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New Jersey Devils Prospect Update: 3/17/20

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The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has brought nearly all of the hockey world to a halt. This means this week’s prospect update will be the last one for this season.

2019 NHL Draft - Portraits
Tyce Thompson was one of the best players in college hockey and looks like another late round find for the New Jersey Devils.
Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images

The 24th week of the 2019-20 New Jersey Devils prospect update is also going to suddenly be the final update due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This week’s post will touch on what each prospect that did play last week did as well as each prospect in general. While we will be pivoting to draft coverage earlier than expected, we will have more in-depth pieces on these prospects after the draft during the summer months. Thank you for staying with us.

QMJHL

The Canadian Hockey League announced on Thursday that the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League, and Western Hockey League would suspend activities due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Xavier Bernard and Sherbrooke didn’t play any games before the QMJHL shut down last week. Sherbrooke was the top team in the league at the time of the shut down. The Devils hold Bernard’s rights until June 1, 2020 so we’ll have to see if he did enough in his 4th QMJHL season to earn a contract.

OHL

Mitchell Hoelscher was a +1 with 5 shots and won 17/24 faceoffs against Niagara on Tuesday. This season was a breakout year for the center in his 3rd full season in the OHL. Like Bernard, we’ll have to see if he showed enough for the Devils to offer him a contract by June 1, 2020. At the time of the shut down, Ottawa was the top team in the league.

Nikita Okhotyuk had an even rating and a shot in the game against Niagara on Tuesday. He has already been signed to an ELC by the Devils. He turns 20 in December and it will be interesting to see if he goes pro or spends another season in the OHL.

Graeme Clarke had an assist, +4, and 5 shots against Niagara on Tuesday. He missed most of the season due to shoulder surgery but made it back for 7 games where he had 2 goals and 6 assists while averaging 4.14 shots per game. The Devils hold his rights until June 1, 2021 so they don’t have to rush to sign him if they want to see more of him post-injury next season.

Kevin Bahl was a +1 with 2 PIM and a shot against Niagara on Tuesday. Bahl had signed his ELC back when he was in the Coyotes system so the Devils don’t have to worry about that. It will be interesting to see how his game progresses to the professional ranks next year.

Michael Vukojevic had an even rating and 3 shots against Guelph on Wednesday. He emerged as the top defenseman for Kitchener in his 2nd full season with the team. He doesn’t turn 19 until June and figures to play a large role once again for the team next year. The Devils hold his rights until June 1, 2021.

WHL

Ty Smith was a +3 with 6 PIM and 3 shots against Kamloops on Tuesday. At the time of the suspension of the season, Spokane was 3rd in the US Division. It was a difficult start to the season for Smith after not making the Devils and going back to the WHL where he had 4 goals and 13 assists while averaging 2.90 shots per game over his first 21 games. He turned it on after the WJC and finished with 15 goals and 27 assists while averaging 3.20 shots per game over his final 25 games. There is little doubt that he will be on the Devils NHL roster next fall where he will hopefully make an immediate impact. Smith signed his ELC with the Devils back in August of 2018.

Nolan Foote was reportedly getting close to returning to Kelowna’s line up prior to the stoppage. Kelowna was in the top wild card position in the Western Conference. Foote already signed his ELC while he was in the Lightning organization and should turn pro next season. Kelowna is set to host the Memorial Cup in late May should the CHL find a way to resume the season, though that seems unlikely at this moment in time.

NCAA

On Thursday, the NCAA cancelled the rest of the 2019-20 season. None of the Devils prospects whose seasons were still active played any games last week as a result.

Reilly Walsh saw his junior season at Harvard come to a close with 8 goals and 19 assists (tying his career high in 3 less games) in 30 games. He played a larger role but wasn’t the top defender on the blue line. Walsh is set to turn 21 in April and I have to imagine that the Devils will try to get him to sign an ELC and go pro rather than go back to Harvard for his senior season. I think he’ll need some time in the AHL to round out his game but his situation will certainly be of interest to follow over the next couple of months.

Matt Hellickson’s season had already come to an end prior to last week as Notre Dame was eliminated in the Big Ten Tournament.

