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New Jersey Devils Prospect Update: 12/29/20

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This week’s action featured Dawson Mercer signing his ELC with the Devils, Graeme Clarke joining HC Nove Zamky of the Slovakian Extraliga on loan, Nikita Popugayev once again find a new team, and tons of World Junior Championship action.

Germany v Canada: Preliminary Round Group A - 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship
It was an eventful week for Dawson Mercer as he signed his entry-level contract with the Devils and had 2 goals and 3 assists in 2 games for Canada at the World Junior Championship. In the above image, he finishes off a short handed chance he created by pressuring the German goaltender into a turnover behind the net that he recovered for a wrap around goal.
Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images

The 12th week of the 2020-21 New Jersey Devils prospect update is here! It’s highlighted by Dawson Mercer producing well in his limited role for Canada at the World Junior Championship and signing his entry-level contract with the Devils. Graeme Clarke heading off to the Slovakian Extraliga on loan with the OHL season still delayed indefinitly. Nikita Popugayev was also traded within the KHL. There was a ton of WJC and European prospect based action so let’s check in on the prospects now.

2021 World Junior Championship

Before getting into the WJC, I want to give a big thanks to Mikael Nahabedian (@hunterofstats) for tracking Zone Exit/Entry data. I’ve included those stats below for the Devils prospects.

Dawson Mercer had 2 goals (1 EV, 1 SH), 3 assists, +6, 2 PIM, 5 shots, and won 4/6 faceoffs while averaging 12:07 across Canada’s opening 2 games against Germany and Slovakia. You can check out his 2 goals from Canada’s blowout victory over a German team that was without a full line up below. He’s been skating on the 4th line but yesterday moved up to the 3rd line in practice. As expected he’s been very active on the Canadian PK and in winning battles on the board. He hasn’t too much to do in the transition game with 1 of his 3 Zone Exits controlled and 2 of his 9 Zone Entries controlled.

Patrick Moynihan had 2 assists, an even rating, and 3 shots while averaging 10:11 across the USA’s opening 2 games last week. He’s been skating on the 4th line for the team. Both of his assists came in the victory over Austria though he was the victim of a headshot very late in that game. It seems he may have escaped injury as he did return for the post-game ceremony and practiced the other day. Austria defenseman Philipp Wimmer has been assessed a 2-game suspension by the IIHF. Moynihan has made 6 of his 8 Zone Exits with control and 4 of his 12 Zone Entries with control.

Arseni Gritsyuk was a +1 with 3 shots and average ice time of 12:34 across Russia’s opening 2 games last week. He’s split time between the 2nd and 3rd lines. He has made 6 of his 12 Zone Exits with control and 3 of his 10 Zone Entries with control. He’s had his chances but has been unable to find the back of the net just yet. I will say for an offensive minded, quick wing, I do like that he has some feistiness to his game.

Shakir Mukhamadullin was a +1 with 3 shots and average ice time of 22:34 across Russia’s opening 2 games as one of their top pairing defensemen. It’s been an up and down tournament for him as one moment he can make a great play offenisvely or in transition and then the next moment make a careless turnover or get beat defending really bad. This isn’t a surprise as his defensive game is still very raw but you can see the projectionable skills that the Devils liked enough to take him early in the draft. Regardless, it’s always interesting to watch when he’s on the ice. In terms of transition, 4 of his 9 Zone Exits have been with control while 2 of his 3 Zone Entries have been with control. Below you can see him fail to hold the offensive zone and get beat in transition for a goal against. This is one of the things that he’s going to need to work on over the next few seasons as he tries to further develop his game.

Alexander Holtz had an assist, +1, 2 PIM, 13 shots, won 3/4 faceoffs, and averaged 17:46 across Sweden’s opening 2 games. He’s had a lot of scoring chances playing alongside Lucas Raymond on the top line but has been unable to convert just yet. 6 of his 10 Zone Exits have been with control while 10 of 16 Zone Entries have been with control. Check out his awesome assist below:

Jaromir Pytlik had a PP assist, -1, a shot, and won 9/16 faceoffs while playing 17:15 in the Czech Republic’s opening game loss to Sweden. 1 of his 2 Zone Exits was controlled while 1 of his 2 Zone Entries was controlled. He missed the next game, likely dealing with a nagging injury, though I haven’t seen any official word. Check out his assist below:

Here is the remaining group game schedule featuring Devils prospects (all games on NHL Network or TSN):

Tuesday 12/29:

Czech Republic (Pytlik) vs. United States (Moynihan), 2 p.m. ET

Switzerland vs. Canada (Mercer), 6 p.m. ET

Russia (Gritsyuk, Mukhamadullin) vs. Austria, 9:30 p.m. ET

Wednesday 12/30:

Sweden (Holtz) vs. Russia (Gritsyuk, Mukhamadullin), 9:30 p.m. ET

Thursday 12/31:

Austria vs. Czech Republic (Pytlik), 2 p.m. ET

Finland vs. Canada (Mercer), 6 p.m. ET

United States (Moynihan) vs. Sweden (Holtz), 9:30 p.m. ET

The Quarterfinals will take place on Saturday 1/2, the Semifinals on Monday 1/4, and the Bronze and Gold Medal games on Tuesday 1/5.

