The Devils are in a rebuilding phase as they continue to stockpile future assets and build for the future. Winning the draft lottery last year has helped immensely.
Being able to add the dynamic offensive Nico Hischier to a young core that consists of Taylor Hall (25), Nico Hischier (19), Jesper Bratt (19), Will Butcher (23), and Miles Wood (22), who are the current top five scoring leaders on the team, in addition to Pavel Zacha (20) and Corey Schneider in goal.
With so much young talent on the roster, the prospect pool is a little depleted, but the Devils had 11 picks in the 2017 draft, had the most players in the 2018 World Junior with seven, and have another seven picks currently for the 2018 draft.
2017-18 Top Ten New Jersey Devils Prospects
1. Michael McLeod, C – Mississauga (OHL)
Drafted: 12th overall in the first round of the 2016 draft by New Jersey
The speedy McLeod has been limited to just 24 regular season games in the OHL this year due to injury and playing in the World Juniors. He has managed over a point per game with 28 points to date and managed to post decent numbers for Canada at the WJC with a goal and four points helping Canada to the Gold in Buffalo. McLeod has excellent skating ability, and regarding his skating, is NHL ready now. His defensive game is also better than average in his peer group, but there is some question if he will be able to produce enough offense at the NHL level to warrant playing in a top-six role. While his offensive ceiling may be questionable, his floor is very reliable. McLeod may not need much AHL seasoning before he is NHL ready and he will compete for a roster spot to start the 2018-19 season with the Devils.
2. John Quenneville, C/RW – Binghamton (AHL)
Drafted: 30th overall in the first round of the 2014 draft by New Jersey
His rookie season as a pro last year was a success as he posted 46 points in 58 games in the AHL and made his NHL debut playing in 12 games recording his first goal and four points. He finished the year strong in the AHL playoffs scoring another four points in a four-game series loss to Toronto. His second season has been equally impressive and again included a two-game recall to the NHL. Quenneville played at center in junior and has started playing more on the wing at the pro level. When he makes the Devils as a regular, it will likely be on the wing on the third or fourth line, and he will try to work his way up the depth chart.
3. Blake Speers, C/RW – Binghamton (AHL)
Drafted: 67th overall in the third round of the 2015 draft by New Jersey
Speers is an offensive player. He posted three years of over a point per game offence in the OHL with a career total of 215 points in 217 games. He is in his rookie season as a pro playing in the AHL and has struggled to find his offensive production with six goals and 10 points in 39 games. After starting the 2016 season with a three-game NHL debut and finishing the year in the AHL, his slow start is a disappointment, and he has had long stretches of games with no points. It is a big adjustment playing pro hockey, but Speers has good size and a high skill level. If he can adapt to the pace, his offensive upside is significant.
4. Mackenzie Blackwood, G – Binghamton (AHL)
Drafted: 42nd overall in the second round of the 2015 draft by New Jersey
The Devils have several prospects in goal, and the cream of the crop is Blackwood.
The Devils goalie of the future has the starting role in the AHL. While his numbers are not overly impressive, it is important to remember he is playing behind the last place team in the AHL. In his second season in the AHL now, his rookie numbers on a betta playoff team are a better indicator of his NHL starting potential. With Corey Schneider the current starting goalie and still at the top of his game, the Devils can be patient with the development of their future starting goalie.
5. Joey Anderson, RW – Univ. of Minnesota-Duluth (NCAA)
Drafted: 73rd overall in the third round of the 2016 draft by New Jersey
Anderson had a tremendous D+1 year as a freshman with the Bulldogs recording 12 goals and 37 points in 39 games, and winning the Gold at the World Junior with USA. As a sophomore, he is having another close to a point per game season and again was a member of the USA WJC team. He Captained the team and posted a strong four goals and seven points in seven games. A little on the short side, he plays a very competitive if not overly physical game, has good hands and can shoot. He plays a strong two-way game but could improve his skating to move up to the next level. Anderson is a prospect rising up the Devils depth chart.
6. Nathan Bastian, RW – Binghamton (AHL)
Drafted: 41st overall in the second round of the 2016 draft by New Jersey
Bastian is in his rookie year in the AHL and is struggling to find his offensive game. His career OHL totals of 136 points in 209 games don’t suggest he is a dynamic offensive player and his NHL ceiling may top out as a bottom six player. But he does have offensive upside and is a rookie on a weak AHL team. Bastian has great size and uses it to his advantage on the forecheck and to protect the puck, but lacks a real mean streak. He plays a strong all-around game, drives puck possession, and can impact the game in a variety of ways. He may need another year or two in the AHL but has god NHL upside.
7. Yegor Rykov, D SKA-Neva St. Petersburg (KHL)
Drafted: 132nd overall in the fifth round of the 2016 draft by New Jersey
The Devils top defense prospect is the big offensive Russian. Rykov had a breakout performance in the 2017 World Junior with Russia scoring a goal and seven points in seven games, tying for the lead is most assists for a defenseman, on the Bronze Medal winning team. His rising performance even garnered consideration for inclusion for the Russian Olympic Hockey Team. Rykov brings a lot of elements to his game, he has good size, is a strong and mobile skater, he plays big minutes and can play both sides of the puck. He has some more development and coming to play in North America would be an important step towards an NHL career.
8. Colby Sissons, D – Swift Current (WHL)
Drafted: Signed as a free agent in 2016 by New Jersey
The Devils added Sissons as a free agent after inviting him to their 2016-17 training camp. He returned to his junior team to have a good season, but has had a breakout year in his final year of eligibility in the WHL scoring over a point per game offence as a 20-year-old defenseman. His offensive production was relatively flat in his WHL career posting 22 and 28 points the past two seasons. This year he has 12 goals and 49 points and has already doubled his previous career high and in fewer games. His offensive development is great, but may not translate to higher levels. He does project as a solid pro player.
9. Jesper Boqvist, C – Brynas (SHL)
Drafted: 36th overall in the second round of the 2017 draft by New Jersey
The Devils second-round pick from 2017 is an offensive player with a high skill level. He has struggled to crack the SHL and play at the highest level in Sweden as a teenager. In his D+1 year he has had his best season posting nine points in 16 games for Brynas and won the Silver Medal with Sweden at the World Junior. Boqvist will need more time developing likely in Sweden and would need a year of adjustment in the AHL before getting a real look at the Devils roster.
10. Aarne Talvitie, C – Blues U20 (Jr. A SM-Liiga)
Drafted: 160th overall in the sixth round of the 2017 draft by New Jersey
The Devils may have found a great value pick in the sixth round in Talvitie who is committed to play in the NCAA next year for Penn State University. In his D+1 year he is having a breakout offensive performance scoring 28 goals and 49 points in 36 games to date. Known as a competitive two-way player his offensive outbreak is impressive albeit while playing at the junior level. His performance in the coming season playing against older competition in the NCAA will be a key development year for him.