John MacLean has already given the A-Train an A-plus.
The new head coach met one of the newest members of his defense on Thursday when Anton Volchenkov rumbled through Prudential Center for a visit. The Russian blueliner was in town to work out family arrangements for his move to New Jersey.
“Nice kid, looking forward to it,” MacLean said Thursday. “Big guy.”
Volchenkov signed as a free agent from Ottawa on July 1, along with fellow defender Henrik Tallinder and goaltender Johan Hedberg. Devils’ President/CEO/GM Lou Lamoriello offered high praise for Volchenkov’s hard-hitting style, describing it as something the Devils have been missing from their blueline.
“Volchenkov, we certainly have played against enough, and he’s going to do something in our zone that we have not had recently, in fact since Scott Stevens left,” Lamoriello said shortly after the signing.
He’s the kind of player that could make life just a little easier for a first year head coach.
“He plays the game hard,” MacLean said. “He’s a shot blocker, he takes the body, he’s not nice to play against. I know Patrik [Elias] and Travis [Zajac] were here so they met him. I’m sure they were excited not having to run into him six times a year, only in practice.”
Volchenkov is one of the game’s premier shot blockers, as his 172 in 2009-10 can attest. It’s not just the quantity, but the style which MacLean admires, noting that Volchenkov doesn’t get caught out of position.
“Scotty [Stevens] was a great shot blocker,” MacLean said. “Kenny Daneyko was a great shot blocker. They were great shot blockers, but they weren’t sliding all over. They were always in position to play. He’s a positional D. When he gets in front, he knows how to get in front of shots, which is a great thing.”
• MacLean was asked about 23-year-old defenseman Matt Taormina, who posted 10 goals and 40 assists for 50 points in Lowell last season. The 5-9, 185-lb., native of Washington Township, Mich., was never drafted, but signed with the Devils’ AHL affiliate last August.
“The kid had a great year last year,” said MacLean, who coached Lowell last season. “He came to training camp, he was here last year. I had him down there, he did a great job, he just kept getting better and better. He has a good demeanor about himself. He was great on the power play for us last year, and he played well 5-on-5. Some guys, who knows? Maybe he’s maturing. Maybe he’s going to mature into a solid player. You have to take a look and he’s making you notice him, which is a good thing for him.”
• Top prospects like Mattias Tedenby and Jacob Josefson were the players to watch at the start of camp, but MacLean said other players have caught his eye as the week has continued.
“It’s our second or third look at [center Adam] Henrique,” he said. “I thought he looked good today, moving, positioning-wise he was good. Guys like that, there’s some talent out there for sure, it’s just whether it’s going to be ready in September or not, we’ll have to see because there’s some young guys out there, too. There are a lot of young guys. The way the game is now, if in September the young guys seem that they might get a shot, they’ll get a shot. They seem to be ready to play, some of them, more than before.”
Henrique, 20, was a member of the Windsor Spitfire squad that just captured consecutive Memorial Cup titles. He was selected with the Devils’ fourth choice, 82nd overall, in 2008. Defenseman Harry Young, the Devils’ eighth choice, 202nd overall, that same year, served as captain of the Spitfires in both seasons.