The New Jersey Devils’ season has been a disappointment. After a surprise trip to the postseason in 2017-18, they are at the bottom of the Metropolitan Division. Even though their season hasn’t gone their way, there are a number of Devils prospects enjoying a successful 2018-19 campaign. Here are six prospects to be excited about this season and beyond.
Top Devils Defensemen
Smith is hands down the best prospect in the Devils system. He was the 17th overall pick in June’s NHL Entry Draft, but he’s producing like a top-five pick. In 28 games with the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL, Smith has 39 points, tied for second on the team with forward Eli Zummack.
It is no surprise to see Smith selected for Team Canada at the upcoming World Junior Championships. Canada is expected to play a fast, up-tempo style of hockey, which Smith is looking forward to. “I think it’s right up my alley,” Smith told Steve Ewen of the Montreal Gazette. “I enjoy playing fast. Obviously, here is another level but in junior in Spokane that’s how we like to play. We like to play fast, push the pace all the time.”
That kind of speed and up-tempo style is what the Devils need on their blue line. Smith showed off his offensive prowess at the Prospects Challenge in September and has continued that strong play in junior with 36 assists. As long as he keeps pace through the rest of the season, he should be on the Devils roster come next October.
Davies isn’t going to come up in most top prospect rankings, but that doesn’t diminish his value. The Devils made Davies a seventh-round pick (192nd overall) in the 2016 Draft, and he’s done nothing but impress the organization since then.
In his three seasons at Northeastern University (NCAA), Davies has 73 points in 87 games. He’s averaging 1.15 points per game this season (15 points in 13 games), which is fifth best in the NCAA among defensemen. He’s also serving as one of Northeastern’s alternate captains.
The Devils may have another late-round gem on their hands with Davies. At 5’11, 188 pounds, he’s small, but that’s not a problem in today’s NHL. He’s a good puck-mover, like Smith, so the Devils will be excited to have both on their roster.
With one more year of eligibility remaining, Davies could return to Northeastern for his senior season. But at 22 years old, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Devils ink him to an entry-level deal this spring. If that’s the case, he could make his NHL debut before the Devils’ regular season comes to a close.
Walsh is another prospect the Devils hold in high regard. They selected him in the third round in 2017. As a sophomore, he’s averaging 1.09 points per game (12 points in 11 games), ranked seventh in the NCAA among defensemen.
There are a few similarities between Walsh and Davies. Walsh is also 5’11, 188 pounds, which is almost identical to Davies. They’re both offensive defensemen, something the Devils seem to prioritize in the draft.
While Walsh was a surprise cut from Team USA’s WJC squad, there’s plenty to like about his game. He’s taken a nice step forward in his sophomore season and looks closer to being NHL ready. He still has two years of NCAA eligibility remaining but, like Davies, it’s possible he signs his ELC this spring and gets some NHL or AHL action to conclude the season.
Top Devils Forwards
Marian Studenic (Right Wing)
Studenic has been one of the Devils’ most surprising prospects in 2018-19. He finished his final season with the Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL) with 48 points in 62 games. That may not seem impressive, but he played an important role in getting the Bulldogs to the Memorial Cup.
Given his age, Studenic had the option of returning to Hamilton or beginning his pro career. He chose to go pro, and he has not disappointed in the AHL. He leads the Binghamton Devils in scoring with 19 points in 27 games. That also puts Studenic 12th in rookie scoring in the AHL.
Given his scoring output, it would not be a surprise to see Studenic in the NHL later this season. The Devils’ playoff hopes are fading fast and if they don’t get it together soon, they’ll be sellers at the trade deadline, which could open up a spot for Studenic. That should give Devils fans something to look forward to with the former 2017 fifth-round draft pick.
Jesper Boqvist (Left Wing/Center)
The hype for Boqvist is real. After an injury-shortened 2017-18, he is having a phenomenal season in the SHL (Sweden). In 25 games for Brynas IF, he has 19 points (8 goals, 11 assists), tied for the team lead. His point total ranks 11th in the SHL scoring and this is coming from someone who turned 20 at the end of October.
It’s no secret the Devils need a boost to their top six, especially down the middle. Pavel Zacha has not panned out, and Michael McLeod still has a long way to go before he’s NHL ready. Boqvist is versatile and can play left wing or center, which will help his case next preseason.
There’s no timetable for Boqvist to head over to the NHL but judging by his SHL production, he seems ready for a crack at the Devils roster. That won’t come this season, but it shouldn’t be long before the Devils feel his impact and it could be the impact they need desperately.
Aarne Talvitie (Left Wing)
Talvitie is another in a line of impressive Devils late-round picks. The 19-year-old native of Finland was the 160th overall selection in 2017. After a year in the Jr. A SM-liiga, Talvitie made his way to North America, where he’s a freshman at Penn State University.
Since arriving at Penn State, he’s produced, with 16 points in 17 games, which is seventh on the team. Talvitie has also done a good job of getting pucks on net, with 43 shots on goal in 17 games. He’s not the biggest player on the ice (5’10, 198 pounds). But the Devils have made a habit of drafting smaller, skilled players in later rounds.
It’ll probably be a couple of seasons before Talvitie makes his NHL debut but he’s another prospect to keep an eye on for however long he remains at Penn State. He’ll also be on Team Finland at the upcoming WJC, so Devils fans will be able to get a better look at him when the tournament begins in less than a week.
Devils 2017 Draft Class is the Real Deal
Most of the prospects listed here are from the Devils’ 2017 draft class and that doesn’t include former first overall pick Nico Hischier, who’s already having a significant impact in the NHL.
Boqvist looks like a first-round talent the Devils managed to steal in the second round. Studenic and Talvitie have surpassed expectations and look like a couple of late-round gems. Walsh is having a strong season and will be an offensive weapon on the Devils’ blue line when he decides to turn pro. If/when these players make the NHL, it could be the step forward the Devils need to get out of rebuilding mode for good.
Alex Chauvancy is a New Jersey Devils writer for The Hockey Writers who has a penchant for advanced stats, prospects, signings and trades. He previously wrote for Devils Army Blog, a New Jersey Devils fan blog, from 2015-2017