There’s no question that the New Jersey Devils are set up for another strong year, but year after year, questions arise around the Devils and their goaltending across all three levels of their organization, so let’s take a look at how things are shaping up as the Devil’s will head into the season with at least one goalie on the IR in Nico Daws who is expected to be out until December. Here’s how I think things will line up come opening night for all three New Jersey Devils organization levels, from the NHL to the ECHL. However, there are two things to remember: Akira Schmid is waiver-exempt, and Erik Kallgren will need to clear waivers if he goes down to Utica, so it wouldn’t be a major shock if Schmid starts the season down in Utica. However, I feel like he’s earned his spot with the Devils.
New Jersey(NHL): Vitek Vaneck and Akria Schmid
The Vaneck-Schmid tandem will likely be the tandem for the New Jersey Devils for the entire 2023-24 season, baring injury now that MacKenzie Blackwood was traded to the San Jose Sharks, then signed a two-year deal with the team and Jonathan Bernier has decided to hang up his pads. Vaneck had a career year last season, putting up a 33-11-4 record with a 2.45 GAA, .911 SV%, and three shutouts in his first season with New Jersey. He proved to everyone that he can be a number one in the NHL and has a decent amount of NHL experience, which is incredibly important with New Jersey, which has a ton of young goaltenders. Speaking of young goal tenders, Akira Schmid split last season between Utica and New Jersey, but in 18 games with the Devils, he went 9-5-2 with a 2.13 GAA, .922 SV%, and one shutout. There’s no doubt that Schmid could be a number one. However, Schmid is waiver-exempt, so if the Devils needed options, they could send down Schmid, but I think that’s highly unlikely unless he really struggles at some point and the Devils find it necessary. I would expect Vitek Vaneck to be in the Devils net on opening night.
Utica Comets (AHL): Erik Kallgren, Tyler Brennan, Isaac Poulter
The Utica Comets are starting the year down a goaltender, as Nico Daws will begin the season on the IR, so the Comets will likely roll with Erik Kallgren and Tyler Brennan/Isaac Poulter. There’s no question that Erik Kallgren will be in the AHL with the Comets if he can clear waivers—the Swedish netminder split last season between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Toronto Marlies. In 10 games with the Leafs, he went 3-2-4 with a 2.67 GAA and a .898 GAA; with the Marlies, he went 10-9-2 with a 3.26 GAA and .883 SV%. Kallgren’s numbers aren’t great, but he’ll be a stable body for Utica while Daws is out and will give the Comets more flexibility regarding their goaltending situation, which, in theory, also helps both New Jersey and Adirondack. Tyler Brennan signed his entry-level deal with the Devils in April, and it wouldn’t be a shock if the Devils wanted to see what they had in him and give him a few starts in Utica. However, Isaac Poulter saw 13 games with Utica last season, going 7-3-3 with a 3.62 GAA and .883 SV%; in Adirondack, he went 10-8-2 with a 2.93 GAA, .910 SV%, and a shutout. Utica also signed Jeremy Brodeur to a two-way deal, so it wouldn’t be a shock if Utica started the season with a three-man rotation.
Adirondack Thunder (ECHL): Vinnie Purpura and Isaac Poulter/Jeremy Brodeur
The Adirondack Thunder have one ECHL goalie signed for the season in Vinnie Purpura, who joined the Thunder late last season and put up solid numbers before getting hurt; in four games with the Thunder, Purpura went 2-0 with a 3.46 GAA and .906 SV%, and that was enough to earn him a deal for the 2023-24 season with the Thunder. He may not be the most experienced guy, but I expect a solid season for Purpura; however, once Daws is healthy, his playing time may decrease, as Pete MacArthur mentioned earlier this season that they expect to get two goaltenders from Utica. There are two options for the second goalie, but the one that makes the most sense would be Jeremy Brodeur. The 26-year-old goaltender spent last season in England with the Manchester Storm, where he went 16-20 with a 3.37 GAA, .917 SV%, and one shutout. Brodeur has a bit of ECHL experience under his belt as he’s played in 99 ECHL games, putting up a 32-29-10 record with a 3.36 GAA and .907 SV%, and for those wondering, he only has one game of AHL experience under his belt.