Welcome to another season of prospect updates here at AAtJ! The Devils will once again have prospects competing and developing all across the world during the 2019-20 season. As with any season, there is quite a bit of turnover with Jeremy Groleau, Nikita Popugaev, Mikhail Maltsev, Jesper Boqvist, Fabian Zetterlund, and Gilles Senn moving onto professional hockey in North America. It also saw Jeremy Davies being traded away while Jocktan Chainey retired to pursue other opportunities. There are plenty of new additions with 10 prospects being added from the 2019 draft class. Let’s take a look at all the returning and new prospects for this year’s group.
Xavier Bernard is off to a solid start for Charlottetown with a goal, 4 assists, +2, 12 PIM, and 11 shots in 7 games so far this season. The 6’3, 203 lbs. defender will be asked to contribute both ways for the Islanders in his 4th season in the league and first full campaign with the team. Bernard, a left handed defenseman, will turn 20 years old on January 6, 2020. The Devils 4th round pick from the 2018 draft will be looking to impress as he tries to earn an entry level deal with New Jersey. The Devils hold his rights until June 1, 2020.
As expected, Mitchell Hoelscher is off to a hot start for a strong Ottawa 67’s team. The 6’0, 172 lbs. center has 4 goals, 5 assists, +2, 9 PIM, and is averaging 2.29 shots per game and a 56.39 FO% in 7 games to open the season. 3 of his 5 assists and 7 of his 9 points are primary. He is already on pace to shatter his previous career high in goals (10 in both 2017-18 and 2018-19). The Devils 6th round pick from the 2018 draft will turn 20 years old on January 27, 2020. He is another prospect that will need to impress this season to earn an ELC from the Devils who hold his rights until the June 1, 2020 deadline.
Nikita Okhotyuk hasn’t played for Ottawa this season as he has been recovering from surgery on his right index finger. The Devils announced on September 6 that he is expected to be out 6-8 weeks. The 6’1, 198 lbs. left handed defenseman has been a key import player for the 67’s over the past 2 seasons since coming over from Russia. The Devils 2nd round pick from the 2019 draft will turn 19 years old on December 4, 2019 and is expected to play a big role on that contending Ottawa team.
Graeme Clarke is off to a solid start for Ottawa with 3 goals, an assist, +1, 2 PIM, and 30 shots in 7 games so far this season. The 6’0, 174 lbs. right wing was selected by the Devils in the 3rd round of the 2019 draft due to his above average shot and playmaking abilities. He is entering his 3rd season with Ottawa and will turn 19 years old on April 24, 2020. From a pure skill and talent perspective, I find Clarke to be one of the most intriguing prospects to follow this season. I’m hoping he can take his game to another level over the course of this season. Below you can see one of Clarke’s goals from this season that was set up by fellow Devils prospect Mitchell Hoelscher:
Michael Vukojevic has 2 assists, +1, 2 PIM, and 10 shots in 6 games to start this season. The 6’3, 210 lbs. left handed defenseman is entering his 3rd season for Kitchener. The Devils selected him in the 3rd round of the 2019 draft due to his mobile, physical game. He’ll look to play a big role on the Rangers blue line this season in the OHL. Vukojevic doesn’t turn 19 years old until June 8, 2020.
As everyone is aware by now, Ty Smith is back with Spokane after failing to crack the New Jersey Devils roster after a disappointing training camp. I know many, myself included, had him penciled in to that roster prior to camp, so this turn of events was unexpected. Much has been written and talked about in regards to the NHL/CHL agreement and how it does a disservice to exceptional junior players like Smith to have to spend his draft+2 year in juniors as opposed to a professional league like the AHL. All we can do now is focus on what the 5’11, 175 lbs. left handed defenseman does in his 3rd full season with Spokane.
