The New Jersey Devils’ prospects 2019-20 updated…
The “pause” in the NHL season allows us to reflect on the top prospects of teams and add a few extra ones to the mix. First up, happens to be the New Jersey Devils. New Jersey endured a lost season that saw injuries, coaching plus a general manager change, and a total disaster of a defense.
Looking at the current prospects of the Devils, while Jack Hughes and Mackenzie Blackwood have graduated among others, New Jersey possesses some potential. Some players expect to be up with the big club soon.
1. Ty Smith, D – Spokane Chiefs (WHL)
Drafted: 17th overall in the first round of the 2017 draft by New Jersey
Smith had a very strong audition at the rookie and training camps for the Devils this past fall and was on the cusp of making the team. However, the decision to allow Smith his fourth and final year of junior were made. Smith is not eligible to play in the AHL and will work on his overall game and leadership playing in the WHL. Things did not go so well during the World Juniors for Smith.
However, the Spokane defenseman set the WHL on fire over his final 15 games. He wound up with 19 goals and 59 points in 46 games when the season was paused then canceled. Like two seasons ago for the Chiefs, Smith was a monster on both sides of the ice. His skating and play-making became equaled by his underrated shot.
Smith will turn pro in 2020-21 and could finally fill an NHL roster spot. New Jersey cleared space for Smith with the trades of Andy Greene and Sami Vatanen. Smith is a dynamic skater and transitional defenseman that plays the position the way the NHL demands currently. He is poised to become the teams’ number one defender for many years to come and the anchor of their defense.
2. Jesper Boqvist, LW – New Jersey Devils (NHL), Binghamton Devils (AHL)
Drafted: 36th overall in the second round of the 2017 draft by New Jersey
Boqvist made his North American debut and endured a challenging first season in New Jersey. Ultimately, Boqvist was sent down to Binghamton to play in a better system more suited to his skill sets.
This is because the coaching change produced even worse results due to poor utilization and a lack of confidence. Once Boqvist was turned loose in Binghamton, he became the player we saw in the SHL once again. He had confidence, his shot was back, and the results showed. The Swedish forward had 11 points and eight goals in just 19 games for Binghamton.
3. Nathan Bastian, RW – Binghamton Devils (AHL)
Drafted: 41st overall in the second round of the 2016 draft by New Jersey
It seems funny that Bastian has passed many prospects along his development path and yet he has. This is because the right winger continues to improve at every level. He works tirelessly to improve on offense and defense. Bastian adding special teams prowess to his repertoire shows his willingness to work every single game.
The physical yet shifty winger has started his third year back in the AHL and is producing nearly 0.6 PPG as he continues to adjust to the pro game. Bastian can answer the bell but also displays an ability to balance playmaking and shooting with accuracy. If not for the pause this season, Bastian may have easily surpassed 50 points.
The jump to pro hockey is a big one and more are thinking that maybe Bastian was the better of the “Super Buddies”. No one could have known during the 2016 draft but they are becoming aware of that now.
4. Reilly Walsh, D – Harvard (NCAA)
Drafted: 81st overall in the third round of the 2017 draft by New Jersey
After a breakout sophomore season posting 12 goals and 31 points in 33 games, Walsh followed that up with eight goals and 27 points in 30 games. This will likely be his final year in college hockey and he may not turn pro next season.
Walsh is an offensive defenseman and impressed again this year despite a lesser Harvard squad. Yes, he was expected to produce like Adam Fox did last season but the Crimson were not the same talent wise either. Now, does Walsh sign an ELC with New Jersey or stay for his senior season at Harvard? That is the real question. Stay tuned.
5. Michael McLeod, C – Binghamton Devils (AHL), New Jersey Devils (NHL)
Drafted: 12th overall in the first round of the 2016 draft by New Jersey
After a dominant junior career in the OHL and shining with Canada internationally, the 12th overall pick from the 2016 draft failed to live up to the hype again in his sophomore season as a pro. McLeod played in 12 games in the NHL and only managed two assists. He played out most of the year in the AHL with somewhat better results of 23 points in 47 games.
