Now that the 2017-2018 season is into it's second month I figured it was time to take a look at what the teams top 20 prospects look like again. With last years list posted on October 22nd, it's a good time to compare in that sense as well. Some guys have definitely fallen and risen versus that list but for the most part it looks like it will be pretty similiar with a lot of the prospects progressing at an acceptable rate.
Rank, Name, Last years rank
1) Kyle Connor (1)
Still the teams top prospect even if he hit a speed bump last year taking a little bit longer to adjust to the NHL. After a very brief stint to start the season in the AHL, Kyle is back in the NHL with the Jets and is hopefully there to stay. With 5 points through his first 8 games he's producing at a much better pace than he did last year in the bigs (5 points in 20 games). He is still only 20 and if he can stick in the NHL this year and get 15-20 goals that would be absolutely fantastic. The Devils still project him to be a top line forward who can hopefully score 30+ goals a year with dynamic skating.
2) Charlie McAvoy (6)
One of the top prospects in the NHL, McAvoy slots in at number two this year climbing a few spots. He's likely a better prospect than Connor at this point but the team values a top line forward slightly more than a top pairing defenseman. It could be argued however that McAvoy is more likely to hit that projection than Connor is to hit his. McAvoy so far hast had some trouble handling bigger wingers and loses guys occasionally in the defensive zone, but he's been great at throwing hits, getting in front of shots and most importantly playing great with the puck. With 8 points through 12 games the Devils couldn't as for much more from a 19 year old rookie defenseman in the NHL. He looks to be almost a guarantee to be on the Devils next year in a very important role, possibly even as a top pairing defenseman. With almost 23 minutes a game he's also getting a ton of minutes at a very young age. About the only thing he really needs to work on which has been an issue since he was drafted is his shot, it's still not quite the caliber you want on a top pairing defenseman who plays the PP. However with his elite skating and other offensive abilities he's the obvious choice as the teams #2 prospect.
3) Jakob Chychrun (2)
Kind of forgotten about so far this year because of his injury, the Devils still believe in Chychrun as their #3 prospect. If he had still been healthy it could be defendable as even keeping him #2 over McAvoy. However I think it's easier to project McAvoy's offensive game (as a Bruins fan) and Jakob is hurt so that breaks the tie. He still looks like he could be an all around #2 defenseman and with Charlie that is great news for the future of the Devils. Getting two guys like that out of the same draft could would hard to do again. The safeness of Chychrun right now keeps him over some of the forwards to come later in the list. Hopefully the knee injury he suffered won't affect his future at all in terms of skating ability.
4) Alex Tuch (4)
I still really like Alex Tuch and him getting picked up by Vegas in the expansion draft (as a trade to not select Dumba) could be the best thing that happened for him. Tuch had a very under the radar solid season as an AHLer with 37 points in 57 games as a 20 year old, with a 6 game pointless cup of coffee in the NHL. After 5 points in 3 games in the AHL he got the call up to Vegas and so far is looking quite impressive - including a very nice goal yesterday against Ottawa. At 6'4 and 220 pounds he skates well and has surprisingly good hands which has helped him get 7 points in 9 games for Vegas. He's not getting that many minutes so far either, playing mostly on the 3rd line but he is getting PP time as a huge body standing in front of the goalie. He still definitely likes shooting, with 24 on net through those 9 games so as he long as sticks with Vegas hopefully the points keep coming. Last year I thought #4 was a little too high but his progress has been encouraging and I still like his game a lot. If he can become a solid 20 goal guy with his other potential ratings that would be quite the compliment for other players on the team.
5) Pierre-Luc Dubois (NR- trade)
Next on the list is PLD who the team traded for during the 2017 draft. The team was lucky enough to win the lottery to get to 3rd overall and after months of wanting Mittelstadt or Vilardi (mostly Vilardi) the team ended up trading the pick. Holding out till the last minute (in case Nico or Nolan fell) the team was happy to get Dubois onto the team. Vilardi not going until #11 in the NHL was icing on the cake as that could have been a lot of lost value - even if the team still very much believes in him. Also in the NHL this year, Dubois is not quite having a good start like the other guys on this last with only 3 points through 14 games. However he's getting under 12 minutes a game playing more of a checking role for a Tortorella team so it's hard to expect a rookie to do much there. He still has great size and is only 19 so the Devils very much believe in his future. Like Tuch he might not have the most natural talent in terms of NHL prospects however his combination of tools makes him very interesting and I think deserving of the #5 spot on the list this year.
