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The 2019 AATJ Top 25 Devils Under 25: The Bottom Half of the Top Ten

It’s time to reveal the first set of players in our top 10 for the 2019 AATJ Top 25 Under 25 ranking. This group is made up of players that will hope to be a part of the Devils core going forward and hopefully contribute to their success this season.

Carolina Hurricanes v New Jersey Devils
Pavel Zacha and Mackenzie Blackwood are two of the young Devils that made the top 10 in this year’s Top 25 Under 25 series.
Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

We continue our Top 25 Under 25 series today by revealing the players that make up the bottom of the top 10. This group includes four forwards and a goaltender. Four of these players already have varying degrees of NHL experience while the other player is looking to make the jump from Swedish professional hockey to the NHL for this season. All of these players will look to make an impact in New Jersey this upcoming year and solidify a spot in the Devils core going forward. Let’s take a look at who they are.

#10 - Joey Anderson - RW - Age: 21 - 2018-19 Teams: New Jersey Devils (NHL), Binghamton Devils (AHL) - 2018 Rank: #13 - Elite Prospects Profile

Climbing into the top 10 after finishing at 13th in 2017 and 2018 is Joey Anderson. The right wing was drafted by the Devils in the 3rd round of the 2016 draft out of US National Team Development Program where he excelled as a two-way player and showcased the ability to play in a variety of roles. In his final season with the program in 2015-16 he put up 20 points in 25 USHL games and 57 points in 64 USDP games while playing alongside Clayton Keller and Kieffer Bellows. He also led the USA U18 team to a Bronze Medal at the U18 WJC where he had a team high 7 goals along with 2 assists in 7 games. He followed up that impressive draft season by attending the University of Minnesota-Duluth in 2016-17. He quickly found success as a true freshman with 12 goals and 25 assists in 39 games which put him tied for second in scoring on the team. He was a big part of their success in making the National Championship game where they would fall to Denver by a goal. Anderson did earn U20 WJC Gold Medal with 2 assists in 7 games for the USA. His sophomore season of 2017-18 would see him fight through some injuries to put up 27 points in 36 games for the eventual National Champions. That winter he captained the USA U20 team to a Bronze Medal at the U20 WJC with 4 goals and 3 assists in 7 games.

After having so much success at the collegiate and junior level internationally, the Devils and Anderson decided that he should turn pro for his age 20 season in 2018-19. The 5’11, 190 lbs. Anderson began the season with Binghamton where he had 2 goals, 3 assists, and 20 shots in 8 games. He was then called up to New Jersey at the end of October where he had a goal, assists, and 17 shots while averaging 12:15 in his first 10 NHL games. Unfortunately, Anderson he would suffer an injury to his right ankle that required surgery in his 11th career game on November 21 that would keep him out until February 9. When he did return he managed 3 goals, 2 assists, and 32 shots with an average ice time of 13:40 in his final 23 NHL games of the season. Anderson would then finish out of the season with 3 games in Binghamton. Overall, his rookie season included 7 points in 34 NHL games and 6 points in 13 AHL games. Anderson was known as a defensively responsible player with a great work ethic and solid hockey IQ that set himself and teammates up for success in the offensive zone at the collegiate and junior levels. While his offensive upside is limited at the NHL level, he should hopefully be someone that can develop his game into that of a player that provides secondary scoring. His compete level, defensive responsibility, and vision allow him to play in a variety of roles and I look forward to seeing him have a healthy season that helps him further develop all aspects of his game. While the Devils have some great young talent, a player like Anderson could potentially be a great complementary role player for the organization going forward.

