Coming into this season, the Devils faced some major question marks with the young players in camp. One of the biggest mysteries was Rod Pelley, who failed to impress both Brent Sutter and Jacques Lemaire.
But under John MacLean, Pelley has flourished into a “John Madden“-esque role, providing the lineup with a solid defensive forward.
The Devils signed Pelley as an undrafted free agent in 2006, after the center finished playing for Ohio State University. Coming out of Ohio State, Pelley was expected to be an offensive center. As one scouting report read:
Pelley is a tough, hard-hitting forward who excels in the faceoff circle. He plays with an edge and is fiercly competitive. Pelley’s skating ability combines power with good speed and quickness. He is strong on skates and is tough to move off of the puck. He has great on-ice vision and hockey sense. He anticipates were plays are going quite well too.
One of Pelley’s best attributes is his cannon-like shot. He’s a player who also loves to shoot and has a superb wrist shot. He has a real nose for the net and is willing to pay a price in high traffic areas to make the plays.
Pelley caught fire with the Lowell Devils, scoring 17 goals and leading all rookie skaters with 29 points. That play earned Pelley a NHL callup, and he dressed for nine games, failing to record a point. He stuck with the Devils in 2007-08, playing 58 games. Pelley recorded six points and 19 penalty minutes, but didn’t impress Brent Sutter enough to stick with the club for the entire season. After those 58 games, Pelley was sent down to the AHL, where he remained from the end of 2007 until the 2009-10 season.
Lemaire gave Pelley another shot last season, and the center stayed with the team the entire season. Pelley dressed for 63 games, recording 10 points and 40 penalty minutes. But Pelley couldn’t break the fourth line role, and he never earned the type of penalty kill time to prove his worth.
Instead of just sticking Pelley on the fourth line, current coach John MacLean used the center in different situations. He put Pelley on the penalty kill, increasing his responsibilities. Not only did Pelley step up to the challenge, he excelled at it. His good play (and injuries) brought him the opportunity, and Pelley took full advantage. He’s moved up to the center the second or third line, and MacLean turned to him in several key situations.
Pelley won’t score goals or create any highlight reel plays. But he’s been a solid producer for the Devils this season, and one of the only constants in the lineup. MacLean finally gave Pelley an opportunity, and we’ve seen him excel. Pelley is finally fulfilling the “John Madden” role on this team. Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello continually praised Pelley, and the patience and faith shown has finally paid off.