Welcome to the December 2020 edition of the DobberProspects 31-in-31 Series! This month, we will be diving into the depth of each organization, looking at their recent graduates, risers, fallers, and top 20 prospects.
As was detailed in last month’s article, the Devils are at the crescent of their rebuild, turning the corner quicker and quicker with each draft crop. Their additions in the offseason will encourage at least a reasonable amount of competitiveness from the organization while allowing just enough room to breathe for their young stars’ hopes of consistent NHL ice-time. Most notably, the Devils solidified their back end by acquiring Ryan Murray and Dmitry Kulikov, as well as adding Andreas Johnsson on the wing, who can play up and down the lineup and is a shoo-in for at least 15 goals in a full season. The additions of Murray and Johnsson are especially useful, as they are both in their mid-twenties and could very well offer North of five years of service to New Jersey, as their youth group grows around them.
The team now looks toward yet another season full of question marks, with a ton of roster turmoil and multiple possible young graduates that could make the difference between another lottery year and reaching the playoffs for only the second time since Adam Henrique sent them to the Stanley Cup Final in 2014.
Moments like these are what make new fans. New season ticket holders, seat-fillers, $9 beer drinkers, and $300 jersey-wearers. The ownership knows this and understands how vital the playoffs are in creating lasting memories for a dedicated fanbase. We will know quite soon if their offseason spending will garner any short-term gain for the organization.
After MacKenzie Blackwood’s full-time debut in 2018, and Jack Hughes’ in 2019, why not a defenseman for 2020? Realistically, the WHL graduate will likely see some AHL action for a half-season before making the jump, in order to plug the minor holes that remain in his game, but should get a taste of the NHL at some point this upcoming season.
The adjustment between Junior hockey and the highest levels of professional competition will be noticeable; there will be growing pains, major inconsistencies, and the odd muffin. Patience becomes essential when developing a potential top-two blueliner, who can quarterback a powerplay and eat minutes against top opposition.
With the right defensive partner, Smith could be given an offensive, puc