August 31-in31: New Jersey Devils

by Chris Wassel on August 17, 2019
New Jersey Devils logo courtesy of stmed.net

 

New Jersey Devils – 31 in 31

 

Welcome to the August 2019 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. Let’s dive in!

 

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GRADUATING PLAYERS

 

After spending the 2017-18 season in limbo (spanning the AHL and a few games in the ECHL), MacKenzie Blackwood made the ascension many pundits gave up on. Not only did the goaltender raise his level of play, he arguably elevated the New Jersey Devils in a lost season. The goalie even seized the number one job for a while as Cory Schneider was struggling returning from rehab and surgery. Overall, Blackwood appeared in 23 games, going 10-10-2 with a 2.61 goals-against average and sporting a .918 save percentage. Blackwood also posted a .893 save percentage on the penalty killed and delivered a quality start 2/3 of the time. The goalie could very well be the 1A or eventual starter in New Jersey as soon as this season.

 

Nikita Gusev landed in New Jersey after Vegas could not afford him. The trade was for two draft picks and then the Devils subsequently signed the forward to a two-year deal at $4.5 million per season. The forward was a point a game player for SKA in the KHL and the likelihood of top-six production is extremely high in New Jersey given the increased talent pool. Gusev could potentially play with Jack Hughes or Nico Hischier. That is not too bad for the 27-year-old rookie. Gusev sees the ice at an incredible rate and has shined on both the international and regular ice surfaces. Watch out for his shot as his wrist shot and slap shot are above average compared to most NHL players. 

 

Jack Hughes is here simply because he is graduating straight to the NHL from the USDP straight to the NHL. Expectations early dictate that Hughes will fit somewhere in the “middle six” within the New Jersey Devils depth chart. Also, the pivot will see some power-play time. It is yet to be determined which unit he will wind up on. The most likely scenario is PP2 mixed with some PP1 in time. Hughes may start out a bit slow like Nico Hischier, but the playmaking and deceptive shot should help pick up those numbers come the second half or sooner. 

 

Joey Anderson sees the wingers closing in on him but yet there may still be a bottom-six role for him in New Jersey this season. Anderson likely graduates from the AHL to NHL on a more permanent basis. He had three points in his final four games and showed some more speed and power like Anderson was finally comfortable at this level. The key will be how Anderson sustains that throughout training camp. New Jersey has upped the talent level considerably this offseason. 

 

Gilles Senn moves up from overseas to Binghamton (AHL). He will likely serve as the backup there and gain some valuable experience. Senn showed some flashes of brilliance on a poor HC Davos squad (who was in the relegation round). He should see a more structured semblance of defense in front of him which will give New Jersey a better idea of where Senn is developmental wise. He is 23-years-old, but arguably 1-2 years behind schedule. 

 

The final questions involve players like Ty Smith and Michael McLeod among others. It is not automatic that either player makes the opening night roster in New Jersey. Smith seems more likely after another stellar season in Spokane (WHL) but this is not set in stone. The thought process is that New Jersey and Ray Shero are not done making moves just yet. 

 

 

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RISERS

 

Ty Smith, D

 

Smith proved that the previous year in Spokane was no fluke. His playmaking skills cannot be disputed, and it is more than the 62 assists. It is the way in which the defenseman skates and plays the game. Smith was one of the best power-play quarterbacks in the WHL as well. About the only thing that dropped was his goal production (from 14 to 7). However, his deceptive shot from the point has a knack for staying low and getting to the goalie. This creates rebounds and opportunities for other players to score. Smith was close to making New Jersey out of camp last year and expects to figure prominently in their plans this season. 

 

 

Jesper Boqvist, C

 

The center rose up the ranks at Brynas (SHL) despite little support around him. His 35 points in 51 games included a hot second half that saw him produce at close to a point per game pace at times. New Jersey brought him over with his consistency issues mostly behind him. He could start out the season in Binghamton or New Jersey, depending on how training camp goes for the forward. The talent oozes out of him in transitional situations which is king these days in the NHL. Boqvist’s upside is that of a second-line center at least though he can play some wing on occasion as well. He does have that type of versatility. 

 

 

Reilly Walsh, D

 

Walsh inherits the top power-play position that Adam Fox was incredible at last year. The scary part is that Walsh already averages around a point per contest and he was over that during the second half of the season for Harvard. This will be a season where Walsh could easily score in the 40 to 50 point range and cause a series of questions for the New Jersey Devils on defense. Depth is a good problem to have for a team that a few seasons ago was a deserted wasteland on the blueline. 

