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The 2018 AATJ Top 25 Devils Under 25: Entering the Top 20 (#20 - #16)

Today we reveal the next group of players on our top 25 New Jersey Devils players under the age of 25 list. This group is the beginning of the top 20.

New Jersey Devils v New York Islanders
Blake Speers had a tough rookie season in the AHL in 2017-18 but will look to make his way back to New Jersey where he played 3 games during the 2016-17 season.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

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 a top NCAA defenseman, a WHL defenseman ready to turn pro, a Binghamton Devils player that has already made his NHL debut, and two promising European forwards. Let’s take a look at who they are.

#20 - Fabian Zetterlund - RW - Age: 19 - 2017-18 Team: Färjestad BK (SHL) - 2017 Rank: #25 - Elite Prospects Profile

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17 13 26 18 22 35 17 18

Rising from the final player on last year’s top 25 list to the top 20 this year is Swedish RW Fabian Zetterlund. Acquired in the 3rd round of the 2017 draft, Zetterlund has developed nicely in the Färjestad BK system. He’s been a standout player at each level of Swedish junior hockey that he’s played at, notably putting up 36 points in 40 games for the J20 team in the 2016-17 SuperElit season. Zetterlund also has played plenty of junior hockey on the international stage, winning a U17 WHC Bronze Medal and U20 WJC Silver Medal.

He made his professional debut in the 2015-16 season in the SHL and made the full time transition this past season, appearing in 35 games for Färjestad BK with 3 goals and 4 assists. He went out on loan shortly before the SHL playoffs to get more ice time and excelled for Timrå IK in the Allsvenskan (2nd tier) with 2 goals and 3 assists in 8 games. Zetterlund figures to play a larger role for Färjestad BK as a middle 6 option on the wing. He already plays a pro style, “North-South” game as he likes to use his 5’11, 196 lbs. frame to go straight through the opposition to make plays and win puck battles. His offensive game is still a work in progress but he’s shown nice flashes of skill that make him an intriguing prospect. Zetterlund is very much a go to the net and finish off the play type of goal scorer. He’s also shown himself capable of playing on both special teams at the junior level, notably for using his physical presence in front of the net on the PP to cause havoc for the opposition. He doesn’t turn 20 until next August so he’s still fairly young with a lot of time left to develop. I think the hope would be for him to establish himself as a SHL player for the next 1-2 seasons and then come over to North America.

#19 - Aarne Talvitie - C - Age: 19 - 2017-18 Team: Blues U20 (Jr. A SM-liiga) - 2017 Rank: #33 - Elite Prospects Profile

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23 18 30 21 14 17 18 21

Aarne Talvitie saw his stock rise quite a bit from finishing 33rd last year to 19th on this year’s list. The 5’10, 198 lbs. center from Finland was selected by the Devils in the 6th round of the 2017 draft. The 19 year old is a product of the Espoo Blues system where he’s played in the junior ranks since 2013. He’s been an excellent player at the U16, U18, and U20 levels on both the domestic and international stages. Talvitie really got on the radar of NHL teams when he put up 37 points in 46 games for the Blues U20 team in the 2016-17 season.

This past season, Talvitie was a force with 34 goals and 25 assists in 44 games as he dominated the Jr. A SM-liiga. Clearly, Talvitie was ready for more of a challenge but he decided not to turn pro to maintain his collegiate eligibility. He’s set to join the up and coming Penn State program and should be a factor for them from his very first game. Talvitie is a bit like Zetterlund as he plays a strong, physical two-way game with a better shot that is a weapon on the PP. I’m very interested in seeing how his offensive game translates to the NCAA level since he’s been able to make use of his quick release on his shot and vision on the ice to create plays. Talvitie could use 3 years in college before he’s ready to go pro so the Devils will be monitoring his development carefully over the next few seasons.

