NEWARK, NJ — Eric Gelinas‘ 2012-13 season ended just a few days later than his Albany counterparts. New Jersey recalled the defenseman on April 23 and two days later he made his NHL debut against Pittsburgh. He logged nearly 16 minutes of ice time and got his first feel for life in the show.
“Guys are strong, faster and smarter also,” Gelinas recalled Monday during Devils Rookie Camp. “Everything happens quicker, so it’s a pace you need to get used to. It’s fun and it’s challenging. I think I’m a better player when I have challenges. It was fun.”
Born in Vanier, Ont., Gelinas’ path to the NHL included six seasons in the QMJHL and two years with Albany. During his rookie season in the AHL, the 6′ 4″, 210 lbs. defenseman tied for the league league with 16 goals. His season totals equaled 37 points in 75 games. Last year, an injury during training camp held Gelinas out of the lineup until November. Thrown in with rosters influenced by the NHL work stoppage until January, he finished with six goals and 16 assists for 22 points in 57 games.
“I think last year with the injury that I had and with the season with the lockout and the NHL players down in the AHL, I think I grew up as a player and I think I’m more mature now,” he said. “I worked on some defensive stuff, which I’ve been working on in the past couple of years and I think last year I improved a lot and I’m looking forward to next season.”
Gelinas, who was drafted 54th overall during the 2009 NHL Draft, will be one of many young defensemen hoping to crack New Jersey’s lineup in October.
“I just want to be here and do my thing and if it works out, it’s going to be beneficial for me and I’m going to be happy about it, but I don’t want to set my bar so high,” he said. “I just want to keep everything simple and just enjoy the moment and try to prove myself that I can play here on a regular basis.”
“I got a taste of it,” he added. “I know what to expect now and I know what to work on to stay here. It’s my goal. It’s my dream since I was a little kid, so I want to do everything possible to stay here. It was a nice moment, but it’s only one game. I want to play more of those, so I have to work hard.”
Gelinas is one of 11 defensemen participating in Rookie Camp and is joined by Brandon Burlon, Seth Helgeson, Jon Merrill and Damon Severson — all players who played at least one game for Albany last season.