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The 2019 AATJ Top 25 Devils Under 25: The Outsiders (#47 - #26)

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After collecting rankings from the writers and the community, this year’s Top 25 New Jersey Devils Under 25 list can now be revealed. It begins by discussing the 22 players who ended up outside of the Top 25.

2019 NHL Draft - Portraits
Recent Devils draft pick, defenseman Michael Vukojevic just missed out on cracking the top 25 in his first year.
Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images

It’s time to start revealing the 2019 edition of the All About the Jersey Top 25 Devils Under 25. This ranking consisting of NHL players and prospects has been a fixture on this blog since 2012. Last week, John had this post looking back on the previous editions of the Top 25 Devils Under 25, explaining where the idea came from, Damon Severson’s consistency on this list, the history of the #1 spot, and some thoughts on the outsiders. For the fifth year in a row we are using the combination of rankings from the writers and community to rank these 47 players. None of this would be possible without the contributions from the community and my fellow writers so I want to thank everyone for participating. I realize that trying to rank 47 players is a lot to ask and a time consuming task. I also want to thank John for once again setting up the survey for the community. Since there are 22 players in this post, I’m going to save space and time by not posting the individual rankings. I will be posting those for the rest of the series though. Now onto the players that missed out on a top 25 ranking.

#47 - Brandon Baddock - LW - Age: 24 - 2018-19 Team: Binghamton Devils (AHL) - 2018 Rank: #40 - Elite Prospects Profile

The tradition continues as Brandon Baddock has finished last in the rankings for a 4th straight year. The hard-nosed winger that had a solid, if unspectacular WHL career has seemed to carve out a role with Binghamton these past two seasons after spending his first season as a pro with Adirondack in the ECHL. Out there to play physical and protect his teammates, Baddock has made 120 appearances in the AHL with 6 goals, 11 assists, and 263 PIM over these past two seasons in the AHL. Credit to him for sticking it out and carving out a role in the AHL.

#46 - Cole Brady - G - Age: 18 - 2018-19 Team: Janesville Jets (NAHL) - 2018 Rank: N/A - Elite Prospects Profile

Making his debut all the way at the 46th spot is Cole Brady, a goaltender selected this past June in the 5th round of the draft. He spent last year with Janesville in the NAHL where he had a .912 SV% in 43 regular season games. He is likely to make the move to the Fargo Force in the USHL for this upcoming season where he will play against tougher competition at the junior level. He is set to attend Arizona State for the 2020-21 season and is a prospect that the Devils will have to be patient with when it comes to his development. Hopefully he can build upon his draft season with a strong 2019-20 season.

#45 - Matthew Hellickson - D - Age: 21 - 2018-19 Team: University of Notre Dame (NCAA) - 2018 Rank: #33 - Elite Prospects Profile

Former 2017 7th round pick, Matt Hellickson has had a steady college career the past 2 seasons with Notre Dame as a solid presence on their back pair. He’s even been able to put up a little offense in his limited role with 12 points in 40 games as a freshman in 2017-18 and 16 points in 40 games as a sophomore in 2018-19. He isn’t flashy and is still a work in progress but seems poised for a bigger role with Notre Dame this upcoming season. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him use all 4 years of his college eligibility.

#44 - Tyce Thompson - C - Age: 20 - 2018-19 Team: Providence College (NCAA) - 2018 Rank: N/A - Elite Prospects Profile

Making his debut is 2019 4th round pick Tyce Thompson who was selected as an overage prospect. The recently turned 20 year old is the brother of Tage Thompson and had a solid freshman season with Providence College in 2018-19 with 8 goals and 17 assists in 42 games. Prior to that he had a solid season with Dubuque in the USHL. He’ll look to show that he can be a top player for Providence this upcoming season and take the next step in his development as a late bloomer.

