The New Jersey Devils sit atop the Metropolitan Division just before Thanksgiving, typically known as a date that is a telling benchmark for which teams will be in playoff contention towards the end of the season and which likely won’t make the cut. It’s very early but the Devils only have three losses and are playing as well as any other team in the NHL. Having said that, the future is looking extremely bright for New Jersey, as its prospects continue to develop on an upward trajectory.
Hughes Records His 50th Career Point
Luke Hughes recorded two power play assists Friday (Nov. 11) in the University of Michigan’s 5-1 win over No. 20 Notre Dame, with the second one being his 50th career point in his 52nd NCAA game. He also added an assist in Saturday’s (Nov. 12) 3-2 overtime loss. He is sixth in the country in scoring amongst defensemen with two goals and 10 assists in 12 games for the Wolverines.
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Hughes also ranks second on Michigan with 10 assists, third with 40 shots, and tied for fourth with a plus-6 rating. Fellow Devils’ draft pick Ethan Edwards also scored his first goal of the season in Saturday’s loss after he jammed home a rebound off of an Adam Fantilli shot while Seamus Casey was held off the scoresheet in both games.
Nemec Finding His Way In Utica
Simon Nemec had a breakout weekend with the Utica Comets where he recorded one assist Friday (Nov. 11) and two assists Saturday (Nov. 12) to bring his season totals to one goal and four assists for five points in 11 games, which is tied with Reilly Walsh for most amongst all Comets’ defensemen.
The former second-overall pick had a slow start to his season, only recording two points in his first nine games but made his presence felt in Utica’s two games over the weekend. In addition to his three helpers, Nemec nearly potted a goal in Friday’s contest in what would have been a beautiful coast-to-coast tally for his second career goal but his shot was fired just wide of the net.
Although the play wasn’t finished off, Nemec demonstrated tremendous confidence to corral the puck in his own zone, start the breakout, and beat a couple of Laval Rocket players to eventually get the shot off; not bad for an 18-year-old. He also leads all Comets’ skaters with a plus-3 rating and is third on the team with 19 shots.
Okhotiuk Records Assist In His Return From Injury
Nikita Okhotiuk recorded one assist in his first Comets game since Oct. 15. The former second-round pick was sidelined with an upper-body injury that caused him to miss seven games. He skated on a defensive pair with Nemec, which may have helped him find his offensive game a bit more, given how defensive Okhotiuk is.
The Comets are 3-5-1 and sit at the bottom of the North Division after an extremely impressive season last year. There are lots of new faces at forward because of the losses of last season’s top four forwards in Alex Holtz, Fabian Zetterlund, A.J. Greer, and Chase DeLeo. If Utica hopes to turn its season around, it will need to do it behind the foundation of solid goaltending and stingy defense, which Okhotiuk can be an extremely large part of now that he is healthy.
The Best of the Rest
Arseni Gritsyuk moved to the right wing for Avangard and recorded one goal and one assist in Sunday’s (Nov. 13) 4-3 win. The 2021-22 Kontinental Hockey League Rookie of the Year is struggling in his second full professional season where he only has 12 points in 30 games. Maybe a move to the right side is what he needs to get back on track as Avangard looks to push for a postseason berth.
Shakir Mukhamadullin recorded one goal and one assist in Salavat Yulaev (Ufa’s) 4-1 win Monday (Nov. 7) over Kunlun Red Star. He now has four goals and eight assists for 12 points in 29 games, which is tied for the most amongst all Ufa defensemen.
Samu Salminen scored his first NCAA goal on a deflection in front during Connecticut’s (UConn) 6-6 tie against Providence College. UConn went on to earn the extra point in a shootout, a feat they also earned in Friday’s contest. He also scored in the shootout in both games for the Huskies.
Topias Vilen and Petr Hauser each found the scoresheet for their countries in the under-20 Five Nations Tournament with Vilen recording a goal and two assists for Finland and Petr Hauser scoring one goal for Czechia.
Hughes, Nemec, Casey, and Mukhamadullin have highlighted most of the previous Devils’ prospect reports but it’s nice to see players like Salminen, Vilen, and Gritsyuk making impacts with their clubs as well.
Which Devils’ prospect has been the biggest surprise this season? Please leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Mason works in the sports gambling industry but his true passion lies in the game of hockey. He covers the New Jersey Devils for The Hockey Writers and spent time in the past covering Penn State men’s hockey for various online media outlets. Feel free to send him an email or follow him on Twitter to further connect.