As the 2018-19 season winds down, New Jersey, became forced to employ quite a few prospects with the big club. No fewer than eight injuries, including Taylor Hall, have given the kids a chance to play. This may not make coach John Hynes happy but New Jersey needs to find out what they have in some of these players.
New Jersey expects to end up with a top-10 draft pick this summer, maybe even a top-5 or better. After drafting Nico Hischier number one in 2017 and making the playoffs in 2018, this season was a downturn. However, the prospect pool still needs help. 2019 and 2020 could be good years to replenish that pool.
2018-19 Top 10 New Jersey Devils Prospects
1. Mackenzie Blackwood, G – New Jersey (NHL), Binghamton (AHL)
Drafted: 42nd overall in the second round of the 2015 draft by New Jersey
Blackwood played three seasons in the AHL then was shuttled around between the AHL and ECHL last year. His five starts in Stockton may have been a humbling experience but it was a career changer. Since then, through fierce determination, Blackwood found a way back to fulfilling expectations.
Blackwood was projected as a potential backup goaltender at the start of last year. Now, the New Jersey Devils may have a starting goaltender on their hands. He currently backs up Cory Schneider. However, in his first 13 games, Blackwood compiled a 2.37 goals-against average and .926 save percentage. Given the state of the New Jersey Devils’ defense, those are impressive numbers.
2. Ty Smith, D – Spokane (WHL)
HT/WT: 5-11/ 180
Drafted: 17th overall in the first round of the 2018 draft by New Jersey
The speedy and skilled defenseman possesses the craftiness of a veteran in an 18-year-old body. His ability to quarterback the power play and control things on defense is uncanny.
Smith impressed many in New Jersey Devils’ camp with his presence and poise. All anyone could glow about was his elite skating. The defenseman’s playmaking has only improved in this fourth season with Spokane. Smith expects to see an expanded role in the New Jersey Devils’ organization. If it is not in 2019-20 then in 2020-21. His upside is a top-pairing defenseman.
3. Michael McLeod, C – Binghamton (AHL)
Draft: 12th overall in the first round of the 2016 draft by New Jersey
The center ice position is one that will be hotly contested in New Jersey beyond Hischier and Zajac as the top two undisputed centers. McLeod should carry the upper hand here against a lot of unproven commodities from the minors. Even Pavel Zacha is likely a bottom-six center/winger at best.
McLeod is a tenacious two-way forward with a strong compete level, good on draws and reliable defensively with some offensive upside. McLeod has split time between New Jersey and Binghamton in his second season as a pro after several strong seasons at Mississauga of the OHL. His ceiling could be a third line center in New Jersey maybe even second.
4. Jesper Boqvist, C – Brynas IF (SHL)
Drafted: 36th overall in the second round of the 2017 draft by New Jersey
Arguably, Boqvist is sneaky good and most do not realize the fact. He is skilled and quite fast which creates matchup problems. Boqvist scores some highlight reel goals that cause some to wonder when does he come to North America. He fired in a respectable 12 goals and 29 points in 45 games so far for the top-league Swedish team.
However, Boqvist causes concern with his lack of consistency. Skating is not an issue but he gets caught admiring his playmaking. That is something he cannot do in the NHL or even AHL. Expect the center to come over if not next year, then the year after. Then, there will be a better idea of what Boqvist’s ceiling could be.
5. John Quenneville, C – Binghamton (AHL), New Jersey (NHL)
Drafted: 30th overall in the first round of the 2014 draft by New Jersey
The center is in his third full season as a pro but has enjoyed success only in Binghamton and not in New Jersey. Quenneville scored zero points so far in 16 games in New Jersey. The growing concern becomes is he a tweener? Quenneville tallied nearly a point a game (30 points in 32 games) in the AHL.
Therefore, at what point does New Jersey become concerned. An injury recently sidelined the forward and he is day-to-day. On the other hand, is he nothing more than a bottom-six pivot who can score occasionally in the NHL? Time will tell.
6. Jeremy Davies, D – Northeastern (NCAA)
Drafted: 192nd overall in the seventh round of the 2016 draft by New Jersey
Davies is known more like a shifty offensive defenseman, and yet his defense is underrated. Davies scored eight goals and has 31 points in 30 games for the NCAA university. Also, the defenseman shows an ability to quarterback a power play quite well.
He has a few regular season games to go before the NCAA tournament but if last year was any indication, look out! Davies possesses the ability to dominate rushes up the ice with ease. Do not be surprised if he plays and thrives in Binghamton next season.
7. Colby Sissons, D – Binghamton (AHL), Stockton (ECHL)
Another riser in the Devils pipeline appears to be Sissons. His play this season in the AHL has been a learning experience, however. Perhaps Sissons has more work to do in the AHL but there are some skills there. Consistency is something the defenseman needs to work on as the AHL is not Swift Current. The expectation lies in a bigger second year next season in Binghamton.
8. Aarne Talvite, C – Penn State (NCAA)
Drafted: 160th overall in the sixth round of the 2017 draft by New Jersey
After being drafted by the Devils, Talvite played one year in Finland. Then, he made the move to North America to play for Penn State. His first season came off like a roaring success early. He tallied five goals to go along with 11 assists in 17 games. The forward generated a ton of scoring chances with his speed and used his power quite well.
Unfortunately, a nasty injury in the World Juniors cost Talvite the rest of his freshman season. The glimpse of Talvite we received was quite a good one. Another year or so and the speedy pivot may end up in the AHL. His scoring punch is sorely needed in the New Jersey Devils organization.
9. Reilly Walsh, D – Harvard (NCAA)
Drafted: 81st overall in the third round of the 2017 draft by New Jersey
New Jersey was questioned a bit for taking Walsh as he was a bit underweight at the time. However, he showed quickly that the defenseman could take a hit and deliver some of his own. In time, the Harvard blueliner developed his offensive game quickly and has turned into a scorer.
While he may never reach All-Star status in the NHL, his speed, good shot, and hands should earn him a second pairing roster spot. Also, Walsh should boost any power play with his ability to think quickly. He scored ten goals and 28 points in 27 games so far for Harvard.
Some have suggested Walsh go pro after this year but the prudent thing may be to wait a year. He is close and there is no question. New Jersey needs scoring from the blueline and anywhere. Davies fills the bill and his defense improves game by game.
10. Joey Anderson, RW – Binghamton (AHL), New Jersey (NHL)
Drafted: 73rd overall in the third round of the 2016 draft by New Jersey
Anderson learns the game like few others and his two years in the NCAA were proof of that. He won a national title with UMD and a gold medal at the World Juniors. That is an impressive pedigree and his goal scoring in college was top level.
His first year as a pro included a call-up to New Jersey but an ankle injury derailed his season a bit. Anderson played 20 games for the big club and only nine for Binghamton. Ultimately, the right winger could use a little more time in the AHL to round out his development.