NEWARK — It didn’t take long for John Quenneville to find the back of the net last weekend during the New Jersey Devils trip to Buffalo for the 2016 Prospect Challenge. He snapped a wrister down the left side into the upper-left corner during the the first game.
The Devils’ First Round selection is hoping he can replicate such goals during the next two weeks of training camp. For the first time since being drafted in 2014, the possibility of being sent back to the WHL is not an option. Quenneville is now a professional and will either make the NHL club or be assigned to Albany.
“It’s all about who shows up and plays well at camp,” Quenneville said. “For me, I think I’ve had a couple of good camps and I’ve improved during the last two. This one has to be my best. For me, I have to come in and play my absolute best and show the coaches what I’ve got.”
The 20-year-old is one of 33 forwards vying for one of 14 spots on New Jersey’s roster. With Quenneville it’s likely not a matter of if he will play in the NHL, but when.
“All these guys have skill,” said Albany Devils Head Coach Rick Kowalsky. “A lot of them are drafted because of their skill and ability, but does that translate to the next level and if you are in the American League can you be that guy as a rookie that consistently contributes on a nightly basis?”
Quenneville is coming off a 73 points season with Brandon. In 57 games, he registered 31 goals and 42 assists. During the Wheat Kings playoff run, he played 21 games and turned heads with 27 points, including 16 goals and 11 helpers.
The Alberta native is attending his third Devils’ training camp and in all likelihood will see significant time during the team’s preseason games. With the NHL in his sites and a few years of growth under his belt, Quenneville’s approach and focus is a little narrower.
“I think my mentality is a little bit the same, but also at the same time I think I’m a little bit more focused on trying to make the team here,” Quenneville said. “I’m just trying to come into camp and steal a job.”
It will be up to New Jersey’s management and coaches on where Quenneville starts the season. But for him self-evaluation is also a part of his own process.
“I’m always trying to see how I feel and see where my game is at,” Quenneville said. “For me this past two years, I think I’m trending in the right direction. I’ve improved as a player and I think I’ve come closer to what it takes to be a pro and I’m going to continue to do that. Continue to work on my game and hopefully one day I’ll play for [New Jersey].”