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An Overview of the Devils Prospects Part 1: The Forwards

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With the 2015 draft and prospect camp behind us, it's time to take a look at the Devils prospect pool. The first part of this series will focus on the forwards.

 Pavel Zacha #14 of Team Czech Republic takes down Mislav Rosandic #4 of Team Slovakia while chasing the puck in a quarterfinal round during the 2015 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships at the Bell Centre on January 2, 2015 in Montreal, Quebec.
Pavel Zacha #14 of Team Czech Republic takes down Mislav Rosandic #4 of Team Slovakia while chasing the puck in a quarterfinal round during the 2015 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships at the Bell Centre on January 2, 2015 in Montreal, Quebec.
Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

Defining a Prospect

For this post, I will use the definition of a prospect from Hockey Prospectus:

For our purposes, a prospect is defined as a player who has 25 or fewer regular season games played during the last NHL season, or 50 or fewer career NHL regular season games played. The age cutoff is 26 years old, as of September 15th.

As I did last year, I will modify the age cutoff to 25 since 26 is too high in my opinion. The prospects will be grouped together based on the league they are expected to play in during the 2015-16 season. I'll also include some of the fringe NHL players under the AHL section. All stats collected from the respective league pages or CHL Stats.

Some stats you might see:
A1 and Pts1 = Primary assists and points, GC = Goals Created (Hockey-Reference's metric), Tm% = Team % Stats, eTOI = Estimated Time on Ice, eP/60 = Estimated Points Per 60, aaPPG = Age Adjusted Points Per Game, NHLe = NHL Equivalency

AHL

Graham Black - C - 6'0, 190 lbs. - DOB: 1/13/93 - Acquired: 2012 Draft (5/135)

Team League GP G A Pts +/- PIM SH% SH/GP Pts/GP
2014-15 Albany AHL 46 7 7 14 9 16 8.43% 1.80 0.30
A1 Pts1 GC GC/GP EVG EVA EV Pts EV GC EV GC/GP TmG% TmA% TmPt%
3 10 5.77 0.13 3 4 7 2.79 0.06 3.55% 2.17% 2.69%

Black was a late bloomer in juniors as he fought through Graves' Disease. Finally healthy in 2013-14 for his overage season, he exploded offensively with 34 goals and 63 assists in 69 games. Like he did in his junior career, he faced some adversity in his rookie season with Albany last year due to minor injuries that led him to appearing in just 46 games. The offensively skilled center will look to earn a consistent spot in Albany's line up for the upcoming season.


Joseph Blandisi - C - 6'0, 192 lbs. - DOB: 7/18/94 - Acquired: Free Agent (1/14/15)

Team League GP G A Pts +/- PIM Pts/GP
2014-15 Barrie OHL 68 52 60 112 18 126 1.65
eTOI eP/60 Pts1 EVG EVA EV Pts EV eP/60 aaPPG NHLe GC GC/GP TmPt%
31.8 3.11 84 24 27 51 1.72 0.80 40 37.5 0.55 40.58%

Blandisi was originally drafted by Colorado in the 2012 draft but they opted not to sign him. The Devils were able to take advantage of his free agent status and sign him last winter as he was in the midst of a breakout season. Blandisi also had some health issues that nearly stalled his career but with those in the past, he went on to become one of the OHL's most dominant players. He has the ability to play center and wing effectively but the Devils will most likely try to develop him at center long term. He has showcased plenty of skill but has also earned praise for his physical play. The AHL will be a great test for him this year and he will be another guy battling for a top 6 spot on the team.


