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The 2021 AATJ Top 25 Devils Under 25: The Third 5 Revealed from 15th to 11th

The next installment to our 2021 AATJ Top 25 Under 25 series is here. This group represents the players that finished in the middle of the top 25 and includes four forwards and a defenseman.

New Jersey Devils v New York Rangers
Jonas Siegenthaler makes his debut in the Top 15. The Devils will be looking for the recently acquired defenseman to be a steadying presence in his first full season with the team in 2021-22.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/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 in the Top 25 Under 25 series. This group includes four forwards and a defenseman. Three of these players should play regularly for the New Jersey Devils in 2021-22 while the other two have a chance of playing for the team but are likely to spend most of the year with Utica in the AHL. Let’s take a look at which players were ranked in this range.

#15 - Jesper Boqvist - C/LW - Age: 22 - 2021-22 Team: New Jersey Devils (NHL) - 2020 Rank: 8 - Elite Prospects Profile

Falling out of the top 10 for the first time in two years is Jesper Boqvist. The 6’0”, 181 lbs. forward from Falun, Sweden was able to maintain a top 15 ranking. The Devils drafted the skilled forward in the 2nd round of the 2017 Draft. At the time, Boqvist had starred for the Brynäs IF J20 team in junior action as a point per game player. He was coming off of a season that saw him put up 6 assists in 16 SHL games as well as 3 goals and 9 assists in 19 games for Timrå IK in the 2nd division, Allsvenskan.

Boqvist would continue to take a step forward over the next two seasons, putting up 3 goals and 10 assists in 23 games for Brynäs IF in 2017-18, his age 19 season. That same season he had a goal in 6 games at the U20 WJC as Sweden won a Silver Medal. In 2018-19, his age 20 season, Boqvist would really break out in the SHL. He had 13 goals and 22 assists in 51 games for Brynäs IF to finish 2nd on the team in scoring. It was also good for 3rd among U21 players in the SHL in scoring.

The 2019-20 season would see Boqvist make the jump to North America at age 21. He split his time between New Jersey and Binghamton (AHL). With New Jersey he had 4 goals in 35 games while averaging 10:57 per game. He was far more productive with Binghamton with 8 goals and 3 assists in 19 games. Last season, Boqvist started the year with another loan stint to Timrå IK in the Allsvenskan. He certainly enjoyed his time there with 3 goals and 7 assists in 13 games. When returned to North America where he once again split time between New Jersey and Binghamton. With New Jersey he had 4 goals and 3 assists in 28 games while averaging 11:09 per game. With Binghamton he was more comfortable with 2 goals and 5 assists in 8 games.

So far in his two seasons in North America, Boqvist has found himself to be a level above the AHL but a level below the NHL. Sort of like a “Quadruple-A player” in baseball. At the NHL level, he has only won 37.1% of his faceoffs so that could be a factor into him shifting from center to left wing on a more regular basis. Hockey Prospecting, which tracks players from the pre-draft season to draft+3 season, looked at Boqvist from 2015-16 to 2019-20. The model doesn’t see Boqvist becoming a star player but does give him an 82% NHLer Probability (200+ NHL games). Evolving-Hockey’s player card of Boqvist puts him in the 5th percentile of NHL players over the past 3 seasons, ranking his offensive impact in the 6th percentile and his defensive impact in the 31st percentile. While Boqvist hasn’t shown the playmaking skills he’s displayed in Sweden and the AHL, he has shown some value when it comes to transitional play. According to his Architecte-Hockey profile, Boqvist has been an effective player when it comes to skating with puck control to make clean zone exits and entries. The data for this profile, which is based on the NHL’s data and Corey Sznajder’s data, also points to Boqvist being effective in defense with his coverage and stick checks. Hopefully Boqvist can grab a regular role for the New Jersey Devils in 2021-22. He no longer needs to try to be a top 2 center for this team but could really make a claim as the 3rd center or a middle 6 left wing. Hopefully his offensive skills can surface going forward.

