Devils get to show off young players at their developmental camp
NEWARK – Michael McLeod, smarting from a hard hit at the blue line, skated to his team’s bench and angrily slammed the door behind him. After receiving medical attention, the 12th overall pick in last month’s NHL Draft retreated to the dressing room and missed the rest of the Red and White scrimmage at a packed Barnabas Health Hockey House at Prudential Center.
The Devils later termed McLeod’s exit precautionary and reported he was OK. It was the only hiccup for the 18-year-old center in an impressive week at the Devils’ prospect development camp, which concluded with White’s 4-3 win over McLeod’s Red squad on Saturday.
“It was tough not to notice our first-rounder this year,” assistant general manager Tom Fitzgerald said. “The speed, the tenacity on the pucks. It was fun to watch.
“For me, personally, I didn’t know the player that well,” Fitzgerald added. “I saw him play at the world under-18s this year and that was it. But how we want to play – we want to be a fast team, an attacking team – and he has those qualities and you saw that today.”
Still, McLeod’s performance at the five-day camp – he scored a first-period goal in Saturday’s scrimmage off a turnover to give Red a 1-0 lead and also scored the shootout winner in Wednesday’s three-on-three tournament – is not likely to alter his return to his junior team, Mississauga of the Ontario Hockey League.
“You can do the math, there are not many 18-year-olds playing in the National Hockey League,” Fitzgerald said. “We talked to them in their exit meetings. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Basically, the ability to show off our top picks to our fans is a great thing.”
McLeod’s Mississauga linemate, Nathan Bastian, 18, selected in the second round by the Devils, scored twice for White. That included the winner to make it 4-2 in the second of two, 25-minute periods played with running time – the second period was played four-on-four – with an NHL-quality wrist shot just under the crossbar from the left.
Defenseman Scott Savage, 21, in camp on a tryout before heading back to Boston College for his senior season, scored the other two goals for Red.
“That doesn’t happen too often as a defenseman,” Savage said. “It was good to take advantage of the opportunity. It’s a great opportunity to showcase myself.”
Defenseman Garret Cockerill, 22, also in camp on a tryout before heading back for his third season at Northeastern, also scored for White. But Fitzgerald insisted the camp was not about evaluating players in on a tryout. He believes many of those college players will have several teams looking to sign them as undrafted free agents.
“We’re trying out for them, they’re not trying out for us,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s an opportunity for us to show them what we’re all about. This is our sales pitch.”
BRIEFS: The Devils rewarded Rick Kowalsky, the AHL’s coach of the year, with a contract extension on Saturday. … Fitzgerald said the plan is to have goalie Mackenzie Blackwood, 19, a second-round pick in 2015, turn pro this season.