Reid Boucher - LW - 5'10, 190 lbs. - DOB: 9/8/93 - Acquired: 2011 Draft (4/99)

Team League GP G A Pts +/- PIM SH% SH/GP Pts/GP
2014-15 Albany AHL 62 15 15 30 -6 36 8.72% 2.77 0.48
A1 Pts1 GC GC/GP EVG EVA EV Pts EV GC EV GC/GP TmG% TmA% TmPt%
9 24 12.36 0.20 6 6 12 5.03 0.08 7.61% 4.64% 5.77%

Boucher can return to the AHL but will have a great opportunity to earn a spot in New Jersey in training camp. He will turn 22 in September and already has 2 AHL seasons under his belt with an underwhelming 0.56 Pts/GP. Last season he struggled to produce consistently but did manage to get off a solid 2.77 SH/GP. It will be interesting to see if he can solve those consistency issues and thrive under coach John Hynes' new system. I would stop short of saying this is a make or break year for him, but he really does need to show that he is ready for the next level.


Blake Coleman - C/LW - 5'11, 200 lbs. - DOB: 11/28/91 - Acquired: 2011 Draft (3/75)

Team League GP G A Pts +/- PIM SH% SH/GP Pts/GP
2014-15 Miami NCHC 37 20 17 37 16 99 15.75% 3.43 1.00
A1 Pts1 EVG EVA EV Pts FO%
9 29 13 11 24 61.20%

Coleman is far from a guarantee to ever become a regular in the NHL, but he's a prospect that I like for many reasons. He can score, play with a physical edge, and has shown steady improvement over his college career. He has scored 39 goals over the last 2 seasons (64 games) for Miami. He's also shown the ability to consistently get 3 or more shots off per game at the collegiate level. Last season he improved his game in the faceoff circle. Sometimes he can be a bit reckless with his physical play, but that is certainly something that can be tamed. He will turn 24 in November and I wouldn't be surprised to see him move through Albany quickly if he can find success at the AHL level. Ideally, he would be able to become a solid bottom 6 role player for the Devils. Like I said earlier, there is no guarantee that will happen though.


Ben Johnson - LW - 6'0, 195 lbs. - DOB: 6/7/94 - Acquired: 2012 Draft (3/90)

Team League GP G A Pts +/- PIM SH% SH/GP Pts/GP
2014-15 Albany AHL 28 1 1 2 -4 8 3.45% 1.04 0.07
A1 Pts1 GC GC/GP EVG EVA EV Pts EV GC EV GC/GP TmG% TmA% TmPt%
1 2 0.82 0.03 0 1 1 0.28 0.01 0.51% 0.31% 0.38%

Johnson had a rough rookie season in Albany as he struggled to produce and stay in the line up. Towards the end of the year he was sent to Orlando in the ECHL where he had success with 2 goals and 6 assists in 12 games. Johnson's best attribute is his speed and he will look to use that to carve out a role in Albany (and be teammates with his cousin Blake Pietila). Johnson's low SH% should naturally improve this season but I hope to see him put up more than just a shot per game so he can have a better chance to improve his production.

Sergey Kalinin - C/RW - 6'3, 190 lbs. - DOB: 3/17/91 - Acquired: Free Agent (5/29/15)

Team League GP G A Pts +/- PIM SH% SH/GP Pts/GP
2014-15 Avangard Omsk KHL 58 12 13 25 -3 49 8.88% 2.33 0.43
TOI/G EVG PPG SHG FO%
16:00 6 5 1 50.26%

Kalinin is another player that should have a really solid chance to earn a spot in New Jersey's line up. Signed recently as a free agent out of the KHL, the 24 year old has a solid frame to go along with his offensive skill. Last season in the KHL he was above the 75th percentile in Pts/GP and G/GP. The ability to play either center or on the wing should help him in earning a spot with the big club. I find it encouraging the he captained his KHL team at a young age and played 16 minutes a night. John had more on Kalinin back in May when the Devils signed him.

