Part of the reason why our prior entry on this list, #12 Reid Boucher, ranked as high as he did was because of an organizational need. Boucher's accomplishments were more highly regarded at the time of voting partially because the team really didn't have many offensive forwards in the system. That same reasoning applies to the #11 player on our Top 25 Devils Under 25 list: Reece Scarlett. While the Devils have plenty of defensemen both in New Jersey and in the system, the vast majority don't bring a lot of offense to the table. Scarlett has done just that with the Swift Current Broncos in the Western Hockey League with increasing totals. Therefore, there's a hope that he be one of the players to address that glaring need someday.
#11 - Reece Scarlett - D - Height: 6'0" - Weight: 165 lbs. - Age: 19 - 2012-13 Team: Swift Current (WHL)
As you can see from his stats at Elite Prospects, Scarlett has performed for the Broncos for several years now. He joined up with the team at a young age and his production has improved with each season. 2011-12 was a real breakout year in terms of offense as he finished with the most points out of all Swift Current defensemen and tied for fourteenth in the WHL among all defensemen in points. That assists number really stands out. Forty assists in a season is pretty good evidence that Scarlett has the ability to make and/or contribute to plays. Corey Pronman of Hockey Prospectus highlighted his skating, passing, and offensive awareness as strengths; so it's not as if he just got hot. He has actual talent. What makes his production particularly notable is that he did it at all for Swift Current.
I haven't used the Elite Prospects widget that includes playoffs as most of the players on this list either didn't do much in the playoffs or they're combined with the regular season (NCAA). I'm doing so here to show that Scarlett hasn't been in the post season since his first full season in 2009-10. After that season, the Broncos became real bad, real fast. They were the second worst team in the WHL in 2010-11 with 54 points earned (Record: 26-44-0-2). Swift Current improved their record by eight points in 2011-12 but still missed the playoffs by twenty. What this means for Scarlett is that he logged much of his minutes and points on a lackluster roster. That makes his breakout in 2011-12 even more impressive. Who knows how much more he could have produced if he was on a better team?
In any case, Scarlett wasn't just an offensive player for Swift Current. Back in September, David Sarch happened to interview Shawn Mullin, the play-by-play announcer for Swift Current, about Scarlett and Graham Black for Talking Red. While Mullin was understandably complementary of the defenseman, he revealed additional insight that doesn't show up on the basic stats. Mullin explained that a 17 year old Scarlett was thrown onto the top pairing in 2010-11 - when Swift Current finished next to last in the league - and was leaned on for heavy minutes. Scarlett played as much as 30 minutes at times. While it didn't always go so well, it certainly gave him additional experience most don't get. It also meant the coaches thought very highly of Scarlett (and not as much in the other defenders) to give him such a grandiose role. As a result, Scarlett became a better player (how can you not with all of that ice time?) and as the team got better in the following year, it explains his results from last season. On top of that Mullin noted that Scarlett has displayed smart positioning in his own end so it's not as if he only can play one way.
However, there's a big concern with Scarlett going forward: size. There's nothing wrong with his height but the guy needs to add weight. Elite Prospects has him at 165 pounds, the Swift Current site has him at 178 pounds, and whichever one is closer to the mark is irrelevant as the point is the same. Scarlett needs to get bigger to get prepared for the next level of hockey. Pronman noted it as his main weakness in his short profile, and I can't disagree. As good as he may be in terms of positioning along, his lack of size is a liability along the boards and in battles for pucks. Sometimes, a defender has to win those battles. In his interview with Talking Red, Mullin didn't think his strength has been a problem and he did explain that Scarlett has tried - it just hasn't happened yet. For Scarlett's sake, I hope it happens soon. His size may be fine at the WHL level; however, it'll hinder him when he goes pro and he has to acclimate to going against bigger and faster opponents.
In addition to that, Scarlett just needs to go out there this season and be a dominant player. He'll turn 20 in March, so I'm expecting that this is his last season with Swift Current. His worth right now is a bit of a question mark. Half of us ranked him lower than #11, and the other half put him in this spot or better. It wasn't a case that there's something seriously wrong with Scarlett. I think it's just a matter how much his work so far is appreciated. One could reasonably say that he's done well in junior, but it's a big question mark whether he could do the same at the next level. A wait-and-see approach, if you will. The more optimistic (myself included) will point out that the Devils lack this kind of player in their organization, and so he should be touted more because of it. Both points of view are valid. Could he be a top four defenseman some day? Possibly, but regardless of how he does this season with Swift Current, he's going to need to prove he can be an offensive defenseman in Albany first. Let's hope he does because that need for more offense from the blueline remains.
Now that you've read about Scarlett and learned his ranking, we want to know what you think. Do you think #11 is a good spot for Scarlett, or do you think he should be higher or lower? What do you want to see Scarlett do with Swift Current this season? Will he put on weight any time soon? Will he get to the next level when he does go pro? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Scarlett in the comments. Thank you for reading.