For the past couple of seasons, the New Jersey Devils have been sending a group of prospects to Buffalo before training camp to participate in the Prospects Challenge tournament. This year is no different; well, okay maybe the players on each team will be different. Nevertheless, it’s a great time for fans to get a glimpse of the future of their teams, and here’s 5 reasons to look forward to this mini-tournament:
5.) All of the Games are Expected to be Streamed
The list starts here simply because in a way it’s the start of the preseason for all of us Devils fans. The Prospects Challenge concludes mere days before training camps open for teams and 8 days prior to the team’s first preseason contest. Not only will it be the return of broadcast hockey for the Devils, but it gives us fans a chance to see which prospects stand out and could be useful either now or in the future to New Jersey.
4.) Ability to See How Jersey’s Talent Pool Stacks Up
While maybe not the most important thing in the world, New Jersey’s prospects will be matching up against Buffalo’s on Friday, Pittsburgh’s on Saturday and Boston’s on Sunday. Each team will be bringing along varying levels of talented prospects with Pittsburgh’s pool probably being the shallowest due to their prolonged success over the last decade or so. Buffalo is another team that is in a similar position to the Devils in that they had some down years, and are now beginning to turn things around thanks to some luck and good drafting; that’s the game that I’m probably most looking forward too, as it should provide some insight for how hopeful we should be over the next couple of years.
3.) Charting Progression
Speaking of insight and hope, the prospect tournament will be a good way for we fans to see how our draftees are progressing. We’ve seen bits and pieces of Michael McLeod, Michael Kapla, Mackenzie Blackwood, Blake Speers and others in preseason and/or limited action in a professional league; now we will get the chance to see how their careers have been progressing while they haven’t necessarily been under our eyes. One player I’m really looking forward to seeing is Steve Santini; many of the hopes of our team one day having a competant defense squad relies on Santini taking a leap forward and growing into a legitimate Top 4 defender. No pressure kid, but we will be watching!
2.) A Look at the Touted Newbies
On the opposite side of the coin, the Devils have a couple of players entering this tournament with zero NHL/AHL experience who I’m sure fans can’t wait to see. One of those men would certainly be defenseman Will Butcher, who will be fighting for time in New Jersey once training camp opens; while he may not be an NHL ready product right off the bat, it will be interesting to see what the current Hobey Baker Award recipient is able to do wearing red and black. Additionally, there’s some guy by the name of Nico Hischier who will be suiting up for action as well; he may not be that big of a deal (sarcasm for those who can’t tell), but there has to be someone, somewhere who wants to see how this kid stacks up against the competition!
1.) It Draws Us Ever Closer to Actual NHL Hockey!
The opening night of the challenge comes one day after the one month mark to the start of the regular season. It’s been an interesting offseason (winning the draft lottery, buyouts, free agent signings) but nothing compares to the interest level of NHL Hockey! While New Jersey may not be a playoff contender this season (almost a certainty), we’ve finally gotten to a point where we have a number of young, talented players full of potential that will be fun to watch!
Now I’d like to know what part of the prospects tournament you’re most excited for; is it something that is even on your radar for viewing? Is the quality of our prospect pool compared to the competition of any significance to you? Which player who spent time in the NHL or AHL do you think will show the most growth? Which rookie (not named Nico Hischier) do you think impresses the most? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!