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New Jersey Devils Prospect Update: 12/17/19

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It was a wild week in prospect action for the New Jersey Devils as they acquired D Kevin Bahl from the Arizona Coyotes in yesterday’s big trade, they saw Xavier Bernard get traded within the QMJHL, while other prospects competed in league play and some joined their national teams to get ready for the upcoming WJC.

2018 NHL Draft - Portraits
Kevin Bahl is the newest New Jersey Devils prospect. Originally a 2nd round pick in the 2018 Draft by the Arizona Coyotes, the 6’7, 240 lbs. defenseman was acquired in the Taylor Hall trade yesterday.
Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The 11th week of the 2019-20 New Jersey Devils prospect update was a busy one. Ray Shero added a 4th Ottawa 67’s player to the Devils’ prospect pool when he acquired D Kevin Bahl from the Arizona Coyotes in the Taylor Hall trade. In the QMJHL, Xavier Bernard joined his 3rd team as he was traded to Sherbrooke from Charlottetown. Mitchell Hoelscher and Michael Vukojevic remained productive in OHL play, Matt Hellickson and Aarne Talvitie squared off in NCAA action, Cole Brady remained a top goaltender in the USHL, and Arseni Gritsyuk, Eetu Pakkila, and Nikola Pasic had strong performances in their respective European leagues. 5 Devils prospects are also gearing up for the upcoming WJC as Ty Smith and Kevin Bahl look to stabilize Canada’s blue line, Akira Schmid looks to return to game action in time to help the Swiss, Daniil Misyul will try to be a key defender for Russia, and Nikola Pasic will hopefully take his fine form into the tournament for Sweden. Let’s take a look at all the action from this past week.

QMJHL

It was an eventful week for Xavier Bernard. In terms of game play, he had a PP goal, +2, 4 PIM, and 8 shots in 3 games for Charlottetown. Those would turn out to be his final games for the Islanders as they traded him to the top team in the QMJHL, the Sherbrooke Phoenix. I first saw the trade reported by Mikaël Lalancette of TVA Sports. This will be the 3rd QMJHL team for the defenseman after spending his first 2.5 seasons with Drummonville before a mid-season trade to Charlottetown last year. I’m not surprised the Phoenix decided to acquire Bernard due to his 240 QMJHL games (counting regular season + playoffs) and physical presence. Sherbrooke and the rest of the league are on a break until returning to action on 12/28. Charlottetown officially announced the trade in this tweet.

OHL

Mitchell Hoelscher had a PP goal, assist, +2, 4 shots, and won 11/20 faceoffs in Ottawa’s victory over Barrie on Saturday. Ottawa’s game against Niagara on Sunday was postponed to allow the IceDogs players more time to recover after witnessing goaltender Tucker Tynan suffer a severe cut to his leg by a skate in Thursday’s game against London. Fortunately, Tynan underwent a successful surgery on Thursday and the team announced on Friday that he’s expected to make a full recovery.

Nikita Okhotyuk has continued to be sidelined since leaving Ottawa’s game vs. Oshawa on 11/8 with an injury.

Graeme Clarke is out long term following left shoulder surgery.

Kevin Bahl was acquired in the Taylor Hall trade yesterday. The 6’7, 240 lbs. left handed defenseman from Mississuaga, Ontario has spent all 4 of his OHL seasons with the Ottawa 67’s. In 211 regular season games he has 13 goals and 63 assists for 76 points along with a +35 and 259 PIM. In 26 playoff games he has a goal and 10 assists for 11 points along with a +6 and 12 PIM. Bahl was selected in the 2nd round of the 2018 Draft at 55th overall by the Arizona Coyotes. Brock Otten of OHL Prospects had this to say about Bahl as recently as August:

