In spots 16 through 20 of the Top 25 Under 25, there is a wide array of prospects out there for the Devils. Some are projects and some are not far from having a shot in the NHL. If some of these players pan out, they could someday be good contributors in New Jersey. Without further ado, here are the next five, as voted on by you, the users:
#20: Ben Johnson - C - 2012 Rank: 19 - Age: 19 - 2012-13 Team: Windsor Spitfires (OHL) - Elite Prospects Profile
The community remains relatively high on Johnson as a prospect, despite a less than desirable year both on and off the ice. Johnson is a lightning fast skater by most accounts, yet he is lacking in the way of other standout skills. He is known for being an aggressive player who can provide energy even when he's not producing, but his ceiling at the next level seems limited.
Johnson failed to really take a step forward on the ice this past season, scoring at an almost identical pace to his first OHL season with 37 points in 64 games. Whether he is contributing in other places or not, it is tough to see someone producing at this rate making the jump to the next level in the NHL. This is all before mentioning Johnson's run-ins with the law this spring. Johnson was hit with two separate sexual assault charges stemming from incidents in Windsor bars which, to my knowledge, are still pending. To be perfectly honest, I'm not totally sure how Johnson ended up quite so high in the rankings and I would have had him a fair bit lower myself. He clearly has a long way to go on and off the ice if he is ever going to make it in the NHL.
#19: Blake Coleman - C - 2012 Rank: 17 - Age: 21 - 2012-13 Team: Miami University (NCAA) - Elite Prospects Profile
Blake Coleman is a big forward with the Miami University Redhawks who hails from Plano, Texas originally. Prior to joining Miami University, Coleman put up huge numbers in the USHL and was named player of the year in the league. Since heading to the NCAA ranks, his production has tailed off a fair amount, with 23 points in 39 games his freshman year, and 19 points in 40 games in his sophomore campaign. Coleman has always projected as a bit of a project, but he will have to take a big step forward in his junior season at Miami to have a shot at an NHL contract.
As John touched on last year, Coleman is a gritty, versatile forward who has some decent skills to back up his effort. If he can progress more as a player, he could end up in a third or even second line role someday. That is a pretty big if at this point, though. Coleman has grit, sure, but he is not the biggest player out there. He will have to show more on the stat sheet before he can be considered a viable NHL prospect. You can only be a "project" for so long before a team moves on. This season will be a big one for the Miami forward.
#18: Reece Scarlett - D - 2012 Rank: 11 - Age: 20 - 2012-13 Team: Swift Current Broncos (WHL) - Elite Prospects Profile
Scarlett took a sizable dip in this year's rankings compared to last summer, with the ILWT community dropping him down to the #18 spot down from last year's #11. This is a little bit surprising, as Scarlett was able to continue producing well in his final season with Swift Current in the WHL, matching his 49-point campaign from the blue line he put up the year prior (good enough to make the top 10 scorers from the blue line). Scarlett signed an entry-level deal with the Devils last fall and he will likely start his season with the Albany Devils this fall.
Reece Scarlett's best traits currently are in his offense and his transition game. In Corey Pronman's organizational rankings at Hockey Prospectus, he has Scarlett up at number 9 (though that list doesn't include the NHL under-25ers). People are always clamoring for a puck-moving defenseman, no matter what team you root for, and he has the skills to possibly be that guy. He can skate well to go along with his abilities with the puck, making him an ideal offensive blue-liner. Scarlett's issues lie with his defensive game, where he will need to improve to continue on to the NHL ranks. He is not particularly big and his physical game needs work, so those are things he will have to work on as he moves on to the AHL this year.
#17: Brandon Burlon - D - 2012 Rank: 14 - Age: 23 - 2012-13 Team: Albany Devils (AHL) - Elite Prospects Profile
As a 23-year-old, Brandon Burlon is one of the older prospects within the Devils' system. This season will be his third in Albany since he left Michigan and it will be a big one for the defender to try to show he deserves a chance at the NHL ranks. Burlon has played fairly well in Albany, but with the defensive pipeline as crowded as it is, he will have to make a big impression to leapfrog over some of his peers in the near term.
Burlon, overall, is a pretty well-rounded defenseman. He has good passing skills, he skates well, and he typically positions himself well when defending. He doesn't put up many goals, as the two in two AHL seasons will attest to, but his 16 assists in 53 games paint a decent picture for his distributing abilities. He can be a contributor in the transition game with his abilities moving the puck. Burlon doesn't have any one aspect that will blow you away and he isn't the most physical of defensemen, but the total package seems to be a guy who should have a chance to contribute in some way at the next level. Hockey's Future compares his skill set to that of Andy Greene, which isn't the worst company to be in. He will just have to keep working until he gets his shot.
#16: Artur Gavrus - RW - 2012 Rank: 21 - Age: 19 - 2012-13 Team: Owen Sound Attack (OHL) - Elite Prospects Profile
Artur Gavrus is probably one of the toughest prospects to get a handle on within the Devils' organization. He was drafted down in the 6th round in 2012, but he has shown undeniable skills at times in his play. The Belarusian winger seems to be the epitome of the project-type prospect. His stats from the limited time he's spent in the OHL are decent, but certainly don't jump off the page (51 points in 66 games). Injuries and family issues have limited some of his opportunities, but he has the ability, according to scouts.
Gavrus will have a big test in front of him this season as he will be joining Dinamo Minsk of the KHL. If he can make an impression in the KHL, that would certainly bode well for his ability to contribute at the NHL level. Corey Pronman has him at 10th in his Devils organizational rankings, and notes a full range of offensive abilities in his arsenal. He can skate and handle the puck very well at high speeds. He also can be strong stationed in the zone and can contribute on the power play. He is small though, and injury issues have limited him. If he can stay upright, he has a chance to contribute as a scoring winger someday, though.