The NCAA season is still off in the distance however it's never too early to start thinking about what it may bring. Like I did last year, I will pose a few open questions and concerns related to the Devils prospects and give thoughts. Let me know what you think in the comments.
C Alexander Kerfoot (Harvard - SR)
How will he perform without Vesey?
For the past 2 seasons and change, Kerfoot centered Vesey and Criscuolo on Harvard's top line. This line was so effective for Harvard that the trio even finished in the top 3 of scoring on the team for 2 seasons in a row. While playing with a player as talented and highly regarded as Vesey probably inflated his point totals a bit, we certainly shouldn't discount the vision and playmaking ability Kerfoot possesses. I am really interested to see how he will adjust to playing with 2 completely different linemates this upcoming season. Potential linemates include Ryan Donato (BOS), Luke Esposito, Sean Malone (BUF), and Tyler Moy (NSH). Regardless of who Kerfoot is on the ice with, I wonder if he'll try to focus a bit more on shooting the puck compared to passing as he may feel more of a burden to make up for the lack of Vesey. Kerfoot averaged 1.64 shots per game last season so even just a minor uptick could help him score more than the 4 goals he had last year. He'll certainly get plenty of PP time to cut in from the half boards where he typically sets up and to take his chances. I personally expect Kerfoot to produce at a bit over a point per game pace as he looks to earn a contract with New Jersey. While I would like to see more goals from him, hopefully he can remain one of the top assists men in the nation.
LW Brett Seney (Merrimack - JR)
Can he stay healthy and consistent?
Seney has led Merrimack in scoring in both his seasons at the school. While he's appeared in over 30 games both seasons, he's missed a few games due to injuries and even saw his play suffer a bit when attempting to play through them. In both of his collegiate seasons, he produced at about a point per game pace early on with a few cold streaks mixed in. Multiple point games more than made up for those abbreviated cold stretches. However, the end of season hasn't been kind to him as he closed out 2015 on with 3 points in 11 games while sitting out an additional 4 games due to injury. In 2016 he closed out the season on a 7 game scoreless streak which came right after a 12 points in 6 games stretch. While he missed 7 games during the middle part of that season, it appeared he finished the final few games of the year far from 100%. The speedy forward is still listed at 5'9, 170 lbs. on the Merrimack website so I'll be interested to see if he bulked up at all over the offseason and if so, how that affects his game. I expect him to once again lead Merrimack offensively and I really hope he can stay healthy and also finish well above a point per game.
F JD Dudek (Boston College - SO)
Can he get back on track?
I pose this question at the risk of sounding a bit harsh. I mean after all, how much can you really expect out of a 6th round pick who was selected based more on his potential than anything else. However, I do think it's fair to say that we hoped for a bit more from Dudek since being drafted in 2014. In 2014-15 he entered the USHL with the Dubuque Fighting Saints but had a less than ideal season - only producing 12 points in 41 games, eventually becoming a healthy scratch, and then being traded towards the end of the season to the Chicago Steel. Last season he was a freshman on a very talented Boston College team so naturally it was always going to be a challenge for him to play consistently. He did get an extended run in the team over the first 3 months of the season as a 4th line player before being scratched for 6 out of 7 games midway through the season. To his credit, he did reclaim his place in the starting line up in February and did have a big game against Vermont with a goal and an assist in a Hockey East Quarterfinal. It seems you can't question his work ethic or commitment to the team, it's a matter of if his offensive game will ever progress. I expect him to still be down the depth chart to start the season but hopefully he'll start to turn it around offensively this season. He still has a lot of time left at Boston College to find his game.
RW Joey Anderson (Minnesota-Duluth - FR)
Where will he fit in up front?
Joey Anderson is coming off a solid season with the US National Team Developmental Program in which he spent most of his time on a line with 1st round picks Clayton Keller and Kieffer Bellows. He's the 2nd highest forward recruit coming into the team for UMD after 1st round pick, Riley Tufte (DAL). UMD has 10 forwards returning by my count, with 7 of those that I would consider regular starters. I think it's likely that Anderson will start out on the 3rd line with a solid chance to move up in the line up if he plays well or if injuries take their toll on the team. Regardless, I do expect him to get a fair bit of ice time and responsibility to start out and I look forward to seeing how he responds to the jump in competition. He played a complimentary role on his line with the USNTDP so he shouldn't have a problem being a role player as a freshman if need be.
D Jeremy Davies (Northeastern - FR)
What role will he play on a crowded blueline?
Between returning players and the incoming freshman class, Northeastern already has a crowded blue line for next season with at least 8 defensemen listed on the roster as of right now. It seems like Davies will have to fight for a spot on the 3rd pair to start the season and even locking that down for the full season may be difficult. Davies earned praise in his draft year for his offensive instincts and ability to play in all situations. While it's not uncommon for freshman defensemen to sit out at times, he'll turn 20 in December so he really has to find a way to get on the ice for his own development. Hopefully he'll be able to make the best of his situation and earn regular playing time as the season progresses.
Which of these prospects are you most looking forward to following next season? What are you expectations for these players? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!