Credentials don't always equate to a contract

Brendan McCarthy
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Devos one of four recent AHL regulars looking for sports with IceCaps

He was a three-year-captain of a Quebec Major Junior Hockey League team who scored 47 goals and 114 points in 2010-11, his last season of junior, winning the Jean Beliveau Trophy as the Q’s top scorer and earning a nod as a finalist for the league’s MVP award.

He won a Calder Cup ring with the Norfolk Admirals a couple of years ago and went to the American Hockey League final with the Syracuse Crunch this past spring.

As far as pros go, he may be a bit below the size median, but he’s known as a strong two-way centre and industrious penalty-killer, one who has posted an overall plus-31 rating in his two season in the AHL.

He has a reputation as a good guy, one who won the Frank Selke Trophy as the QMJHL’s most sportsmanlike player and the CHL Sportsman of the Year award in 2011.

He doesn’t qualify as an AHL veteran, so he wouldn’t count towards those game-day lineup quotas.

He’s also in St. John’s looking for work.

If it means anything, Phillip-Michael Devos is not alone. The 23-year-old from Sorel, Que, is one of four players with recent credentials as AHL regulars who are in the St. John’s IceCaps’ training camp on try-outs and among 11 tryout players in all.

Defenceman Jordan Hill has put in nearly 100 AHL games with Manitoba, Manchester and Bridgeport and is a former captain of the OHL’s Sarnia Sting; Maxime Legault is a good-sized forward and one-time Buffalo draft pick who spent the last three years with Sabres’ farm teams in Portland and Rochester; and rearguard Travis Ehrhardt, who has seen action in 135 AHL games with the Grand Rapids Griffins, is back from Finland, where he played in that country’s elite league last season.

Like Devos, all are known as hard workers and solid citizens. None of them have a contract.

Part of the reason behind their conditions, even though it may be a degree or two removed from their situations — is the forced frugality of the National Hockey League’s salary cap system, even more so this year with the cap going down. Big budget teams that used to sign players without worrying about total payroll are now paying attention to the ledger. By osmosis, that accountancy has spread to other areas within the pro ranks.

“You’re seeing that across the board in pro hockey,” said IceCaps’ head coach Keith McCambridge. “In the National League over the summer, you were seeing guys that a few years ago you might have expected to get one-way contracts, having to take two-way deals. It’s trickled down here. Players you might have expected to have already been signed, are looking for deals.”

Perhaps McCambridge and the rest of the IceCaps assessors are counting on these veteran tryouts to uncork any frustration with strong training-camp showings.

But Devos for one will be doing that on the ice. He prefers not to talk about chips and shoulders.

“That’s the business side of hockey, “ he said. “You might want to, but you can not ask yourself questions about what’s wrong or why this happened. You can’t keep wondering ‘Should I have done this or not done that.’

“This is my situation and all the questions and wondering doesn’t change it, so I am just focusing on today, trying to get better, trying to make this team.

“There are a lot of hockey players, a lot of talented players out there looking for work. I know that, but like I said, I’m just focusing on myself and what I can control, which is what I do on the ice and how I train off the ice.”

The five-foot-11, 185-pound Devos played five seasons in the QMJHL, mostly with the Victoriaville, where he was a long-time teammate of Norris Point’s Brandon Hynes. He scored 93 points in his last full season with the Tigres and followed up with his league-leading performance as an overager during a season that saw him traded from Victoriaville to the Gatineau Olympiques. He had 29 points in 24 playoff games for Gatineau that spring, helping the Olympiques all the way to the league.

But for all his scoring prowess as a junior, it’s his defensive game of which he is most proud.

“I hate to get scored on. That’s the worst thing that can happen to me. It makes me go nuts,” he said.

Devos suited up for the IceCaps Thursday night as they opened the Mary’s Cup pre-season tournament against the Crunch at Mile One Centre. For Devos, even though he’s new to the IceCaps, he’s a veteran of AHL exhibition games in Newfoundland, having played here for the Admirals and Crunch the last two autumns when Tampa Bay’s farm teams held their training camps here.

And those didn’t amount to his first hockey trips to St. John’s. Those came when he was with Victoriaville and the Tigres visited Mile One Centre for QMJHL games against the Fog Devils.

“I remember we didn’t have a whole lot of success. I remember one time we came in and I think we lost 5-1 in the first game and 6-0 in the second. It’s tough for teams to come here on the road. It’s a little further then they usually have to travel and the home team should take advantage of that,”  said Devos, perhaps thinking about what it might be like to be on the St. John’s side of those matchups on a more permanent basis.

Twitter: @telybrendan

Organizations: American Hockey League, IceCaps, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League National Hockey League

Geographic location: Sorel, Que, Jordan Hill, Manitoba Manchester Bridgeport Victoriaville Buffalo Portland Rochester Finland Newfoundland Tampa Bay

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