TORONTO- Jamie Devane knows that turning pro doesn’t mean he has an automatic spot with the Toronto Marlies.
Despite being 6’5, 220 pounds and physically ready to move on from junior, Devane will be battling for a position on a team with very few holes to fill.
“The Marlies are a good team with a lot of guys coming back,” he said. “I’ll be fighting for a spot but that’s what you do.”
Devane squeezed in two games with the Marlies as a 19-year-old in 2010 but, unlike previous years when he was returned to junior after training camp, this season he must go pro as he’s already played an over-age year With the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers.
The Marlies currently have captain Ryan Hamilton, Jerry D’Amigo and Nicolas Deschamps on the left wing, Devane’s preferred position, and an NHL lockout could mean Nazem Kadri joins them too.
Although Kadri is a natural centre, the Marlies are secured down the middle with veterans Keith Aucoin and Mike Zigomanis along with prospects Will Acton and Joe Colborne.
And, Greg Scott, Carter Ashton, Tyler Brenner, Spencer Abbott and Kenny Ryan will be battling for a spot on the right side.
That doesn’t include other prospects Brad Ross, Sam Carrick or Greg McKegg who are expecting to turn pro but could be re-assigned to junior as over-agers if needed.
Drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs 68th overall in the 2009 draft, Devane is the only pick from that year still in the Leafs’ system who hasn’t turned pro, yet, except for Eric Knodel, who is still committed to the University of New Hampshire.
The Leafs top selection from that class, Kadri, is entering his third year of pro while D’Amigo, Ryan and Jesse Blacker are all heading into their second.
In four years with the Whalers the Mississauga native played in 237 games and scored 52 goals and 114 points to go along with 411 penalty minutes.
Last year, as a 21-year-old, Devane scored 23 goals and 45 points in 59 games, all career highs, and 24 of those points came in 10 individual multi-point performances. While he’s proven he can throw them with the toughest players in the OHL, Devane doesn’t go looking for a fight and had just six fighting majors last season and nine the year before.
“On the ice it was about protecting pucks down low, hitting and fighting if I needed to,” Devane said about his game with Plymouth. “I was an older guy so I was (also) looked at for leadership and working hard in practice,” he added about last season specifically.
In comparison, Windsor Spitfires’ Ty Bilcke led the OHL with 35 fighting majors last season.
Having always played a “big-mans’ game,” Devane has spent nearly the entire summer in Toronto working with Leafs’ staff hoping to add to his skill set for the transition to the pro level.
Much of his focus has been placed upon strength and skating as he’s worked in combination with Anthony Belza and Barb Underhill.
“I want to show (management) I’m a lot faster and that I can play a bigger style game,” said Devane.
In all likelihood, with the AHL not capping roster size, Devane will start the season with the Marlies and get a chance to show if he deserves to stay. One thing in Devane’s favor is that the Marlies may need his physical presence because of the departure of Jay Rosehill and Kelsey Wilson. If it doesn’t work out, though, he would be sent to the ECHL the same way Ryan and Brenner were last season after starting the year in Toronto.
Toronto is no longer in partnership with the Reading Royals and it has not named its new ECHL affiliation so it is unknown what team Leafs’ prospects will play for.