Today is a big day for prospect news. First, the New Jersey Devils put Pavel Zacha in Albany and called him up to play, per Matt Loughlin. He'll definitely be with the A-Devils for their playoffs. The bigger news is this, though. According to the team's official website, the Devils have signed defenseman Steve Santini to a three-year entry level contract. Just as interesting is this part of the announcement:
The contract will begin with the 2015-16 season and he will report to New Jersey tomorrow. He has been assigned no. 38.
This means there's a chance that Santini makes his professional debut tomorrow night against the Toronto Maple Leafs. I mean, they gave him a number in New Jersey right away. From a NCAA Frozen Four appearance - Boston College was just eliminated - right into the NHL is definitely a thrill for any player. (And if he doesn't play tomorrow, then probably the AHL playoffs, which is still pro hockey and a big deal.) In this case, I think it speaks to how highly regarded he is within the organization. The Devils could have easily made this deal shortly after the regular season has ended or during the summer. Doing it now means they want to see him in action. Clearly, they think he's done enough in college to warrant the jump to the pros as a junior. Santini and his people must agree as he forgoes his senior season with the Eagles.
It's hard to argue he has not. Santini has played for Boston College for three years. The 21-year old has been a rock on the Eagles' blueline. So much so that he was named the 2015-16 Best Defensive Defenseman in Hockey East. That is what Santini has always been about: the defense. He has never been a productive player at any level. Just look at his numbers at Elite Prospects; his numbers won't pop out at you. But his defensive skills and his prowess at skating ensured he would not be ignored. He's been more than good enough to play for the U.S. National Developmental Team, represent the country at the World U-18s and World Junior Championships, and lead a defense at a college traditionally known for its strong hockey teams. He's been more than good enough for writers like Jeff Cox at SBN College Hockey to list him as the second best NHL defenseman prospect in Hockey East and DJ Powers at Hockey's Future to list him third among all NHL defenseman prospects. He's been more than good enough to earn accolades such as being named to the Hockey East All-Rookie team as a freshman and the aforementioned Best Defensive Defenseman aware for his junior season. Now he's here and we could get a sneak peek at what he could become one day.
If there's any lesson to learn from Eric Gelinas, Jon Merrill, and Damon Severson, it's that a prospect's development is not guaranteed to go the way one would hope. So let's not act as if he's the Next Big Thing just yet. That said, it's perfectly fine to get or to be excited about Santini. I am. He's risen to the challenge at every level of his development so far. He's been one of New Jersey's better prospects since being drafted in the second round in 2013. I do hope he will be a regular in New Jersey the future. Even if he doesn't bring much in terms offensive production, if he can skate well, react quickly, and further strengthen his defensive skills (e.g. positioning, gap control), then I think we will see him quite a lot in Newark. The first appearance may even be tomorrow. Congratulations to Steve Santini for signing his first NHL contract and I wish him the best of luck.
What do you make of the Devils signing Santini to an entry level contract right now? What do you expect from him based on what you've read from Brian's posts, what he's done, and (if you did see him) from what you've seen?
BUT WAIT, There's More: Thanks to mlc14 in the comments for highlighting that the team has made an announcement within this hour of another signing. The team has officially signed Miles Wood to a three-year entry level contract. Like Santini, the contract starts now, he'll report to New Jersey, and he's been given a number, #44. While he's 20 years old, Wood just finished his freshman year at Boston College. It was a big year for Wood. In addition to making the jump to Hockey East, he was a surprising selection for USA Hockey's World Junior Championship roster. Seeing that he wasn't in the USNTDP, that's a pretty impressive achievement even if he ended up only playing on their fourth line. Per Elite Prospects, he put up ten goals and twenty five assists; a near point per game pace in 37 games with the Eagles. That placed him fifth in scoring for the season, always a positive for a freshman. He also racked up 76 penalty minutes, so he was throwing his big frame around.
Clearly, the Devils also think he's ready for the pro game. He certainly has the size; and his play has impressed the team. I personally would not have minded another year or two in college to let him grow, but that can just as easily happen with Albany next season. In the meantime, Wood could appear in tomorrow's game and then move down to Albany along with Zacha and Santini. It's certainly been an eventful night for the Devils prospects, and one to help make tomorrow's game a little more interesting. Let me know what you think about the Wood and Santini signing in the comments.