Many people were expecting the New Jersey Devils to at best contend for a playoff spot by seasons end. That was not the case. Thus it gave New Jersey a chance to sport some of their promising youngsters, and give them a shot to make an impact for at least the short-term. The results were varied, but at least the Devils have something to work with come training camp of next season.
It took a little while, but this is the last part of my New Jersey Devils season review. You can find my articles on the New Jersey forwards here, their defense here, the goaltending here, and the coaching here. This piece will focus on the teams up-incoming prospects, and will take a look at what they need to do to succeed with New Jersey come next season.
No Star Forwards to be Found
The biggest problem, which has plagued the Devils for a couple of seasons, now has been their ability to consistently score goals. A big part of that has come from their ageing group of forwards; however, they haven’t exactly gotten much help their younger guys.
Everyone already knows about the Devils two top forward prospects being Reid Boucher and Stefan Matteau. They only combined for two goals in 18 games, where they both scored the goals in the same game, but they weren’t given primetime opportunities until the end of the season. Hopefully the start of training camp will help give us a clearer picture of what their roles will be for next season.
What about the other forward prospects? Unfortunately the well is a bit dry, however there are a few coming along the pipeline starting with 2014 1st round selection John Quenneville. Quenneville had a decent season with the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL. He finished with 47 points in 57 games to go along with a plus 19. He turned it on in the playoffs though as he finished with on a point-per-game pace with 19 points in 19 games. We aren’t sure how his game will transition into the pro level, but he should have plenty of opportunity to make an impact in the coming years with Travis Zajac’s inability to produce points as a “top-six forward”, and their hole at 3rd line center.
Two of the other top forward prospects consist of Blake Coleman and Graham Black. Coleman is an interesting prospect because he recently finished his senior season at Miami University, and progressively improved each season. In his senior season, he scored 37 points in 37 games to go along with 99 penalty minutes and a plus 16 rating. He was a 3rd round pick in the 2011 draft, so he could turn into a nice addition for the Devils if he pans out correctly.
Graham Black, a 5th round pick in the 2012 draft, recently finished his first season with the Albany Devils by posting 14 points in 46 games. He also had 16 penalty minutes with a plus nine rating, which are decent numbers, but once again isn’t anything mind-blowing. A lot of the season was spent playing along Stefan Matteau so when Black gets a chance with the big club there could be some potential chemistry.
The big asset New Jersey has is the 6th overall selection in the upcoming NHL draft. They won’t be getting a McDavid or Eichel, but somebody like Mitchell Marner might be something they could shoot for.
Is the Blue Line too Loaded?
Unlike the underwhelming crop of forwards New Jersey has in their system, the same can’t be said for their defense. With guys like Adam Larsson, Damon Severson, and Jon Merrill already core parts of the Devils defense they are already set for years to come. Even after those three guys, you still have the likes of Eric Gelinas, who is trying to make a name for himself in the league thanks to his booming shot from the point.
This list goes on though; they have a top defensive prospect in the form of Steve Santini who might have been Team USA’s captain at the World Junior Championship if he weren’t injured. Last year’s second round pick Joshua Jacobs, along with Reece Scarlett, Seth Helgeson, and Raman Hrabarenka. They have others as well, but the fact that New Jersey has this many good defensive prospects really is something else.
Now might a trade be the best option for new Devils General Manager Ray Shero? Sure, but it has to be the right deal that will bring a proven goal-scorer to New Jersey if they were to give up an Eric Gelinas type of guy. They have the prospects to make something happen, it’s just whether or not Shero wants to wait and see how his defensive prospects pan out.
— Matt Larkin (@THNMattLarkin) April 23, 2015
Goaltending isn’t a concern with Schneider and Kinkaid between the pipes, so when draft day rolls around New Jersey will need to use their picks wisely, and take as many talented forwards that they can get their hands on.
Rebuilding a team from scratch isn’t easy, but at least the Devils have something of value to other teams. One of the two most coveted pieces of trade conversation are top-6 forwards, specifically centers, and reliable top-4 defensemen. It’s going to be tough, but Shero has more assets than people believe he does, and he has to use those to help propel New Jersey back into the playoffs.
Here is a link to all of their prospect at Hockey’s Future.
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Corey Spina is a New Jersey Devils staff writer for The Hockey Writers. You can follow him on Twitter, @CSpinaTHW.