We continue our top 25 New Jersey Devils players under the age of 25 series today. Two weeks ago we revealed the players that just missed out and last week we revealed the bottom five of this year's list. This post will reveal those players that were ranked in the bottom of the top 20. This group includes two players fresh out of college, another two that are junior hockey teammates, and one of the Devils most recent draft picks. Let's take a look at who they are.
#20 - Colton White - D - Age: 19 - 2015-16 Team: Sault Ste. Marie (OHL) - 2015 Rank: #29 - Elite Prospects Profile
Cracking the top 20 for the first time is defenseman Colton White. The Devils selected White in the 4th round of the 2015 draft out of Sault Ste. Marie of the OHL. The 6’1, 193 lbs. White was selected due to his strong skating, passing ability, and hockey IQ. He spent his first two seasons with the Greyhounds as a 3rd pairing defenseman with some PK time on a deep team. Last season he enjoyed a much greater role, playing top pair minutes and in all situations. The addition of PP time helped showcase his passing and prove that he was able to use his vision to set up the occasional shot on goal for himself. Defensively he is mobile and able to read opposing forwards allowing him to break up plays. From a production standpoint, White finished 2nd in most categories for defensemen, just after Gustav Bouramman on Sault Ste. Marie. While he doesn't play a flashy game, his steady development in all 3 zones has made him an above average all around defensemen. He is certainly a player that I am keeping a close eye on and think he has a solid chance of making to NJ in a few years.
#19 - Nick Lappin - RW - Age: 23 - 2015-16 Team: Brown (NCAA), Albany (AHL) - 2015 Rank: N/A - Elite Prospects Profile
One of the newest members of the Devils system, Nick Lappin was signed as an undrafted college free agent on March 8 out of Brown University. Lappin, a RW, listed at 6'1, 175 lbs. and is known for his two-way play and grinding style that could suit him fine in a 3rd line role at the professional level. Lappin has solid instincts at both ends of the rink, is strong enough to protect the puck on the cycle, and understands his responsibilities defensively. Lappin enjoyed a strong career at Brown putting up 51 goals and 55 assists in 123 games (0.86 Pts/GP) over the course of 4 seasons. Last season he led Brown in most offensive categories: Goals (17), Points (33), Shots per Game (4.55), % of Team Goals (22.67), % of Team Points (15.87), Goals Created (13.25), Goals Created per Game (0.43), and % of Team Goals Created (17.67). His shots per game rate was 2nd in the country. He immediately made an impact with Albany putting up 7 points in 12 regular season games while averaging 2.92 shots per game. In 11 playoff games he had 7 points while averaging 3.64 shots per game. He'll have a great opportunity to be one of Albany's leading players this upcoming season and I wouldn't rule him out of getting into a few NHL games this year.
#18 - Nathan Bastian - RW - Age: 18 - 2015-16 Team: Mississauga (OHL) - 2015 Rank: N/A - Elite Prospects Profile
The Devils selected RW Nathan Bastian in the 2nd round of the 2016 draft, right after taking his linemate Michael McLeod in the 1st round. Bastian has the size (6'4, 219 lbs.) to go along with skill (0.92 Pts/GP last season) that makes scouts and fans excited. His productive draft year has given him a 38% chance to become a regular NHL player in The Projection Project model which is certainly encouraging for a 2nd round pick. The Prospect-Stats model gives him a 35.29% chance. When it comes to style, as expected Bastian plays like a power forward, competing hard in puck battles along the boards, protecting it on the cycle, and finding spaces to make plays in the offensive zone. Like a lot of big guys his skating is still a work in progress and not a strong suit of his game, but he'll have plenty of time to continue to work on that. Some scouts have noted that he needs to work on his shot accuracy as he doesn't always convert open looks into goals or even shots on goal. It will be interesting to follow his progression along with McLeod's as they look to continue to make their mark together. Regardless, Bastian seems like a quality prospect in his own right and one of the players that I'm looking forward to following over the next few years.
#17 - Blake Speers - RW/C - Age: 19 - 2015-16 Team: Sault Ste. Marie (OHL) - 2015 Rank: #20 - Elite Prospects Profile
Jumping up 3 spots from last year's rankings is Blake Speers. The Devils selected the 6'0, 184 lbs. two-way forward in the 3rd round of the 2015 draft after he put up 67 points in 57 regular season games for Sault Ste. Marie in his draft year. Last season he was named captain of the Greyhounds and put up 74 points in 68 games as he played in all situations and even saw some time at center. While his points per game production may have slightly dipped, he was on a team that was in a bit of a transitional period with their forwards. Speers did his part as he led the team in assists and points. His switch to center last year also paid off in the faceoff circle as he won 504/875 draws for a 57.6 FO%. Speers has the tools to succeed as a professional hockey player with his plus skating, accurate passing, ability to contribute on special teams, and his leadership qualities. It will be interesting to see if he can continue to round out his overall game and develop into the player that many think he could potentially be at the NHL level someday. I'm really looking forward to seeing how he performs this upcoming season for Sault Ste. Marie.
#16 - Miles Wood - LW - Age: 20 - 2015-16 Team: Boston College (NCAA) - 2015 Rank: #25 - Elite Prospects Profile
Miles Wood has really proven to be a rising prospect in the Devils system over the past 2 years so it's no surprise to see him jump up 9 spots in this year's rankings. The Devils selected Wood in the 4th round of the 2013 draft out of prep school hockey at Noble & Greenough School in Massachusetts. He would tear up the prep league as expected with 54 points in 28 games in 2013-14 and then 35 points in 17 games in 2014-15. That winter he even earned a spot on the USA WJC team to the surprise of many. Last season he was with Boston College for his first and ultimately last season of college hockey. He managed 35 points in 37 games along with an average of over 3 shots per game in a middle 6 role. This was enough for him to earn an ELC and even make his NHL debut for the Devils at the end of last season. While his sudden rise may seem a bit unexpected, it makes sense when you watch him play. He may be listed at 6'1, 185 lbs. but he plays bigger as he's relentless on the forecheck and tenacious in puck battles along the boards. He's a solid skater and his vision allows him to slip into pockets of space in the offensive zone or to set his teammates up. He faces an uphill battle to win a spot on the NJ roster in training camp but I wouldn't put it past him to get the job done as his style of play could fit into what Coach Hynes wants out of his forwards. Regardless, acclimating to professional hockey in Albany could also do Wood a world of good and I'm interested in seeing how he could handle the rigors of the professional schedule.
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 featured players that could potentially make their mark with the Devils over the next few years. What do you think of these players? Where did you have them ranked? Which of these players do you expect to make it to the NHL someday? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!