The New Jersey Devils made a surprising appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season, and were driven to their berth through the incredible efforts of MVP Taylor Hall.
Although the Devils were ultimately eliminated in the first round by the Tampa Bay Lightning, the franchise’s return to the postseason was a significant step in the right direction. What’s more is that alongside Hall, a further developed supporting cast led by youngsters Nico Hischier, Jesper Bratt, and Will Butcher could push New Jersey even deeper into the postseason this campaign.
However, it is the Devils’ current core of young talent which must lead the way for the organization in the coming years, as New Jersey’s prospect pool stands relatively thin outside of a handful of quality players.
Stanley Cups: 3
2017-18 Record: 44-29-9; 97 Points
2017-18 Top Scorer: Taylor Hall; 39G, 54A, 93Pts
Farm System Grade: B-
Top 10 Prospects:
- Ty Smith
- Joey Anderson
- Michael McLeod
- Jesper Boqvist
- John Quenneville
- Fabian Zetterlund
- Reilly Walsh
- Mackenzie Blackwood
- Gilles Senn
- Nathan Bastian
The State of the Devils’ Farm System
If New Jersey wishes to enjoy sustainable, long-term success, the franchise will need to bolster its farm system in the coming years.
Although the Devils own a handful of quality young prospects, the team’s pool withers dramatically in its depths. At the top, New Jersey holds a trio of highly promising players in Ty Smith, Joey Anderson, and Michael McLeod. In Smith, the Devils nabbed a fleet-footed puck-moving defender known for his creativity and offensive mind-set. While he will require further development at the WHL and AHL-levels, Smith’s dynamic nature makes him the Devils’ best prospect.
Adding depth to New Jersey’s farm system are Anderson and McLeod — two youngsters who play professional style of game and can add offence with ease.
Anderson, Team USA’s captain at the 2018 WJC, is a strong skater who played for the University of Minnesota-Duluth over the past two seasons. Known for his stellar shot and creativity, Anderson could come to play a top-nine role with the Devils after additional seasoning at the AHL-level. And, like Anderson, McLeod too could play a crucial depth role with New Jersey in the coming years. Endlessly competitive and an excellent skater, McLeod can drive his team’s offence yet needs to learn to play a more team-oriented game.
Outside of these three, the Devils boast the likes of Jesper Boqvist, John Quenneville, and Reilly Walsh — three prospects who could play a role with New Jersey in the immediate future yet would do well to see greater ice time at various developmental levels. Although Quenneville could very well play the majority of the 2018-19 season at the NHL-level, it remains to be seen wether or not his AHL success can translate to hockey’s highest level.
Unfortunately, following these players listed above, the Devils’ farm system is fairly thin and positionally limited. What’s more is that New Jersey has no definite goaltender in place to takeover for Cory Schneider in the coming years — a deficiency which could prove critical to the Devils’ playoff hopes considering his injury history of late.
One Devils Prospect to Watch
Let’s take a moment to discuss the talents of Smith in greater detail.
Elite two-way defenders like Smith don’t come around too often, which is why it came as somewhat of a surprise to see the native of Lloydminster, Saskatchewan fall to 17th overall in the 2018 NHL Draft. However, it goes without saying that the Devils could not be happier with their selection, as Smith projects to become a sound, puck-moving defenceman at the NHL-level.
Although he isn’t the biggest defender on the ice given his 5-foot-11, 180-pound frame, Smith is often one of the smartest. As a player who sees the ice incredibly well, Smith has little issue moving the puck to his teammates and will even attempt and execute high-percentage plays with little to no difficulty.
Perhaps the most underrated aspect of Smith’s game, however, is his ability to lead both on and off of the ice. Having captained Team Canada on two separate international occasions, Smith is a natural leader who not only controls the game but leads by example. In all, he’s a prospect of immense potential for New Jersey, and one who could play a significant role with the team in the future.