It's no secret that the depth and quality of the New Jersey Devils prospect pool has grown over the past few years since Ray Shero took over. This is especially true of the forwards that have been drafted since 2015. While the likes of Pavel Zacha, Michael McLeod, and Nico Hischier have earned the bulk of the attention, there are still quite a few players that have potential that aren't as talked about. In the past I've touched on Blake Speers and Joey Anderson in posts on this blog. While there are quite a few "under the radar" forward prospects that I have my eyes from the 2016 and 2017 drafts, today I wanted to go back to the 2015 draft and focus on LW Brett Seney.
The Devils selected Brett Seney in the 6th round of the 2015 draft with the 157th overall pick. The product of London, Ontario is a left handed left wing. Seney was born on February 29, 1996, thus making him 19 years old at the time of his selection and overage prospect for that draft. Despite being skilled, he went undrafted the previous year due to his lack of size (reported as low as 5'8, 156 lbs. by some publications) and he wasn't playing in a top tier developmental league. Seney spent the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons with the Kingston Voyageurs of the Ontario Junior Hockey League. That league is at the Junior A level below the major junior level of the CHL leagues. According to Elite Prospects, Seney had just 3 goals and 7 assists in 49 games in 2012-13 but broke out in his first year of draft eligibility of 2013-14 with 26 goals and 43 assists in 49 games, which put him in the top 10 for scoring in the league. He even added 5 goals and 7 assists in 11 playoff games that season. This performance led him to Merrimack College in the Hockey East conference in the NCAA. A strong freshman season in which he was 18 years old for the bulk of the season and led the team in scoring got him noticed by NHL clubs. The Devils decided to take a chance on the forward and see how he developed at Merrimack over the next few years.
Style of Play
Last season, Merrimack's roster listed Seney officially at 5'9, 170 lbs. so he is still an undersized forward. He manages to overcome that obstacle thanks to his speed, skill, and vision attacking down the wing. Having had the chance to watch a fair bit of him these past couple of years, it's clear that he's one of the best skaters in Hockey East with his quick first step and high end top speed. Seney is capable of skating the puck through the neutral zone with ease to gain the zone and quickly find a shot or a teammate in a better position to make a play. He's also been known to change gears and direction quickly in the offensive zone when cutting in from the wing, thus throwing defenders off balance and taking them out of the play. He possesses a decent shot but has impressed me with his accurate passing, especially when his team is attacking in tight spaces. His defensive game is still a work in progress but has improved over his 3 seasons at Merrimack. Seney could use a bit more discipline and positional awareness in the defensive zone to cut down on penalties. At least that is something that can be taught and improved on with time. Overall, Seney fits nicely into the "fast, attacking" style that the Devils are trying to develop players for.
In the video below, you can see him get the puck in his own zone, fly through the neutral zone, gain the offensive zone with speed, and cut towards the net to score a goal. This is the type of play that he's made time and time again in college and I'm excited to see if he'll be able to transition it to the professional game. That play starts at the 1:48 mark, though he is quite active in the entire highlight package. Look for #13 in yellow.
Seney has pretty much led Merrimack in most offensive categories since his freshman season and been the top point producer, or tied for it, in all three of his seasons. His Pts/GP number might not pop out to scream future NHL player, but considering how mightily Merrimack has struggled to score in recent years, it starts to make sense. When you look at his Percentage of Team (%Tm) it really shows how reliant Merrimack has been on Seney ever since he stepped onto the ice for them in 2014. In any given season he's accounted for about 8%-13% of the goals, 11%-13% of the assists, 10%-12% of the points, 4%-7% of the shots, and 9%-12% of the Goals Created. His NHLE has also continued to rise despite not playing on a high powered offensive team in the always tough Hockey East. As a reference, Miles Wood's lone season with Boston College in 2015-16 saw him put up superior Pts/GP and NHLE numbers than what Seney has done, but he had a lot more talent around him and just had to account for 6.41% of the goals, 8.03% of the points, and 7.60% of the Goals Created. Could Seney be a big fish in a small pond? Perhaps. But I also think you could say that his overall numbers would look a lot more attractive if he was playing with more skilled players.
With that said, Seney does seem to have some higher than typical SH% numbers going from the 12%-19% ranges. I'd wager it's a combination of him not getting as many shooting opportunities per game for a top line winger due to Merrimack's struggles, him being able to take advantage of NCAA defending, and some puck luck. I'm not too worried about that as his shots per game rate has gone up every season which is encouraging. My bigger worry with him is he's either missed time due to injury, or seen his performance suffer for having to play through it - which no doubt has affected his stats - in just about every season with Merrimack. Most recently, Mike McMahon of The Mack Report noted that Seney had to undergo shoulder surgery around the end of last season and that he played much of the season with an injured shoulder. None of these injuries are anything to worry about long term, it's just frustrating seeing a talented player not be able to perform at the top of his game.
Overall, I think there are reasons to be excited about what the future could potentially hold for Seney. He plays an exciting style of hockey with his speed, skill, and playmaking abilities. He likes to attack and put the pressure on the defense to stop him. While he'll face an uphill battle to succeed as a professional, just like every other prospect, I think there is more to Seney's game than what the basic numbers tell us. Taking a more in-depth look it's clear that he's the engine that keeps the Merrimack offense running and he's been doing it since he was a freshman. I'm expecting great things from him in his senior season next year and I look forward to seeing how he makes the transition to the professional level after that. I think his floor would have to be decent AHL player with his ceiling being a solid secondary scoring option in the middle 6 of a NHL line up. Time will tell but I’m going to keep an eye out on him as a dark horse candidate to make it.
What are your views on Seney's game? Do you think he has what it takes to become a NHL player someday? What other Devils prospects that don't get a lot of attention do you have an interest in? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!