2 Devils Prospects to Watch at Rescheduled 2022 WJC

After having the original tournament derailed in December due to rising cases of the omicron variant of COVID, the rescheduled IIHF U20 World Junior Championships will begin tomorrow in Edmonton. For the New Jersey Devils, they’ll have a smaller group of prospects in attendance than they did in December. 

Šimon Nemec, the second overall pick in the 2022 draft, passed on participating in this tournament to train for the NHL season. The same is true for Alexander Holtz, who the Devils selected with the seventh overall pick in 2020. Goaltender Jakub Málek is moving from the Czech Extraliga to the Finnish Liiga, while Shakir Mukhamadullin is unable to attend since Russia is banned from IIHF events due to the war in Ukraine. 

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But even though many of the Devils’ top prospects won’t be in attendance, there are still a couple that fans will want to keep an eye on. Most fans who follow the Devils will be more than familiar with one, while the other is a new addition to the team’s prospect pool. 

Petr Hauser, Right Wing, Team Czechia

One of the newest prospects in the Devils’ system, Hauser was a fifth-round selection, 141st overall, at the 2022 draft a month ago. He finished last season with 25 goals and 59 points in 41 games for HC Sparta Praha U20 in the Czech junior league. He also added 16 points in 11 playoff games and appeared in 15 games for HC Stadion Litoměřice in the Czechia2 — Czechia’s equivalent of the AHL — where he totaled a goal and an assist. 

I’d be lying if I told you I’ve seen Hauser play, as he wasn’t on my radar ahead of the draft. But from the looks of it, the Devils are betting on a winger with some size and scoring upside. At 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, he drives the net and gets to high-danger areas, where he’s shown an ability to capitalize on the chances he gets: 

Via Gavin Chiasson of Recruit Scouting, here’s what he had to say about Hauser in the days leading up to the draft on July 7: 

“Petr Hauser is a big-bodied Czechia player who I have enjoyed watching this season. I believe he’s an easily translatable player for the pro leagues, but his potential is still somewhat low. Hauser reminds me of a 3rd or 4th line player who will be able to play on the second power play unit, using his size, positioning and shot to get the dirty ‘in-low’ goals. Hauser can play physically as well, showing that he can be the grit some teams may need.” 

Related: 2022 THW WJC Guide

Czechia has some talent up front in Jan Myšák and Jirí Kulich, but there should be an opportunity for Hauser to log top-six minutes with a group that lacks depth. For many Devils fans, this will be the first time they see Hauser during game action since they drafted him a month ago. That can sometimes be more intriguing than watching a prospect you’re less familiar with…unless that prospect is Luke Hughes.

Luke Hughes, Defenseman, Team USA

Ok, so maybe watching a team’s top prospect at the WJC will be the most exciting thing on tap. Hughes was part of Team USA’s roster in December and will be returning for the rescheduled edition. Though he doesn’t turn 19 years old until Sept. 9, he should have a significant role for the Americans, and with good reason. 

Hughes was one of the best freshmen in the NCAA last season, finishing with 17 goals and 39 points in 41 games for the Michigan Wolverines. He also attended the World Championships in the spring and totaled four points in 10 games. That tournament came against other professionals, and he did not look out of place. 

What makes Hughes a blue-chip prospect is his dynamic skating ability. Like his brothers, Devils center Jack Hughes and Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes, he’s an elite skater who excels in transition. His defensive game was a bit of a question mark when the Devils drafted him fourth overall over a year ago in the 2021 draft, but that improved as his freshman season at Michigan progressed. 

Luke Hughes New Jersey Devils
New Jersey Devils prospect Luke Hughes with the USDP (Photo: Rena Laverty)

“[Hughes] offense is near-irreproachable; he can effortly dangle his way through opponents and has no fear in doing so on a regular basis, has tremendous vision and passing, and his defensive game has grown in large strides.” – Hadi Kalakeche of Dobber Prospects

Not that he wasn’t already a household name in the world of NHL prospects, but there’s a real chance for Hughes to grab the headlines over the next 11 days ahead of his sophomore season with the Wolverines. If the Americans find their way to the medal rounds or even the gold medal game, it’ll likely be because Hughes had a significant tournament to lead them there. 

Devils Prospects That Missed the Cut

Though Hauser and Hughes are the only two Devils prospects at the August tournament, they weren’t the only ones in camp with their respective national teams. Goaltender Tyler Brennan and winger Chase Stillman were in camp with Team Canada, while Seamus Casey was with Team USA. Though none were part of each team’s final roster, it wasn’t all that surprising to see them get cut. 

The Devils just drafted Brennan at the 2022 draft, and it’s rare to see a goalie who’s only 18 years old make the U20 roster. However, he does turn 19 at the end of September, and with a strong start to the WHL season, he could put himself in consideration for the Canadian roster when the regularly scheduled tournament takes place in December. 

The same applies to Casey, who the Devils drafted 46th overall at the 2022 draft with the pick they obtained when they acquired Vitek Vanecek from the Washington Capitals. He might be a long shot for the December tournament, but he could also put himself in the conversation if he gets off to a fast start as a freshman with the Wolverines. 

Seamus Casey New Jersey Devils
New Jersey Devils prospect Seamus Casey with the USNTDP (Photo by Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Stillman is in a bit of an interesting spot when it comes to WJC eligibility. He was among Canada’s final cuts, but the December tournament will be his last chance to make their team for the WJC. His draft-plus-one (D+1) season between the Sudbury Wolves and Peterborough Petes (OHL) was less than desirable, as Stillman averaged under a point per game. He will need to be one of the Petes’ best players to start the OHL season, and if he can do that, he could be playing for the Canadians in December. 

WJC an Appetizer Ahead of September Training Camps

The Devils may only have two prospects for the August edition of the WJC, but that’s not surprising since Holtz and Nemec opted against attending to train for the NHL season. Still, Hauser and Hughes will be worth the watch, though for different reasons. Hughes has the potential to be one of the WJC’s star players, while Devils fans will get a chance to learn a bit about Hauser for the first time since the team drafted him. With a typically quite August NHL-wise rolling on, the WJC should give Devils fans something to feast on ahead of training camp and prospect tournaments in mid-September. 

*This article has been updated to reflect the statuses of Shakir Mukhamadullin and Jakub Málek