QMJHL

On Thursday, the New Jersey Devils announced that Dawson Mercer signed his three-year, entry-level contract with the team. He turns 20 next October and will be old enough for the AHL in 2021-22. Safe to say that this is his last year of junior hockey.

OHL

Last Wednesday, the OHL announced a further delay to the start of the 2020-21 season. As noted in that press release, the OHL hoped to have training camps in mid-January with the season starting on February 4, 2021. Understandably given the situation, no new target date has been announced.

The Devils OHL prospect group this season was supposed to include Graeme Clarke, Michael Vukojevic, Jaromir Pytlik, and Nico Daws. Clarke (more on him later in the post) and Pytlik have gone out on loan in Europe while Daws made a permanent transfer to his new team. Vukojevic is the only prospect from this group not playing at the moment and I haven’t seen any news on him perhaps going out on loan.

NCAA

Matt Hellickson and Notre Dame will be back in action on 1/9 when they take on Arizona State.

Aarne Talvitie and Penn State will be back in action on Sunday when they take on Michigan State.

Tyce Thompson was a -1 with 2 shots and won 4/14 faceoffs in Providence’s 2-0 loss to UConn yesterday. This snapped a 3 game point streak for him.

Case McCarthy and Boston University will open their season on Friday when they take on Northeastern.

Artem Shlaine was a +1 with 2 PIM, 2 shots, and won 55.56% of his faceoffs across 2 games last week.

Cole Brady and Arizona State will be back in action on Sunday against Minnesota.

USHL

Ethan Edwards had an even rating and 2 shots against Waterloo on Saturday.

Akira Schmid made 21 saves on 25 shots in a 4-3 loss to Waterloo on Saturday.

Russia

KHL

VHL & MHL

Yegor Zaitsev had a +2, 20 PIM, 5 shots, and averaged 14:58 across 4 KHL games last week. His 15:50 average ice time ranks 5th on Dynamo Moscow.

Daniil Misyul was a +3 with 5 shots while averaging 15:07 across 3 KHL games last week. He played over 19 minutes over the first 2 games of the week and then just over 5 minutes in yesterday’s game.

Nikita Popugayev is once again on the move. Last Thursday, he was traded from Dynamo Moscow to Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk. He ended up appearing in one final game for Dynamo before finishing his week with 2 games for Neftekhimik. Since the start of the 2016-17 season, Popugayev has played for 12 teams across 6 leagues between North America and Russia. Of course some of those teams were in the same organization or had affiliations but that’s still a lot of moving around. Hopefully he can find his game playing in Nizhnekamsk. Popugayev was a +2 with 2 PIM and 2 shots while averaging 12:16 across 3 KHL games last week.

Finland

Liiga

Liiga’s pause has come to an end so Eetu Pakkila and Ilves were able to resume their season on Sunday. Pakkila had an assist, +2, and 4 shots while playing 15:15.

I still haven’t seen any official word that Janne Kuokkanen has returned from his loan but given that he didn’t play in Karpat’s game last week, he’s probably on his way or already in New Jersey.

Sweden

SHL & Allsvenskan

Nikola Pasic was a -2 with a shot and average ice time of 18:14 across 2 games last week.

Fabian Zetterlund had a PP assist, even rating, 2 PIM, and a shot while playing 15:13 in AIK’s only game last week. He now has a 4 game point streak with a goal and 3 assists during that stretch. Check out his strong assist below:

The Rest of Europe

Swiss National League, Slovak Extraliga, Czech 1.liga, Deutsche Eishockey Liga

Benjamin Baumgartner had an even rating, 4 shots, and won 42.11% of his faceoffs while averaging 13:50 across 3 games last week.

Marian Studenic had 3 assists (2 EV, 1 PP), +2, 2 PIM, and 5 shots across 2 games last week. He played 18:26 in the 2nd game of the week but time on ice wasn’t recorded in the other game. Studenic is currently tied-4th in scoring among U23 players in the league with 14 points in 22 games.

On Saturday, HC Nove Zamky of the Slovakian Extraliga announced that Graeme Clarke and his brother, a top 2021 NHL Draft prospect, Brandt, where acquired on loan. HC Nove Zamky is an average team in the league so both of the Clarke brothers should be able to play quite a bit. In fact, Clarke started as the RW on the 2nd line and Brandt on the right side of the 2nd pairing in their debut yesterday. Clarke had an assist, -1, and 5 shots while playing 21:17. You can see his assist below:

Nico Daws didn’t play in either of ERC Ingolstadt’s games last week. Michael Garteig has started all 3 games for the team this season, going 2-1 with a 1.34 GAA and .939 SV%. Last season he played for Tappara in Liiga and went 15-9-9 with a 2.01 GAA and .929 SV% so Daws does have some competition to earn the starter’s job. Hopefully Daws makes his debut in either of their upcoming games this week.

Your Take

Which prospects stood out to you this week? What do you think of the WJC so far? What do you think about Graeme Clarke’s loan move? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!