We continue our top 25 New Jersey Devils players under the age of 25 series today. This post will reveal the bottom half of the top 10. This group includes four forwards that have tasted varying levels of NHL action and could have an impact in New Jersey this season. It also includes a top goaltending prospects that will look to build upon the experience he gained as a rookie in the AHL last season. Let's take a look at who they are.
#10 - Mackenzie Blackwood - G - Age: 20 - 2016-17 Team: Albany (AHL) - 2016 Rank: #12 - Elite Prospects Profile
Rising two spots from last year's list to earn a top 10 ranking is goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood. The 6'4, 215 lbs. netminder was selected in the 2nd round of the 2015 draft by the Devils out of Barrie in the OHL where he was one of the best goaltenders in the league. Blackwood excelled for the Barrie Colts from 2013-16, earning OHL First All-Rookie Team honors in 2013-14 as well as OHL First All-Star Team and OHL Goaltender of the Year honors in 2015-16. His SV% climbed from .902 as a rookie, to .906 in his second season, before topping out at .921 in his final season. He even made Canada's WJC team in 2016 but missed a few games due to suspension and poor play in a small sample size. Blackwood earned a reputation for being a quick, athletic goaltender with good mobility who can read the play well. With him turning 20 last December, he opted to jump to the professional level with Albany in the AHL. I wrote more in-depth about his season in this post, but the short of it is he struggled mightily in 2016 but found his game in 2017 where he took back the starting job and was key down the stretch for Albany. Overall, his numbers were about league average with a .907 SV%, GA%- of 101, GSAA of -0.98, and GSAA/60 of -0.03 in 36 games. He'll face competition for the starting job in Binghamton, but with his overall potential and strong 2nd half of last season, he figures to earn plenty of playing time. He won't be 21 until December so he still has plenty of time to continue to round out his game and adjust to the professional level. Hopefully he can continue on an upward trend and show why he is one of the top goaltending prospects in the game.
#9 - Blake Speers - C - Age: 20 - 2016-17 Team: Sault Ste. Marie (OHL) - 2016 Rank: #17 - Elite Prospects Profile
Blake Speers is another riser in this year's rankings, working his way up from #17 last year. The 5'11, 185 lbs. forward was drafted by the Devils in the 3rd round of the 2015 draft out of Sault Ste. Marie in the OHL. The right handed forward is capable of playing center or right wing and in a variety of roles. Speers spent 2013-2017 playing for Sault Ste. Marie where he had 84 goals and 131 assists in 217 regular season games as well as 10 goals and 20 assists in 46 playoff games. He would earn OHL First All-Rookie Team honors in 2013-14 after posting 40 points in 62 games. That same year he represented Canada Ontario U17 at the World Under 17 Hockey Challenge. In his draft year of 2014-15 he put up 67 points in 57 games while serving as an Alternate Captain for the Greyhounds. The following year he was named Captain and put up 74 points in 68 games. 2016-17 would prove to a be a crazy season for Speers. He earned a spot with New Jersey out of training camp and appeared in 3 games while averaging 9:29 per game. He was sent back to juniors but suffered a broken wrist in his first game back with the Greyhounds. He would recover in time to help Canada's WJC team earn Silver by playing in 7 games with a goal and 2 assists to show for his efforts. He finished his final OHL season with 34 points in 30 games and even got into 2 of Albany's playoff games after Sault Ste. Marie was eliminated. He won't turn 21 until January but could very well earn a spot with New Jersey out of training camp and stick rather than be sent down to Binghamton. Speers doesn't have high end skills but is a great complementary player due to his slick passing ability, solid shot, competitiveness, and defensive quality. He could very well fit in with the Devils in a secondary scoring or checking role as well as on the penalty kill. He's the type of player that will make others around him better and figures to be a part of the Devils future plans. Let's see what his first full year as a pro brings but I am certainly optimistic about Speers going forward.
