It's time for the final update -until the fall-on the top prospects in the New Jersey Devils organization. My rankings are generated by my view of the potential of each player, his position, and that position's value to the Devils. Note that I am still very conscious of the salary cap benefits the Devils receive if each player does reach that potential. Also, I am adhering to the rookie qualifications of the NHL so you will often see some popular names dropped off the list.
On the outside looking in: Mike Sislo, Darcy Zajac, Nathan Perkovitch, Alexander Vasyunuv, Ryan Ginand, Ryan Hayes.
20. JS Berube, F-Did well in Trenton, not so well in Albany. Power forward is gritty and has to show he can perform consistently at the AHL level next year. If he is playing regularly in the ECHL next year, than I would expect him to be off this list.
19. Seth Helgeson, D-His real test as a junior/team leader will begin next year as Cade Fairchild and Kevin Wehrs graduate and leave him to be the rock on an otherwise unspectacular Minnesota team.
18. Maxime Clermont, G-Has had a major bounceback in the QMJHL playoffs and should join the Devils organization next season. I would guess he will be given time at the ECHL level in order for him to get some professional experience.
17. Corbin McPherson, D-While I wouldn't be shocked if he left Colgate (bad year, core of team graduates), it is more likely he plays out his eligibility. I am hopeful he can build on the offensive output he put up last year.
16. Curtis Gedig, D-I am hopeful he can make a big impact next year for Ohio State. With a year of experience at the NCAA level, I would like to see him step up and help be a team leader like he did for the Vernon Vipers in the BCHL.
15. Keith Kinkaid, G-The latest FA signing out of the college ranks by the Devils, he was pursued (according to reports) by almost a quarter of the league. It is likely that he begins next year at Albany. With Kinkaid likely at Albany, you would have to think Mike McKenna is no longer in the organization's plans.
14. Joe Sova, D- Sova is still a bit raw defensively but has a cannon of a shot that he can place well. He will need a year plus at the AHL level, but I wouldn't be surprised if he is called up to New Jersey for a game or two next year.
13. Dan Kelly, D-One of my summer ILWT projects will be to re-watch a number of the Albany games I purchased and to place some even strength Corsi scores to players. I have a feeling Mr. Kelly will fare very well after I go through this exercise.
12. Steve Zalewski-C-I like him and am therefore a bit biased, but I still think that he can be an impact player on the 4th and in some cases the 3rd line in the NHL. He plays with an edge and heart, but will that be enough for him to him to crack the NHL roster?
11. David Wohlberg, F-Tough luck for Wohlberg who broke his collarbone early in the CCHA playoffs. His absence was most noticeable when the other team focused their main defensive efforts on Carl Hagelin and were able to shut down the Michigan offense. I expect Wohlberg to return to Michigan next year and I think his two-way play may earn him some top honors in the CCHA and in the eyes of many who follow college hockey.
10. Jeff Frazee, G-A few freak injuries leave me wondering if he is now in DiPetro territory and he just has a problem of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. That said, I would hope that the Devils give Frazee a look next fall to backup Martin Brodeur.
9. David McIntyre, C- Put in a workmanlike effort over the past season and while I expected a bit more from him, I still hold out hope that he can be a two-way force at the next level.
8. Mike Hoeffel, F-After a successful, if not spectacular, career at the University of Minnesota, Hoeffel joined Albany for an ATO contract two weeks ago. It's hard to tell much about him from this past season, though it's apparent that he has a knack for scoring and shooting.
7. Matt Taormina, D-An unfortunate injury deprived Devils fans of seeing the impact Taormina could generate over a full season. He should be a shoo-in for next year's roster as he can move the puck and has a crafty shot that can get to the net.
6. Scott Wedgewood, G- After a mid-season funk, Wedgewood stole the show in the Plymouth Whalers series against the Kitchener Rangers and their top prospects (Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan Murphy) and helped the Whalers advance to the second where they could not overcome top-seeded Owen Sound. Wedgewood, despite the Kinkaid signing, is still likely the long-term solution for the Devils at the NHL level.
5. Brandon Burlon, D- An esphogael infection knocked Burlon out of the Frozen Four tournament. The junior defenseman was a very overlooked part of the Michigan squad this year. He played in every situation and was often partnered with a young/rookie defenseman. His absence made Michigan use a player like Jon Merrill way too often in the championship game as coach Red Berensen did not have a lot of faith in defenders not named Merrill or Burlon.
4. Eric Gelinas, D-Has really found a niche playing on the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL alongside some previously drafted players and four potential first round picks in the 2011 draft.
3. Alexander Urbom, D-Urby has had a lot of unrealistic expectations thrust upon him. As soon as Lou Lamoriello called him the team's best prospect last year many have equated Urbom to being able to play to the level of a Tyler Myers. This was unfair (and I was probably as guilty as most) for the 20 year old Swede. After a brief stint at the NHL level he had an up-and-down year for Albany, but the important thing to me was that he ended his season well. Playing loads of minutes and as one of the power play quarterbacks for Albany, Urby quietly made strides that will help him in the years to come. Can I see a future with him and former defensive partner Mark Fayne as a solid second pairing at the NHL level? I sure can.
2. Adam Henrique, C- 25 goals was more than most expected and Henrique has positioned himself to make a strong effort at a roster spot in next year's training camp. While he was moved from center to left wing, the Albany Devils coach Rich Kowalsky has stated in some radio interviews that he would fully expect Henrique to be able to play at center in the years to come.
1. Jon Merrill, D-Merrill capped off a fantastic year of college/WJC hockey with a very good game in the Frozen Four Championship. Michigan had their backs against the wall (insert Brooks/Tortorella joke here) for most of that game and Merrill was one of the reasons the team was able to keep it close. Now, here is a question that I have pondered lately. Is playing in Albany next year better for his development than another year at Michigan?
Note, that I said Albany. I don't think he is NHL-ready nor do I want him rushed. My concern with his return to Michigan is the development of his offensive skills. He is solid defensively-much more so (in my opinion) than Justin Faulk who just left Minnesota-Duluth after one year to sign with the Carolina Hurricanes-however Michigan is graduating their top four scoring forwards. They will have have Brown/David Wohlberg returning to the team but will that be enough? If I had the choice I would like to see him at Albany next year. I would rather have him develop his offensive potential for 70+ games in the AHL than spend another year in the CCHA.
OK, that is it for now. Unless something changes (a few RFA non tenders, a trade that puts an extra player or two into the organizational system, additional top draft picks, etc.) this will be the last updated prospect list until the fall.
Agree with the top 20? Anyone left off that you think is deserving? Thanks for reading and sound off below!