#18 - Blake Speers - RW - Age: 21 - 2017-18 Team: Binghamton Devils (AHL) - 2017 Rank: #9 - Elite Prospects Profile

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19 25 17 14 18 20 28 16

Dropping down 9 spots in the rankings this year is RW Blake Speers. The 5’11, 185 lbs. wing was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2015 draft. The native of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario played his Bantam, Midget, and Major Junior hockey in the city. Over 4 seasons for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL, Speers put up 84 goals and 131 assists in 217 regular season games. He was productive in the playoffs in his career with 30 points in 46 games. Known for his two-way game and leadership qualities, he served as an Alternate Captain for a season and Captain for two seasons. He even made his NHL debut for the Devils in 2016-17 before heading back to juniors where his final season was cut short due to injury. Still, he managed to make it back in time for the WJC that year where he had 3 points in 7 games for Canada’s U20 team.

Last season, he had 12 goals and 7 assists in 62 AHL games as a rookie for Binghamton. Back in May, Jeff posted this article on how Blake Speers’ first season in the AHL went. He goes into detail about how the forward wasn’t always put in the best position to succeed from an offensive standpoint by the coaches. If you haven’t read it yet, then I definitely recommend checking it out to get an idea of what needs to go differently for Speers this upcoming season. He’ll turn 22 in January and is still very much a legit prospect to help out New Jersey in the future. I am cautiously optimistic about Speers turning it around in 2018-19 for Binghamton.

#17 - Colby Sissons - D - Age: 20 - 2017-18 Team: Swift Current Broncos (WHL) - 2017 Rank: #30 - Elite Prospects Profile

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20 19 19 19 16 18 19 19

Another big riser on this year’s list is defenseman Colby Sissons who moves up 13 spots after a very successful breakout season in 2017-18. The Devils signed the 6’2, 190 lbs. native of Edmonton to an entry level contract on October 3, 2016 after he was passed over in the 2016 draft. At the time he was coming off of his rookie season in the WHL with 22 points in 71 games as a bottom pairing defender. He had a slightly larger role in the 2016-17 season with the Swift Current Broncos with 28 points in 63 games.

Last season, he played on the top pair and the PP and exploded for 13 goals and 58 assists in 72 regular season games along with a +46. In 26 playoff games he had 23 points as he helped the Broncos capture the WHL Championship. He also produced in the Memorial Cup with 4 points in 3 games. Sissons was known for his solid first pass, decision making, and smooth stride when he entered the WHL. Experience and naturally filling out his frame have helped him reach another level offensively and be more assertive in his own end. He’ll make his debut for Binghamton in 2018-19 and should have a great opportunity to earn an important on that blue line. He will turn 21 in January and figures to need a season or two of AHL play before making the jump to the NHL level.

#16 - Jeremy Davies - D - Age: 21 - 2017-18 Team: Northeastern University (NCAA) - 2017 Rank: #28 - Elite Prospects Profile

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15 16 14 15 21 25 10 17

Jeremy Davies continues to be a rising prospect after finishing 38th in 2016 and 28th in 2017. A strong NCAA career has the defender on the cusp of the top 15. The 5’11, 188 lbs. Davies was selected by the Devils as an overager out of the USHL in the 7th round of the 2016 draft. At the time he was coming off of a 49 points in 60 game season for Bloomington. He immediately stepped into a substantial role for Northeastern in 2016-17 as a freshman and rewarded them with 8 goals and 15 assists in 38 games.

Last season, he continued to breakout even further with 6 goals and 29 assists in 36 games. He’s earned a reputation for being one of the top defensemen in the country due to his ability to play at both ends of the rink at even strength and on special teams. He’s also a minutes eater, often playing half of the game. Last season saw him get named to the NCAA (East) First All-American Team and Hockey East First All-Star Team. He even managed to earn a call up to Canada’s Spengler Cup Team, appearing in 4 games with an assist as they won the Spengler Cup. He’ll turn 22 in December and probably could’ve turned pro with his skillset. Another season to log big minutes, playing in all situations, and help lead Northeastern is also a great situation for Davies who has really put himself on the map as a NHL prospect. I’m very excited to see how he performs in 2018-19.

Your Take

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 included two defensemen that are coming into their own as prospects, two forwards already playing professional hockey, and a forward that is trading in the European junior circuit for college hockey. What do you think of these players? Where did you have them ranked? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!