Aarne Talvitie saw his sophomore season come to an end with 6 goals and 13 assists in 30 games, far off the pace of his freshman season where he had 5 goals and 11 assists in 17 games. Some of his inconsistent play has been attributed to his recovery from last year’s ACL surgery. The interesting part about that is that he was more productive over his first 10 games with 4 goals, 8 assists, and an average of 2.00 shots per game while he had just 2 goals, 5 assists, and average of 1.85 shots per game over his final 20 games. Penn State was had a good shot to win the Big Ten Tournament and do well in the NCAA tournament so it’s unfortunate for Talvitie that he will miss out on those opportunities. I’m expecting good things from him in his junior season with Penn State next year.

Tyce Thompson emerged as a bright spot in a busy season of Devils prospect action. He was drafted last June as an overager in the 4th round after putting up 8 goals and 17 assists in 42 games as a freshman for Providence. This past season he had 19 goals and 25 assists in 34 games which put him in a tie for 3rd place in NCAA scoring. He’ll turn 21 in July and it will be interesting to see if the Devils want him to turn pro and head to Binghamton or if they would rather have him continue his development in Providence.

Patrick Moynihan saw a successful freshman season come to an end. He put up 13 goals and 8 assists in 34 games. He was an asset on the Providence PP with 10 goals and 4 assists wich put him tied for 5th in freshman PP scoring. Those 10 PP goals also led all freshman. He should continue to play top 6 minutes next season and I expect him to do even better as a sophomore.

Case McCarthy established himself on Boston University’s blue line as a freshman. Overall, he had 2 goals and 10 assists in 32 games with 8 of those points coming over his final 13 games. He should play a big part on the Boston University team over the next 2 seasons.

USHL

Akira Schmid’s tough 2019-20 season came to a likely end as the USHL also suspended their season on Thursday. His last appearance was on 2/14 and he hadn’t dressed lately so I suspect an injury may be the reason, yet I haven’t been able to find anything. His season was already derailed by injury and trade so it’s too bad he won’t get a chance to finish strong. I finally had the chance to run the USHL goaltending numbers so you’ll see Goals Allowed %- and Goals Saved Above Average above. In this case his 104 GA%- shows us that he was 4% below the league average goaltender and was worth 1.30 goals below average. He turns 20 in May and will likely turn pro. I could see him playing in the AHL/ECHL next year or heading back to Europe.

Cole Brady was the top rookie goaltender in the USHL and finishes with the 9th highest SV% in the league. He boasted an impressive 60.53 Quality Start% along with a 91 GA%- (9% above league average) and was worth 10.95 goals above average. He’s set to spend the next few seasons with Arizona Sate. I’m cautiously optimistic about his development.

Russia

KHL

VHL/MHL

Yegor Zaitsev helped #4 Dynamo Moscow to a 4-2 Quarterfinal Series victory over #5 Spartak Moscow in the Western Conference playoffs. Over the final 2 games of the series last week, Zaitsev was a +2 with 2 PIM, 3 shots, and average ice time of 19:01. They were set to play #1 CSKA in the semifinals but that will change due to the Coronavirus pandemic which caused Jokerit and Barys to drop out. The KHL will now take a one week break and decide on a format for the 6 Russian teams left to compete.

Daniil Misyul had been out injured since taking a puck to the face late in the KHL season. Lokomotiv was eliminated in the opening round of the playoffs so his season is now done regardless of his status.

Arseni Gritsyuk helped Omskie Yastreby clinch their Quarterfinals series in the Eastern Conference playoffs 3-1. Over the final 3 games of the series last week he had a goal, +1, 8 shots, and played between 18:40 and 21:44 per game.

Finland & Sweden

Eetu Pakkila had an even rating and 2 shots while playing 12:58 in his final game of the season as Liiga has cancelled the rest of their season.

Nikola Pasic was a -1 in his only postseason action for BIK Karlskoga last week. That tournament was also cancelled. Pasic finished with a strong 8 goals and 27 assists in 45 regular season games which led all U20 players. He is set to return from his loan at BIK Karlskoga to Linköping HC in the SHL for next season.

Your Take

With most of the prospects no longer in action, we will start to pivot more towards draft coverage. Be sure to stay around for that as well as our other prospect coverage this summer. Now back to this year’s action which is just wrapping up. Which prospects stood out to you this season? Who were you impressed with and who did you expect more from? Which prospects are you most excited about? Leave your comments below, stay safe, and thank you for reading!