Prospect camp goalies looking to future
|Jeff Frazee is one of four young goalies at this week's prospect camp.|
It even could be at the conclusion of the 2011-12 season, when the NHL's all-time leader in regular-season wins, shutouts, games played and numerous other marks has played the final season of the six-year deal he signed prior to the start of the 2006-07 season.
Whenever the inevitable does occur, who takes over between the pipes?
Will the Devils consider someone from outside the organization? Or do they begin a new era from within?
"Whoever it is, I hope it's (another) Martin Brodeur," Devils Director of Scouting David Conte said.
While that's highly unlikely, Conte has been pleased with the play of the goalies looking to make their mark at the team's rookie camp here this week at AmeriHealth Pavilion.
"Goalies are funny … you never know when they're going to come forward," Devils General Manager Lou Lamoriello said. "But we've been extremely pleased with Clermont and Wedgewood. They both had very good years with the teams they played for. I know (goalie coaches) Chris (Terreri) and Jacques (Caron) have been very impressed by them."
In 55 games last season with the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League, Wedgewood went 28-18-2 with a 2.99 goals-against average and .908 save percentage. The 84th pick of the 2010 draft, he was the first goalie drafted by the Devils since they chose Frazee five years earlier.
"Goalies take a lot longer (to develop) than players … I've come to realize that," Wedgewood told NHL.com. "I'm not going to be in there in a year or two; it's just a waiting game for goalies. It takes longer for us to evolve. But with Brodeur and Hedberg here, there is time. Brodeur has set the records for everything. People have said their contracts are coming to an end next year, but what does that mean? What will happen? It's up to Lou (Lamoriello) and the coaching staff. All I can do is show them my game, show them what I can do. If they want to give me the opportunity, I won't hesitate to take it."
Three rounds after targeting Wedgewood in 2010, the Devils added Clermont, marking the first draft since 1997 in which the franchise chose two goalies, when they selected Jean-Francois Damphousse in the first round and Scott Clemmensen in the eighth.
Clermont had an impressive playoff for the Gatineau Olympiques of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, playing a league-high 1,325 minutes in 21 postseason games and finishing second with a 2.22 GAA. The Olympiques advanced to the league final, where they lost to eventual Memorial Cup champion Saint John in six games.
"I want to play in the NHL; that's why I'm here and that's why I wake up every day," Clermont told NHL.com. "It's the job I want to have, but I have to go step by step. Now I feel I'm ready to turn pro. I've played four years of junior and I think it's enough for me. I have to show them what I can do."
Clermont, born in Brodeur's hometown of Montreal, went 30-10-5 with a 2.55 GAA and .896 save percentage in 2010-11.
"Each time you talk about these young guys, none of them are actually (NHL ready) … they're in transit," Conte told NHL.com. "To be (NHL ready), you need to have accomplishments to set a foundation of confidence to move forward and they need to meet the challenges. This year, Maxime and Scott met the challenges and led their teams to playoff wins that, maybe, they shouldn't have won.
"But that's just one kudo. They have to continue to build, just as Marty did, just as Mike Dunham did, just as Corey Schwab did, Chris Terreri and Sean Burke. The beauty of hockey is you're only as good as yesterday, and every player that understands that is well ahead. If he's looking for the destination, he better worry more about the journey."
The 24-year-old Frazee is the oldest of the four goalies at camp this week. In 33 games with Albany in 2010-11, he went 11-15-3 with a 2.90 GAA. Despite being a veteran of rookie camp, the Edina, Minn., native is grateful to still be in the mix of future prospects within the organization.
"I go into every training camp expecting the best out of myself and I look forward to camp every year," Frazee said. "I think this year more than any other I'm more prepared mentally because I've spent the time. I've seen the ups and downs and, at this stage, my mental state is probably the best it has been since I've been a pro."
Kinkaid, born July 4, 1989, joins the Devils after spending the past two seasons at Union College (ECAC). He appeared in 38 games this past season, going 25-10-3 with three shutouts and a league-leading 2,265 minutes played. He helped lead the Dutchmen to their first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance, making 26 saves in a 2-0 loss against eventual NCAA champion Minnesota-Duluth, as well as their first Cleary Cup for winning the ECAC. He was the recipient of the Ken Dryden Award as the league's top goaltender.
"It was kind of overwhelming when the Devils signed me (April 18)," the native of Farmingville, N.Y., told NHL.com. "The Devils were my favorite team and I have always admired Martin Brodeur … I wore his number (30) at Union. It's unbelievable to be a part of an organization so close to me and one I grew up watching."
Conte is glad the team had the chance to sign Kinkaid. In addition to rookie camp in New Jersey this year, he spent summers with the Rangers and St. Louis in 2009, and the Rangers, San Jose and Vancouver last year.
"I'm extremely pleased with the signing because he's such an athletic goalie," Conte said. "I'm encouraged by the performance of Clermont and Wedgewood. Wedgewood is among the final four for possible inclusion on the Canadian World Junior team. For a guy we drafted with minimal experience, he's certainly justified any faith we had in him and he's progressing."
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