The former 1st round pick from 2018, who has already signed his ELC, is on fire since being returned. He has 3 goals, 3 assists, +3, 2 PIM, and 10 shots in 3 games. The Chiefs captain was named WHL Player of the Week and is already back towards the top of the WHL defensemen scoring leaderboard despite already playing in less games. He should dominate this league offensively with crazy numbers but I’m most interested in seeing how he improves defensively. He’ll get the chance to play around 30 minutes a night should the staff allow him, so there will be ample opportunity for him to get more experience in all situations. Smith doesn’t turn 20 years old until March 24, 2020 and figures to be a big factor for Canada’s U20 team at the upcoming World Junior Championship this winter. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him also captain that team. You can check out one of his goals and some nice moves by Smith below:
Reilly Walsh is set to make his 1st appearance of the season when Harvard opens up against Dartmouth on November 1. The 6’0, 185 lbs. defenseman is entering his junior season for Harvard and is set to play a large role on the blue line now that Adam Fox has departed. The Devils selected Walsh in the 3rd round of the 2017 draft and should be looking to sign him to an ELC after he completes this season. The right handed defenseman is a real threat offensively at even strength and on the power play. Hopefully his defensive game can take another step this upcoming season. Walsh won’t turn 21 years old until April 21, 2020.
Matt Hellickson, a Devils 7th round pick from the 2017 draft, is entering his junior season for Notre Dame. The 6’0, 181 lbs. defenseman is set to make his regular season debut when Notre Dame opens up against Air Force this Friday. He did have an even rating and 2 shots in a 4-2 win in an exhibition game against the USNTDP U18 team on Sunday. Hellickson will turn 22 years old on March 21, 2020.
Aarne Talvitie, a Devils 6th round pick from the 2017 draft, is entering his sophomore season for Penn State after an injury shortened freshman campaign in 2018-19. The 5’10, 198 lbs. forward with a strong two-way game is set to make his regular season debut for Penn State when they take on Sacred Heart on Friday. He did have an even rating and shot against the University of Ottawa in an exhibition victory on Sunday. Talvitie will turn 21 years old on February 11, 2020.
Tyce Thompson is off to a productive start in his sophomore season for Providence. In a 7-0 victory over Maine on Saturday, Thompson had a goal, 2 assists, +3, 8 shots, and won 11/22 faceoffs. All of his points came at even strength and both of his assists were primary. The 6’0, 180 lbs. center was selected in the 4th round of the 2019 draft as an overage prospect after an impressive freshman season in 2018-19. He doesn’t turn 21 years old until July 12, 2020 and should be a leader for this Providence team. It’s worth noting that he centered a line with fellow Devils prospect Patrick Moynihan on his right wing. You can see Thompson’s goal from this weekend below:
Tyce picks off a pass and beats Swayman for his first of the season to put the Friars up 4-0! pic.twitter.com/xvJ9Km18ec— PC Men's Hockey (@FriarsHockey) October 5, 2019
Patrick Moynihan started off his college career well with 2 PP assists, +2, 2 PIM, and 5 shots in Providence’s 7-0 victory over Maine on Saturday. The 5’11, 185 lbs. forward was selected in the 6th round of the 2019 draft out of the US National Team Development Program. Moynihan is set to turn 19 years old on January 23, 2020 and should have an opportunity to make an immediate impact as a two-way forward for Providence in his freshman season.
Case McCarthy also made his collegiate debut on Saturday. The 6’1, 198 lbs. defenseman selected out of the US National Team Development Program in the 4th round of the 2019 draft is attending Boston University. In the season opening 7-3 win over Union, McCarthy was a +1 with 6 shots. McCarthy will turn 19 years old on January 9, 2020.
Akira Schmid is ready to build upon a successful first season in the USHL that saw him lead the league in SV% in 2018-19. So far through 3 games (all starts) he has a 2-0-1-0 record, 1.90 GAA, and .923 SV%. He has made 2 Quality Starts (QS) and picked up 1 Bail Out (start where the goaltender doesn’t record a QS but earns a win). Half of the goals he has given up so far have come when his team has been on the penalty kill. The 6’5, 205 lbs. Swiss goaltender was a 5th round pick of the Devils in the 2018 draft. Schmid doesn’t turn 20 until May 12, 2020 and the Devils have plenty of time to be patient for him to develop.
Cole Brady has had an up and down start to his first USHL season. He earned a 30 save shutout in his first game which earned him USHL Goaltender of the Week honors for the opening week. Unfortunately he only made 24 saves on 27 shots in an overtime loss in his second start and 17 saves on 22 shots in 40 minutes in his third start. The 6’5, 174 lbs. goaltender was a 5th round pick of the Devils in the 2019 draft. He is committed to Arizona State University for the 2020-21 season. Brady will turn 19 on February 12, 2020.