Ryan Kujawinski - C - 6'2, 207 lbs. - DOB: 3/30/95 - Acquired: 2013 Draft (3/73)

Team League GP G A Pts +/- PIM Pts/GP
2014-15 Kingston/North Bay OHL 61 34 25 59 19 30 0.97
eTOI eP/60 Pts1 EVG EVA EV Pts EV eP/60 aaPPG NHLe GC GC/GP TmPt%
22.93 2.53 46 24 15 39 1.87 0.58 23 22.50 0.37 29.35%

Kujawinski had an up and down junior career. He was drafted 4th overall in the 2011 OHL Priority Selection Draft by Sarnia. They would eventually trade him to Kingston where he spent the majority of his OHL career with solid, but not overly impressive numbers. A trade to North Bay last season helped Kujawinski show what he is capable of by using his big frame to power past defenders and score goals. I think it will be really interesting to see how he performs in Albany this year. Perhaps he will never turn into the offensive prospect some scouts from years ago thought he would, but if he can play a responsible two-way game and use his size effectively, he could carve out a nice career for himself.


Stefan Matteau - LW - 6'2, 220 lbs. - DOB: 2/23/94 - Acquired: 2012 Draft (1/29)

Team League GP G A Pts +/- PIM SH% SH/GP Pts/GP
2014-15 Albany AHL 61 12 15 27 9 40 11.65% 1.69 0.44
A1 Pts1 GC GC/GP EVG EVA EV Pts EV GC EV GC/GP TmG% TmA% TmPt%
9 21 10.72 0.18 7 9 16 6.42 0.11 6.09% 4.64% 5.19%

Unfortunately, Matteau is no longer waiver exempt so the Devils will hope he is ready for a spot on the NHL club. I think it's likely he would be claimed off waivers if they tried to send him back to Albany. Matteau is another player with a nice frame, likes to play physical, and can chip in offensively from time to time. He improved his production from his age 19 to 20 season in Albany which is encouraging. I still think he could use another season down there to develop but that is a luxury the Devils don't have (unless he clears waivers and they don't mind having a $575K contract in Albany).


Blake Pietila - C/LW - 5'11, 200 lbs. - DOB: 2/20/93 - Acquired: 2011 Draft (5/129)

Team League GP G A Pts +/- PIM SH% SH/GP Pts/GP
2014-15 Michigan Tech WCHA 40 14 16 30 6 56 13.73% 2.55 0.75
A1 Pts1 EVG EVA EV Pts FO%
9 23 8 4 12 59.82%

Pietila is known for his strong defense and for becoming one of the better faceoff men in collegiate hockey over the last 2 seasons. He doesn't project to ever do much offensively at the professional level but could develop into a really solid defender that can anchor one of the bottom lines. I want to see him first claim a regular spot in Albany this season and then show at the very least he can be depended on to keep the puck out of his own net and end of ice.


Ben Thomson - LW - 6'3, 215 lbs. - DOB: 1/16/93 - Acquired: 2012 Draft (4/96)

Team League GP G A Pts +/- PIM SH% SH/GP Pts/GP
2014-15 Albany AHL 67 8 8 16 -2 97 10.00% 1.19 0.24
A1 Pts1 GC GC/GP EVG EVA EV Pts EV GC EV GC/GP TmG% TmA% TmPt%
5 13 6.59 0.10 8 7 15 6.42 0.10 4.06% 2.48% 3.08%

Thomson doesn't profile much more than a grinder at the professional level but to his credit he earned a regular role with Albany in his rookie season. He proved that he could drop the gloves (13 times) for Albany while chipping in some offense on occasion. I would love to see him prove me wrong and produce a bit more in his second AHL season.

CHL

Brandon Baddock - C/LW - 6'4, 215 lbs. - DOB: 3/29/95 - Acquired: 2014 Draft (6/161)

Team League GP G A Pts +/- PIM Pts/GP
2014-15 Edmonton WHL 71 19 21 40 -11 136 0.56
eTOI eP/60 Pts1 EVG EVA EV Pts EV eP/60 aaPPG NHLe GC GC/GP TmPt%
18.58 1.82 30 10 13 23 1.11 0.33 11 13.47 0.19 18.87%

Baddock is another player with limited upside but could probably hang around as a grinder/fighter in the minor leagues. He has 21 fighting majors over the past 3 seasons in the WHL. He's never been a big offensive contributor but he does have the size that NHL organizations love, which along with his fighting ability, is probably why he was drafted.


