ALBANY — The category of NHL prospects very rarely includes a 24-year-old — almost 25 — from Texas. However, Blake Coleman is an exception and he hopes to drop the term “prospect” during this year’s training camp.
A shoulder injury after just 14 games during his rookie season in 2015-16 with Albany has delayed the development of the Plano, TX native. However, Coleman is trying to crack the NHL roster this season. The 2016 Prospect Challenge is his first chance to prove he is ready.
“It’s been a long time, so I’m hoping to hit the ground running,” Coleman said. “I’ve been through injuries before and usually it’s given me time to work on the mental side of the game. I’m able to reset and refocus and come back come back stronger. That’s what I’m looking to do here and put the right foot forward heading into training camp with the big club. I want to turn heads and make an impression.”
Coleman — one of the older players on the Devils’ Prospect Challenge roster — played four years at Miami University (CCHA), recording 107 points (60g-47a) in 143 games. He also spent three years in the USHL and was named the league’s Player of the Year and Forward of the Year in 2011.
If he doesn’t make the New Jersey Devils regular season lineup, he will continue his development in the AHL. Despite entering just his second season, Coleman will be one of the older players on Albany’s roster as well.
He could find himself in a leadership role given his age. He’s certainly is one this weekend in Buffalo.
“He’s mature enough and a little bit order for this group,” said Head Coach Rick Kowalsky. “He is a guy we’re going to look to; really the second-year players to provide leadership this year.”
“We’ve had a little bit of a conversation about,” Coleman said about becoming a leader with the A-Devils. “I’m not thinking about Albany right now in the sense that I’m here to make the big club and make an impression.
“If it comes to that I’m ready to be used in whatever role the team needs me. I’ll be an older guy even know it’s my second year and whatever management and coaches want me to do I’m willing to step in and take care that role.”
Before his injury last season, fans were introduced to his skill set when he used both power and speed to score his first career goal during his fifth game.
With Albany, Coleman was in a top-six forward role. He had seven points (4g-3a) and was a +5. He was among the rookie class which helped the Devils to the third-best record in the AHL