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New Jersey Devils Prospect Update: 10/27/20

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This week’s prospect update saw Fabian Zetterlund go out on loan in Sweden, Arseni Gritsyuk continue to show he’s too good for the junior level in Russia, and Nick Merkley stay hot in Liiga action in Finland.

New York Islanders v New Jersey Devils
RW Fabian Zetterlund is the latest Devils prospect to go out on loan in Europe. He’ll join AIK in Hockey Allsvenskan, Sweden’s 2nd tier, to get some game time in before training camp starts for the Devils.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The 3rd week of the 2020-21 New Jersey Devils prospect update is highlighted by Fabian Zetterlund going out on loan to AIK in the Allsvenskan, Daniil Misyul and Nikita Popugayev earning their first points of the season in Russia, Arseni Gritsyuk’s continued success at the junior level in Russia, and Eetu Pakkila and Nick Merkley put up strong week’s in Finland. I also wanted to highlight the overall strength of the Devils system after the organization earned praise from The Athletic and Hockey Prospecting.

Corey Pronman of The Athletic came out with his post-draft NHL Organization Rankings last week. For this ranking, he rated the players a team had in their organization that were 22 years old or young as of September 15, 2020. He has the Devils ranked #2 (with the Rangers #1). Pronman also ranked the top 155 U23 players in this article. The Devils had 9 players on the list which was tied for the lead with the Rangers. These players were Jack Hughes (8th), Nico Hischier (21st), Alexander Holtz (29th), Ty Smith (64th), Dawson Mercer (65th), Jesper Bratt (79th), Nolan Foote (99th), Kevin Bahl (115th), and Shakir Mukhamadullin (125th).

Byron Bader of Hockey Prospecting used his model recently to rank the strength of NHL organizations. His model sees the Devils ranked #2 just behind the Kings at #1. He notes:

The future certainly seems bright! Now let’s check in to see how each prospect performed (if they had games that is) over the last week.

QMJHL

Dawson Mercer had no games to play in last week as the QMJHL’s two Quebec based divisions were in the 2nd week of their two week shutdown due to COVID-19 restrictions in the province. They are scheduled to resume their season on Friday against Victoriaville.

OHL

The OHL hasn’t announced a plan to start their season though it seems like their initial hope to begin in December is starting to fade away. Besides government restrictions in the province, they also have to figure out how to manage their three American based teams (Erie Otters, Flint Firebirds and Saginaw Spirit). Jeff Marek of Sportsnet tweeted yesterday that a January start date is starting to look more likely and more information could come later this week:

NCAA

The Big 10 is planning to start their season on November 13 and Arizona State is expected to join them by playing each Big 10 team multiple times. This affects Matt Hellickson (Notre Dame), Aarne Talvitie (Penn State), and Cole Brady (Arizona State). Hockey East is hoping to start on November 20. That affects Tyce Thompson and Patrick Moynihan (Providence), Case McCarthy (Boston University), and Artem Shlaine (UConn).

USHL

Sioux City continued their pre-season with two more games this past weekend. On Friday, they played a closed doors game against Sioux Falls which they won 5-2. There was no gamesheet for it but it appears Ethan Edwards was in the line up. On Saturday, they defeated Fargo 6-5 in OT. Ethan Edwards had a PP assist and -2.

I highly recommend checking out this in-depth profile on Ethan Edwards, “A Saint & A Devil: Ethan Edwards’ Journey to the NHL Draft” by Duncan Field (@DuncanMRF) over at Devils in the Details. The article takes a deep dive into his career to date and provides plenty of video clips to help break down his game. It also includes interviews with Justin Froese, the Head of Western Scouting for Future Considerations, as well as Rob Sklaruk, the General Manager of the Spruce Grove Saints, Andy Johnson, the General Manager of the Sioux City Musketeers, and Keegan Bell, the Assistant Director of Scouting for Sioux City. Everything you would ever want to know about Edwards is in that article so give it a read.

Akira Schmid hasn’t dressed for Sioux City this pre-season according to any of the game sheets or the team’s twitter feed. It’s worth noting that the two goaltenders who have split time this pre-season are recent draft picks of Sioux City and a year younger than Schmid. Alexander Tracy was drafted by the Musketeers in the 3rd round (33rd overall) of the 2020 USHL Entry Draft. Owen Say was drafted by the Musketeers in the 6th round (79th overall) of the 2020 USHL Entry Draft. The team has two pre-season games remaining so it will be interesting to see how much/if Schmid plays. Perhaps they are just trying to get a good look at their two recent draft picks but if Schmid is the odd man out, then he really needs to find a situation where he can get some much needed game time after what was a lost season last year due to injuries and poor performance.