#43 - Evan Cormier - G - Age: 21 - 2018-19 Teams: University of Guelph (USports), Binghamton Devils (AHL), Adirondack Thunder (ECHL) - 2018 Rank: N/A - Elite Prospects Profile

Evan Cormier returns to the rankings after being out of the organization for half of last season after not being offered a contract following his 2017-18 season with Saginaw that saw his OHL career come to an end. The former 2016 4th round pick had a rocky OHL career on a rebuilding Saginaw team and ended up starting last season with the University of Guelph in USports. An injury crisis brought him back to the organization and eventually he was able to show enough to earn a contract. Overall he had a .902 SV% in 15 AHL games with Binghamton last season and a .875 SV% in 6 ECHL games with Adirondack. He’ll compete for the starting job in Binghamton this upcoming season and look to continue his climb in getting his career back on track.

#42 - Gilles Senn - G - Age: 23 - 2018-19 Team: HC Davos (NLA) - 2018 Rank: #36 - Elite Prospects Profile

Gilles Senn stays towards the back of the rankings once again after a tough final season with HC Davos that saw him lose his starting job. He still managed to make 20 regular season appearances but had just a .901 SV%. Knowing that he had to make a move to get his development back on track, he signed with the Devils and will look to battle for the #1 job in Binghamton. The 6’5, 192 lbs. netminder turns 24 in March and will come into his first season of North American hockey with 3 full seasons of pro hockey behind him in Switzerland. It will be interesting to see how the 2017 5th round pick transitions to the new league and continent.

#41 - Jeremy Groleau - D - Age: 19 - 2018-19 Teams: Chicoutimi Sagueneens (QMJHL), Binghamton Devils (AHL) - 2018 Rank: N/A - Elite Prospects Profile

The Devils signed Jeremy Groleau as an undrafted free agent last September. He has spent his QMJHL career with Chicoutimi already appearing in 221 regular season games and 33 playoff games. He is set to turn 20 this October and will be joining Binghamton for his first full season of pro hockey where he will have a huge opportunity to show his game against a higher level of competition. He did get a 5 game cameo with Binghamton at the end of last season where he had a goal and an assist.

#40 - Yegor Zaitsev - D - Age: 21 - 2018-19 Teams: Dynamo Moskva (KHL), Buran Voronezh (VHL) - 2018 Rank: #30 - Elite Prospects Profile

Yegor Zaitsev once again finds himself on the outside looking in when it comes to our rankings. Last season, Zaitsev took a step forward when it came to establishing himself as a KHL regular for Dynamo Moskva by appearing in 47 regular season games and 11 playoff games. Last week, Viktor Fomich described Zaitsev as an athletic, hard-working defensmen, that can play on either side. He also noted that Zaitsev likes to punish the opposition with hits. Hopefully Zaitsev will be able to further progress his development this upcoming season with more KHL action.

#39 - Case McCarthy - D - Age: 18 - 2018-19 Team: US National Team Development Program (USDP, USHL) - 2018 Rank: N/A - Elite Prospects Profile

Making his debut is another one of the defenders from the Devils 2019 draft class, Case McCarthy. The US National Team Development Program product is known for his physical play and passing. He is set to attend Boston University where he will look to round out his game over the next few seasons. This is one of those players that the Devils will have to be patient with to see how he makes the transition to college hockey and how his development goes.

#38 - Mitchell Hoelscher - C - Age: 19 - 2018-19 Team: Ottawa 67’s (OHL) - 2018 Rank: #38 - Elite Prospects Profile

Mitchell Hoelscher once again finishes at 38th, though last year’s ranking was out of 40 and 47 players. The 3rd line center for Ottawa was a key player for them as they were the dominant team over the regular season in the OHL. The 6th round pick from the 2018 draft earned praise from Brock Otten for his shutdown abilities at even strength and on the PK as well as his hockey sense and vision. Otten mentioned that he still needs to see Hoelscher continue to improve his shot, skating, and strength. This season will be key for Hoelscher as he looks to earn a contract from the Devils. Hopefully we see him make these improvements and help Ottawa once again be a force in the OHL.

