The Devils announced their 23-man roster today and their were no real surprises as the Devils had appeared to be set from the get go. Two rookies did make the team in Annsi Salmela (D - #28) and Petr Vrana (C - #22).
Salmela played in every pre-season game and made enough of an impression that he will more than likely be one of the top 6 D-men come opening night. The 24 year old free-agent from Finland will hopefully be the next in free-agent gold for the Devils. Salmela brings a good shot from the point which is something the Devils have missed on the PP since the departure of Jason Arnott. Over the past two years he has scored 27 goals with 28 assists in 112 games playing in Finland. Questions remain if he can move the puck fast enough and play tough enough in the defensive zone to stick in the line-up, but he could develop quickly and be a missing part on the back end the Devils desperately need.
Coming off his best season as a professional (20G-41A at Lowell last season), Petr Vrana came into training camp and was able to put some points on the board. The 23-year old Czech born player was taken by the Devils in the 2nd Round of the 2003 draft and he has finally emerged as someone who can help at the NHL level. At 5'10" and 174lbs., he is not an impressive figure and his biggest challenge will be if he can play bigger than his size, much in the likes of a Zach Parise and Brian Gionta. Do not expect him to see much time in the line-up, but to be used as the extra forward. We could see him in there when injuries occur or when the Devils play some faster teams, when we could see him put on the wing beside Czech counterpart Bobby Holik.
In some other roster news and surprises that came about in the pre-season:
1. Kevin Weekes will be the back-up to Brodeur and rightly so. Scott Clemmensen was sent down to Lowell and will play down there at least to start the season. Clemmensen played well during the pre-season, so much so that in the end if the Devils needed to they could move Weekes, but it is very unlikely.
2. Rookie "D" Matthew Corrente (1st Round pick in 2006) will start the season down in Lowell along with fellow prospect Matt Halischuk (46G-79A-125PTS the past two season in the OHL), Nicklas Bergfors (1st Round in 2005) and Vladimir Zharkov (3rd Round pick in 2006).
3. Rod Pelley will start the season at Lowell as well, as Bobby Holik takes over his role of last year and his departure makes room for the more offensive minded Petr Vrana on the roster.