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The 2019 AATJ Top 25 Devils Under 25: The Middle of the Pack (#15 - #11)

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The next installment to our 2019 AATJ Top 25 Under 25 series is here. This group represents the players that finished in the middle of the top 25 and includes three forwards and two defensemen.

New Jersey Devils v New York Rangers
Brett Seney managed to appear in 51 games for the Devils in his first full season as a professional after a standout career at Merrimack College.
Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images

It’s time to reveal which players cracked the top 15 but saw themselves just outside of the top 10 in today’s post on the Top 25 Under 25. This group includes three forwards and two defensemen, including two players that finished in this range on last year’s list. Please note that we actually have two ties for spots in this year’s top 25. I’ve opted to use the community ranking as a tie breaker this year as opposed to having players share the same ranking. With that out of the way, let’s take a look at who these players are.

#15 - Aarne Talvitie - C/LW - Age: 20 - 2018-19 Team: Penn State University (NCAA) - 2018 Rank: #19 - Elite Prospects Profile

Climbing into the top 15 is Finnish forward Aarne Talvitie, a former 6th round pick in the 2017 draft by the Devils. He has seen his stock rise since his draft year due to his impressive play in the top Finnish junior league and a standout freshman season at Penn State while also succeeding on the international level. Talvitie had finished 33rd in 2017 and 19th in 2018 in previous Top 25 Under 25 rankings. The 5’11, 201 lbs. forward plays bigger than his size, has shown the ability to be a two-way player, and possesses leadership qualities. The product of the Espoo Blues system in Finland, Talvitie rose up through their ranks and was a top player at every level. In his draft season of 2016-17, he put up 37 points in 46 regular season games for the U20 team in Jr. A SM-liiga play and captained the Finnish U18 team to a Silver Medal with 7 points in 7 games a the U18 WJC. The 2017-18 season saw Talvitie serve as captain of the Blues U20 team where he put up 34 goals and 24 assists in 41 regular season games, leading the league in goals and points. For that effort he captured the Teemu Selanne Award for the Best Player in the Jr. A SM-liiga. Talvitie decided to pursue his development via the NCAA route and made sure to not play in a professional game while in Finland.

Last season proved to be bittersweet for Talvitie. He fit right into Penn State’s line up and produced 5 goals and 11 assists in 17 games as a freshman. He was named captain for Finland’s team at the U20 WJC and put up 4 goals and 3 assists in 7 games as the team captured the Gold Medal. That championship came at a cost as he was injured in the 2nd period of the final and would end up missing the rest of the season due to a torn ACL on his right knee. This upcoming season will be telling for Talvtie as he enters his sophomore year for Penn State. How has he recovered from the knee injury? Can he repeat or improve upon his near point per game pace? Is he ready to take on a bigger role for the team and be one of their top players? We should learn a lot about Talvitie’s development and I am looking forward to seeing him put together a strong season, showing himself to be a legitimate NHL prospect.

#14 - Brett Seney - LW/C - Age: 23 - 2018-19 Teams: New Jersey Devils (NHL), Binghamton Devils (AHL) - 2018 Rank: #15 - Elite Prospects Profile

Finding himself with a top 15 ranking for the second straight year is the tenacious Brett Seney. The 6th round pick from the 2015 draft arrived on the scene with the Devils this past season after an under the radar collegiate career at Merrimack. On the surface, Seney’s 115 points in 139 games may not stand out too much, but it’s important to note that he led his team in scoring all 4 seasons from 2014-18. Merrimack was often the underdog but Seney really helped keep them competitive due to his excellent speed, ability to carve through defenses, and battle for pucks in the dirty areas despite his 5’9, 157 lbs. frame. He made a strong impression in Binghamton at the end of the 2017-18 season when he put up 3 goals and 5 assists in 12 games after his time with Merrimack came to an end.

Last season was his first as a professional he mainly spent it with the big club in New Jersey. In 51 NHL games he had 5 goals and 8 assists while averaging 10:20 per game and nearly a shot per game. In 26 games with Binghamton, he was able to play a much larger role offensively and put up 3 goals and 16 assists in 26 games. He was reunited with his college coach, Mark Dennehy in Binghamton which had to help his development. Despite his size, he continued to show a willingness to compete hard even when he would find himself going up against opponents much larger and stronger than himself. Seney will never be a strong offensive producer at the NHL level, but with his speed and compete level, he could turn into a solid 4th line player that could help on the penalty kill. I’m excited to see if he can carve out a full time role with the Devils this upcoming season. He’ll be facing a lot of competition for that roster spot from other hungry, young players on the verge of making it.