#37 - Patrick Moynihan - C - Age: 18 - 2018-19 Team: US National Team Development Program (USDP, USHL) - 2018 Rank: N/A - Elite Prospects Profile

Making his debut at 37th is center Patrick Moynihan who was considered one of the underrated players for the impressive US National Team Development Program. The two-way center with a solid shot was able to play a versatile role whether they needed him to play with more skilled wingers or go up against the opposition’s best players in a checking role. He already has earned a U17 WHC Gold Medal and U18 WJC Bronze Medal in his career and is set to move onto Providence College where he figures to round out his game over the next few seasons. His potential may be limited but he has the skillset to perhaps develop into a solid bottom 6 option at the NHL level someday if he can put it all together.

#36 - Arseni Gritsyuk - LW - Age: 18 - 2018-19 Team: Omskie Yastreby (MHL) - 2018 Rank: N/A - Elite Prospects Profile

Finishing towards the back of the rankings is one of my favorite prospects from the 2019 draft class, 5th round pick Arseni Gritsyuk. The Avangard Omsk player is coming off of an impressive junior season in the MHL with Omskie Yastreby where he had 12 goals and 9 assists in 30 regular season games and 5 points in 8 playoff games. He also excelled at the international level with 5 points in 7 games for Russia’s U18 team at the U18 WJC where Russia took home a Silver Medal. He also put up 2 goals and an assist in 5 games at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup where he helped the team earn a Bronze Medal. A lot of draft publications had him ranked around the 2nd to 3rd round range so the Devils got solid value picking him up in the 5th round. Last week, Viktor Fomich told us that Gritsyuk possesses a good attacking skillset, creativity, and a solid understanding of the game while also having decent speed. Gritsyuk figures to play mainly in the MHL this season but it’s not outside the realm of possibility for him to get some KHL game time. I’m excited to see if he can develop into a potential NHL player over the next few seasons.

#35 - Xavier Bernard - D - Age: 19 - 2018-19 Teams: Drummondville Voltiguers, Charlottetown Islanders (QMJHL) - 2018 Rank: #29 - Elite Prospects Profile

Falling back a few spots is defenseman Xavier Bernard, a former 4th round pick from the 2018 draft. The 6’3, 201 lbs. defender spent the first 2 seasons of his QMJHL career with Drummondville from 2016-18. This past season he was traded to Charlottetown prior to the deadline where he was put into a tougher situation that saw him have to elevate his game. Charlottetown will look for Bernard to utilize his mobility, hard shot, and physical game to help them fight for a playoff spot this upcoming season. The stats may not necessarily be there for Bernard, but he’s another prospect that I consider a wildcard as I like his skillset to go along with his size. Hopefully he can put together a strong season and earn a contract with the Devils organization this year.

#34 - Colby Sissons - D - Age: 21 - 2018-19 Team: Binghamton Devils (AHL), Adirondack Thunder (ECHL) - 2018 Rank: #17 - Elite Prospects Profile

A tough 2018-19 season has led to Sissons being one of the big fallers on this year’s list after being a big riser on last year’s list. The defender that was signed as an undrafted free agent from Swift Current in the WHL in October of 2016 had previously finished 30th in 2017 and then rose to 17th last year. His first pro campaign didn’t go as planned as he struggled to earn regular minutes for Binghamton, appearing in 38 games with 2 goals and 9 assists. He picked up some extra game time with 9 games with Adirondack in the ECHL. He’s still very much a raw prospect that is still trying to put his game together. He is set to turn 22 in January and will hopefully be a contributor to Binghamton’s blue line this upcoming season now that his transition year is behind him.

#33 - Eetu Pakkila - LW - Age: 19 - 2018-19 Team: Karpat U20 (Jr. A SM-liiga) - 2018 Rank: #39 - Elite Prospects Profile

Moving up from the second to last on last year’s list to 33rd overall on this year’s list is Finnish winger Eetu Pakkila. A 7th round selection in 2018, Pakkila is coming off of a very successful junior season with the Karpat U20 team where he had 38 goals and 22 assists in 52 regular season games and 5 points in 11 playoff games. He led the league in goals, was named to the First All-Star Team, and helped the team capture a Championship. Karpat’s senior team in Liiga is stacked so he made the move to sign with Ilves where he will have the chance to play top 9 minutes this upcoming season. I really like this move for him as it’s clear he needs to compete against men and this will help him sharpen his skills in a competitive environment for the next few seasons until he comes over to North America. He’s a wildcard prospect, but certainly one that I am keeping an eye out for.

