Another new season, another prospect list for the New Jersey Devils. With the recent additions of the past couple drafts the prospect talent is looking better than it has in quite a few years. Unfortunately there are still a lot of questions surrounding most of the young players who are looking to play for the Devils in the future, even among the more prominent of the teams prospects.
1) Kyle Connor - LW
Easily the teams top prospect at the moment, the 12th pick from 2015 had a great year in the NCAA leading Michigan's high powered offense with 71 points in only 38 games. Now suiting up for the Jets in the NHL, Connor lacks an all around game but in the offensive zone he is very fun to watch. The Devils think he can be a top line offensive forward in a couple seasons and with the team gradually getting older he will be a welcome addition to the team. The team hopes if Strome and Bjugstad can get back on track, then Connor can join a top six with those two plus Kane, Coyle and Jenner. The Devils haven't had a forward prospect with the offense Connor has since Kane or Bobby Ryan was a prospect. The Devils hope he will be a high SC/PC forward with top notch SP and SK.
2) Jakob Chychrun - D
Debuts at second on the list after the Devils picked him up at #19 this past draft. Chychrun fell down the rankings for the past draft based on not quite living up to expectations and trying to do too much in juniors. The Devils usually don't like taking defensemen in the 1st round but at 19 they couldn't pass up a potential top 4 guy who seemed to be a relatively safe pick to make the NHL. So far the team can't complain at all as he made the Coyotes out of camp and could be on the Devils by this time next year if he makes it past the 9 games. The Devils hope they found a replacement for Edler as he could be headed towards UFA after his contract is up in 2 years. The hope is that Chychrun can basically replace Edler's ratings, with a solid 78+ DF and offense ratings around 70 PA.
3) Vladislav Kamenev - C
Acquired for Colin Wilson, the team really likes Kamenev and thinks he's a relatively safe bet to be a 2nd or 3rd line all around C. Ideally he would be better than that but if the Devils can get ratings similiar to what Coyle has right now (65 SC/PA and 75ish DF) then that would be a solid player. He has the always there looming Russian factor of bolting to the KHL but he seems ok playing in the AHL waiting for his time to make the Preds. With 37 points in 57 games last year as a 19 year old the team is quite happy with that kind of production. Hopefully he can make the NHL this year at some point and show what he's got.
4) Alex Tuch - RW
Tuch never really put up great numbers in college hockey but the team thinks with his heavy shot and big frame he'll be an NHLer to some capacity. Hopefully it's in more of a goal scorer top six powerforward mold but the team could see him end up being more of a Taylor Pyatt type. Big body guy who potentially could put up 20 goals but more likely 10-15. If he can throw hits and learn the defensive side of the game then he should easily be able to find a home on the Devils with high IT/ST on the 3rd line. He is probably too high on this list but this is an important year for his development and I'm hoping he shows he's suited for pro game.
5) Denis Gurianov - RW
He had a really rough year in the KHL, getting only 4 goals and 5 points while going -11 in 47 games. Not exactly the kind of numbers you want when you draft a forward who is supposed to be great with the puck in the offensive zone. He still has supposedly great shot and offensive instincts and is currently playing for the Texas Stars in the AHL. Not on fire to start with 1 assist in 4 games, the Devils hope he can rediscover his hands this year. If he can he still has the potential of being a great offensive forward with his big frame and good skating. The team picked him up at 19th in 2015 instead of Boeser and so far are really regretting going with the Russian.
6) Charlie McAvoy - D
The other 1st round defenseman picked this year by the Devils, McAvoy looks to be a future all around guy who can throw hits as well as put up points. As predicted, the NHL Bruins picked McAvoy up so all the more reason for the Devils to hope he pans out. If McAvoy and Chychrun can both become top 4 defenseman out of the same draft, that would be a huge step going forward. Not sure how long he is going to stay at BU, the Devils hope whenever he leaves he has a quick transition to the NHL.
