Jeff Frazee knows the reality of being a rookie goaltender in the Devils' organization.
Before last season when a torn biceps tendon sidelined him for 50 games, Martin Brodeur hadn't played fewer than 70 games since 1996-97. And it might not do much good for the development a 22-year-old with only one year of pro experience to sit on the bench for long stretches in the NHL rather than play in the minors.
That said, the Devils do have an opening for a backup goaltender after the departures of Kevin Weekes and Scott Clemmensen. Former Islander Yann Danis has the inside track because of his experience, but Frazee will be given a chance to show what he can do in the preseason.
"Right now my plan is to go in and just play my best and hope for the best, but expect the worst, I guess," said Frazee, who has been working out in New Jersey since before the team's rookie camp in July. "I mean, it wouldn't be the worst (to not win the backup job)."
Frazee admitted he wants to be Brodeur's backup.
"I'd like to be," he said. "It's not my decision, but I'll do what I can."
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After losing his starting job as a junior at the University of Minnesota, Frazee decided to turn pro in 2008 and resurrected his status as Brodeur's possible heir with a strong season in the minors. After going 2-2 with a 2.65 goals-against average and .912 save percentage in five games with Trenton of the ECHL, Frazee was promoted to Lowell when Brodeur was injured and Scott Clemmensen was called up to the Devils.
Although Brodeur's injury was a negative at the time for the organization, it was a positive for Frazee because it created an opening for him to play at a higher level.
"I think it was," he said. "It was kind of an opporunity in an unfortunate way, but I was glad to get it."
Frazee ended up being selected to play in the AHL All-Star Game. He played in 58 games with Lowell, going 28-22-6 with a 2.62 GAA and .920 save percentage. He then went back to Trenton for the playoffs and went 2-2 with a 2.22 GAA in four postseason games.
"I always knew I was capable of playing like that," he said. "It was a matter of just putting everything together. Spending the last couple of summers out here (in New Jersey) has really helped me out and, hopefully, it will pay off again this year."
Frazee is leaving it up to others to decide whether he's ready for the NHL, though.
"It's not really my decision," he said. "I think I can compete and we'll see where the chips fall."
He said that no one in the organization has told him "directly" what the team's plans for him are, yet. He acknowledged that the Devils might decide it would be better for him to play in the AHL this season than to sit in the NHL.
"That's definitely a possibility," he said. "That's not really my decision to be made. If that's what's said at the end, then I will respect that. They know what's best for me and I will do whatever they tell me."
That said, he admitted that the idea of competing for the Devils' backup job is "exciting."
"I'm very excited and I look forward to every day at camp and competing and working hard and getting to know a few more guys," he said.
As I mentioned earlier, there was no ice available today. The first on-ice practice of rookie camp will be Thursday morning. Veterans report for their physicals on Saturday morning and take the ice for the first official practice on Sunday. Some veterans will likely skate Thursday morning in an informal practice before the rookie camp begins.
Jamie Langenbrunner and David Clarkson were among the veterans who were at Prudential Center this morning to work out off the ice.