#8 - Joseph Blandisi - C - Age: 23 - 2016-17 Team: Albany/New Jersey (AHL/NHL) - 2016 Rank: #5 - Elite Prospects Profile
Falling three spots but still retaining a spot in the top 10 is Joseph Blandisi after a mixed 2016-17 season. The 6'0, 200 lbs. forward was originally selected by the Colorado Avalanche in the 6th round of the 2012 draft. Illness would threaten his career while he was in the OHL which led to the Avalanche not signing him. The Devils signed Blandisi out of Barrie of the OHL in January of 2015 as he was in the midst of his OHL Overage Player of the Year season. After finishing his OHL career with 108 goals and 136 assists in 246 games he would turn pro for the 2015-16 season. That year he split his time between New Jersey (17 points in 41 games) and Albany (23 points in 27 games), showing glimpses of his offensive potential with some slick plays at the NHL level. He did struggle to find consistency, even in his defensive game, at both levels and at times found himself on the bench. Last season, he spent most of the season with Albany (25 points in 31 games) compared to New Jersey (9 points in 27 games). While he seemed to get the message that his compete level had to be better, he still seemed to find himself on the outside looking in. Blandisi is still young but with other, younger forwards soon to get their chances, this season could prove to be crucial for Blandisi's future with the organization. He's proven he can be a strong two-way forward at the AHL level when he's on his game, but he needs to showcase that at the NHL level. He'll certainly have the opportunity and I hope he is able to capitalize on it.
#7 - Miles Wood - LW - Age: 22 - 2016-17 Team: New Jersey/Albany (NHL/AHL) - 2016 Rank: #16 - Elite Prospects Profile
Miles Wood's quick transition to NHL player has him jumping up from outside the top 15 on last year's list to the top 10 this year. The 6'1, 185 lbs. left wing was drafted by the Devils in the 4th round of the 2013 draft out of prep hockey at the Noble & Greenough School. His decision to spend 2 more seasons at that level from 2013-15 would put him on the backburner as far as prospects would go due to his lack of competition and easy domination of that circuit. He did earn a lot of attention for making the USA WJC team in 2015 due to his blazing speed, offensive skill, and tenacity. He would further his breakout in 2015-16 as a freshman for Boston College in his age 20 season when he put up 10 goals and 25 assists in 37 games. That strong performance, plus his age, would make the Devils act on signing him and as a reward he would suit up in a NHL game by season's end. He even got to play for the USA World Hockey Championship team that spring. Last season was his full debut as a pro and he spent most of it with New Jersey, putting up 8 goals and 9 assists in 60 games while averaging 12:51 per game. He also spent 15 games with Albany adding 4 goals and 4 assists. Wood's speed and aggressive style of play endeared him to some of the fanbase while his inconsistent performances and poor possession numbers drew some criticism from others. About to enter his age 22 season, it will be interesting to see what type of player Wood is for the Devils this year. He certainly has the skills to produce more but will need to make smarter decisions on the ice as it seems sometimes his feet move quicker than his brain. There is certainly some potential there and he is the type of player that can play in a variety of roles which should help him earn playing time. Let's see what his second season at this level can bring.
#6 - John Quenneville - C - Age: 21 - 2016-17 Team: Albany/New Jersey (AHL/NHL) - 2016 Rank: #8 - Elite Prospects Profile
John Quenneville, the Devils 1st round pick from 2014, has found himself just outside of a top 5 ranking. The Devils selected the 6'1, 195 lbs. forward out of Brandon of the WHL where he had a successful career from 2012-2016 at both the team and international level. He would finish his WHL career with 81 goals and 116 assists in 222 regular season games and 31 goals and 28 assists in 49 playoff games. He also won a WHL Championship in 2015-16 and led the playoffs in goals. Quenneville was consistently a member of international teams, winning U17 Silver and U18 Bronze as well as being on the 2016 WJC team. Last season he made his professional debut and was Albany's main offensive threat with 14 goals and 32 assists in 58 regular season games. He was strong in the playoffs with 3 goals and an assist in 4 games. At the NHL level he got into 12 games and had a goal and 3 assists while averaging 13:42. A two-way player known for his passing ability and strong defensive game, he's capable of playing at center or on the wing, though it seems like his best path into breaking into the NHL roster is through the wing. Quenneville is another one of those players that makes his teammates better and can play in a variety of roles at even strength or on special teams. He won't turn 22 until April but after his solid pro debut, I think we'll be seeing quite a bit of him in New Jersey this season.
Which of these players did you have in your top 10? Which of these forwards do you expect to be contributors to the New Jersey Devils this season? What do you think of of Blackwood's long term potential? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!