Colton White: The Devils Dark-Horse on D
His name may confuse some with former blueliner Colin White, but if New Jersey Devils defense prospect Colton White ends up with a career like Colin (a member of two Stanley Cup winners: 2000, 2003; 743 games with the team plus 111 playoff games in red and black) that’d be pretty okay for a franchise that hasn’t made the playoffs since losing in the 2012 Stanley Cup Final.
The younger White (no relation by the way) was drafted by the Devils in the 2015 NHL Draft (4th round/97th overall) and has played the past three season in the OHL with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds where his game has matured each year with more responsibility and ice time. Recently he also finished up his third Devils summer Development Camp and the 20-year-old is on the cusp of becoming a pro player at either the AHL or NHL level.
“For myself, it’s my third time coming to one of these, every time you come to one you have more of a comfort level. You know what to expect and you can prepare a little better each and every year,” White told The Hockey Writers on the final day of the camp in Newark. “This year I thought was my best camp, I think I learned a lot this year and it was the most fun camp I’ve had.”
Being a three-year veteran at the camp also means that for three years now he’s made new friends on and off the ice in the Devils organization, but there’s one player that White has been friends with since before this journey began when New Jersey drafted him. Blake Speers and White have been teammates for going on five seasons now, and are grateful to be able to have each other to lean on for support and encouragement.
“Yeah, we’ve been through everything together since we were 16-years-old so it’s been really helpful to have Blake alongside me,” White confirmed. “We’re constantly learning every day, finding new ways to get better, and hopefully, finding a way to make the New Jersey Devils.” Last season Speers made the NHL team out of training camp but after three games he was returned to the Greyhounds where he and White continued to ply their trade while playing for a successful team.
“He’s an exciting player to watch, an extremely hard worker,” said White of Speers. “He’s sort of like a fourth line grinder, but he has the skill of a first liner. He’s a great leader, a great player, and he’s only going to get better as he grows older.” And what’s the scouting report on yourself Mr. White?
“My game, I think I’m a puck-moving defenseman and I like to jump up in the rush every now and again when I have the opportunity to,” the London, Ontario native said. “I think I really excelled in the defensive zone this year and I think I had a good season both defensively and offensively. I took on more of a leadership role with the Soo.”
Calling All Defense
The Devils have an obvious need on defense and if he has a great showing at training camp come September, White very well could find himself battling for and winning a roster spot. He knows though that he can’t get overexcited about the opportunity and just has to focus on controlling what he can control and doing what he does best.
“Yeah for sure,” he replied when we asked him if he’s thought about that possibility of being on the roster for opening night on October 7. “I think every year you come into camp and want to have as much success as possible. I think if I do the work in the offseason then I can give myself the best chance possible to make the Devils or to play in Binghamton.”
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) September 21, 2016
Last season White and Speers (among others) joined the Devils’ minor league affiliate when their OHL playoff run ended and was able to practice with the team for a few weeks during the playoffs. While that may seem like a minor detail, it’s ramifications are far from minor for a player trying to learn as much as he can about what it takes to be a successful professional hockey player.
“I think it was huge to get some practice time there, to learn from the players there, learn what it takes to be a good pro and to be able to do it every day is a big thing,” he said, “and (I know) it’s going to be a big jump.”
What’s in a Number?
For Devils fans, if they ever don’t want to get White confused with Colin White, there is a very simple solution. Just use the nickname that his teammates at the past three camps in New Jersey have given him. Jags. Because for three years at these camps White has worn the number 68, which we all know has been associated with the legendary Jaromir Jagr for over two decades now.
“Yeah,” he said smiling and laughing when we asked him if they had any nicknames for him. “Some of the guys calls me Jags and that sort of thing, but it’s all in good fun.” It will be interesting to see if and when White makes his debut with New Jersey if he will be given his camp number — which has been the case with Devils’ prospects the past few seasons.
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