Devils ink pair of prospects

By Jared Clinton (@JPDClinton)

The New Jersey Devils have announced the signing of two prospects from the Ontario Hockey League.

Both forwards, Ben Johnson and Ben Thomson — no, really, those are their names — spent time in the OHL with the Windsor Spitfires and North Bay Battalion, respectively. Both set career highs in the OHL this season; Johnson with 53 points in 59 games (28-25), Thomson with 45 points in 55 games (27-18).

Johnson, a Michigan native, suited up for five games with the Albany Devils on an amateur tryout, registering an assist in that span.

From the release:

Johnson, who turns 20 next month, finished tied for third on Windsor (OHL) this past season with 53 points, including 28 goals and 25 assists, in 59 games played. The 6-0, 190-lb. forward led the Spitfires with four goals/six points during the 2014 OHL playoffs, then joined Albany (AHL) upon completion of his junior season. Johnson’s three-season junior totals showed 66 goals and 62 assists for 128 points in 191 games.

Born June 7, 1994 in Hancock, MI, he spent part of the 2010-11 season with the United States Development Program and Fargo in the USHL. Johnson was New Jersey’s third choice, and 90th overall selection in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

Thomson, 21, split the 2013-14 OHL season between Kitchener (12 games) and North Bay (43). The 6-3, 215-lb. forward totaled 27 goals and 18 assists for 45 points and 90 penalty minutes in the regular-season and added five goals and nine assists for 14 points in 22 playoff appearances en-route to the OHL Finals. Born January 16, 1993 in Brampton, Ont., his five season OHL totals showed 65 goals and 84 assists for 149 points and 483 penalty minutes in 303 games. Thomson was New Jersey’s fourth choice, and 96th overall selection in the 2012 draft.


Sislo back on two-way deal with Devils

Mike Sislo has signed a one-year deal with the Devils that will keep him in Albany next year.

Sislo, who spent the last two full seasons with the Devils top affiliate, will be back for his third professional season. In 120 games from 2011-13, Sislo posted 22 goals and tallied 31 assists.

A former captain of the NCAA’s University of New Hampshire, the 5’9″ and 165 lb. forward scored 51 goals and 65 assists in 154 games in college. The 25-year-old Superior, Wisc., native has yet to appear in an NHL game, but with a thin Devils roster, it is possible he could suit up for New Jersey next season.


Trio of AHLers head overseas

Alex Plante, Steven Zalewski, and Mike Connolly — all AHL regulars in 2012-13 — have all inked deals in Europe.

Plante, who was an alternate captain for the Oklahoma City Barons last season, is heading to Austria’s Dornbirner EC on a one-year deal after he and the Edmonton Oilers organization parted ways. Drafted in the first round, fifteenth overall, in 2007 by the Oil, Plante was never able to convert his potential to a job in the NHL.

A defensive defenceman, Plante’s got NHL size but could never quite piece together the other parts of his game. Through his AHL career, which spanned 233 games, Plante registered six goals and 38 assists.

Zalewski, who suited up in 73 games with the Devils affiliate in Albany last season, has signed a one-year deal with Lukko of SM-Liiga. Zalewski, 26, split his AHL career between the Worcester Sharks and Albany, but never got anything more than a brief look in the NHL.

A versatile forward that can play both centre and the wing, Zalewski is an AHL veteran of 406 games, tallying 83 goals and racking up 157 assists. In his 10 NHL games, Zalewski failed to register a point. He was a fourth round draft pick of the San Jose Sharks in 2004.

Connolly, a 24-year-old centre who suited up in 65 games with Lake Erie last season, has inked a one-year contract with Augsburger Panther of the DEL. In 65 games with the Monsters last season, Connolly scored nine goals and added 14 assists.

A member of the 2010-11 WCHA First All-Star Team, Connolly was also an alternate captain with the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs that season, helping to lead the team to the Frozen Four Championship. In 118 AHL games — after coming to the league as an undrafted free agent — Connolly registered 22 goals and 38 assists.

All three will be eligible to come back to the AHL next season.

Hrabarenka signs with NHL Devils

After making his pro debut with the Albany Devils as an undrafted free agent, Raman Hrabarenka has signed a three-year, two-way deal with the New Jersey Devils.

Hrabarenka, a 6’2″ defenceman, spent two seasons in the QMJHL before making it to the pro ranks with Albany. With the AHL’s Devils last season, the Belarussian blue liner put up five points (1-4) in 34 games, to go along with 18 PIM.

