Today’s Prospects News & Rumors column gives us a glimpse into the possible futures of two teams duking it out in the East Division. The New Jersey Devils got some good and bad news about two of three 2020 first-round draft picks. Also, the Buffalo Sabres’ most recent first-rounder had a very successful professional debut.
Dawson Mercer Nets a Hat Trick
The Devils had three first-round picks at the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, all within the top 20. After selecting Alexander Holtz from Sweden with the seventh overall pick, they used the 18th pick to take center Dawson Mercer.
The 19-year-old forward has had a very productive 2020-21 season as it has started and stopped multiple times. He had a big night on Thursday, in leading the Chicoutimi Saguenéens to an 8-2 victory over his former team, the Drummondville Voltigeurs.
Mercer scored a natural hat trick, with his first goal in the second period being the game-winner. His third and final goal was an absolute beauty. After winning a puck battle, he used his backhand to rook a shot up and over goaltender Francesco Lapenna.
In 11 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) games this season, Mercer now has eight goals and 14 points. With you add the two goals and six points he had in seven games for Team Canada at the World Junior Championship, the youngster has had a very good season. He is showing why the Devils wasted little time in signing him to an entry-level contract.
Shakir Mukhamadullin Lost to Injury
Two picks after taking Mercer, the Devils drafted Mukhamadullin out of Russia. The big 6-foot-4 defender’s size and excellent skating ability made him too good to pass up at the 20th overall pick.
The 19-year-old blueliner recently played for Russia at the Beijer Hockey Games in Sweden. According to Dylan Griffing of Dobber Prospects, Mukhamadullin suffered an injury during the international tournament and will likely miss the rest of the regular season. His status for the start of the Kontinental Hockey League’s (KHL) Gagarin Cup Playoffs, which are scheduled to start on March 2, is uncertain. No specifics on the nature of the injury were given.
Mukhamadullin has played in 39 games for Salavat Yulaev Ufa in the KHL this season. He has three goals and 10 points while posting a minus-2 rating. While those numbers don’t exactly jump off the page, you have to remember how difficult it is for young players to get meaningful minutes in the KHL. Mukhamadullin has averaged only 12:56 of ice time per game, dead last among all the team’s defensemen.
Jack Quinn Makes His AHL Debut
The Sabres used the ninth overall pick of last October’s draft to select Quinn out of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). He had a huge draft-year season by scoring 52 goals and 89 points in 62 games for the Ottawa 67’s. This came after just 12 goals and 32 points in 61 games the previous season.
Since the OHL’s season has yet to start, Quinn was a surprise addition to Buffalo’s taxi squad. After suffering a minor injury, he was eventually sent down to the Rochester Americans in the American Hockey League (AHL)
The 19-year-old forward made his professional debut on Thursday night and came up big in Rochester’s 4-3 shootout win over the Utica Comets (Vancouver Canucks). He picked up his first professional point with the secondary assist on Steven Fogarty’s third-period power-play goal that tied the game with six minutes to play.
He then showed off his great hands with this fantastic move to score in the shootout.
“I think in the shootout, you just have to go out there and try to make a move,” Quinn said in a postgame interview. “I made a move and the goalie bit, so I was able to put one in. I just try to focus on the task at hand.”
Quinn is one of many teenagers excelling in the AHL who normally wouldn’t even be allowed to play in the league. It just might be time to rethink the agreement between the Canadian Hockey League and National Hockey League.