6 Underrated Devils’ Prospects

While we’re still awaiting confirmation, it appears the NHL is inching closer to conducting an early June draft virtually due to the coronavirus. That’ll offer the New Jersey Devils a chance to keep building on what’s an improving farm system that includes prospects like Ty Smith, Nolan Foote, and Jesper Boqvist. 

But although the strength of their system is carried by those three players, the Devils’ prospect pool has depth even beyond their top 10 prospects. Here are a few of some of their lesser-known ones who have NHL potential and deserve some attention moving forward. 

Fabian Zetterlund

Zetterlund is a rugged forward whom the Devils drafted in the third round of the 2017 Draft. The 2019-20 season, which was his first on North American ice, saw him finish with 19 points in 46 games for the Binghamton Devils (AHL). Before then, he played for Farjestad BK in the SHL (Sweden), where he had four points in only 16 games in 2018-19 due to a torn ACL. 

There’s no doubt this was a bit of a transitional year for Zetterlund. He saw limited ice time in the early part of the season as he worked his way back from his ACL injury. But as games went along, he started logging more minutes as his strength and conditioning caught up. He eventually became a fixture on the power play, which helped him start accumulating points during the final stretches of the AHL season. 

Fabian Zetterlund
Fabian Zetterlund at the New Jersey Devils 2017 Development Camp. (Photo Credit: New Jersey Devils/Patrick Dodson)

Zetterlund may only be 5-foot-11, but he checks in at 218 pounds, so the physical play of the NHL shouldn’t be an issue for him. Another strength of his is his shot, which has plenty of power and is pretty accurate. His upside isn’t that high, but he has the makeup of a modern, bottom-six winger who plays with an edge but has enough offensive tools to be productive. 

Patrick Moynihan 

Moynihan was a sixth-round pick of the Devils at the 2019 Draft. The 5-foot-11, 183-pound forward played for Providence College in the NCAA and finished with 13 goals and 21 points in 34 games as a freshman in 2019-20. For comparison’s sake, his 13 goals were more than Alex Turcotte, Matt Boldy, and Bobby Frink finished with as freshmen this season. 

That doesn’t mean Moynihan is a better player or has more upside than those forwards, but there’s a lot to like about his game. Here’s what TSN’s Craig Button had to say about him.

I saw Patrick a lot when he was playing for the U.S. National Team Development Program. I will tell you this, he was playing with Jack Hughes and others who were more skilled, and he showed me something. He’s a player that you can move up to play with the skill players. He can skate. He can kill penalties. He can be a catalyst-type player down in the lineup. He can contribute offensively. He’s really smart, really competitive. 

From Randy Miller of NJ Advance Media

Related: Devils’ Boqvist Still a Top Prospect Despite Struggles 

Moynihan is likely a three-year NCAA player, but that should help his development. He doesn’t project as a high-end scorer in the NHL, although he has some offensive upside that’ll give him a shot to crack the team’s bottom six. It also helps he has the versatility to play at center or on the wing. 

Graeme Clarke

Clarke is one of four Ottawa 67’s’ prospects the Devils have in their system — along with Kevin Bahl, Nikita Okhotyuk, and Mitchell Hoelscher. He was a third-round pick of theirs at the 2019 Draft but only played in 16 games this season due to shoulder surgery. Though he did have nine goals and eight assists, putting him just over a point-per-game average. 

Graeme Clarke Ottawa 67's
Graeme Clarke’s health will determine how far he progresses in 2020-21 (Photo Courtesy of OHL Images)

Clarke isn’t the type of winger who’ll carry his own line, but he’s a player most teams could use as a complementary piece. He has arguably the best shot of any Devils’ prospect, as it has a lot of power and is incredibly accurate. It’s unfortunate he lost almost an entire season due to injury because it would’ve been interesting to see how much he would’ve produced on a stacked 67’s’ team. 