Russia

KHL

VHL & MHL

Yegor Zaitsev was a -1 with 5 shots and average ice time of 16:33 across 2 KHL games for Dynamo Moscow last week.

Daniil Misyul notched his first point of the season, an even strength primary assist, in Lokomotiv Yaroslavl’s 5-0 win over Salavat Yulaev Ufa yesterday. Overall, he finished the week with an assist, +2, 4 shots, and average ice time of 7:58 across 3 KHL games.

Arseni Gritsyuk split this past week between the KHL and MHL. Yesterday, he had an even rating and a shot in 2:52 as Avangard lost to SKA in KHL action. This was his first KHL action in nearly two weeks. Across 2 MHL games, Gritsyuk had 3 goals, 2 assists, +4, 14 shots, and an average ice time of 19:41. All of those points came at even strength and all but one of the points was primary. This was his first MHL action since the end of September and he’s shown once again that he’s too good for the junior level. Hopefully he could take a step up to the VHL which would help him transition to the professional level. He already got a taste of the VHL last season when he had a goal and 2 assists in 2 games. You can check out his two most recent MHL goals in the tweets below:

Arseni Gritsyuk, along with fellow Devils prospect Shakir Mukhamadullin, were named to Russia’s U20 camp roster which indicates they are on the radar for the final WJC roster:

Nikita Popugayev had a goal, +2, 2 PIM, and 7 shots while averaging 13:22 across 2 VHL games last week. This was his first poing of the season in either the KHL or VHL. It was also his first game action in just over two weeks.

Shakir Mukhamadullin was a -3 with a shot while averaging 13:36 across 2 KHL games last week. Mukhamadullin started the season hot with a goal and 5 assists in his first 12 games. He now has just a goal over his last 10 games. His shot rate has gone down slightly in that stretch though his ice time has been up a little bit. Of course, the main concern is that he rounds out his defensive game and I am happy he’s with a team that’s willing to play a young defenseman like him over 13 minutes per game so he can get that much needed experience at a high level.

Yegor Sharangovich continued to have success for Dinamo Minsk in the KHL. He had 3 goals (1 EV, 2 SH), an even rating, 10 shots, and won 35.85% of his faceoffs while averaging 21:12 across 3 games last week. Sharangovich has been very consistent for Dinamo, never going more than 3 games without a point this season. You can see his shorthanded goal from their game against Dynamo Moscow last Wednesday in the tweet below:

Mikhail Maltsev didn’t play in either of SKA’s two games this past week.

Finland

Liiga

Eetu Pakkila had a productive week for Ilves. In 3 games last week he had a goal, 2 assists, +2, and 9 shots while averaging 11:22 in ice time per game.

Nick Merkley continued to stay hot for Assat. In 2 games last week he had 3 assists (2 EV, 1 PP), +1, and 4 shots while averaging 18:39 per game. He now is on a 5 game scoring streak with 2 goals and 5 assists during that stretch.

Janne Kuokkanen didn’t play last week as Karpat had to postpone their games so the team could quarantine after one member of the club tested positive for COVID-19. Fortunately, out of 35 other tests, only one other member tested positive. They are set to resume their season tomorrow.

Sweden

SHL & Allsvenskan

Nikola Pasic and Linkoping had their games postponed last week after 24 people connected to the team tested positive for COVID-19.

Alexander Holtz had a goal, even rating, and 2 shots in 16:01 in Djurgardens’ only game last week. You can check out the goal below:

Jesper Boqvist had 2 assists (both primary, 1 EV, 1 PP), +3, 5 shots, and averaged 13:26 across 2 games last week.

Fabian Zetterlund made his first appearance for AIK yesterday when they took on Jesper Boqvist’s Timra IK team. Zetterlund was a -1 with a shot in 14:38. It’s good to see him out on loan and getting experience.

Switzerland & Slovakia

Benjamin Baumgartner was a -1 with 3 shots and won the only faceoff he took in 16:19 of HC Davos’ only game last week. He also played just over 3 minutes on the PP.

Marian Studenic and HC Slovan Bratislava have been sidelined the past two weeks due to a COVID-19 outbreak on the team. In positive news, the team was allowed to hold a practice with 10 players and Studenic was one of them.

Your Take

Which prospects stood out to you this week? What do you think about Zetterlund’s loan move? Would you prefer to see Gritsyuk at the VHL level if playing time doesn’t open up at the KHL level for him? What about the streak that Merkley is on in Finland? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!