The New Jersey Devils enter this year’s draft with unexpected goalie depth. With Martin Brodeur admitting he’s contemplating retiring in the next few years, the organization needed to prepare for the future. All of their other picks, from Ari Ahonen to Jeff Frazee, have failed to live up to expectations. But the newest class shows some promise, allowing the Devils to focus their draft research on other areas of weakness.
In today’s organizational depth preview, we’ll take a look at the goalies throughout the system and those prospects yet to turn pro. If this past season is any indication, the Devils 2009 draft should help produce a solid NHL goalie.
Albany Devils (AHL)
Mike McKenna – 39 GP, 14-20-2, 3.61 G.A.A, 0.866 Save %
McKenna provided valuable depth this season, but not much else. The veteran AHL-er had his first losing season since turning pro, posting abysmal numbers across the board. Albany struggled defensively for much of the season, which is partly to blame for poor showing. But he also won’t become an elite goalie. He’s a great depth piece, and maybe he sticks around. But the Devils won’t look toward McKenna to become a franchise cornerstone anytime soon.
Jeff Frazee – 33 GP, 11-15-3, 2.90 G.A.A, .902 Save %
Frazee seems to be running out of time with the organization. Hockey’s Future ranks him 11th, barely ahead of recent draft selections Scott Wedgewood and Maxime Clermont. After a stellar season last year, Frazee took a major step backward this season. He battled inconsistency and, like McKenna, shoddy defense. He also dealt with several injuries this season, the most notable being a knee injury that required exploratory surgery. He’s a restricted free agent this season, and will probably be resigned by the organization. With Clermont and Wedgewood probably a year away from turning pro, he’ll have one more shot to solidify his position within the organization. Another down year might cost him.
Dave Caruso – 18 GP, 7-8-0, 3.57 G.A.A, .880 Save %
Caruso has never been a standout prospect in the organization. Since joining the Trenton Devils during the 2007-08 season, he’s recorded just one winning season. Despite the lack of success, he’s found a way onto the AHL roster for the past three seasons. He doesn’t seem like a prospect prepared to make a jump past that level. He may spend time in the AHL next season as a backup.
Trenton Devils (ECHL)
Jeff Lerg – 27 GP, 13-12-0-1, 3.15 G.A.A, .903 Save %
Lerg is one of the underrated prospects in the system. The numbers aren’t great, but he has potential to be a solid goalie. He served as captain of the Michigan State hockey team, breaking the CCHA save record and finished second all time in the NCAA in saves. Trenton, like Albany, struggled this season defensively, probably contributing to his pedestrian numbers. It’s his second season in the organization, and if he can improve, he should rise in the organization.