4 Devils Takeaways From 2022 Buffalo Prospects Challenge

The 2022 Prospects Challenge is officially in the books. The New Jersey Devils appeared in three games, finishing with a record of 1-1-1. There is a lot of excitement about the team’s prospect pool, which has been ranked the fourth best farm system in the league by my colleague Peter Baracchini. Fans saw a handful of familiar faces, including Alexander Holtz and Kevin Bahl and another recently drafted forward who was a pleasant surprise. Here are some prospects that had a good weekend ahead of training camp this week.

Josh Filmon Was an Unexpected Standout

Josh Filmon was selected by the Devils in the sixth round (166th overall) at the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. The Winnipeg native is listed at 6-foot-1, 159 pounds and spent last season in the WHL (Western Hockey League), collecting 45 points in 67 games for the Swift Current Broncos. His 23 goals during the 2021-22 campaign led the team, and he is one of seven current Broncos who are attending an NHL rookie camp.

Derek Neumeier’s Scouting Report: Filmon is a toolsy power forward who is steadily learning how to put all the pieces together. He doesn’t have one true standout trait, but he brings a nice blend of size, skating, shooting, puck control, and playmaking. There is a lot of versatility to his game, as he is able to make a difference in his shifts in a number of different ways.

Related: Josh Filmon – 2022 NHL Draft Prospect Profile

Filmon was one forward who appeared in all three games. He earned an assist on the Devils’ first goal of the tournament against Riley Mercer and the Montreal Canadiens, scored one of the team’s four goals against the Buffalo Sabres, and got on the scoreboard against the Boston Bruins. During yesterday’s broadcast, Devils play-by-play announcer Matt Loughlin stated that the 18-year-old will be joining the team for training camp and will not immediately head back to the WHL. He showcased his scoring prowess and passing ability and is on the right track to achieving his goal of “earning an NHL spot one day.”

Kevin Bahl and Nikita Okhotiuk Continue to Progress

Devils fans have become familiar with Bahl and Nikita Okhotiuk as they appeared in a combined 22 games last season for New Jersey. Both players were awarded an “A” on their sweater during the tournament and will look to earn a spot on the Devils’ blue line this season.

Kevin Bahl

The 6-foot-6 blueliner appeared in the Devils’ first two games of the tournament earning three assists. Fans got a chance to see Bahl play in all situations, as the coaching staff opted to give him a look on the power play, and they were happy with his performance. Even though he collected three points, the New Westminster native knows that his offensive contributions may not be his ticket to a regular spot in the NHL.

Kevin Bahl New Jersey Devils
Kevin Bahl, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

“The size and the ability to squelch a lot of plays is a real strength of his,” said Utica Comets head coach Kevin Dineen. “We’re always looking for that on the defensive side. I think he always realizes that’s not his path to the NHL being an offensive stalwart, but when he plays solid defensive, it’s a real benefit to our team.”

Nikita Okhotiuk

When the 21-year-old suits up for a game there is an expectation that he will play a physical game, and that is exactly what he showcased in his two appearances at the tournament. Okhotiuk dropped the gloves and fought John Parker-Jones, who is listed at 6-foot-7 and 230 pounds, after the Montreal prospect hit Simon Nemec, his roommate during the tournament. The physical play continued when he suited up for the Boston Bruins, taking a boarding penalty in the second period, and game misconduct for continuing a fight in the third against Jackson Edward.

After the game, Dineen talked about the Russian’s unique style of play: “There’s a level of unpredictability to his game that scares me, it scares the other team,” Dineen said. “Our game is a physical game. That’s the way he plays the game. When you have somebody that’s got a little bit of edge like that, I had my head up at practice hoping I wouldn’t run into him.”

Alexander Holtz Has Arrived

There was an understanding that the spotlight would be on 20-year-old Holtz the second he arrived in New Jersey. Dineen started him on the top line against the Canadiens, along with Nolan Foote and Chase Stillman. The Swede made an impact by scoring the game-tying goal with under two minutes left in regulation and netting the game-winner in overtime after receiving a pass from Nemec. After the game, he addressed the media and simply stated he “wanted that overtime winner.”

Alexander Holtz, New Jersey Devils
Alexander Holtz, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Holtz knows how important it is to start training camp on the right foot, and that means displaying his skills and development each and every opportunity given to him.

“Everything starts with this tournament. This is my start for the season,” the winger said. “It’s a big opportunity to get games, get touches in, get the timing going. It’s a huge opportunity to get some games here and being able to play some hockey. I want to show that I’m stronger on the puck. I’m a better skater now. I can handle the puck by myself more and create opportunities. I still want to play a complete game, show that I can play a 200-foot game, but of course, I want to score goals as well.”

Simon Nemec Makes His Devils Debut

New Jersey’s second-overall pick made his debut on Sept. 16 against the Canadiens. The 18-year-old displayed confidence and poise with the puck quickly, impressing both media and fans. After the game, the Comets’ head coach commented on the blueliner’s performance:

“He’s a guy that has no lack of confidence and he’s got such poise when the puck is on his stick and he defends well,” Dineen said. “I was really impressed with his stick … he’s looking one way and passing the other. There’s some deception to his game. He was a little surprised when we told him he was going to be on the power play (on Friday), but that was a solid game for him.”

Related: New Jersey Devils Draft Simon Nemec 2nd Overall

Nemec earned the lone assist on Holtz’s game-winning goal in overtime and played in all situations. All in all, he looked extremely comfortable and played a solid game against Montreal and Buffalo. There is a lot to like about his game, and I think color analyst Glenn “Chico” Resch summed it up best: “He has skills, but they need to be learned.”

Quick Hits & Observations

  • Through three games, the Devils were called for 21 penalties. Foote had a rough start to the tournament, being called for consecutive penalties late in the first period against Montreal (slashing and hooking).
  • Defenseman Reilly Walsh had an impressive game against Montreal and scored the club’s first goal of the tournament on the power play. With another season of experience under his belt, there was a new level of maturity to his game as he displayed patience and confidence against the Canadiens. The Massachusetts native dealt with some defensive lapses against Buffalo, but overall, should be feeling confident as training camp continues.
  • Akira Schmid, Nico Daws, and Tyler Brennan were the three goaltenders who played in Buffalo. Schmid was in the crease for the team’s only victory of the tournament, allowing three goals on 33 shots. Daws faced the Sabres and allowed seven goals on 27 shots. After the game, Dineen told reporters, “There is no sugarcoating that one, that wasn’t a very good performance by us.” Brennan was a pleasant surprise, allowing only two goals on 21 shots. A shootout was needed to decide the winner, and the 18-year-old allowed two shots from Georgii Merkulov and Fabian Lysell, while Foote and Stillman were unable to score, leading to a loss for New Jersey.
  • Garrett Van Wyhe had a two-goal game against the Sabres. Last season, he collected 12 points (six goals, six assists) in 42 games for the University of Michigan. He made his American Hockey League debut last season, appearing in one game for the Comets.

Veterans report to Prudential Center on Wednesday and will be playing their first preseason game in less than a week in Montreal. All eyes will continue to be on New Jersey’s prospects as they continue to fight for a spot on the Devils’ opening night roster. Which youngster impressed you the most this past weekend? Leave a comment below.

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