Even among the crew of 41 novices at the Devils’ rookie minicamp, held this week at the AmeriHealth Pavilion in Newark, Charlie Finn is inconspicuous.
He is the goalie wearing the white, unpainted mask that has the unbroken-in look of a last-minute grab off the shelf of a sporting goods store on the way to the rink. Approached Wednesday afternoon by a reporter, he replied, “You sure you’re speaking to the right guy?”
Some at this camp are noticeable, though not for anything they’ve done in the NHL. A few are high draft choices; three others wear Brodeur on their uniforms, the baby-faced sons of New Jersey’s greatest Devil.
Finn is not so recognizable. He is one of 16 players here not property of the Devils, a non-roster invitee who is 21 and just completed his freshman year at Colgate.
Finn has the untamed hair of a college kid, and decided to play at Colgate after leading the Ontario Junior Hockey League with a 2.15 goals against average the year before. College hockey, he said, provided the next course in mastering the art of goaltending.
“This year going from junior hockey to college was a huge shock, so I can only imagine college to the pro level,” Finn said. “That’s why I chose the college route — more time, a slower progression. I knew I was going to be a late bloomer.”
Finn did not have much choice but to become a goalie. Growing up in Vancouver, the older kids on his block — including future NHL forwards Ben Maxwell and David Jones — needed someone to shoot on. They let Finn participate in pick-up games under the condition he stood in net.
“My older brother was a goalie and had the gear,” Finn said. “It fit.”
Finn is a shade under six-feet, and at 165 pounds the lightest player at camp. Fortunately, he plays a position where his size can become an attribute.
“The theory goes that the bigger you are, the more of the net you take up,” Finn said. “Given the fact I can’t really do anything about that, I just try to work on quickness, agility, stuff like that — the things that are actually in my control.”
Finn has developed into a shot-stopper with a hybrid style. He aims to use his quickness and agility to challenge shooters into difficult shots.
“I can’t just sit back and block,” he said.
Finn said he was thrilled when the Devils invited him to rookie camp. The college season had just concluded, and he helped pilot Colgate to the ECAC title game and a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Still, he isn’t certain exactly when the Devils took notice of him.
“The NHL has eyes and ears everywhere,” he said.
Devils coach Pete DeBoer said that for the players coming from junior leagues or college, this camp was like jumping from middle school to high school — not quite the pros, but a step closer.
“This is a whole different level of details for the game,” DeBoer said. “The level is raised.”
Devils coaches schooled the players on the ice in drills and in the video room, reviewing technique and skills. Finn said he would take the ice 20 minutes early sometimes, to train specifically with Devils goaltending coach Chris Terreri.
Finn said he has steadily adjusted to the enhanced tempo at this camp, which began Monday and concludes with a scrimmage Friday. He figured that the goalies who become pros are those with the highest degree of mental toughness. The camp has, perhaps more than anything, enhanced that attribute.
“The reality is I’m not going to play in the NHL tomorrow,” Finn said. “I’m not looking that far ahead. I’m trying to learn as much as possible. There is so much information and knowledge here.”