Alexander Urbom must feel different coming into this season’s camp. Last season, there was an influx of defensemen to the point that the positions were locked down coming into camp. Urbom was there to show Peter DeBoer what he could do in case of an injury. This season, he is coming into camp expecting to be on the main roster.
Urbom has seen limited time in three seasons with the New Jersey Devils. He is a stay-at-home defenseman, so it is difficult for him to stand out. When he is excelling, he just looks like he is doing his job. He is the favorite to win the last slot on the Devils roster. He needs to play very well in camp, however, because there are other players like Jon Merrill and Eric Gelinas who are going for the same spot on the team.
Urbom seems to fit in what the Devils like in a defenseman. He knows how to lay a guy out and at the same time won’t allow the big play to get to the goalie. A tell-tale sign that he has been ready, is that he went with the Devils when they went on their Stanley Cup run two years ago. He has Ken Daneyko-upside to his game, and he must be chomping at the bit to show the world his talent.
He was a third-round pick, so nobody thought he was going to be an NHL player early like they did with Adam Larsson (he was fourth overall). Now, most fans who know who he is can’t wait until he finally gets a shot with the big club. He can bring a ton to the table for this team, most of which includes a gritty, in-your-face type of defense that will help out the Martin Brodeur/Cory Schneider combination.
It is time to see what the team really has in Urbom. Merrill and Gelinas still have a year until they need to be fighting for a spot on the team. Also, Urbom is in the last year on his current contract. You don’t want to develop this guy for five years just so he can go excel on another team. Give him a chance. The team is laden with veterans that you could pair him with. If you want to try to contrast his styles, then you could put him with Marek Zidlicky. If you want to be safe and leave him with someone who will play back just in case, you could play him with Bryce Salvador. If you want to put him on a pure hitting line, then you could pair him with Anton Volchenkov (who might actually be rejuvenated if he had a guy to mentor on the ice). The possibilities are endless. (Well, they actually end at six, which are the amount of veteran defensemen on the team.)
The interesting thing about this Devils team is all the talk is about the offensive prospects. They talk about Reid Boucher and Stefan Matteau, but Urbom, Merrill, Gelinas, Damon Severson, Steve Santini, Reece Scarlett and the other five or six guys who could be really good one day need to be acknowledged as well. In the end, though, Urbom will have to talking once again, especially when a legend in Scott Stevens is coaching him.