#14 - Jonas Siegenthaler - LD - Age: 24 - 2021-22 Team: New Jersey Devils (NHL) - 2020 Rank: N/A - Elite Prospects Profile

Making what is his first and will be only appearance on our Top 25 Under 25 list is Jonas Siegenthaler. The Devils acquired the 6’2”, 218 lbs. defenseman from the Washington Capitals on April 11 for a 2021 3rd round pick. The Capitals originally drafted the native of Zürich, Switzerland with a 2nd round pick in the 2015 Draft. At that time, Siegenthaler was coming off of an impressive professional season with ZSC Lions in the Swiss top flight, National League. He was also a standout out player for the Swiss junior teams, making the U18 WJC tournament All-Star Team and playing in the U20 WJC. Siegenthaler would spend two more seasons in Switzerland with ZSC Lions and appear in two more U20 WJC’s.

The Capitals would bring Siegenthaler over to North America for the 2017-18 season. He would spend that entire year with the Hershey Bears in the AHL with 6 goals and 6 assists in 75 games. In 2018-19, Siegenthaler would split his time fairly evenly between Washington and Hershey. With the Capitals he had 4 assists, +6, 10 PIM, and averaged 14:09 across 26 games. He even made 4 appearances in the playoffs for the Capitals with an even rating and 2 PIM. With Hershey he had 2 goals, 4 assists, +3, and 30 PIM across 34 games. The 2019-20 season, his age 22 season would be his first full time NHL year. In 64 games he had 2 goals, 7 assists, +11, 43 PIM, and averaged 15:44. He suited up for 7 playoff games but was a -7.

Last season would prove to a be a difficult one for Siegenthaler to crack the Capitals line up. He only played in 7 games for the team with a -3, 2 PIM, and averaged 13:23. Once he was traded to New Jersey, he immediately saw a bigger role with the Devils. In 8 games he was a -6, 2 PIM, and averaged 17:34. Siegenthaler is a shutdown defenseman known for his positive defensive impacts. Over the past 3 seasons, Evolving-Hockey puts Siegenthaler’s defensive impacts in the 64th percentile. Most of this value comes from his even strength defending but in New Jersey he will also be tasked with producing similar results on the penalty kill. If you were to isolate his 2019-20 season, his only full NHL season, on Evolving-Hockey, then you will see them rate him in the 66th percentile of defensemen that season with a 90th percentile defensive impact. Siegenthaler should be a steadying presence on the left side of either the 2nd or 3rd pair for the Devils. He has a real chance to be a player that can solidify the Devils defense going forward and at age 24, the time is now for him to prove he belongs at the NHL level.

#13 - Nolan Foote - LW - Age: 20 - 2021-22 Team: Utica Comets (AHL) - 2020 Rank: 9 - Elite Prospects Profile

Falling out of the top 10 but still maintaining a top 15 ranking is Nolan Foote. The Devils acquired the 6’4”, 201 lbs. left wing in the Blake Coleman trade back in February of 2020. Foote comes from a hockey family, as his father Adam was a veteran of 1,154 regular season NHL games and 170 NHL playoff games. He also coached Nolan when he was playing his junior hockey with the Kelowna Rockets in the WHL. His brother Cal is a defenseman for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Nolan was drafted in the 1st round of the 2019 Draft by the Tampa Bay Lightning. At that time, he was coming off of a strong season for the Kelowna Rockets with 36 goals and 27 assists in 66 games. Those 36 goals were tied for the lead among first time draft eligible players in the WHL.

In 2019-20, the goal scoring, power forward would have an up and down year as an injury limited him to just 27 WHL games. He was productive with 15 goals and 18 assists when he did play. He produced for Canada at the U20 WJC with 3 goals and 2 assists in 7 games as they earned a Gold Medal.

Last season, his age 20 year, Foote would turn pro and spend most of the time with Binghamton. In 24 games he had 7 goals and 10 assists. Among U21 forwards in the AHL last season that played in at least 20 games, Foote’s 0.71 points per game rate ranked tied-11th. Foote also managed to play in 6 NHL games with New Jersey where he had a goal and an assist while averaging 9:41 per game. Going back to his AHL play, among the 14 Binghamton forwards to play in at least 15 games via Pick 224, Foote ranked tied-2nd in even primary points per game (0.3333), 5th in primary points per game (0.3750), 1st in points per game (0.7083), 1st in on-ice even strength goals for percentage (53.13), 5th in estimated time on ice per game (16.43), and 6th in primary points per estimated 60 minutes (1.3692).