7) Jordan Schmaltz - D
Acquired by the trade of Anton Stralman, Schmaltz is one of the teams older prospects as he was picked back in the 2012 draft. Already 23, Schmaltz had a solid year in the AHL putting up 36 points and finishing 2nd on the team in assists. The team hopes he can make the Blues by the end of the year and become a solid top six defenseman who can put up some powerplay points.
8) Ben Hutton - D
Surprised a lot of people last year by coming right out of the NCAA and into the NHL. He only put up 1 goal and his -21 wasn't very pretty but his 25 points was 1st on Vancouver for defensemen and overall looked like he belonged. What he'll lack for in IT he should be able to make up with his good skating and offensive instincts. Hopefully he can be another guy that can anchor a 2nd powerplay unit if need be. The team isn't sure what his actual upside will be, but for a UFA signing in 2014 the team can't ask for anything more than what he's done.
9) Mike Reilly - D
Like the two D before him, they are all similiar ages with similiar offensive styles of games but Reilly seems to be the riskiest one. He's pretty slight so he could get bullied around his own zone but his offensive game is probably ahead of both Hutton and Schmaltz. The team hopes he can start off with easy assignments in his own end and let his playmaking game speak for itself but time is starting to run out for Reilly. A long term project when he was picked, he still looks like he could pan out but this is the year he needs to prove he belongs.
10) Justin Bailey - RW
Another forward like Tuch, Bailey might not have the best hands or the best offensive game but the Devils think it will be enough to earn him a spot on the team eventually. Right now he's filling in on the 4th line but down the road the team thinks he could be another 15 goal big bodied middle six guy who can do a little bit of everything. He still has the chance of developing into more than that, but as part of the Ryan trade the Devils will take what they can get. Hopefully he gets recalled to the Sabres by the halfway mark and sticks from there after a brief auditon last season.
11) Nick Paul - RW
His offense hasn't quite followed him from juniors but the big forward should fill a roster spot permanently fairly soon. He's probably one of the teams best defensive forward prospects but also potentially could develop more to his game.
12) Samuel Girard - D
Small offensive wizard picked in the 2nd round this year by the Devils, Girard looks to be another Reilly in that he'll be a long term project but he has an upside that could be worth it. Already with 15 points in 6 games in the QMJHL, Girard is dynamic on that side of the puck, but to make the Devils it'll be a long road and he'll have to prove his small frame won't be a problem.
13) Brendan Perlini - RW
Acquired in the Ryan trade, Perlini hasn't developed as hoped. He was a risk when he was acquired and so far not much has changed. He still has a good shot, great skating and not a lot else. He doesn't read plays particularly well at this point of his career and with his tools should have dominated juniors. Instead he wasn't even a PPG player last season and at this point it's hard to know what he has. If he can carve out a Jack Skille type career I think that's about the most I can realistically hope for at this point.
14) Rinat Valiev - D. Looks like he could be a solid depth defenseman within a few years.
15) Ian McCoshen - D. hard hitting big defenseman, could be a solid replacement to Kevan Miller in 2-3 seasons.
16) Juho Lammikko - C/W. Good defensive winger could end up filling a 4th line role. If he develops any offense in the pros it's just a bonus.
17) Dominik Masin - D. Pojects to be a defensive D man. First year pro has to adjust to the speed of the game.
18) Peter Cehlarik - W. Will spend some time in the AHL, has some good hands but hard to say if his game will transfer to the North American ice.
19) Antoine Bibeau - G. Only goalie on the list, big guy who has put up some decent AHL numbers but behind a stacked team. With Miller on the way out soon it would be nice to see him develop into something.
20) Blake Pietila - LW. Energy forward who made the NHL for a few games last season. Could end up being a solid plug with some physical game.
20.5) Rob O'Gara - D. Forgot about him, made his debut for Boston this year and came in as scouted. Big guy who has a good stick defensively. Should be able to stick around the league for a few years.
HM:Louis Belpedio, Spencer Watson, Nicholas Aube-Kubel.