While a lockout is continuing, New Jersey Devils prospects and young players in the system are all getting the opportunity to play elsewhere. The college guys are in college. Those just drafted have returned to their teams. The Canadian Major Junior hockey leagues already begun. European leagues are also active. Even the young guys on the NHL roster in 2012-13 have been sent down to Albany like many other young NHL players. There will be hockey and these young to relatively young players will get a chance to develop and grow to some degree. All 39 of them.
We at In Lou We Trust decided that with so many young players in the system, it's a good idea to get a sense of where these players stack up. Tom did a great job at reviewing the prospects regularly and even ranking them in a top twenty list. We decided to expand the scope, consider more players, and steal a good idea from the Copper & Blue and Pension Plan Puppets: The Top 25 Under 25 series. The concept is pretty simple. Rank all of the players in the team's system that are under the age of 25. How they are ranked are up to the writer; but the hope is that with a consensus, we have a general idea of how they are seen in the system and who we should really try and follow going forward.
As a disclaimer, I'd like to make a few things clear before getting to the first rankings of the series. First, all ages are as of September 15, 2012. Players aged 25 or over at that time were not considered. Second, we included all players in developmental leagues and the AHL whose rights are owned by New Jersey. Third, all overall rankings were an average of each writer's rankings, with ties being broken by the most ranks above the average. Fourth and most of all, I will admit that this is a subjective rank and based on only limited knowledge that we have available. We fully expect and accept any criticism of the rankings for certain players. We welcome any proof contrary to what we think and debate based on disagreement. We know that we will be proven dead wrong on some of these players. That's part of the fun of doing a list like this; to discuss and check our perceptions of the guys in the system.
Today, we kick off the series with the outsiders, those who didn't come close to make the actual Top 25 part of the list. Remember, 39 Devils in the system are under the age of 25, and so there are plenty of prospects who just aren't well regarded. Some just have a low upside. Some just never panned out to be anything more than AHL players after a few years. Some are just unknown quantities and could see their stock rise in the future. Some are just unknown. We still want to let you know who they are and where they will be in 2012-13. So let's get into it with a brief summary of each of those players who ended up at #31 through #39 in our collective rankings.
#39 Mauro Jörg - LW - Age: 23 - 2012-13 Team: Rapperswil (NLA) - Elite Prospects Profile
The Devils drafted Jörg late in 2009 right out of Switzerland. He's remained there ever since and there doesn't seem to be any indication at all that he'll ever come over to North America. It's not like he's even been productive in Switzerland either, so it doesn't appear we're missing much from him. As a result, he was ranked almost unanimously last by all the writers.
#38 Patrick Daly - D - Age: 20 - 2012-13 Team: St. Thomas (D-3, MIAC) - Elite Prospects Profile
You could argue Daly should be last on this list. He went to Wisconsin and quit mid-way through the season to focus on his academics. As understandable as that is, that move doesn't suggest a strong interest, much less a future, in pro hockey. Andy Johnson of Bucky's 5th Quarter reported that Daly has transferred to St. Thomas, a private college that plays Division III hockey in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. It's good that he seems interested in hockey again, but a pro career in hockey seems in doubt even if he lights it up with the Tommies.
Young is the first North American pro prospect list from the bottom of our rankings. What really hurt his stock is the fact that he couldn't stay a regular at Albany. While the team is loaded with defensemen, I wonder whether he regressed? He went from 52 games in 2010-11 to a mere 11 in 2011-12, with 32 played with Kalamazoo in the ECHL. Young needs to establish that he's an AHL player more than anything else and so the big defender can't really be touted.
#36 Kory Nagy - C/LW - Age: 22 - 2012-13 Team: Albany (AHL) - Elite Prospects Profile
Unlike Young, Nagy has worked his way up from the ECHL to become an AHL regular. He played 52 games, all with Albany in 2011-12. The problem is that he hasn't been productive, he's not an offensive player, and while he got up to the top level in minor league hockey, there isn't anything about his game that suggests he can take it to the next level. With an influx of a few NHL players for this season, Nagy may be on the outside looking in again.
Kelly's not as big as Young, but he's not terribly different as a hard-working defender. Unlike Young, been able to stick in the AHL in his first two seasons of pro hockey after completing his junior career with Kitchener. Like him, it's going to be a bit of a challenge for him to stick around now that Adam Larsson is joining the A-Devs. He may do it but is he anything more than an AHL defender? Probably not.
#34 Jean-Sébastien Bérubé- LW - Age: 22 - 2012-13 Team: Albany (AHL) - Elite Prospects Profile
I might as well give him the accents and his full name because there's not a lot remarkable about the player. He's big, he's physical, and he split time between the ECHL and the AHL. Even if he sticks around a more crowded AHL roster in 2012-13, he's going to relatively low on the depth chart with a limited role. Bérubé doesn't really have much upside, so
Thomson is the first 2012 Devils draft pick on our list. He just wasn't well regarded by most of the writers. When he was picked, I feared he was just a goon, but a helpful reader pointed out that he's more of a grinder. His junior team did name him an assistant captain for this season, so he's well-liked to a point and that's nice. Still, he was an overage pick so an increase of production shouldn't be taken too highly and there doesn't seem to be a lot of upside with the player. He is who he is. It'll be interesting to see how he deals with the new fighting rule in the OHL. Either way, I wouldn't expect much out of him even if he's not a total goon.
#32 Derek Rodwell - LW - Age: 22 - 2012-13 Team: North Dakota (WCHA) - Elite Prospects Profile
Derek Rodwell is probably the first player on this list that I think could be higher than where we collectively felt. He's got good size, he's got some offensive skills, and could be a grinder at the next level. The big reason why he's so low is because of a significant injury he suffered last season. He missed a majority of the 2011-12 season with a shoulder injury that required surgery. That robbed him of most of his sophomore season; and he's going to need a bounce-back season as a junior to establish his spot on the Fighting Sioux as well as prove whether he's got a future in pro hockey. Best of luck.
#31 - Curtis Gedig - D - Age: 21 - 2012-13 Team: Ohio State (CCHA) - Elite Prospects Profile
The last pick of the Devils' 2009 draft was their youngest; so much so that Gedig was still playing Junior A hockey before he could go to Ohio State University. He's seemed to do well there. While he's not an offensive player, his production increased a bit after a good freshman year. We've had a big divide in rankings here. Jerry and Kevin really like what he has done so far and his defensive style could translate to the next level. Nate and I aren't so convinced; but I think we can be if he has a good junior season. Like Rodwell, he could turn out to be better than he was collectively ranked.
The series will continue on Saturday with a short summary of #26 - #30, the players who just missed the cut. Call them underdogs, for lack of a better term. On Sunday, the Top 25 will begin in earnest with an individual post on each player ranked. In the meantime, what do you think of these rankings? Did any of these nine players seem out of place in your opinion? And if so, why? Who do you think was ranked #26 through #30? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about these prospects in the comments. I'd like to thank Kevin, Karen, Jerry, Nate, and Matt for their assistance for this project; and I thank you for reading.