6) Brendan Perlini (13)
The biggest important riser the list, Perlini had a very good year coming out of juinors as a player with a lot of question marks (which is why he was so low last October). He managed a very impressive 14 goals in 17 AHL games and kept some of that success once he found his way to the NHL, getting 14 goals in only 57 games. While he only ended up with 21 points, the Devils can't be too upset since they never really expected NHL ice time last year at all. He's been underwhelming this year with only 3 points through 9 games as he's not shooting as much and getting less ice time. With players like Fischer, Dvorak and Keller also getting more important roles for Arizona it was bound to hurt Perlini in terms of ice time. The hope now is that he develops into a solid secondary scoring option for Arizona and at only 21 he still has time to develop. Compared to last year, he gives hope that his future is more as a 20 goal winger than as a depth call up so that's great news.
7) Sam Girard (12)
Probably too high but I'm going to take a chance and throw Girard in at 7 on the list; it's putting him over some forwards that I like but I believe in the small defenseman to becoming something important. He's made the NHL this year after a great season in the QMJHL (75 points in 59 games) and so far as 3 points in 5 games as the Predators scratch him a bunch. It seems very likely that he ends up back in the Q this year, but as another 19 year old making the NHL the Devils are ecstatic about what that could mean for his future. He's never going to be a big guy (5'9, 160) however if he is dynamic enough with the puck he'll find a way to stick in the NHL. Even better is the Predators in the NHL seem so great at finding these young D that he couldn't be on a better NHL team to be coached at that level. His upside is absolutely that of a 40-50 point offensive D-man like a Krug however he really has to prove he can handle the speed and size of the league first. #7 seems reasonable enough for a guy who, if he makes it, will be amazing - but there's always a ton of guys like him who dominate juniors/AHL and never put up numbers in the NHL.
8) Vladislav Kamenev (3)
One of the bigger fallers, Kamenev never really got to prove himself in the NHL last year and this year also starts in the AHL. He's still a bit of a hothead and behind some solid depth at the NHL level but the team still likes him as a prospect even if he's only at #8 this year. I would like to think that reflects more on the depth of the list than Kamenev as a prospect but it's probably a little bit of both. He has had 2 very solid AHL campaigns as a 19/20 year old with 37 points in 57 games and then last year with 51 points in 70 games. He's continued where he left off with 8 points through the first 9 games this year in the minors and the team hopes he'll find a way to the NHL at some point this year. Obviously if he gets called up and sticks that would be better but getting at least another taste would be great as well. With the recent rumors of the Predators looking to pick up a center like Turris or Duchene that would severely reduce his chances of playing in the NHL unless he was part of the package that grabbed such a player. Like Tuch going to Vegas, the Devils would be pretty pumped if Kamenev managed to go to a team that lacked some depth up forward and was willing to give him a chance. There's always the threat of the KHL with a guy like Kamenev unfortunately, and stuff like the Shipachyov situation only reinforces that - fair or not. He's still a solid NHL prospect though with good 2nd or 3rd line center upside and could be a replacement for Bonino in the future.
9) Ivan Barbashev (NR- trade)
The other part of the PLD trade for #3, Barbashev slots in at #9 this year. He is a very similiar prospect to Kamenev imo however has had much more NHL ice time with 30 games last year and 6 pointless games this year. The team was counting on him making and sticking in the NHL so him being pointless and relegated to the minors is quite the disappointment - which is why he's below Kamenev for now. Ivan doesn't quite shoot enough but as a center he's a somewhat responsible player so the team still thinks he can make the NHL in the same way Kamenev should be able to. It would obviously be a distaster if both of them either bolted back overseas as well. Through 4 games with Chicago in the AHL he has 4 points so hopefully his stop in the minors is brief but with how hot St. Louis has been it could be tough to find his way back into the fold. Bringing Sobotka back really hurt Barbs chances this year and so far Sobotka has been really good for them so the decision on the Blues end looks fantastic, even if that sucks for me.
10) Alex Kerfoot (NR, out of the top 20)
Biggest riser by far and putting him this high because why not. Older than most any player who will be in the top 20 (at 23) but he has made the NHL as a rookie pro with the Avalanche and so far hasn't looked completely out of place. A small offensive player he started the year with some good chemistry with Duchene and has 7 points through 13 games. Nothing incredible but also good enough to actually pay attention to. Getting very limited minutes at 12:20 a game his game should only get better as he's trusted more on the powerplay with his elite vision and playmakin abilities. Like fellow prospects on this list, including Girard, his small stature will always be something he has to play through. If he manages to do that, then he could be a sweet find and deserves the spot at #10 on this list. If not, then I'm taking recent play to mean way too much and he should be 5+ spots down this list. He never scored many goals until last year either so hopefully he continues to shoot the puck!
Part 2 to come probably next week! thanks for reading!