#9 - Jesper Boqvist - LW - Age: 20 - 2018-19 Team: Brynäs IF (SHL) - 2018 Rank: #11 - Elite Prospects Profile

Jesper Boqvist cracks the top 10 after finishing 14th in 2017 and 11th in 2018. The 6’0, 181 lbs. skilled forward was selected by the Devils in the 2nd round of the 2017 draft, despite some scouts feeling he was a 1st round talent. Boqvist split his draft season in 2016-17 between Brynäs IF J20 (SuperElit), Brynäs IF (SHL), and Timrå IK (Allsvenskan). He was a point per game player with 10 goals and 5 assists in junior play for the J20 team, had 6 assists in 16 SHL games, and had a loan spell to Timrå IK in the second tier Allsvenskan where he had 3 goals and 9 assists in 19 games. The 2017-18 season wasn’t the follow up year that Boqvist hoped to have as a wrist injury caused him miss most of the first half. He still managed to produce in his limited time with 3 goals and 10 assists in 23 SHL games and 5 assists in 4 SuperElit games. He made it back in time for the U20 WJC where he had a goal in 6 games as Sweden captured a Silver Medal.

Boqvist really broke out in 2018-19 with 13 goals and 22 assists in 51 games for Brynäs IF as they just missed out on the playoffs. He averaged 2.35 shots per game and had an average ice time of 18:25. Boqvist led his team in assists and was second in scoring despite it being his age 20 season. Boqvist is a skilled player known for his skating, agility, and vision that allows him to create scoring opportunities. His skills in the offensive zone make him one of the more fun prospects for Devils fans to follow. He signed with New Jersey in June and will look to make the big club out of training camp, otherwise he will return for some more development in Sweden. His defensive game is still leaves much to be desired but that is teachable. Right now, Boqvist has shown the talent and ability to succeed against veterans in Sweden. Now is the time for him to prove that he can do it in the NHL.

#8 - Miles Wood - LW - Age: 24 - 2018-19 Team: New Jersey Devils (NHL) - 2018 Rank: #5 - Elite Prospects Profile

Dropping 3 spots but remaining in the top 10 this year is Devils left wing Miles Wood. The 6’2, 194 lbs. Wood was drafted by the Devils back in the 4th round of the 2013 draft after excelling on the prep hockey scene for the Noble & Greenough School. Wood surprised many people by staying at that level through his age 19 season but it paid off as he earned a place on the USA U20 team for the 2015 WJC. He finally made his appearance for Boston College in his age 20 season in 2015-16 and put up a strong 10 goals and 25 assists in 37 games as one of the most talented and physical forwards in Hockey East. With plus speed and skill, he earned a contract with New Jersey and appeared in his NHL debut at the end of that season. He even had the chance to represent the US at the World Championships that spring. Wood would split 2016-17 between New Jersey and Albany (AHL) where he had 8 goals and 9 assists in 60 games for NJ while putting up 4 goals and 4 assists in 15 games in the AHL. The 2017-18 season saw Wood become a regular for New Jersey and an important part to the team making the playoffs. Wood had 19 goals and 13 assists in 76 regular season games while averaging 12:28 per game.

The 2018-19 season, the first in a 4 year/$11M deal Wood signed as a RFA last September, saw Wood take a slight step back in what was a tough year for almost everyone on the team. Wood produced 10 goals and 14 assists in 63 games while averaging 13:42 per game. Wood seemed to have trouble consistently producing though he did pick things up more in the second half of his season. Last year, through his first 35 games he had 3 goals and 5 assists while averaging 13:02 per game. During that stretch he had a 3.6 SH% and averaged 2.4 SH/GP. Over his final 28 games he had 7 goals and 9 assists while averaging 14:31 per game. During that time he had a 9.3 SH% and averaged 2.68 shots per game. With no contract drama coming into this season and with more talented players around him, I’m hoping Wood can put together the best season of his young career. He is a limited player in that he often skates faster than he thinks the game and can be prone to taking bad penalties from time to time, but if he is on his game he could be a valuable 3rd line option for the Devils that can provide some secondary scoring. I’m looking forward to seeing what this season brings for him.