 

 

FALLERS

 

Fabian Zetterlund, RW 

 

After seemingly turning the corner early in the season, Zetterlund suffered another knee injury which was his second on the same knee. The question becomes how long will it take to recover this time. If Zetterlund makes it back to full health, then look out. However, with typical ACL injuries like this, it takes a year to fully recover at best. The hope is that the winger comes back with the same speed and acceleration he had before the latest injury. 

 

 

Aarne Talvitie, C

 

The Penn State freshman dropped due to a few unfortunate scenarios. The first is the Devils’ ever-growing depth at center which now includes Hughes, Hischier, and Boqvist. Talvitie can play some on left-wing but understand he is coming off an ACL injury. It may take some time for him to become 100% again. He did have 16 points in 17 games at Penn State. So, this fall could be temporary. Also, he shined at the U-20 tournament with seven points in seven games. He is not a faller because of talent level as it Is more of those extenuating circumstances. 

 

 

Michael McLeod, C

 

Like Talvitie, McLeod falls victim to the same numbers game. This may keep him in Binghamton until a roster spot opens for him.  The center is a solid enough playmaker which good speed slashing through the center of the ice. It is his shot that still needs some consistency. He had six goals in Binghamton last year but could have had more. Shot selection is still suspect for the center and maybe that will become better in time. Where can McLeod fit in with the current Devils core? Perhaps he sees some time on the fourth line again? That remains possible. 

 

 

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PROSPECT DEPTH CHART

Below are the positional depth charts sorted by league that they are projected to play in:

 

 

Left Wing

Center

Right Wing

Nikita Gusev (NHL)

Jack Hughes (NHL)

Joey Anderson (NHL/AHL)

Nikita Popugayev (AHL)

Jesper Boqvist (NHl/AHL)

Fabian Zetterlund (AHL)

Mikhail Maltsev (KHL)

Michael McLeod (NHL/AHL)

Nathan Bastian (AHL)

John Hayden (NHL)

Aarne Talvitie (NCAA)

Blake Speers (AHL)

Brett Seney (NHL/AHL)

Brandon Gignac (AHL)

Marian Studenic (AHL)

Eetu Pakkilla (Liiga)

Nikola Pasic (SHL)

Graeme Clarks (OHL)

Arseni Gritsyuk (KHL/MHL)

Patrick Moynihan (NCAA)

 
 

Kevin Rooney (AHL)

 
 

Tyce Thomspon (NCAA)

 
     

 

 

Defense 

Goalie

Ty Smith (NHL)

Gilles Senn (AHL)

Reilly Walsh (NCAA)

Akira Schmidt (USHL)

Colby Sissons (AHL)

Cole Brady (NAHL/NCAA)

Josh Jacobs (AHL)

 

Daniil Misyul (KHL/MHL)

 

Mirco Mueller (NHL/AHL)

 

Michael Vukojevic (OHL)

 

Nikita Okhotyuk (KHL)

 

Yegor Zaitsev (KHL)

 

Colton White (AHL)

 

Matthew Hellickson (NCAA)

 

Case McCarthy (NCAA)

 

 

 

 

Top 20 Fantasy Rankings

 

  1. Jack Hughes, C
  2. Nikita Gusev, LW
  3. Ty Smith, D
  4. Jesper Boqvist, C
  5. Michael McLeod, C
  6. Aarne Talvitie, C
  7. Joey Anderson, RW
  8. Reilly Walsh, D
  9. Mikhail Maltsev, LW
  10. Nikita Popugayev, LW
  11. Nikola Pasic, C
  12. Nathan Bastian, RW
  13. Blake Speers, RW
  14. Colby Sissons, D
  15. Marian Studenic, RW
  16. Fabian Zetterlund, RW
  17. Josh Jacobs, D
  18. Eetu Pakikila, LW
  19. Daniil Misuyl, D
  20. Brandon Gignac, C

 

 

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Reminder that the 2019-20 Fantasy Hockey Guide is available now, and if you’re serious about being competitive in your pools no matter how deep, it is an absolute must-read:

https://dobbersports.com/product/dobbers-2019-20-fantasy-hockey-guide/

 

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Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed what you read and want to keep track of your Devils prospects, follow me on Twitter @ChrisWasselDFS