with Wedgewood’s inconsistency. In 36 games, he was 16-14-3 through 36 games—including four shutouts. He had a 2.39 goals against and an .899 save percentage.
Kinkaid eventually seized New Jersey’s back-up job, but Wedgewood remains determined to earn his shot. He showed flashes of the form he had in Trenton during the 2014-15 as Albany’s offensive woes put pressure on the defense. It wasn’t enough, as the Devils missed the postseason despite a late charge towards the end. In 36 games, Wedgewood went 13-14-6-3 with a 2.74 goals-against average and a .903 save percentage.
Joe Faust, D, Bloomington Jefferson HS (Minnesota) – 4th Round, 114th Overall
NHL Games Played: None
While not large in stature, Faust was selected in the 4th round due to his possession and puck carrying skills. He also had some offensive talent, but it was unsure if that would develop at higher levels. The Minnesota native was originally committed to Princeton University, but for hockey reasons recommitted and went to Wisconsin—a wise decision on his part.
During his four years with the Badgers, Faust focused on becoming a responsible player. After a trying freshman year, he became a fixture on the second and third pairings. He improved his skating and defensive zone play which allowed him to see more ice time.
He was promoted to the first pairing in his senior year, where he added two goals and 12 assists. In his final two seasons, Faust became a leader for Wisconson and helped them win two conference tournaments: the WCHA in 2013 and the inaugural Big Ten Championship in 2014. Both trips to the NCAA Tournament ended in the first round, however.
Despite his late success in college, New Jersey could not sign him to an entry-level contract—instead giving him an AHL contract with the Albany Devils. In his rookie season as a pro he played in 26 games, scoring a goal and three assists with a minus-4 rating. He generally filled holes when the defense was battered by injuries.
Faust will continue to compete for time in the AHL, and he faces a long road to the NHL with plenty of talented defenders ahead of him on the depth chart.
Maxime Clermont, G, Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL) – 6th Round, 174th Overall
NHL Games Played: None
The second goaltender taken by the Devils in the draft, Clermont helped bolster the organization’s depth chart, along with Wedgewood and Jeff Frazee. A technically sound puck-stopper, he presented good competition to the more aggressive Wedgewood.
The Quebec native had an auspicious start in his first pro season. Despite playing the 2011-12 season in the ECHL with the Kalamazoo Wings, the rookie had a hard time finding his rhythm on a good Wings team—eventually losing his starting job to Riley Gill. He finished the year with a 3.42 goals against average with a .891 save percentage.
In 2012-13, he moved on to the Elmira Jackals and had a capable season as the number one starter, going 20-13-5 with a 3.24 goals-against and an .899 save percentage. 2013-14 saw him struggle, resulting in a trade to the Orlando Solar Bears where he finished with similar numbers. He would play one more season for Orlando, posting a 9-7-4 record.
Interestingly enough, Clermont has done well when he has been recalled to Albany. This past season was his best showing—he accumulated a 5-1-0 record with a 2.32 goals-against and a .906 save percentage.
Clermont will need a new contract this summer, but considering Keith Kinkaid’s grip on the back-up job as well as Ray Shero replacing Lamoriello as GM, it’s hard to predict where he will end up.
Mauro Jorg, D, HC Lugano (NLA) – 7th Round, 204th Overall
NHL Games Played: None
In the final round of the draft, New Jersey selected their first Swiss-born prospect, right winger Mauro Jorg. What attracted the Devils to the forward was his impressive display at the 2010 World Junior Championships. While representing Team Switzerland, Jorg scored three goals and one assist as the Swiss finished fourth in the tournament. He also had 12 points in 19 games in other international play.
The scouting report at the time was that Jorg was a good skater and handled the puck well, but was often hesitant to shoot. He had a decent-sized frame (6’0, 192 pounds), but playing in Switzerland limited his exposure to the physical style of the sport.
In the next two years, Jorg was unable to bring his game up to the next level. After scoring only eight points in his draft year with Lugano of the NLA, the forward improved a smidge with 12 points in 2010-11. The next year, he took a step back with seven points in 48 games. He was also loaned to second-tier Visp of the NLB.
Jorg was not tendered a qualifying offer by the Devils, and become an unrestricted free agent in 2012. He remains in the NLA today where he seems to have found his game with Davos.
Notable Playoff Performances
Joseph Blandisi’s incredible season came to an end in the second round of the OHL Playoffs as the North Bay Battalion eliminated the Barrie Colts in five games. Blandisi stepped up with 14 points in nine playoff games, and had at least a point in eight contests. Despite the sudden ending, Blandisi received hardware as he was named the recipient of the Leo Lalonde Memorial Trophy, awarded annually to the OHL’s Overage Player of the Year.
Speaking of North Bay, their season came to an end in the OHL Eastern Conference Semifinals at the hands of the Oshawa Generals. Fellow Devils center prospect Ryan Kujawinski finished the postseason with nine points in 15 games, including five points in North Bay’s five-game series win over Barrie.
Prospect of the Month: John Quenneville, C, Brandon Wheat Kings
It has been a remarkable postseason for John Quenneville. After a disappointing regular season that saw him net only 47 points, the big centerman seems to have taken that to heart and raised his level of play when the postseason began.
While he wasn’t required to be a top scorer for Brandon, he has become one of their go-to players with 19 points. He has had four multi-point games, including a four-point night against Edmonton in the first round and a five-point game in the Conference Finals against Calgary.
Quenneville has developed a reputation as a playoff performer, following this year’s success as well as last year’s 13-point effort in nine games. It is good to see the organization’s top pick in the 2014 draft is excelling at the most important time of the year, something the Devils should take note of.