The speedy center struggled to keep up with the new system installed in Binghamton as his production tailed off to 0.5 points per game. There were definite red flags raised with McLeod as he still was easily pushed off pucks even in the AHL. Furthermore, he only got called up to New Jersey late in the season because of injuries.
The transition to pro hockey has not been easy on McLeod and it showed this season in particular. He needs to refocus on what works for him and work on what is not. If the center cannot do that, McLeod may not be a New Jersey Devil beyond next season.
6. Tyce Thompson, C – Providence College (NCAA)
Drafted: 96th overall in the fourth round of the 2019 draft by New Jersey
The pivot enjoyed a breakout sophomore season in Providence and blew through his freshman point totals of 25 points in 42 games with 44 points in only 34 games. Furthermore, he scored 19 goals and became a key member of the Providence power play.
Thompson was a classic late bloomer. He was passed over in the 2017 and 2018 NHL Draft before the Devils selected him as a double overage player in the fourth round. The center displays a unique ability to score in transition and set situations. Do not be surprised to see Thompson end up in the AHL at some point during the 2020-21 campaign.
7. Aarne Talvitie, C/LW – Penn State University (NCAA)
Drafted: 160th overall in the sixth round of the 2017 draft by New Jersey
Talvitie bulked up during his rehab from the knee injury last season and he had to endure a lengthy adjustment. Also, the forward had to adapt to using his size more while recuperating speed wise. His second half of the season was better than the first. He finished with six goals and 19 points in 30 games.
Still only 21-years-old, he could play another year of college hockey before turning pro. Look for Talvitie to play for Penn State again next season while joining Binghamton perhaps at the end of the Nittany Lions’ 2020-21 year. New Jersey has a potential gem that just needs more time.
8. Graeme Clarke, RW – Ottawa 67’s (OHL)
Drafted: 80th overall in the third round of the 2019 draft by New Jersey
Clark had a monster 138 point season back in his minor midget days playing on the Toronto Malboros alongside Jack Hughes. Since then he has been developing on a strong Ottawa 67’s team in his home town and was having a point per game season before a shoulder injury ended his D+1 season early.
Missing an important year of development hurts, but look for Clarke to bounce back for his final season of junior and hopefully one day be reunited on a line with Hughes to rekindle some of their old magic. New Jersey liked what they saw this season and expect the upward trend to continue in 2020-21.
9. Fabian Zetterlund, RW – Binghamton Devils (AHL)
Drafted: 63rd overall in the third round of the 2017 draft by New Jersey
Zetterlund derailed by multiple knee injuries, with the last resulting in surgery that limited him to just 16 games in the SHL last season. Now back to health he has made the move to North America and is playing in the AHL where he has a modest eight goals and 19 points through his first 46 games.
Zetterlund is a strong skater with good offensive upside and is reliable defensively. Also, he can play a physical game, so count on the Devils being patient with him given they signed him to an ELC last year. Finally, he gained weight and that is a transition for any forward. Expect him to improve his offensive totals next year in Binghamton.
10. Gilles Senn, G – Binghamton Devils (AHL)
Drafted: 129th overall in the fifth round of the 2017 draft by New Jersey
The Devils liked Senn enough to understand that his overseas’ playing situation was not of his own doing. He transitioned well enough to the North American game but has turned it up a notch over his past 22 games (15-5-2 in that span). Binghamton winning 25 of 33 games would not be possible without Senn’s steady goaltending (.910 save percentage in that span).
His role continues to grow as he continues to develop. Senn has become the “1A” in Binghamton as Zane McIntyre has shown promise as the “1B” so far. That appears to be the setup as Senn will be one to watch for in Binghamton next season.
A special thanks to Peter Harling for his work on the original 2019-20 prospects’ profile.