It's Friday morning and we are about to look at the top five prospects in the New Jersey Devils system under the age of 25, could life get any better? O, right, it would be better if the Devils were playing tonight. As most of you are aware, we reached out to the community to vote for the top 25 players which the Devils have in their system. Before we jump into the top five, below are links to the entire top 25 under 25 series from this year.
- The Bottom Half of the Top Ten
- New & Old Names in at #15 - #11
- A Range of Talent at Spots #16 Through #20
- Forwards Take Up Spots #21 Through #25
- The Outsiders (#39 - #26)
Now, for what you've been waiting for! Below are the top five New Jersey Devils players who are under 25 years old.
Josefson was a 2009 1st round draft pick at #20 overall. He hasn't quite panned out the way fans and the team would have liked, but he is still young. He has immense skill but hasn't had the time to develop given all of his injuries over the past few seasons. During his stints with the AHL, he always looks like one of the most skilled players on the ice. While he has put up quite a few points for Albany, that scoring touch hasn't transferred to the NHL. I would wager that if Josefson gets the chance at a full season of play in the NHL, he becomes more comfortable and starts putting up points.
An interesting note about Josefson is that he will be a restricted free agent at the end of this season. Therefore, he will hopefully prove his worth to the Devils organization and earn himself a long term contract with the Devils. However, if his performance is subpar, he could become a full-time AHL player.
# 4 Jon Merrill - D - Age: 21 - 2012 Rank: #4 - 2012-13 Teams: Univ. of Michigan (NCAA), Albany Devils (AHL) - Elite Prospects Profile
According to the you, the fans, Jon Merrill is the highest rated prospect that the Devils have in their system. I say this because #1-3 have all seen NHL time and are near locks to the Devils opening night roster. According to Corey Pronman of Hockey Prospectus, we were all right! The Devils drafted Merrill in the 2010 draft at #38 overall. Merrill has been a stud defenseman for the University of Michigan. Scouts have praised his play for being a true two-way defenseman. He can defend well in his own end as well as control play in the offensive zone. Not only that, but he has the scoring touch the Devils have lacked on the blue line for quite some time.
There have been questions to Merrill's personality as he was suspended from playing a few seasons ago. However, he is a 21 year old star at Michigan and everyone need to remember, he was in college. I have a feeling that once he starts playing in the professional leagues, he will mature, or Lou will force him to mature. As for his place on the list, I personally had him ranked #3. Merrill did get time at the end of last season to play with Albany, and he looked damn good. In 12 games, Merrill put up one goal and seven assists. Most defenseman take quite some time to develop; Merrill is well down that path if you ask me.
Lou Lamoriello is known for diabolically shrewd moves. He essentially stole Andrei Loktionov from the Los Angeles Kings. The Devils picked up Loktionov for only a fifth round pick back in February. Loktionov was originally drafted by the Kings in the fifth round at #123 overall. However, he has been a very promising prospect. About a year ago, Hockey Prospectus had him ranked as the 43rd best hockey player under 23. Therefore, Loktionov definitely has the clout to belong in the top five Devils players under 25.
Loktionov had a stellar season after being traded to the Devils. In 28 games, Loktionov racked up 12 points and helped the Devils to fire on all cylinders going into the postseason. Given that this list was cimpiled by fans, I assume they all have fond memories of Loktionov's brief stint with the Devils so far. Will he be able to duplicate last season's success? I hope so!
No surprises in the top two Devils under 25 as they are the same players as last year. And honestly, they will be ranked #1 and #2 again next year. Adam Larsson was the fourth overall pick in the 2011 NHL draft. He had a solid showing in his two NHL seasons so far. As I said with Merrill, defensemen take time to develop, especially players who get thrown straight into the NHL. Larsson has yet to reach his potential, and when he does, the Devils could have one of the most formidable defenseman in the league.
Mr. Henrique has quite the resume after playing only two NHL seasons. He will be a fan favorite for a long time due to one moment in his career. However, this was only possible due to Henrique's double OT goal against Florida in game seven of the first round. This all began for Henrique when he was drafted #82 overall in the third round back in 2008. Henrique was a stand out for the Windsor Spitfires and had a great AHL season in 2010-11, posting 50 points. Then, in 2011-12, Henrique got the chance to start with the big club. He didn't disappoint, putting up 51 points and being in the running to win the Calder Trophy for best rookie.
Henrique deserves the number one spot because his performance since joining the Devils has been outstanding. He is fast, hard working, and has great hands. Last year's shortened season wasn't his best season, but he still put up a respectable 16 points in 42 games. Lamoriello thinks very highly of Henrique and locked him up for six seasons for $24 million. Anyways, if a picture is truly worth 1,000 words, this article's leading picture encapsulates why Henrique is the Devils #1 player under 25 years old.
Now that you know how the community feels about the Devils younger players, let's compare them to last year's top five under 25.
Now, just as an aside, there can be a case made to flip around a lot of the top ten depending on how the community made their votes. Some may have chosen to evaluate on potential while others valued players on their actual performance in their respective leagues.
While this year's list is crowdsourcesd and last year's was the opinion of the esteemed writers at ILWT, I feel that the community chose the correct top five. Perhaps not in the order I would have chosen, but these are five players who have or most likely will make a large impact on the Devils franchise in the foreseeable future. A very sincere thank you from the ILWT writers for everyone who gave us their top 25 Devils players under 25. Now, let's hear everyone's top five below as well as who you feel got snubbed from the top five!