It's time for an update on the ILWT top prospects in the New Jersey Devils organization. My rankings are generated by my view of the potential of each player, his position and that position's value to the Devils. Note that I am still very conscious of the salary cap benefits the Devils receive if each player does reach that potential. Also, I am adhering to the rookie qualifications of the NHL so you will see some popular names dropped off the list.
Per a recent press release Jon Merrill has been named to the 2010-11 CCHA Second All Conference Team. Teammate and fellow Devils prospect Brandon Burlon was an Honorable Mention and if you wanted to really look at the votes, would have been on the third team.
1. Jacob Josefson, C-It's likely this is the last listing where he will be considered a rookie and after his recent play -not to mention the positive comments from Jacques Lemaire- Josefson deserves the top spot.
2. Jon Merrill, D-Still playing well for Michigan. Watch his impact in the CCHA playoffs/Frozen Four tournaments. He seemed to step up his game for the World Junior Championships and I expect him to do so again.
3. Adam Henrique, C-Poised to be the all-time leading rookie goal scorer in the Devils AHL affiliate history, I am surprised Henrique hasn't gotten a call up yet. That said with Josefson/Steckel and Pelley all available to play center on the bottom two lines, there isn't a spot that's open for him.
4. Alexander Urbom, D-Added his 2nd goal and 15th assist the other night and has been steady in his AHL rookie season. One area of concern was his jawing at the referees in Sunday night's game. After taking a penalty that resulted in a power play goal for the opposition, Urbom got another minor and a game misconduct for yelling at the officials. Let's hope it is a one off situation and not a trend.
5. Eric Gelinas, D-Sat out some games recently due to a charley horse, but I expect him to be fully available once Saint John's begins its quest for a Memorial Cup. No doubt he is coming to the professional ranks next year. Will he make a case in training camp to skip Albany entirely? Unlikely, but he will be more polished next year in camp than Urbom was last year.
6. Brandon Burlon, D-His consistent play has allowed the Michigan defense to lower their total goals against from 102 in 2009-2010 to 83 so far in 2010-2011. Burlon leads all Michigan defenders with a plus 13 rating.
7. Scott Wedgewood, G-Wedger has struggled in January (3.82 GAA/885 Save %) and February (3.04 / .884) and I would expect to see his workload lightened as the OHL playoffs approach. Plymouth is likely to play Windsor in the first round, allowing them to take revenge on the team that eliminated them from the playoffs last year.
8. Matt Taormina, D-Still no timetable on his return. I wished he would have gotten a chance to be coached by Lemaire (maybe he still can?), but he certainly should be re-signed and given a chance to compete and/or take Anssi Salmela/Mark Fayne's spots on the defense next fall.
9. Mike Hoeffel, F-Ended the regular season with a team high 13 goals for Minnesota. He will likely set career highs in goals and points by the time Minnesota's season has ended and he has already set a career high in assists. He turns 22 on April 9th and though he hasn't produced as much in college as Devils fans thought he would when he was selected in the 2nd round of the 2007 draft, he has the size and goal scoring skills needed to succeed at the NHL level.
10. Jeff Frazee, G-Back from his knee injury Frazee has been brought along slowly. He has been played well since his return allowing for the Albany team to compete more than they had with Mike McKenna, Dave Caruso or Jeff Lerg in net. Right now, I think it's fair to say that he is a solid AHL goaltender. Is that enough for the Devils to give him second string duties next year?
11. Steve Zalweski, C-Does a team that already has Zach Parise, Travis Zajac, Dainius Zubrus and Vladimir Zharkov have room for another player who has a ‘Z' prominently in his name? Acquired in what was called a ‘minor league deal' by team management ,Zalweski (who is 24) might end up being a steal for the Devils. He was projected by those who follow the San Jose system to be a 3rd or 4th liner that can kill penalties and occassionally put the puck in the net. This is certainly an aggressive ranking, and I hope Zalweski can make me look like a genius.
12. David McIntyre, C-Given 3rd line duties in Albany, McIntyre hasn't lived up to the point production I had hoped he would. That said, with a year under his belt I would think that he will be much more productive in year two in Albany.
13. David Wohlberg, F-Second on Michigan with 14 goals as he heads into the CCHA playoffs this weekend. Has bounced around on different line combinations this year but is still one of the clutch scorers for Michigan (3 game winning goals) that they will look to as they compete for a National Championship.
14. Curtis Gedig, D-Season ended on a sour note as Ohio State lost in the opening round of the CCHA playoffs to Lake Superior State University. Despite not scoring a goal this season Gedig still ended up 2nd on Ohio State in scoring by a defenseman behind Shane Sims (Senior-Drafted by Islanders). With the loss of seniors Sims, Chris Reed and Corey Toy, look to Gedig to play big minutes next season for the Buckeyes.
15. Seth Helgeson, D-Plays against some of the best collegiante competition in the WCHA and has been used as the primary shutdown defender for the Golden Gophers.
16. Corbin McPherson, D-Hard to judge his season as he plays on a bad team in Colgate. His season should end this week as Colgate goes to play Union (where Kelly Zajac plays) for a three game series. Will he return to Colgate for his senior season or attempt to jump to the professional ranks? This is purely speculation but if he has completed his college requirements and doesn't think Colgate will be that competitive next year why wouldn't he leave?
17. Alexander Vasyunov, F-I would think it would be fair to allow Vasyunov to play on a line with Zalweski or Henrique before completely writing him off. Re-signing Vasyunov will be one of the many hard decisions Lou Lamoriello has to make this off-season.
18. J-S Berube, F-Excelling in Trenton, hitting some stumbling blocks in Albany. Berube does have scoring touch and size/toughness and that should lead to a full time role in Albany next year as he continues to develop.
19. Dan Kelly, D-Steady defender who is the only blueliner with a positive plus/minus rating. Signed to a UFA deal out of Kitchener last year he would seem to be a similar type player as Mark Fraser and be able to provide depth in case of injury to any of the top 6 defensemen in the NHL.
20. Maxime Clermont, G- Has let his save percentage slip to 0.895% and is slowly losing his grip on the starter's job at Gatineau. Still has a chance to redeem himself in the QMJHL playoffs.
Graduates: Mattias Tedenby, Mark Fayne, Vladimir Zharkov, Matthew Corrente, Nick Palmieri,
Soon to graduate: Jacob Josefson, Matt Taormina, Olivier Magnan, Alexander Vasyunov