Connor Chatham - RW - 6'2, 225 lbs. - DOB: 10/30/95 - Acquired: 2014 Draft (3/71)

Team League GP G A Pts +/- PIM Pts/GP
2014-15 Plymouth OHL 48 17 20 37 1 47 0.77
eTOI eP/60 Pts1 EVG EVA EV Pts EV eP/60 aaPPG NHLe GC GC/GP TmPt%
16.79 2.75 31 12 15 27 1.89 0.53 18 13.48 0.28 25.34%

The production is quite there but Chatham is a prospect that interests me. He's really big, plays a position of need for the Devils organization, and has shown increased production over his first 2 OHL seasons. A wrist injury cut short his season last year but I look forward to him being one of Flint's top forwards this upcoming season and earning himself a contract with the Devils.


John Quenneville - C - 6'1, 205 lbs. - DOB: 4/16/96 - Acquired: 2014 Draft (1/30)

Team League GP G A Pts +/- PIM Pts/GP
2014-15 Brandon WHL 57 17 30 47 12 63 0.82
eTOI eP/60 Pts1 EVG EVA EV Pts EV eP/60 aaPPG NHLe GC GC/GP TmPt%
15.62 3.17 34 8 22 30 2.03 0.63 17 13.46 0.24 17.94

To say that Quenneville's 2014-15 season was disappointing would be an understatement. Rarely do 1st round picks regress from a Pts/GP perspective and lose playing time to younger players. To be fair to Quenneville, he battled multiple injuries all year that prevented him from finding his rhythm and he was on one of the CHL's deepest teams. He will have a great chance to rebound for Brandon this upcoming season and put last year behind him. Plus, he will be attending Canada's WJC camp in a few weeks and will fight for a spot to be invited back for the pre-tournament camp. Let's hope things go much smoother for NJ's former 1st round pick in 2015-16.


Blake Speers - RW - 5'11, 185 lbs. - DOB: 1/2/97 - Acquired: 2015 Draft (3/67)

Team League GP G A Pts +/- PIM Pts/GP
2014-15 Sault Ste. Marie OHL 57 24 43 67 25 12 1.18
eTOI eP/60 Pts1 EVG EVA EV Pts EV eP/60 aaPPG NHLe GC GC/GP TmPt%
18.41 3.83 54 14 25 39 2.45 1.04 29 21.03 0.37 23.76%

Most of you already know that I am a huge Speers fan. He produced well in a limited role for a deep Sault Ste. Marie team. The two-way winger is a great skater, is confident on the puck, and has a nice hockey IQ. I'm looking forward to him becoming one of Sault Ste. Marie's forwards this season and continuing to play well in both ends of the ice.

Pavel Zacha - C - 6'3, 210 lbs. - DOB: 4/6/97 - Acquired: 2015 Draft (1/6)

Team League GP G A Pts +/- PIM Pts/GP
2014-15 Sarnia OHL 37 16 18 34 5 56 0.92
eTOI eP/60 Pts1 EVG EVA EV Pts EV eP/60 aaPPG NHLe GC GC/GP TmPt%
17.31 3.19 28 10 9 19 1.95 0.85 22 12.36 0.33 25.56%

Instantly becoming the Devils best prospect when he was drafted, Zacha is a game changing forward with his size, high end skill, and vision. He could very well earn a spot in New Jersey in training camp (if they sign him by 5 PM on August 15) but I think it may be wise to let him spend another year in Sarnia (if he doesn't return to his Czech team). His rookie season was interrupted by injuries and suspensions and I would like to give him the chance to further develop and fine tune his game in juniors. Zacha is also likely to represent the Czech Republic at the WJC. Whether it's this year or next, it won't be long before we see Zacha in New Jersey.