There are two playing options for Clarke next season: return to the OHL or sign an entry-level contract and play in Binghamton. Given he lost almost an entire season of development, it seems like returning to the 67’s would be the right move. They should be a pretty solid group next season, even if 2020 picks like Marco Rossi or Jack Quinn make it to the NHL. Clarke should have a pretty prominent role for the 67’s too. So as long as he stays healthy, there’s a chance for him to grow his game because he does have the potential to be a middle-six, scoring winger.

Nikola Pasic

The Devils have had success finding value in the later rounds of the draft, with Jesper Bratt being one example, and Pasic could be another. He was a seventh-round selection (189th overall) at the 2019 Draft and had a solid campaign in the Allsvenskan — the second tier of pro hockey in Sweden. 

The strength of Pasic’s game is his playmaking ability and passing, which played a significant role in his strong season in the Allsvenskan. He also has high hockey IQ and can play in two-way situations. Though, if there’s a knock on his game, it’s his below-average skating (From ‘Pronman: Biggest risers from the 2019 NHL Draft,’ The Athletic – 11/25/2019). 

Related: Devils’ Top 10 Draft Picks

But while his skating needs plenty of work, Pasic has a chance to make the NHL. In his draft-plus-1 season, Bratt had 22 points in 46 games in the Allsvenskan, and he’s turned into a top-six forward for the Devils. Pasic probably isn’t the next Bratt, but the fact he produced at a much higher rate than Bratt in his draft-plus-1 season in the same league means he’s someone to watch over the next couple of years. 

Mikhail Maltsev

Maltsev has been an intriguing prospect since the Devils drafted him in the fourth round at the 2016 Draft. He spent time between the VHL and KHL — the top two professional leagues in Russia — in 2017-18 and 2018-19, before making it over to the AHL for his first pro season on North American ice in 2019-20. 

It didn’t take long for Maltsev to grab people’s attention during the preseason. He had some of the best underlying numbers among the Devils’ prospects, and he had a highlight-reel goal against the New York Rangers during a preseason game that made your jaw drop. 

Mikhail Maltsev Binghamton Devils
Mikhail Maltsev has shown plenty of progress as a Devils’ prospect (Photo by Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

But despite the strong preseason, it took a while for Maltsev to adjust once actual games began in the AHL — he had only 12 points in his first 38 games. However, he began to get into a groove down the stretch, with nine points his final 11 games before the suspension of play due to the coronavirus. He has excellent size, at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, and he’s a monster in the face-off circle. He doesn’t project as a top-six center, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him competing for a fourth-line role when training camp begins. 

Arseni Gritsyuk

Gritsyuk was a fifth-round draft choice at the 2019 Draft and was one of the best players in the MHL — Russia’s junior league. The Russian winger finished with 63 points (28 goals, 35 assists), ranked eighth-best in the MHL, in 59 games for Omskie Yastreby. He also played in two games for Izhstal Izhevsk in the VHL and had three points. 

The strength of Gritsyuk’s game is his offensive ability and the different ways he can create scoring chances. Here’s what one scouting report had to say about him:

The most notable aspect of Gritsyuk’s game is his pure speed, and his ability to use it to help on both ends of the ice. Offensively, he’s a fantastic playmaker and it’s shown up on the scoresheet. Gritsyuk (also) has a great shot, as well as a fantastic understanding of where to shoot the puck from.

From Dylan Griffing of Dobber Prospects

Related: Top 10 Devils Prospects

The Devils need scoring wingers, but it’ll be a while before Gritsyuk makes it over to North America. He still needs to round out his defensive game, and he’ll have to put on some weight and get stronger, as he’s only 5-foot-10, 160 pounds. He’ll likely get more minutes in the VHL next season, so it’ll be interesting to see how he handles a pro league where the competition will be tougher. But there’s enough to like about his game to think he has NHL potential. 

Devils’ Future Looking Up

The Devils’ prospect pool is in a pretty good spot right now. They could also have three first-round picks if the draft is held in June, two of which could be in the top 10. That means they’ll have a shot at drafting players like Alexander Holtz, Marco Rossi, Cole Perfetti, Tim Stutzle, or even Lucas Raymond. Adding their skill to the system, along with the depth it already has, and the future will be looking much brighter in New Jersey.