#32 - Nikita Okhotyuk - D - Age: 18 - 2018-19 Team: Ottawa 67’s (OHL) - 2018 Rank: N/A - Elite Prospects Profile

Nikita Okhotyuk, a 2nd round draft pick from the 2019 class, makes his debut outside the top 25. The Russian defender is coming off of a solid second season with Ottawa in the OHL where he helped them be the best regular season team in the OHL. Back in July, Brock Otten told us that Okhotyuk is already a polished defender but could use some fine tuning in his game when it came to his play in front of his crease and in getting the puck out of the defensive zone. He had plenty of praise for his mobility which certainly seems like a big reason why the Devils jumped on him at the draft in the 2nd round. Otten also noted that Okhotyuk played a shutdown role last season at even strength and was a leading defender on the PK unit. Ottawa figures to be a top team once again which means Okhotyuk should be able to continue his development in a challenging environment.

#31 - Nikola Pasic - C/LW - Age: 18 - 2018-19 Teams: Linkoping HC (SHL), Linkoping HC J20 (SuperElit), BIK Karlskoga (Allsvensken) - 2018 Rank: N/A - Elite Prospects Profile

One of my personal favorite prospects, Nikola Pasic, a 7th round pick from this past year’s draft finds himself outside of the top 25. The skilled but raw forward has impressed scouts with his great hands, speed, and playmaking skills. Last season saw him play mostly for Linkoping HC J20 in the SuperElit where he put up an impressive 18 goals and 18 assists in 33 regular season games as well as 5 points in 6 playoff games. He even made 15 SHL appearances for the senior team with a goal and an assist while having positive possession metrics in the small sample. He made 2 appearances with BIK Karlskoga in the Allsvenskan (second division) and impressed enough to earn a contract with them for this upcoming season. I like that he is making the move to a team in that division as it will allow him to play against men that have years of pro experience but also provide more ice time for him than he would find at the SHL. I’m looking forward to seeing how his game develops and how he produces against tough competition in the Allsvensken. Hopefully he can impress enough to earn a spot on Sweden’s WJC team. Back in July our friends over at Devils in the Details, Ian Pulz and Duncan Field, had this amazing article that is a deep dive into Pasic’s background as a little kid to NHL draft prospect. I highly recommend checking it out to learn a ton about this player.

#30 - Michael Vukojevic - D - Age: 18 - 2018-19 Team: Kitchener Rangers (OHL) - 2018 Rank: N/A - Elite Prospects Profile

Making his debut in the 30 spot is defenseman Michael Vukojevic from Kitchener in the OHL. The 6’3, 212 lbs. prospect was a 3rd round pick by the Devils this past June. About a month ago I had the chance to interview Brock Otten and he noted that Vukojevic was Kitchener’s go to defender at 5v5 play as the anchor of the top pairing. Brock also mentioned that Vukojevic led the PK unit and played a bit on the 2nd PP unit. He is very much a defensive defensemen but seems to have the mobility and hockey IQ necessary to potentially reach the NHL level and have success. For this upcoming season, look for him to absolutely eat a ton of minutes for Kitchener in tough situations. It should be a challenging, but great opportunity for his development.

