Two seasons removed from a berth in the Stanley Cup Finals, the New Jersey Devils have hit a bump in the road. Whether it’s still a hangover from 2012 or just being stagnant while the rest of the Eastern Conference gets better will be answered this upcoming season when the Devils hit the ice with new faces, young and old. Lou Lamoriello has been running the ship since 1987 and hasn’t looked back. During that span, New Jersey has done a great job procuring talent and giving them the right guidance to make them succeed in the NHL. While their pipeline doesn’t have many superstar players, there are a handful that are breaking out already and should be in the big league within a matter of months or years. Here’s a look at their top five prospects.
- Skaters can not have played more than 42 games.
- Goalies can not have played more than 25 games.
5. Joshua Jacobs – NCAA – Michigan State Spartans – D
The broad, 6’2″ defenseman from Shelby Township, Michigan, Joshua Jacobs came on strong at the end of last season seeing his name soar up the scouting ranks. He was picked early in the 2nd round in 2014 for good reason. The two-way defenseman has size and the force to back it up. The future Michigan State Spartan is also one of the most refined skaters given his large frame. He helped leaded the now disbanded Indiana Ice to a Clark Cup Championship in the USHL with his patience, defensive awareness, and smart play around the ice. There are few concerns with Jacobs’ game that shouldn’t be difficult to buffer with a few years of college hockey.
4. Steve Santini – NCAA – Boston College Eagles – D
It seems the rich just keep getting richer. Boston College is such a prestigious college hockey program that has been a backbone of prospect development for a decade at least. Once one top star leaves the program another takes his place. Such was the case with Steve Santini. Similar in size to Jacobs, Santini plays the shutdown role to a “t”. A physical player, he doesn’t shy away from bigger opponents and will do what it takes to keep the puck out of his own zone. He uses his body to separate opponents along the boards and in the open ice. Santini anticipates plays well, allowing him to break up chances with ease. He logged minutes last year on BC’s blueline allowing them to make another appearance in the Frozen Four. Santini is certainly on the right track and looks to be another one of those prototypical Devils shutdown guys a la Scott Stevens.
3. Stefan Matteau – AHL – Albany Devils – LW
Stefan Matteau has had a bumpy road to the professional level. After a few suspensions and leaving the QMJHL in the 2012-13 season to turn pro, Matteau has found a home in the minor leagues last season. The pesty left winger doesn’t just get under the skin of opponents, he has the offensive skills to go with it too. While his point totals last season were average, it was a nice learning experience for him. Matteau has the NHL build to play, but has to work on his skating and keeping his emotions in line. Overall, Matteau has the makeup to be similar to Milan Lucic or Alex Burrows.
2. Damon Severson – AHL – Albany Devils – D
One of the biggest knocks on Damon Severson during his draft year was his conditioning. Over the past two season with the Kelowna Rockets, the Saskatchewan-native has put his best foot forward logging big minutes and leading all defenseman in points (61). With a nice build, Severson plays effectively on both sides of the puck. He can stay back and play a strong defensive game or carry the puck and use his vision up the ice and powerful shot to create scoring chances. With a few developmental seasons of AHL hockey, Severson can turn into a force on the blueline in the future.
1. Reid Boucher – AHL – Albany Devils – LW
Reid Boucher dropped on draft day right into the lap of Lou Lamoriello. Right now it’s looking like a steal as the Devils are seeing what they expected from him back in 2011 – goal scoring. Having to follow in the footsteps of Nail Yakupov and Alex Galchenyuk isn’t easy, but Boucher held his own with the Sarnia Sting and scored 62 goals and 95 points in the 2012-13 campaign.
Leo Scaglione, a writer for THW who covers the Albany Devils wrote about Boucher in this article where he mentioned:
In his final 21 games to close out the season, Boucher scored eight goals and added four helpers. On April 13, he had his only multi-goal game of the season when he scored the first two goals of the game against the Syracuse Crunch in a 4-0 Albany victory. Boucher ended the season on a three-game point streak and finished with 22 goals, 16 assists, 38 points, a +/- of -3, and 10 penalty minutes in 56 games with Albany. His 38 points were 5th highest on the team and his 22 goals were tied with Whitney for 2nd. Mike Sislo had 23 to lead the A-Devils. Boucher’s 146 shots were also 2nd on the team behind Whitney’s 198. He was tied for 1st with Sislo with seven power-play goals.
…Training camp will determine if Boucher will crack the NHL lineup come October but regardless of whether he opens the season in Newark or Albany, the future is bright for the Devils top offensive prospect.