We continue our top 25 New Jersey Devils players under the age of 25 series today. This post will reveal the bottom half of the top 10. This includes 4 returning members from last year's top 10 as well as a new member of the Devils organization. This group of 3 defensemen and 2 forwards includes players from the NCAA to NHL level. Let's take a look at who they are.
#10 - Steve Santini - D - Age: 20 - 2014-15 Team: Boston College (Hockey East) - 2014 Rank: 9 - Elite Prospects Profile
The Devils drafted Santini out of the USNTDP with their 2nd round pick in the 2013 draft. While his shot never developed as hoped in the USNTDP he still was highly recruited by schools due to his great defensive game. The smooth skating defender is known for his hockey sense that allows him to break up plays with his smart positioning. He loves to play a physical game and has been known to play on the edge by NCAA standards. Santini has shown nice passing ability at both the junior and collegiate levels and tends to be very conservative with his distribution. He's the type of defensemen that will move the puck safely and effectively out of his own end but not rack up assists.
Santini had a successful freshman campaign with Boston College in 2013-14, appearing in 35 games and notching 3 goals and 8 assists to go along with 52 penalty minutes in a top 4 role. He was a member of the USA World Junior Championship squad that had a disappointing run in 2014. Still, it's worth noting that he has had positive experience playing international hockey as he won silver medals on the U17 and U18 levels. He even was named the best defenseman of the U18 tournament in 2013.
Last year's sophomore season for Santini was a bit of a disappointment, but not due to his play. A wrist injury that required surgery caused him to miss half of the season and the WJC's where he was going to have a big role for Team USA. He was limited to 22 games with BC where he had a goal and 4 assists to go along with 20 penalty minutes in a top 4 role on a deep BC blue line. Santini will be an alternate captain for BC in 2015-16 in what is probably going to be his final year of college hockey before turning pro. I'm looking forward to him getting to play a full season, even more minutes, and mentoring some of the young Devils' prospects at BC such as JD Dudek and Miles Wood. I think Santini could very well become a top 4 defensemen that can kill penalties for the Devils down the road.
#9 - Reid Boucher - LW - Age: 22 - 2014-15 Team: Albany Devils (AHL) - 2014 Rank: 5 - Elite Prospects Profile
Boucher was the 4th round pick of the 2011 draft by the Devils out of the USNTDP. After deciding to play major junior hockey in Sarnia rather than college hockey with Michigan State, the Michigan native went on to surpass expectations and become a legitimate NHL prospect thanks to a monster 2012-13 season with the Sting that saw him put 62 goals and 33 assists in 68 games. Things have naturally been harder for him since turning pro though.
In his first pro season in 2013-14, he split time between New Jersey where he had 2 goals and 5 assists in 23 games and Albany where he put up a respectable 22 goals and 16 assists in 56 games. Last year, he managed just 1 goal in 11 games with New Jersey and struggled in Albany, putting up just 15 goals and 15 assists in 62 games. While his shots per game in both seasons with Albany stayed above 2.5, it's worth noting that his 2013-14 SH% was 15.07% while last year's was just 8.72%. The truth is probably somewhere in-between as he is known for his great shot thanks to a quick release.
He will have a great chance to earn consistent time with New Jersey this season and hopefully he can take advantage of it. The Devils have few quality offensive prospects and Boucher panning out would be an immense boost to the organization. I really hope that we can see a bit more consistency in his production, as last season he started his AHL campaign off with 10 goals in 27 games before finishing with just 5 goals over his last 35 games.
#8 - John Moore - D - Age: 24 - 2014-15 Team: New York Rangers/Arizona Coyotes (NHL) - 2014 Rank: N/A - Elite Prospects Profile
One of the newcomers to the organization that cracked this year's top 10, Moore brings 230 regular season games of NHL experience with Columbus, New York Rangers, and Arizona with him. Ray Shero surprised fans by inking the 24 year old to a cheap, 3 year deal on July 1. This was a bit of a surprise given the Devils already young defensive group and the prospects they have in their system but it makes sense given that Moore is yet to enter his prime. If Moore progresses then the Devils end up with a productive NHL player on a team friendly deal, if not then they could get rid of him easily.
Moore is just a 0.17 points per game player in his career but thanks to last season's passing data, we can see that he is capable of contributing to scoring chances. On his Hockey Reference page we can see that he's a guy that can play 15 minutes a night and do well in terms of possession when utilized correctly. He is prone to mental lapses in his own zone so the coaching staff will look to fix that part of his game.
If deployed in a protected role with favorable zone starts on the 3rd pair, he can also do a decent job at limiting the opposition's shot attempts. With his skill-set and experience, it's clear to see why so many had him in their top 10 for this year's list.
#7 - Jacob Josefson - C - Age: 24 - 2014-15 Team: New Jersey Devils (NHL) - 2014 Rank: 8 - Elite Prospects Profile
Josefson is just 24 but it feels like he's been around forever at this point. The Devils drafted him in the 1st round all the way back in 2009. He would spend his post-draft year with Djurgardens in Sweden and would play on his country's WJC team that would win bronze. From 2010 to 2013 he would split time between New Jersey and Albany, showing glimpses of being a NHL player, but was not able to lock down a full time spot with the big club whether it was due to injuries, not taking advantage of his opportunities, or not earning the trust of the coaches.
Over the last 2 seasons, Josefson has remained with New Jersey on a full time basis but has only appeared in 89 games during that time, averaging around 10-12 minutes per game. As Mike wrote a few weeks ago, "It's Sink or Swim" time for Josefson. As Mike noted, Josefson's offensive production has been disappointing but if there is a silver lining, it's his ok possession stats despite not having a set role or linemates during his time in New Jersey. Josefson is a decent defender and I do think he could be a fine bottom 6 center that can help drive play and eat minutes on the penalty kill. He will have a great opportunity this season with a rebuilding Devils team and new coaching staff to cement his place in New Jersey once and for all. Hopefully he can do better than the 0.20 points per game that he has put up in 180 NHL games. I do believe that this year we will find out the truth on whether or not Josefson will fit into the Devils future plans.
#6 - Eric Gelinas - D - Age: 24 - 2014-15 Team: New Jersey Devils (NHL) - 2014 Rank: 4 - Elite Prospects Profile
Gelinas has become a fan favorite in New Jersey due to his absolute rocket of a shot. The 6'4, 215 lbs. defender loves to get himself into situations in 5v5 play and on the PP where he can blast his shot at opposing goaltenders. The former 2nd round pick of the Devils in the 2009 draft plied his trade in the QMJHL from 2007-2011 where he spent quite a bit of time learning to play the position as he grew up playing forward until midget hockey. His lack of positional awareness and poor decisions in his own end are still a bit of a problem at the NHL level but the Devils can live with it - for now - if he can be a 0.40 points per game player from the back end. It will be interesting to see if the new coaching staff can help him take his game to the next level.
The young defenseman has now established himself in New Jersey after spending parts of the 3 prior seasons to last year in Albany. With the departure of Marek Zidlicky, I'd expect him to really become the go to point producer for the Devils blue line and a primary weapon on the power play. We will find out this season if he can handle this great opportunity. Perhaps more importantly, we will find out if he can play passable defense in his own end often enough to warrant more responsibility. The Devils have sheltered him with favorable zone starts against lower competition but he's still struggled at times.
How do you feel about these players? Did you have them in your top 10? What do you think about Santini as a prospect? What do you expect from Boucher, Moore, and Gelinas this season? Do you think Josefson will finally come around this season? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!