#7 - Pavel Zacha - C/LW - Age: 22 - 2018-19 Teams: New Jersey Devils (NHL), Binghamton Devils (AHL) - 2018 Rank: #6 - Elite Prospects Profile

Falling from the 3rd spot in 2017 and the 6th spot in 2018 down to 7th this year is Pavel Zacha. The 6’3, 209 lbs. forward was taken 6th overall by the Devils in the 1st round of the 2015 draft. Naturally, when a player is selected that high, fans hope to see them either make an immediate impact on the scoresheet or show signs of developing into a star. While a lot of the shine has come off of the 22 year old from the Czech Republic, he has at least shown himself to be a very solid defensive player in his young career. Zacha spent 2 seasons with Sarnia in the OHL from 2014-16 where he had 98 points in 88 regular season games and 16 points in 12 playoff games. During those 2 seasons he would represent the Czech Republic at the U18 level and U20 level (twice). He even finished off the 2015-16 season with his debut for New Jersey where he had 2 assists in that game. In 8 combined regular season and playoff games with Albany he put up 2 goals and 4 assists. The 2016-17 season would see Zacha turn pro where he had 8 goals and 16 assists in 70 regular season games with an average ice time of 14:18. He followed that up in 2017-18 with similar offensive production to the tune of 8 goals and 17 assists in 69 regular season games while averaging 14:22 per game.

Last season saw Zacha only appear in 61 NHL games but he did put up 13 goals and 12 assists with an average ice time of 16:05. He even had a brief 4 game stint in Binghamton to kickstart his game in November. While his defensive game is already NHL quality, fans are certainly hoping he can develop his offensive game to match, especially considering where he was taken in the draft. He did seem to come to life towards the end of last season in that regard. Through his first 31 games last season he had 5 goals and no assists while averaging 15:25 per game. He had a 10.4 SH% and averaged 1.55 SH/GP. Over his final 30 games he had 8 goals and 12 assists while averaging 16:46 per game. He had a 15.7 SH% and averaged 1.65 SH/GP. You can’t expect him to shoot at a percentage that high all year but hopefully he can build upon the late season success he had and be a more consistent two-way player for the Devils this season. He did just sign a 3 year/$6.75M deal with the team afterall.

#6 - Mackenzie Blackwood - G - Age: 22 - 2018-19 Teams: New Jersey Devils (NHL), Binghamton Devils (AHL) - 2018 Rank: #21 - Elite Prospects Profile

After a very succesful 2018-19 season that saw him rebuild his value, Mackenzie Blackwood has jumped up all the way from #21 in last year’s rankings to the spot just outside of the top 5. The 6’4, 225 lbs. highly athletic and talented goaltender was selected by the Devils in the 2nd round of the 2015 draft out of Barrie of the OHL. Blackwood would quickly prove himself over the course of his OHL career from 2013-16 that he was a top goaltender. He earned OHL First All-Rookie Team honors in 2013-14 after putting up a .902 SV% in 45 games. He appeared in 51 games in his second season with a .906 SV% in 2014-15. The 2015-16 season would see Blackwood further build upon his success by putting up a .921 SV% in 43 regular season games and a .915 SV% in 13 playoff games. For that, he earned OHL First All-Star Team and OHL Goaltender of the Year honors. His U20 WJC time with Canada didn’t go so well across 3 appearances but overall he built up his stock as one of the more intriguing goaltending prospects in hockey due to his size, athleticism, and success. He decided to turn pro for his age 20 season in 2016-17 which proved to be a great challenge. He did ok in 36 regular season appearances for Albany with a .907 SV%. He showed up in the playoffs with a .928 SV% across 4 games but got little help from his team. The 2017-18 season would prove to be a disaster for him as he struggled with an .882 SV5 in 32 games for Binghamton. He did find his game at the ECHL level with a .920 SV% in 5 regular season games for Adirondack and a .964 SV% in 5 playoff games.

Blackwood opened up last season with Binghamton and seemed to be doing better but still posted an unspectacular .902 SV% in 20 AHL games. Injuries in the organization got him a chance to play for New Jersey and he took full advantage of it by posting a .918 SV% in 23 NHL games. That SV% was tops among U23 goaltenders in the NHL finishing just above Carter Hart and Alexander Georgiyev. Blackwood is still young, this will be his age 23 season, and will compete for the #1 spot in New Jersey this season. Hopefully last season was a sign that Blackwood has come through adversity as a young pro and is ready to take the next step in his game.

Your Take

Which of these players did you have in your top 10? Do you agree or disagree with any of these rankings? What are your expectations for each of thse players in 2019-20? How do you view each of these players long term fit with the Devils? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!