It's time for a mid-summer update on the top prospects in the New Jersey Devils organization. I had not planned to do an additional ranking until the fall, but because of two prospects added during the draft and the trade of David McIntyre to the Minnesota Wild for Maxim Noreau, I felt it best to publish an update now.
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: Seth Helgeson, Mike Sislo, Darcy Zajac, Nathan Perkovitch, JS Berube, Ryan Ginand, Ryan Hayes.
Gone to the KHL: Alexander Vasyunuv
20. Maxime Clermont, G-With the folding of the Trenton ECHL franchise, I wonder if Clermont stays in the Canadian Junior ranks as an over age player. It wouldn't be the worst thing to see him in the OHL for a year with a team that needs goaltending help.
19. Corbin McPherson, D-Was surrounded by a bad team last year so I will give him a pass, but he needs to step up his play. Has size and defensive abilities, but needs to work on generating more offense.
18. Curtis Gedig, D-Started off hot with Ohio State last year but cooled as the year progressed. Another defensive prospect with good size, hopefully we will continue his development under coach Mark Osiecki, who is known as a defenseman 'guru'.
17. Steve Zalewski-C-Personal favorite of mine, will likely remain a Devil after receiving a qualifying offer. With his tenacity on the forecheck I can see him contributing on the 4th line with New Jersey this year and I hope he is given the opportunity in training camp to win a job as a depth forward.
16. Reid Boucher, F-Aggressive ranking? Absolutely. I will be bullish on Boucher until I see a large reason not to be. I expect him to have a great season in the USHL if that is what he decides to do in the year before his college career begins.
15. Jeff Frazee, G-If the drafting of two goalies in the 2010 draft didn't raise concerns about Frazee's future with the Devils certainly the signing of NCAA free agent Keith Kinkaid and the re-signing of Johan Hedberg for 2011-12 should.
14. Keith Kinkaid, G-The plan is to start him at Albany where he will likely be eased into playing time. His playing time could skyrocket however if Frazee experiences an injury, which is a definite possibility.
13. Joe Sova, D-In the Devils quest for a puck-moving defenseman and/or power play quarterback they might have found such a player in Sova. He has a cannon of a shot that he uses well. Defensive positioning seemed a bit off in the few
12. Dan Kelly, D-Steady defenseman who somehow ended up with a positive '+/-' last year. Is one of the top four defenders going into Albany's season along with Maxim Noreau, Alexander Urbom and Jay Leach.
11. Maxim Noreau, D-Acquired last month for David McIntyre, the former first team AHL all star gives the Albany defense a legitimate offensive threat from the blue line which should help the development of the entire Albany team. Minnesota needed to move him because of their glut of defensemen at the NHL and AHL level. Could New Jersey be the right fit for him? He might be the power play specialist for which the team has been looking.
10. David Wohlberg, F-Assuming he is healed from his late season shoulder injury that caused him to miss the Frozen Four, I think Wohlberg has a monster season for Michigan. Named as a co-captain for the upcoming season Wohlberg will be looked upon to provide a lot of the scoring for the Wolverines and I think he can deliver.
9. Mike Hoeffel, F-With the trade of David McIntyre and Alexander Vasyunuv headed to the KHL, Hoeffel will have every opportunity to play in the top two lines at Albany. Let's hope he seizes the opportunity and shows the scoring touch he displayed at Minnesota.
8. 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.
7. Scott Wedgewood, G-After a year of being the starter at Plymouth I expect Wedgewood to follow up with another stellar campaign. Part of his struggles were likely the result of fatigue after carrying such a heavy workload. That said, Plymouth currently has a number of goaltenders on their roster and might be looking to move one of them so it is possible Wedgewood might be dealt. Regardless of where he plays in the OHL next year he will likely contend for a spot on the Canadian World Junior team in the fall.
6. Eric Gelinas, D-Got to show his skills off in the Memorial Cup and will join the organization this year. Will it be at Albany thought? With the number of defensemen already at Albany will there be time for him? Or is he someone who might be moved in a trade?
5. Brandon Burlon, D-Unexpectedly left Michigan a year early. I think the Devils were surprised by this as much as Michigan was as Burlon will have to fight for his ice-time at Albany. I think Burlon could have a Mark Fayne-line jump to the NHL this year if the situation presents itself. In addition to being physically mature and strong, Burlon is a smart player and isn't a big risk taker, which should help him adjust to the professional game quickly.
4. Alexander Urbom, D-I feel like Urbom has been lost in the shuffle recently. I think fans (myself included) expected too much, too soon from him. He is going to be a good defenseman for New Jersey in the future,and that future might still be a year or two away as I feel he would benefit from some additional time in the AHL.
3. Adam Henrique, C-Played left wing late in the year for Albany but the coaches there repeatedly said he could still play center at the next level. Should be given a good chance to compete for a spot out of training camp, but will likely head back to Albany until a spot opens up for him.
2. Jon Merrill, D-Merrill did nothing wrong to be ranked #2. This ranking is more about the talent and potential of the #1 ranked player more than any knocks on Merrill.
1. Adam Larsson, D-Did you expect anyone else? Larsson is the best prospect in the Devils systems since Zach Parise and whether he begins his career in New Jersey or continues his career in the SEL isn't of much concern to me. He will benefit from either experience.
Agree with the top 20? Anyone left off that you think is deserving? Thanks for reading and sound off below!