NCAA

JD Dudek - C - 5'11, 182 lbs. - DOB: 1/29/96 - Acquired: 2014 Draft (6/152)

Team League GP G A Pts +/- PIM SH% SH/GP Pts/GP
2014-15 Dubuque/Chicago USHL 54 10 8 18 -9 72 9.01% 2.06 0.33
A1 Pts1 EVG EVA EV Pts
5 15 6 8 14

Dudek is a player that showed a lot of good offensive skill and instincts at the prep school level which is why the Devils drafted him late in 2014. He impressed at the following rookie camp but would go on to have a rough year in the USHL last season. He never found his game with Dubuque (12 points in 41 games) and even ended up as a scratch a few times. A late season trade to Chicago sparked him as he would go on to have 6 points in 13 games with the club. He will be 1 of 3 Devils prospects at Boston College next year and will try to earn a consistent role on the team as a freshman.


Alexander Kerfoot - C - 5'10, 175 lbs. - DOB: 8/11/94 - Acquired: 2012 Draft (5/150)

Team League GP G A Pts +/- PIM SH% SH/GP Pts/GP
2014-15 Harvard ECAC 27 8 22 30 16 12 13.56% 2.19 1.11
A1 Pts1 EVG EVA EV Pts FO%
12 20 6 11 17 44.50%

There is no doubting that Kerfoot is a very skilled player and if that's all that mattered, would have a NHL future in front of him. Unfortunately, he seems to be injury prone and has missed time over the last 3 seasons in the BCHL and NCAA thanks to a few shoulder injuries. He really took a step forward last season as a sophomore by anchoring Harvard's top line with Jimmy Vesey and Kyle Criscuolo. If he can stay healthy I look forward to seeing him produce even more as a junior. The biggest thing to me is that he stays healthy this season though.


Brett Seney - LW - 5'9, 170 lbs. - DOB: 2/29/96 - Acquired: 2015 Draft (6/157)

Team League GP G A Pts +/- PIM SH% SH/GP Pts/GP
2014-15 Merrimack Hockey East 34 11 15 26 3 55 19.64% 1.65 0.76

Seney is a ridiculously fast, undersized winger that just completed an impressive freshman season for Merrimack. He thrives on transitional play with and without the puck. He is able to utilize his speed to blow past much larger defenders and either find a shot for himself or a teammate. He hit a bit of a wall late in the season due to a lower body injury, but overall, the 19 year old from Ontario was one of the more impressive freshman players from last season.


Miles Wood - LW - 6'1, 185 lbs. - DOB: 9/13/95 - Acquired: 2013 Draft (4/100)

Team League GP G A Pts Pts/GP
2014-15 Noble & Greenough USHS 17 17 18 35 2.06

Last summer I was a bit down on Wood because he was going to spend his age 19 season playing prep hockey against competition he already dominated instead of taking the next step to Boston College. While I still don't like that decision, I do have to give him credit for earning a place on the US WJC roster. Wood is a player that knows how to use his size to his advantage all over the ice, is a good skater, and has solid offensive instincts. I look forward to him being an immediate impact player for BC this fall.

Liiga

Artur Gavrus - LW/C - 5'10, 185 lbs. - DOB: 1/3/94 - Acquired: 2012 Draft (6/180)

Team League GP G A Pts +/- PIM SH% SH/GP Pts/GP
2014-15 Dinamo Minsk KHL 36 5 4 9 -7 12 10.42% 1.33 0.25
TOI/G EVG PPG SHG FO%
12:09 1 4 0 40.38

Gavrus remained a regular for Dinamo Minsk but was once again unable to solidify a top 6 spot for the club. He made the decision to move to Finland and play for Sport in the Liiga where he claims he will be a top 6 player. Hopefully the move works out for the skilled center since his progress has stagnated a bit over the last few years. Who knows if he'll ever sign with the Devils, but he is a nice player to have the rights to should he break out. Hopefully he'll be able to find the consistency that has escaped him in recent years.

Your Take

How do you feel about this group of prospects? What do you expect out of the "big names" like Boucher, Matteau, Zacha, and Quenneville? What other players do you have an interest in? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!