Yegor Zaitsev, a 7th round pick of the Devils from the 2017 draft, is once again playing with Dyanmo Moscow in the KHL. The 6’0, 190 lbs. defender has 2 assists, an even rating, 11 PIM, and 4 shots while averaging 14:36 across 12 games so far this season. He’s under contract with Dynamo through the end of the 2020-21 season. He doesn’t turn 22 years old until May 3, 2020.
Daniil Misyul spent most of last season in the MHL (juniors) with Loko Yaroslavl. This season he has started the year with the senior team in the KHL, making 9 appearances with a goal, -3, 2 PIM, and 3 shots while averaging 7:17. The 6’2, 176 lbs. defenseman was a 3rd round selection by the Devils in the 2019 draft. He’s under contract with Lokomotiv through the 2021-22 season and will turn 19 on October 20. It will be interesting to see if he plays in the KHL all season or sees some time in the MHL or VHL (second tier).
Arseni Gritsyuk, a 5th round pick of the Devils in the 2019 draft, is a dynamic left wing that is plying his trade with Omskie Yastreby in the MHL. He is off to a great with 6 goals, 6 assists, +5, 6 PIM, and 45 shots through 10 games while averaging 18:33 per game. 10 of his 12 points primary and 9 of his 12 points have come at even strength. He is one of my sleeper picks and I’m looking forward to seeing how he develops. He still needs to add a lot more muscle to his 5’10, 157 lbs. frame but he doesn’t turn 19 until March 15, 2020 so he has plenty of time to develop.
Finland & Sweden
Eetu Pakkila is playing in the professional ranks in Finland this season after spending all of last season in junior hockey where he was one of the top players. He signed for Ilves in Liiga (Finnish 1st division) but has struggled to make an impression with just one goal and a -11 rating across 7 games in a limited role. The team decided to loan him out to KOOVEE in Mestis (Finnish 2nd division) to help get him more minutes as he adjusts to playing against professionals. While he hasn’t made the scoresheet yet for KOOVEE, his 17:49 average ice time per game is 6 minutes more than what he was getting with Ilves. Hopefully this loan move is just what the Devils 7th round pick from the 2018 draft needs to get going. Pakkila just turned 20 years old on October 3 and is still looking to add a bit more muscle to his 6’0, 172 lbs. frame. Finnish Junior Hockey recently had this game report on Pakkila. Here is some of what they had to say about the left wing:
Päkkilä created two great scoring chances with his speed in the first period. The New Jersey Devils prospect is a fluid skater with very good foot speed, a quick first step and strong edges. He was highly intelligent in his passing and play reading. He had poise with the puck and patiently waited for passing lanes to develop. He can execute both short and long-range passes with success and will rarely force a play. His consistent effort without the puck was also noticeable, as he came back to his own end quickly. Because of his skating, speed and smarts, I think Päkkilä has the potential to evolve into a multifaceted all-around winger at the pro level.
Nikola Pasic was a top junior player for Linkoping HC J20 last season and managed to get into 15 games for the senior team in the SHL (Swedish 1st division). He played 2 games for BIK Karlskoga in the Allsvenskan (Swedish 2nd division) on loan and made enough of a positive impression to secure a move there for this season. The Devils 7th round pick from the 2019 draft is off to a good start with 2 goals, an assist, -2, 2 PIM, and 9 shots in 7 games with an average ice time of 12:51. The 5’10, 187 lbs. center is known for his offensive skill and playmaking abilities which you will see in the video below. Pasic will turn 19 in a week from tomorrow.
"Jag gör väl allt på egen hand", tänkte Nikola Pasic och dribblade sig igenom tre zoner innan han satte sitt andra mål för kvällen!— HockeyAllsvenskan (@hockeyallsvensk) October 5, 2019
Highlights från igår: https://t.co/WUelPtrZWM #hockeyallsvenskan #twittpuck pic.twitter.com/nuvn55zbqs
Which of these prospects are you most looking forward to following this season? What are your expectations for these prospects? What do you want to see from Ty Smith? Who is your pick for an under the radar prospect that could break out? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!