Last week I revealed the players that just missed out on the 2016 AATJ Top 25 Devils Under 25. This post will focus on the bottom 5 players in this year's rankings. Four of these players have been with the Devils organization for a few years while one player makes his Devils debut as a member of the top 25. Let's take a look at who they are.
#25 - Alex Kerfoot - C - Age: 22 - 2015-16 Team: Harvard (NCAA) - 2015 Rank: #28 - Elite Prospects Profile
A strong junior season that saw Kerfoot once again finish at just over a point per game pace helped him jump into this year's top 25 ranking after barely missing out last year. A 5th round draft choice of the New Jersey Devils all the way back in 2012, Kerfoot was selected for his offensive potential and playmaking ability. While the 5'10, 175 lbs. center has had to battle injuries in seemingly every season after his draft year, he's also shown some steady progress. Over the past 2 season with Harvard he's anchored their top line with Jimmy Vesey and Kyle Criscuolo on his wings at even strength. He's also shown the ability to contribute on the power play from the half-wall, using his vision to set up his teammates. His chemistry with Vesey helped him put up 4 goals and 30 assists in 33 games last season, giving him the 6th highest assist per game rate in the country at 0.91. He'll finish out his college career this upcoming season with Harvard as a co-captain. While his playmaking and vision offensively has seemed to develop nicely, plenty of questions will remain. How will he do without his 2 linemates from the past 2 years as they've both moved on? Can he avoid the injury bug for a full season? Will he be able to translate his game to the pro's with such a small frame and long injury history? Time will tell but for now Kerfoot has shown enough to warrant being on the radar of Devils fans.
#24 - Brandon Gormley - D - Age: 24 - 2015-16 Team: Colorado (NHL), San Antonio (AHL) - 2015 Rank: N/A - Elite Prospects Profile
A new addition to the organization, the New Jersey Devils signed Brandon Gormley last month in a move that will help provide some depth on the blue line and perhaps even a bit of upside. As the Devils continue to transition, they decided to add the 24 year old, former 1st round pick of the Phoenix Coyotes in 2010, on a one-year, two-way deal. The 6'2, 196 lbs. left handed shot brings with him 58 games of NHL experience and 188 regular season games of AHL experience with him. Gormley hasn't been able to live up to expectations after strong junior career that saw him win the Memorial Cup with Shawinigan and a Bronze Medal at the WJC with Canada. He spent his debut pro season in the AHL in 2012-13 as well as the bulk of the following season with the exception of 5 games with the Coyotes. Over the past 2 seasons he's split time between the Coyotes and Avalanche's NHL and AHL teams respectively. The Devils will hope he can provide some depth as a 3rd pair or extra defensemen, helping to bridge the gap between the veterans and young players.
#23 - Ryan Kujawinski - RW - Age: 21 - 2015-16 Team: Albany (AHL) - 2015 Rank: #21 - Elite Prospects Profile
Kujawinski falls 2 spots in this year's rankings after making his professional debut with Albany where he put up 6 goals and 15 assists in 59 regular season games. The Devils drafted Kujawinski in the 3rd round of the 2013 draft with the hopes that he could become a physical forward that could also contribute offensively in a top 6 role. Kujawinski enjoyed a mostly solid OHL career with Kingston before finishing up with North Bay in 2015. Though he never lived up the expectations that were set for him prior to his OHL career. Last season he took to the ice with Albany, playing mostly in the bottom 6 which can suit his tenacious style and 6'2, 205 lbs. frame. As Albany was ravaged by injuries and call-ups throughout the second half, he really came to life with 3 goals and 10 assists in his final 26 regular season games. While Kujawinski doesn't possess the talent to play in a top 6 role at the next level, he could have a home in the bottom 6 in New Jersey one day due to his physical presence, ability to chip in offensively here and there, and the experience playing in all 3 forward spots in his career. I'm interested in seeing what he can do in a second season with Albany, especially now that a number of the top 6 guys have moved on.
#22 - Reece Scarlett - D - Age: 23 - 2015-16 Team: Albany (AHL) - 2015 Rank: #23 - Elite Prospects Profile
Moving up a spot in this year's ranking is the Devils 6th round pick from the 2011 draft, Reece Scarlett. The 6'1, 180 lbs. right handed shooting defender just completed his 3rd straight season with the Albany Devils after 4 season with the WHL's Swift Current Broncos. He's proven himself to be a solid two-way AHL defenseman but is already close to being passed on NJ's depth chart by the likes of newcomers such as Steve Santini and Josh Jacobs. He has a well rounded game and can contribute on the PP but isn't especially exceptional in any way that would force him into NJ's plans. It seems likely that he hangs around in the minors a bit more but it's still nice to know that NJ does have him there should an injury crisis occur.
#21 - Blake Pietila - LW - Age: 23 - 2015-16 Team: Albany (AHL), New Jersey (NHL) - 2015 Rank: #26 - Elite Prospects Profile
Blake Pietila jumps up from 26 on last year's list to 21 after a solid debut season in professional hockey. The Devils 5th round choice in the 2011 draft joined Albany after 4 years with Michigan Tech where he earned plenty of praise of his defense, faceoff ability, physical game, and leadership. The former Tech captain put up 10 goals and 7 assists in 58 regular season games with Albany as well as 3 goals and 3 assists in 8 playoff games. Those overall numbers may not pop out but that's not what he's all about. He's a 4th liner that can be trusted in his own zone and on the penalty kill. He'll tenaciously go at the opposition without any fear with his 5'11, 200 lbs. frame. He showed a bit of that physical game with the ability to pop in some offense now and then in 7 games with New Jersey last season. It definitely seems like he could fit the "fast, attacking, supportive" brand of hockey that the Devils want to play under Coach Hynes. I'm a bit curious to see if he gets any time back at center this season after he excelled at faceoffs in college. The Devils seemed to ease him into pro hockey by sticking him on the wing last season. While I doubt he become a NJ regular, I think he could be a useful depth option as a responsible 4th line guy that can play his role well.
We will continue to release these rankings in sets of five on a weekly basis. As we reveal more, you'll probably be able to guess where some players finished as the list narrows. It was interesting to see who finished were after quite a bit of turnover on all levels of the organization in the past year. As you wait for the next set of five, tell me what you think about the players ranked in this post. Do you agree or disagree with their rankings? Which of these players can you see being contributors to New Jersey one day? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!