#29 - Yegor Sharangovich - C - Age: 21 - 2018-19 Team: Binghamton Devils (AHL) - 2018 Rank: #24 - Elite Prospects Profile

Falling out of the top 25 after making his debut there is Yegor Sharangovich. The Devils drafted this player in the 5th round of the 2018 draft despite him being 20 years old as they were encouraged by the progress he made to become a regular for Dinamo Minsk in the KHL while also being a key player for the Belarus U20 team and a promising player for the senior national team. The Devils quickly signed him and brought him over to play for Binghamton in the AHL where he had 9 goals and 8 assists in 68 games last season. He just turned 21 in June and now has a full season of AHL hockey behind him. Known as a big center with good speed and PK abilities, a strong season in 2019-20 could see him on New Jersey’s radar sooner than later. It will be interesting to see what role he plays in Binghamton this season and if he can fully take advantage of the opportunities ahead of him.

#28 - Nikita Popugaev - RW/LW - Age: 20 - 2018-19 Teams: Amur Khabarovsk (KHL), Amurskie Tigry Khabarovsk (MHL), Krasnaya Armiya Moskva (MHL), Binghamton Devils (AHL) - 2018 Rank: #37 - Elite Prospects Profile

Nikita Popugaev, a 6’6, 216 lbs. wing, has bounced around our rankings almost as much as he has teams since being drafted in the 4th round of the 2017 draft out of Prince George in the WHL. Popugaev finished 21st in our 2017 list and then 37th (out of 40) in last year’s ranking. He originally tried to make his mark in North America by joining Moose Jaw in the WHL for the 2015-16 season. He had success there but was traded away during the 2016-17 season to Prince George where he struggled to find his game on a consistent basis. He eventually left the team in the early part of the 2017-18 season to return to Russia and sign with CSKA Moskva. Popugaev would show flashes of brilliance but ultimately bounced around between their KHL, VHL, and MHL teams. Last season he was traded to Amur Khabarovsk and appeared in 36 KHL games but in very limited minutes. He would join the Binghamton Devils on an AHL deal and put up 5 points in 17 games to end the season. He is signed to another AHL deal and is set to turn 21 in November. Hopefully he can earn a regular role with Binghamton this season and showcase his offensive abilities on a consistent basis. He may be a longshot to make it to the NHL, but a player of his size and skill would be a great addition if he can develop his game.

#27 - Josh Jacobs - D - Age: 23 - 2018-19 Teams: Binghamton Devils (AHL), New Jersey Devils (NHL) - 2018 Rank: #28 - Elite Prospects Profile

Once again just missing out on a top 25 ranking is Josh Jacobs. The defender has had an up and down career since being a 2nd round selection in the 2014 draft. He would spend a season with Michigan State in 2014-15, the following season with Sarnia in the OHL in 2015-16, and then turn pro for the 2016-17 season. The 23 year old has appeared in 174 regular season games over his 3 year AHL career with 4 goals and 34 assists. It seems he has found his footing as a consistent starter at that level and did enough to earn a one game call-up to New Jersey this past season. While he is still young, the amount of new defenders added since he was drafted means time is of the essence for him to prove he could have a future with the Devils, making this season absolutely key for him. He’ll still be a RFA when his contract expires at the end of this season but surely the Devils will want to have a better idea of where he stands at the end of this campaign.

#26 - Daniil Misyul - D - Age: 18 - 2018-19 Teams: Loko Yaroslavl (MHL), Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (KHL) - 2018 Rank: N/A - Elite Prospects Profile

Just missing out on a top 25 ranking in his first year in the organization is 2019 3rd round pick Daniil Misyul. While the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl player has shown himself to be a reliable defender with a physical streak at the junior level, he has impressed scouts with his puck moving, skating, and PP abilities. As Viktor Fomich mentioned in an interview with us last week, Misyul has the tools to be a NHL player someday and should be seeing some KHL games at club level while still playing other games in the MHL (juniors). Misyul also figures to see U20 international action this upcoming season as he tries to earn a place on Russia’s WJC team.

We will begin to reveal the players in the Top 25 next week. As we have in the past, we will reveal these players in sets of five. Until then, what do you think about these players that missed out on cracking the top 25? Are you surprised to see any players on the oustide looking in? Are there any players you are surprised that aren’t in this group? Which of these players do you think could contribute for the Devils in the future? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!