Devils make 1st round of cuts at training camp

September 18, 2018 - The Star Ledger - View Full Article

The Devils released or reassigned five players from their training camp roster. Watch video

The Devils cut five players off their training camp roster, trimming the group for the first time since the preseason started last Thursday.

Two players were reassigned to their respective junior teams, while two more were sent down to the AHL (both are signed to AHL contracts). One more player was released from a professional tryout.

Here's the full list of transactions:

F Mitch Hoelscher - assigned to Ottawa (OHL)
D Xavier Bernard - assigned to Drummondville (QMJHL) 
F Ryan Schmelzer - assigned to Binghamton (AHL)
D Tariq Hammond - assigned to Binghamton (AHL)
G Colton Phinney - released from PTO

Camp stock report

There aren't any surprises among the first rounds of cuts from camp. Hoelscher and Bernard were both drafted in June and will continue to play junior hockey this season. With plenty of other competition for NHL roster spots, Schmelzer and Hammond got a brief taste of a pro camp to start their careers.

The Devils still have five goalies on their camp roster, including Cory Schneider, who has done some work in practice while rehabbing from offseason surgery. That allowed the Devils to release Phinney.

The next round of cuts likely won't come until after Thursday's game against the New York Islanders, at the earliest. Following the first off day of camp on Tuesday, the Devils will return to practice on Wednesday in Newark.

Chris Ryan may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @ChrisRyan_NJ. Find Devils on Facebook.

Why Devils' Pavel Zacha wants short-term thinking to help him make bigger impact

September 18, 2018 - The Star Ledger - View Full Article

Pavel Zacha wants to use a shift-by-shift focus to help build more consistency during his third season with the Devils. Watch video

Pavel Zacha doesn't want to get too far ahead of himself.

Entering his third NHL season, the Devils center is putting a focus on his short-term priorities, rather than the bigger picture. 

At times last year, Zacha looked ahead to trying to make the playoffs instead of looking at what was right in front of him. Now he wants to go shift-by shift to become a more consistent player.

"If I focus on a little bit of shorter goals and work every shift my hardest, shoot the puck a little bit more, I'll get a little bit more of a chance to play and help us win games," Zacha said.

Early training camp observations

For the second straight summer, Zacha spent his time training in New Jersey, alongside goalie Keith Kinkaid. Following about six weeks back in the Czech Republic, Zacha returned to get to work.

Over his first two seasons, Zacha showed the defensive responsibility needed to be a two-way forward in the NHL. He played in some tough matchups on the second line and also served effectively on the penalty kill.

Taking that next step on the offensive end will be key for Zacha's development, and those short-term goals are how Zacha hopes to do so.

"What John Hynes said to me was focus on every shift and do my hardest to be a two-way player, as I want to be," Zacha said. "I can play really good in the d-zone and be a little more focused on offensive play. Don't be that scared to make plays and just do that every shift."

While Zacha will likely see some penalty-kill time in the regular season, he did get a crack at the power play in Monday's preseason game against the Montreal Canadiens. 

Those situations can be ones where Zacha's offense emerges, and Hynes believes the 21-year-old has the tools to make an impact.

"He has a very good shot and he has good vision," the Devils coach said. "He's a smart guy, he makes good plays. We'd like to see him use his shot to be more of a threat on the power play, as opposed to being a pass-first guy."

While lines constantly change in the preseason, Zacha opened training camp playing with wingers Marcus Johansson and Kyle Palmieri -- two forwards who could conceivably line up with Zacha on opening night.

They complement Zacha with plenty of skill and offensive fire power, and Zacha hopes to take the next step with them.

"They're some of the best players in the league. Palmieri's a great goal scorer, he's smart guy, he's super strong and fast," he said. "JoJo played in Washington before, played with really good players. He's super smart too, know how to make plays. I don't think I can pick any better two to play with right now."

Chris Ryan may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @ChrisRyan_NJ. Find Devils on Facebook.