The 2018-19 season was a tough one for the New Jersey Devils, but perhaps the one silver lining in all of it was that many of their prospects logged significant playing time due to multiple key injuries throughout the season. Some of their younger prospects who weren’t quite NHL-ready also made great strides in their development, excelling at the minor, junior and collegiate levels across the board.
It’ll be interesting to see how their development affects the next few months. Some prospects will be pushing for NHL roster spots out of training camp in September, others might be packaged in trades during the offseason to bring in NHL-ready talent, but for now, here’s a look at the clubs top ten prospects as we head into the summer:
2018-19 Top-Ten Devils’ Prospects
1. Mackenzie Blackwood, G – New Jersey (NHL) Binghamton (AHL)
It’s hard to still consider Mackenzie Blackwood a prospect because of how well he played in 2018-19 for the Devils when he posted a 2.61 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage in 23 games behind a sub-par defensive group. At just 22 years old, he still has some room to grow. He spent the rest of the season in Binghamton, where he posted a 2.95 GAA and .902 SV in 20 games. His strong play during the regular season earned him a spot on Team Canada at the IIHF World Championships alongside teammate Damon Severson.
Barring any injuries or alternative plans, it looks like Blackwood will head into the 2019 season on the NHL roster alongside Cory Schneider, but how head coach Jon Hynes and his staff are going to split the workload between the goalies is unknown. The tandem equally split games for the final six weeks, similar to what Schneider and Martin Brodeur did at the end of Marty’s career.
2. Ty Smith, D – Spokane Chiefs (WHL)
Drafted 17th overall in the first round of the 2018 NHL Draft, Ty Smith looks NHL ready heading into the 2019-20 season at age 19. The speedy and crafty defenseman possesses the poise and hockey IQ of a veteran. As captain of the Spokane Chiefs, he recorded 69 points in 57 games last season, and no, he’s not a forward. His seven goals, 62 assists, and plus-5 rating earned the Lloydminster, Alberta native a spot on the WHL First-Team All-Star and he was named the Western Conference defenseman of the year.
Smith nearly broke onto the Devils rosters out of training camp in 2018, but the Devils decided to send him back to juniors as one of their last cuts. This year is different. Not only will Smith likely be on the big-league roster to start the season, but he’ll presumably be in the top four and continue to see an increased role as he progresses.
3. Jesper Boqvist, C – Brynas IF (SHL)
Between Smith and the club winning the 2019 draft lottery dominating the prospect headlines, Jesper Boqvist is one of the Devils’ top young talents flying under the radar. Originally drafted 36th overall in 2017, the 20-year-old center is coming off an impressive year in which he recorded 35 points in 52 games. Not many players enjoy this type of success in the SHL at such a young age, but Boqvist has a unique skill set that can make him an NHL elite if he reaches his ceiling.
The young Swede has a rare combination of foot speed, agility, and above average puck handling skills that often lead to matchup problems for opposing players. The Devils should try and lure him from overseas and get him into the lineup every day in the AHL or even the NHL next season.
4.Michael McLeod, C – Binghamton (AHL)
Originally drafted 12th overall in 2016, McLeod was able to gain some valuable experience at the NHL level last season. He registered three assists in 21 games in New Jersey and spent the rest of his season playing in Binghamton, where he registered 33 points through 55 games.
The 21-year-old out of Mississauga, ON is a responsible two-way forward with a strong compete level. His ceiling could be as a second or third line center, but if the Devils draft Jack Hughes first overall, the depth chart at center will become even more crowded. Perhaps a move to the wing is in McLeod’s future.
5. Jeremy Davies – D, Northeastern (NCAA)
In early April the Devils announced the signing of defenseman Jeremy Davies to a two-year, entry-level contract starting next season. He was originally drafted 192nd overall in 2016 and spent the last three seasons with the Northeastern Huskies (Hockey East). The 22-year-old, left-handed defenseman wrapped up his last collegiate season with a career-high 36 points (8 goals, 28 assists) which ranked second among defensemen in Hockey East. He was also named to the Hockey East First All-Star and All-Tournament Teams and was a Hobey Baker finalist.
The Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, QC native is a shifty and smooth skating defenseman who possesses the ability to rush up the ice and create offense with ease. I wouldn’t be surprised if he plays on the top pairing in Binghamton next season, and I also wouldn’t be surprised to see him crack the Devils lineup out of training camp in September.
6. John Quenneville, C – Binghamton (AHL), New Jersey (NHL)
Originally drafted 30th overall in 2014, Quenneville is already in his third full season as a pro. The biggest concern is that he has only enjoyed consistent success in the AHL and not in the NHL. The 23-year-old center registered just one point in 19 NHL games last season. In total, he has five points in 33 career NHL games. On the other hand, his numbers in the AHL are much improved, with 119 points (36 goals, 73 assists) in 138 games with the Albany/Binghamton Devils.
There is growing concern that
7. Aarne Talvite, C – Penn State (NCAA)
Aarne Talvite was originally drafted 160th overall in 2017. He got off to a hot start in his first collegiate season, recording just under a point-per-game with 16 points in 17 games for the Nittany Lions before suffering a season-ending knee injury in the World Juniors that would cost him the rest of his freshman season.
Still, the sample size we saw from Talvite was quite good, and if he can completely recover he’ll be an interesting prospect to keep an eye on for next season and beyond. He excels when using his combination of speed and grit to generate scoring chances and he can provide scoring depth for the Devils if he reaches his ceiling.
8. Reilly Walsh, D – Harvard (NCAA)
Reilly Walsh was originally drafted 81st overall in 2017, and despite being a bit on the smaller side, he showed quickly that he is tough on the back end. Over the course of his first two collegiate seasons, the Harvard blueliner has developed into a really good offensive defenseman, recording 51 points through his first 66 ECAC games.
The Andover, New Hampshire native has speed, a quick release from the point and really good hands for a defenseman. He projects to be a second pairing defender in the NHL and can boost any power play if his scoring touch continues at the professional level.
9. Joey Anderson, RW – Binghamton (AHL), New Jersey (NHL)
Joey Anderson was originally drafted 73rd overall in 2016. He has a really strong resume that includes an NCAA National Title with the University of Minnesota Duluth and a gold medal at the World Juniors U20 level. He suited up in 34 NHL games last season and recorded four goals and three assists in New Jersey. Down in Binghamton, he played 13 games and recorded two goals and four assists. He would have probably played a few more games in New Jersey, but he also caught the injury bug last season and was hampered by an ankle injury.
Ultimately, Anderson could use a little more time in the AHL, and he’ll likely start there in 2019.
10. Marián Studenič, RW- Binghamton (AHL)
Marián Studenič was originally drafted 143rd overall in 2017. The Holic,
Studenič is currently representing Slovakia at the IIHF World Championships, where he has three points in three games. He’ll likely spend another season down in Binghamton, but if he picks up where he left off and continues to find the score sheet he might be up with the Devils before the end of next season.
The future is bright for the New Jersey Devils, and with 10 picks in the upcoming draft, general manager Ray Shero will have another opportunity to add even more talent to the club’s pipeline.
“Do everything you need to do to keep the passion alive and never forget that it is a privilege to do what you love” – Martin Brodeur