Training camp is upon us. As reported at NJ.com by Rich Chere last week, rookies are to report for physicals on September 9 and veterans will be in on September 11. With camp comes the promise of a new season and hope for a better result. However, it's not just the time to start gearing up for the New Jersey Devils. For the many young players in the system, this is their time to get up close with the coaching staff and established players. This is their time to make a case for a more playing time or a bigger role in the future. This is very much their time to shine. As a result, now is a perfect time to focus a bit on those younger players and get a sense where everyone stands.
Last summer, we at In Lou We Trust compiled a list of all of the players in the system under the age of 25 and ranked them as we decided who was the best. Adam Henrique took the top spot ahead of Adam Larsson, we put Jon Merril as high as #4, out collective vote put Mattias Tedenby at #6, and we all had varying opinions about those outside of the top ten. It wasn't a definitive list, but the whole point of it was to drive some kind of consensus on how we rate these players. We're going to do it again now, but it's going to be different. Rather than having each of us come up with a ranking, I'm putting the power in your hands.
This year, you, the In Lou We Trust community, will rank the 39 players in the system that are under the age of 25. With some advice from Talking Red head David Sarch, SurveyMonkey allows a users to make a free drop-down style survey. And so I did it for all the players in the system who were under the age of 25 before September 15, 2013. This means Kelly Zajac, Mike Sislo, Vladimir Zharkov, Harri Pesonen, Joe Whitney, Matthew Corrente (also with Carolina), and Corbin McPherson (who just missed the cutoff) are all too old for this list. I also removed Patrick Daly on the basis that he's not playing hockey anymore, Kory Nagy on the basis that I think he's now in Philly's system, and Mauro Jorg on the basis that he's never coming here. In their place, the Devils did draft five new players, added Riley Boychuk's contract from the Henrik Tallinder
salary dump trade, signed Raman Hrabarenka last season, and acquired Andrei Loktionov in a trade. J-S Berube isn't signed (as far as I know, CapGeek says he's a UFA) so he's not here; but Dan Kelly did agree to an AHL deal so he's included. After all the subtractions and additions, there are 39 players in the system under the age of 25: four goalies, 14 defensemen, and 21 forwards.
I'm forcing you, the reader, to rank 39 players for a top 25. The survey question is, "Who is the best player under 25 in the New Jersey Devils organization? Rank them 1-39." The intention in asking you to rank them all instead of the top 25 is to show how deep a talent pool can go and that New Jersey's not so strong outside of defense. Those players the team drafted beyond the first round in recent years make up a big part of the team's pipeline and they're not all that enticing. On draft day, we have hopes of these guys breaking through, but the reality is that just being a professional hockey player in the AHL is a big achievement. Making the NHL is very difficult and most won't reach their supposed ceiling even if they do get ice time in the best league in the world. When those players don't pan out, one of the effects is that the team has to fill holes at the NHL and AHL levels by signing players from free agency, which is a risk in of itself. The goal for this year is the same as last year; I'm hoping that the wisdom of a larger crowd will draw a better consensus than the seven of us. That's why I'm giving you the power. And if it doesn't work, at least we tried something new.
The survey does have 39 names on it, all in alphabetical order. So be careful that you don't leave Alexandre Carrier at #4 because that would be just dumb. (Aside: Shout out to former ILWT writer Tom Stivali for reminding me that his AHL deal was for two years. Also, two years?!) You can use the drop down menu next to the name to assign a number and you can drag and drop players in order. It may be a bit unwieldy at first, but this will ensure that everyone is ranked and no one is ranked twice. The survey will be open for a week and you each have one vote. I did set it up so that you can change your response should you want to for whatever reason. Next Sunday, I will tally up the results, and then we will break them down in a series of posts. Unlike last year where everyone in the top 25 got a post of their own, there will be a post for those who missed the top 25 and then every group of five within the top 25. This way this whole venture is streamline for us to write as it is for you to read and discuss. To make your own planning purposes easier, here's a chart of all 39 prospects in alphabetical order:
|#||Player (ABC Order)||Position||DOB||9/15 Age||Deal Status|
|5||Alexandre Carrier||RW||2/18/1991||22||AHL Only|
|16||Dan Kelly||D||5/17/1989||24||AHL Only|
Enough explanation. HERE IS THE LINK TO THE SURVEY. Please go and vote.
Tell your Devils-loving friends to have their say. You can even discuss what you're doing, make a case for (or against) someone, or go on about prospects in general here in the comments. This is your chance to argue among the Adams, whether Henrique (who should be signed soon...any day now...) or Larsson should top this year's list. Have your say as far as how the many defensive prospects stack up in the system; I'm sure there's plenty to argue among Gelinas, Urbom, and Merrill. You can downvote Tedenby at your will. Stack up the new draft picks against those who've had a few years of development. There's a lot going on here, so take your time. And if I get something wrong, let me know and I'll modify the survey and list as needed. Again, there's a week to get your votes in. Thank you for reading - and for voting. I am mostly looking forward to what you all come up with as a community.