#13 - Nathan Bastian - RW - Age: 21 - 2018-19 Teams: Binghamton Devils (AHL), New Jersey Devils (NHL) - 2018 Rank: #23 - Elite Prospects Profile

Nathan Bastian has bounced around our rankings during his time in the organization. He first finished 18th in 2016, then 17th in 2017, fell back to 23rd in 2018, and is now all the way up to 13th this year after making his brief NHL debut. The 6’4, 205 lbs. right wing was selected by the Devils in the 2nd round of the 2016 draft with the hopes that he could develop into a power forward due to his size, shot, skating ability, and physical play. Bastian’s draft season of 2015-16 saw him put up 59 points in 64 regular season games while playing a lot with fellow Devils prospect Michael McLeod. In Mississauga’s short playoff run he had 4 assists in 5 games. He seemed to regress a bit in 2016-17 with 45 points in 58 regular season games though he was shifted away from McLeod in the line up at various points. Bastian was a strong playoff performer that season with 7 goals and 7 assists in 20 games though. With an early December birthdate, Bastian opted to turn professional for the 2017-18 season with the Binghamton Devils. He put up 10 goals and 8 assists in 68 games as he played a limited role as a young rookie.

This past season he had earned a bigger role with Binghamton due to more consistent play and produced 18 goals and 6 assists in 58 games while averaging 2.29 shots per game. Bastian even earned a call up to New Jersey where he had 3 goals in 7 games and picked up 2 fighting majors showing that he isn’t afraid to protect his teammates. He’ll turn 22 years old this December and could probably still use some time in Binghamton to futher develop his game, but I’m sure he is someone that the coaching staff will be keeping an eye out for in training camp as he tries to earn a roster spot, likely on the 4th line to start out. Hopefully he can someday become the power forward the Devils hoped for when they selected him back in 2016.

#12 - Reilly Walsh - D - Age: 20 - 2018-19 Team: Harvard University (NCAA) - 2018 Rank: #14 - Elite Prospects Profile

Reilly Walsh is one of the Devils more intriguing prospects as a defenseman with plenty of offensive skill. The 3rd round selection from the 2017 draft is now up to 12th on our list after finishing 24th in 2017 and 14th in 2018. The Massachusetts native is a right handed defender with a 5’11, 181 lbs. frame. He’s still developing his defensive abilities to catch up to his offensive skills, but he has excelled at every level he’s played at. The Devils took him after he had a strong draft year in 2016-17 with Proctor Academy where he had 69 points in 30 games. He even made 24 USHL appearances for the Chicago Steel that season with 2 goals and 8 assists. He spent the 2017-18 season as an 18 year old freshman for Harvard University and managed 7 goals and 13 assists in 33 games.

This past season Walsh took a step up, playing slightly tougher minutes while still finding a way to improve his offensive production with 12 goals and 19 assists in 33 games. He was excellent for Harvard on the PP with 9 goals and 9 assists. Now that Adam Fox has moved on, Walsh will look to take over the defensive group this upcoming season. No doubt he will have to take on even more minutes and tougher assignments but it should be a great way for him to prove that he is also improving as a defender and isn’t just all about offense. A strong season where he showcases that he has improved his two-way game could very well lead to the Devils signing him this spring. Walsh has the potential to be a top 4 defenseman at the NHL level and hopefully he can develop into that as the Devils look to remake their blue line.

#11 - Mirco Mueller - D - Age: 24 - 2018-19 Team: New Jersey Devils (NHL) - 2018 Rank: #T-9 - Elite Prospects Profile

Mirco Mueller has hovered around the top 10 since the Devils acquired him in 2017 as he finished that year with the 12th ranking and was tied for 9th in 2018. The veteran of 81 games with the Devils has continued to stick in that range due to his NHL experience. The 24 year old in the final year of his eligibility for this list is a product of the EHC Winterthur system from Switzerland. The 6’3, 209 lbs. left handed defenseman is known for his skating ability and many feel that he is yet to reach what he’s capable of as a two-way defender. He was the 1st round pick of the San Jose Sharks back in 2013 and managed to play in 54 NHL regular season games with them adding 2 goals, 4 assists, and averaging 15:07 per game. With the Devils over the past couple of seasons he has played 81 regular season games with a goal, 14 assists, and average ice time of 17:35. With the Devils not being so great, he has had to contend with a lot of defensive zone starts, but has managed to have ok possession metrics relative to his teammates. He’s seen himself play up and down the pairings, sometimes being given a chance on the top pair and other times being relegated to a depth role.

This upcoming season will be critical for Mueller’s future both with the Devils and as NHL player in general. He’s signed through this season and will be a RFA after it but he’s starting to move on from being a younger player with potential to that of a depth defenseman. He’ll have to show that he’s ready for the next step and can thrive in a more expansive role. I have my doubts about him being around the Devils for much longer beyond this season but I’d love to be proven wrong. To be fair to Mueller, he has shown glimpses of being a smooth skating, two-way defenseman for the Devils, he just needs to be able to showcase his skills on a more consistent basis.

Your Take

Stay tuned for next week’s post where we will reveal the players that made up the bottom portion of the top 10. Now back to this week’s group of players. Where did you have these players ranked? Do any of these rankings surprise you? What type of careers do you think these players will have? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!