While in the ‘Q’, Hrabarenka had six goals and 23 assists over 107 games. In the playoff, in 8 appearances, the 20-year-old added 3 points (2-1).

Hrabarenka’s contract with the Devils will pay him $70,000 a season in the AHL, and his NHL contract value will gradually increase from around $642,000 in 2013-14 to just over $742,000 in the deal’s final year.

Cam Janssen back with Devils

The Devils organization has come to a deal with forwards Cam Janssen and Mike Hoeffel.

Janssen, who just turned 29 in April, will be back for his third season with the Devils. In 52 games with the big club, the winger has only registered a single point while racking up 75 PIM. Last season, one he spent almost exclusively in the AHL with Albany, Janssen had five points (1-4) in 36 games, to go along with 65 PIM.

While he knows his role in the organization, Janssen is fighting to get back to the NHL after what he viewed as a set back in his career last season.

From Tom Gulitti at Fire and Ice:

“I’m really excited to be back,” Janssen said tonight. “I love that organization. I got a chance to play some hockey in Albany, which at the beginning was kind of scary. Getting sent down was a little tough mentally on you because of the fact I hadn’t been down in the minors in a long time.

“Once I got down there and got some minutes and played, it was great.”

Hoeffel, a 24-year-old winger who was drafted by the Devils in the second round of the 2007 draft, will also be back for his third season. In the previous two years with the Devils, Hoeffel has scored ten goals, added nine assists, and amassed 65 PIM. A three time member of the WCHA’s (NCAA) all-academic team, Hoeffel’s totals likely haven’t been pleasing to Devils brass. During his four years with the University of Minnesota, Hoeffel registered 48 goals and 39 assists in 149 games, but that production hasn’t carried over to the AHL.

In 112 career AHL games, Hoeffel has only 21 points (12-9).

Pelley signs one-year deal with the Devils

The New Jersey Devils have brought back defenceman Rod Pelley on a one-year, two-way contract.

Pelley, who was an NHL regular with both the Devils and Anaheim Ducks between 2009-2012, signed the deal yesterday and will end up back with the team that gave the 28-year-old a shot when his college playing days were done.

At 5’11” and 201 lbs., Pelley isn’t an intimidating force on the blue line, but he’s mobile and can benefit the Devils at both the NHL and AHL level.

In 60 games with the Ducks farm club in Norfolk, Pelley put up three goals and seven assists for the Admirals. A veteran of 256 games in the NHL, Pelley will have a difficult time cracking a deep Devils defence, but will likely play on the Albany Devils top pairing. In his NHL career, Pelley has amassed 29 points (9-20), to go along with another 80 points (37-43) in 211 games in the AHL.

A former CCHA Champion while with Ohio State, Pelley’s deal will carry an NHL cap hit of $550,000 in the bigs, and see him paid $150,000 in the minors.


Sabres, Devils trade brings Boychuk to Albany

Riley Boychuk, who spent all of last season with the Central Hockey League’s Fort Worth Brahmas, has been dealt to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for Henrik Tallinder.

The deal, which was a cap clearing move for the Devils, would only go through if the Devils took a contract back the other way. Boychuk, 22, was the contract the Devils are taking on.

Drafted by the Sabres in the seventh round of 2010, Boychuk is a bubble player at the minor league level. He may not necessarily make his way into the AHL, but it gives the AHL’s Devils another option at left wing.

In 26 games at the AHL level in 2011-12, Boychuk had two assists and 18 PIM, but failed to register a goal. He would spend 20 games in the ECHL with the Gwinnett Gladiators, and helped out with five points (1-4). If Boychuk finds his way onto the Albany roster this season, all signs point to it being in a third- or fourth-line role.

From Lou Lamoriello, via Rich Chere:


Devils sign Zajac on two-year, two-way deal

Darcy Zajac, brother of New Jersey Devils forward Travis Zajac, may be getting a shot to lineup alongside his brother as early as next season.

The New Jersey Devils announced that they’ve signed the 26-year-old Zajac to a two-year deal, the first NHL contract of his career. Originally signed on with the AHL’s Devils in 2010, Zajac has spent the last three seasons in Albany, where he’s put up respectable numbers. In 175 games with the Devils, Zajac has contributed 21 goals and 29 assists to go along with 236 PIM.

A former University of North Dakota alternate captain, Zajac is best utilized in a two-way role, usually in the bottom six. Over the last two seasons in the AHL, Zajac has suited up for 133 games, adding 41 points (17-24).