Foote will turn 21 years old in late November. He already has a successful rookie season in the AHL and has had a taste of NHL action. His unique skillset as a power forward with a great shot means he can bring a different element to the wing than some of his competition for a roster spot. I expect him to mainly play with Utica this season but I do think we’ll see him in New Jersey. He definitely has a chance to earn a regular role for the Devils this season. So far Hockey Prospecting seems happy with his development, giving him a 6% Star Probability (career 0.70 Pts/GP) and 61% NHLer Probability.

#12 - Michael McLeod - C - Age: 23 - 2021-22 Team: New Jersey Devils (NHL) - 2020 Rank: 16 - Elite Prospects Profile

Jumping into the top 15 is Michael McLeod who seems to finally be finding his role in New Jersey. The Devils drafted the 6’2”, 187 lbs. center in the 1st round of the 2016 Draft. McLeod had a standout junior career with the Mississauga Steelheads and for Canada’s national junior teams. From 2014 to 2018 he appeared in 215 OHL regular season games and put up 76 goals and 131 assists. In 33 playoff games he had 20 goals and 26 assists. With Canada’s U18 team he won a Hlinka Memorial Cup Gold Medal and with the U20 team he won a Silver and Gold Medal.

McLeod turned pro for the 2018-19 season, his age 20 year, where he split time between New Jersey and Binghamton. With Binghamton he had 6 goals and 27 assists in 55 games. With New Jersey he had 3 assists in 21 games while averaging 12:12 per game. His 2019-20 season would be similar with time split across the NHL and AHL. With Binghamton he had 8 goals and 15 assists in 47 games. With New Jersey he had 2 assists in 12 games while averaging 10:14 per game.

Last season, McLeod earned a full time role with New Jersey as a 4th line center and penalty killer. He had 9 goals and 6 assists in 52 games while averaging 13:49 per game. So far in his NHL career, McLeod hasn’t been able to showcase the offensive skills he did at the junior or AHL levels. He has been able to use his speed and mobility to play a defensive game. Evolving-Hockey’s player card puts his defensive impact in the 50th percentile among players over the past 3 seasons. It’s unlikely for McLeod to live up to expectations of an early 1st round pick but he seems to be on his way to proving himself as a solid enough 4th line center that can contribute to the penalty kill on a regular basis. At the very least, it seems that the Devils have gotten a useful NHL player out of him.

#11 - Dawson Mercer - C/RW - Age: 19 - 2021-22 Team: Utica Comets (AHL) - 2020 Rank: 10 - Elite Prospects Profile

Falling one spot on this year’s list is Dawson Mercer. The Devils drafted the 6’0”, 179 lbs. forward in the 1st round of the 2020 Draft. He was coming off of a successful draft year that saw him put up 24 goals and 36 assists in 42 games split across Drummondville and Chicoutimi in the QMJHL. His 1.43 points per game rate that season was 3rd among first time draft eligible players in the QMJHL. He also played in 7 games for Canada at the U20 WJC where they won a Gold Medal.

Last season, Mercer had 19 goals and 17 assists in 23 games for Chicoutimi. He was excellent in the playoffs for them with 6 goals and 11 assists in 9 games. He earned the Guy Carbonneau Trophy as the QMJHL’s Best Defensive Forward, was named to the First All-Star Team, and won the Frank J. Selke Trophy for Most Sportsmanlike Player. His 1.57 points per game rate ranked 4th among all QMJHL players. Mercer once again was a role player for Canada at the U20 WJC with 2 goals and 4 assists in 7 games as they won a Silver Medal.

So far Hockey Prospecting’s model likes Mercer’s progress. His Star Probability is currently 23% and his NHLer Probability is 65%. How his offense will translate to the next level remains to be seen but Mercer’s versatility should make him an effective NHLer. He can competently play in the center or on the wing. He can play at even strength, on the power play, and on the penalty kill. He’s shown he can play a skilled, top 6 role throughout his junior career but has also shown he can play a shutdown role when going up against the best junior players in the world while with Canada’s U20 team. He will turn 20 years old in late October and I expect him to spend most of the season with Utica in the AHL as he acclimates to the pro game. I do think we will see him a bit for New Jersey at some point this season and it’s not out of the question for him to earn a spot in training camp. A player with his work ethic, defensive abilities, and versatility will certainly put him on the radar of the coaching staff.

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 turning our focus back to the above group of players. Where did you have these players ranked? Do any of these rankings surprise you? What do you expect out of these players in 2021-22 and going forward? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!