We continue our top 25 New Jersey Devils players under the age of 25 series today. Last week John revealed the outsiders, those players who just missed out on the top 25, and I revealed the bottom 5 of this year's list. This post will reveal those players that were ranked in the bottom of the top 20. This group includes 4 fairly recent acquisitions by the New Jersey Devils with a couple of 2015 draft picks and free agent signings. It also includes a young defenseman that could once again see time in New Jersey this season. Let's take a look at who they are.
#20 - Blake Speers - RW - Age: 18 - 2014-15 Team: Sault Ste. Marie (OHL) - 2014 Rank: N/A - Elite Prospects Profile
I'm happy to see Speers ranked in the top 25 to start out his first year as a Devils prospect. As I wrote back when the Devils drafted him, I think Speers could provide excellent value for where he was picked. Prior to the draft, Alex wrote up this prospect profile on Speers. Future Considerations and Craig Button praised his two-way game, skating, and skill. Hockey Prospectus also agreed that he has pace, puck skills, and a nice shot. The Projection Project even found that his cohorts in their model had a 60% chance of becoming regular NHL players. A few weeks after the draft I compared his production with past and present Devils OHL prospects and found that he compared favorably. Last season he saw his ice time drop a bit in the second half of the season due to the quality and depth of Sault Ste. Marie. Still, he managed an impressive 24 goals and 43 assists in 57 regular season games. I look forward to him claiming a top 6 role on this year's team and once again putting up over a point per game.
#19 - Seth Helgeson - D - Age: 24 - 2014-15 Team: Albany (AHL)/New Jersey (NHL) - 2014 Rank: 19 - Elite Prospects Profile
The only returning player in this group of 5, Helgeson managed to reclaim his #19 rank. The large (6'4, 215 lbs.), physical, stay at-home defenseman is coming off of a season that saw him appear in 22 games for the big club due to injuries to the other defensemen. The Minnesota native played 4 seasons of college hockey with the Golden Gophers from 2009-13. Since then he's appeared in 127 AHL games where he's often been used in a shutdown role. At 24 years old his upside is limited and he's probably just a back pairing to depth defenseman. He doesn't add much in the way of offense but he can add a physical dimension to the Devils blue line should they want it. Plus he adds to the youth on the back end. He should have a strong chance of sticking with New Jersey out of training camp and could be the first called upon to play more minutes when injuries inevitably occur.
#18 - Mackenzie Blackwood - G - Age: 18 - 2014-15 Team: Barrie (OHL) - 2014 Rank: N/A - Elite Prospects Profile
The Devils selected Central Scouting's top ranked North American goaltender for the 2015 draft in the 2nd round back in June. Back then I wrote up this reaction post to the selection, profiling the young netminder. Blackwood is a large (6'4, 215 lbs.) athletic goaltender that has excelled as a workhorse for Barrie and will try to win a spot on Canada's U20 WJC team this winter. Not bad for someone who didn't start playing the position until age 12! If you want some insight into the way Blackwood plays his position then I recommend checking out this great post by Greg Balloch of InGoal Magazine. Blackwood has has posted above average numbers in his 2 OHL seasons and I hope he can take his game to another level this year now that he has 96 regular season games of experience under his belt. He instantly became New Jersey's top goalie prospect (not that he had much competition) and he was a comfortable top 25 selection for this year's list.
#17 - Vojtech Mozik - D - Age: 22 - 2014-15 Team: HC Plzen (Czech) - 2014 Rank: N/A - Elite Prospects Profile
The Devils signed the young Czech defenseman back in June. John had this post on the signing where he mentioned Mozik was tied for the league lead in goals by a defensemen and noted that he attended New York Rangers prospect camp in 2013 and 2014. I was curious to see where Mozik would be ranked as he is a new player in the organization and coming over from a strong, but not elite European league. In the end, he comfortably made the top 25 due to his age, professional experience, international experience, skill, and size. The young defender will have a chance to win a spot in New Jersey but is likely to start the year in Albany. He'll bring 157 games of professional experience from the Czech Republic top league with him. It will be interesting to see how he adjust to the North American game.
#16 - Joseph Blandisi - C - Age: 21 - 2014-15 Team: Barrie (OHL) - 2014 Rank: N/A - Elite Prospects Profile
The Devils signed the Barrie Colts captain back in January as he was in the midst of an impressive overage season in the OHL. Gerard wrote up this profile on Blandisi back then. Blandisi was originally drafted in the 6th round of the 2012 draft by the Colorado Avalanche but was not signed to a contract. He attended the Buffalo Sabres training camp prior to the 2014-15 season but was not offered a contract. As Tom Gulitti wrote in July, a strange illness suffered during the 2013-14 season nearly derailed his career. Surely, that was a big reason as to why he was never signed by Colorado. Fortunately, the Devils were able to swoop in and acquire a player that would put up 52 goals and 60 assists in 68 regular season games on his way to taking home OHL Overage Player of the Year honors as one of the league's top two-way threats. You can check out some of his skill in this play that is up for Best Play from the OHL's Central Division. While his offensive potential is expected to be a bit limited at the professional level, he has the hockey IQ to go along with his physicality that could help him carve out a NHL role eventually.
As we do every season, we will continue to release these rankings in sets of five as we get close to the start of training camp. This group saw numerous new players in the organization claim a top 25 ranking. How do you feel about these rankings? Where did you have these players on your list? Which players are you hopeful of claiming a NHL spot one day? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!