Behemoth defender who had a very good year for the first place 67’s. No offense meant to the other members of Ottawa’s terrific defense, but I thought Bahl was their most valuable blueliner. He is just such an asset defensively because of his size, physicality, and mobility, (which continues to improve). He has great gap control and uses his reach so effectively to neutralize the attack. But as the action gets tighter, he is a fiercely intense competitor who just makes you pay for the time and space you desire. He just doesn’t lose many loose puck battles in the corner. As an offensive player, Bahl has improved greatly. He can still get caught flat footed at times with the puck and it can lead to the odd turnover in his own end from heavier forechecks. But his first pass and confidence in handling the puck has definitely improved. Also seeing him jump up in the play more and doing a better job holding the blueline in the offensive end. I think there is even more potential offensively in there and I suspect we’ll see even better offensive production from him this upcoming season. A 13-14 goal, 35 assist season is definitely possible, even if he doesn’t get a ton of time on the powerplay (although don’t be surprised if the 67’s try Bahl as a net front presence as so many teams are doing these days with imposing, yet skilled defenders).

I have to say that is an encouraging report. Bahl’s size immediately stands out but I like reading that he is mobile and has great gap control to actually play defense. To say that Bahl was their most valuable defender last season is high praise given how stacked that team was. Bahl seems to be trending upwards in his development and will feature for Canada along with Ty Smith at the upcoming WJC. According to Mark Masters of TSN, Bahl has been on the 2nd pairing in practice and should feature on their 2nd PK unit.

This season has seen Bahl post a career best 0.71 points per game so far, so it seems like he’s finding his offensive game a bit. Most of his production has happened from November to today. In 13 games across September and October, he had 2 goals and 2 assists. Since November he has 3 goals and 13 assists in 15 games. I’m cautiously optimistic about this pick up by Ray Shero.

Michael Vukojevic had 3 assists, +5, 2 PIM, and 8 shots across 3 games for Kitchener last week. He makes his impact defensively on a consistent basis but lately has been on a nice run offensively with 2 goals and 7 assists over his last 7 games.

WHL

Ty Smith has been with Canada’s U20 team in Vienna as they prepare for the upcoming WJC. As of yesterday, Mark Masters of TSN reports that Smith has been skating RD on the top pair with Red Wings prospect Jared McIsaac and featuring on the 2nd PP unit.

NCAA

Reilly Walsh and Harvard were off this past week. They are back in action on 12/28 against Arizona State.

Notre Dame and Penn State split their weekend series. Matt Hellickson had 4 assists, +3, and 2 shots for Notre Dame across both games. Aarne Talvitie had an EN goal, PP assist, -2, 1 shot, and won 58.82% of his faceoffs across both games. Notre Dame returns to action on 1/3 against Western Michigan. Penn State returns on 1/3 against Niagara.

Tyce Thompson, Patrick Moynihan, and Providence were off this past week. They are back in action on 12/28 against Lake Superior State.

Case McCarthy and Boston University were off this past week. They are back in action on 12/29 against Concordia in an exhibition.

USHL

Akira Schmid has been with the Swiss U20 team to prepare for the upcoming WJC. Hopefully he will be healthy in time to play in the tournament. His last game action came in the USHL on 10/19.

Cole Brady made 18 saves on 20 shots in a victory over Sioux City on Thursday. On Saturday he made 21 saves on 23 shots in the game and 3 saves on 4 shots in a shootout loss to Sioux Falls. His .906 SV% leads all rookie USHL goaltenders and is 6th overall in the league.

Russia

KHL

VHL/MHL

Yegor Zaitsev and Dynamo had the past week off. They return to action today against Jokerit.

Daniil Misyul has been preparing with Russia’s U20 team for the upcoming WJC.

Arseni Gritsyuk had 2 goals, +3, 8 shots, and averaged 22:44 across 2 games last week in MHL action.

Finland & Sweden

Eetu Pakkila continued to produce in his return to Liiga with a goal, +1, 2 shots, and average ice time of 10:49 per game across 2 games last week. In his 5 games back with Ilves he has 2 goals, +2, 8 shots, and average ice time of 10:18. You can check out his latest goal below:

Nikola Pasic had a PP assist, -1, 4 shots, and average ice time of 13:24 across 2 games last week.

Your Take

Which prospects stood out to you this week? What are your thoughts on Kevin Bahl? What are your expectations for him? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!