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The Devils Prospect Needs Before the 2022 NHL Draft

The New Jersey Devils prospect pool has continued to improve over the past few years. In today’s post, I’ll be taking a look at what type of prospects could be added in the 2022 NHL Draft to help supplement the current pool.

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Ice Hockey - Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics Day 6
Simon Nemec has had an incredible draft year. Could the defenseman be an option for New Jersey at the draft?
Photo by Mario Hommes/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

The New Jersey Devils have a strong prospect pool that features high end prospects such as RW Alexander Holtz and D Luke Hughes as well as many other prospects that have a real shot at contributing at the NHL level. Scott Wheeler of The Athletic ranked the Devils’ prospect pool as the 4th best in the NHL back in February. Hockey Prospecting ranks the Devils’ prospect pool as the 8th best in their overall rankings. The skaters rank 5th best in the Hockey Prospecting model and the goaltenders as the 18th best. The 2022 NHL Draft in July will be another opportunity for the team to add to this pool as they currently have 9 picks across the 7 round draft.

The Devils are currently in the 5th spot ahead of the draft lottery. The lottery will take place tomorrow at 6:30 PM ET on ESPN and ESPN+. The Devils have an 8.5% chance of picking 1st, an 8.8% chance of picking 2nd, can’t pick 3rd or 4th, a 24.5% chance of picking 5th, a 44.2% chance of picking 6th, and a 13.9% chance of picking 7th. In today’s post, I will take a look at what type of prospects the Devils could target to further supplement the prospect pool. While my focus will be on the prospect pool, I will be mentioning some of the young players on the NHL roster since that does play a factor into the organizational depth chart.

Please note that ages referenced in () are the age that the player was as of February 1, 2022. Also, I will be referencing the Hockey Prospecting model throughout the article. A reminder that the Hockey Prospecting offers a Star Probability (0.70+ career Pts/GP for a forward and a 0.45+ career Pts/GP for a defenseman) and a NHLer Probability (200+ NHL games).

Goal Scoring Wings

This was a need that I highlighted last year and am mentioning again this year as they didn’t address it in last year’s draft. The Devils have a young core to build around up front on the NHL roster in centers Jack Hughes (20) and Nico Hischier (23). Wings Jesper Bratt (23) and Yegor Sharangovich (23) have proved themselves as worthy options to skate alongside Hughes and Hischier. Dawson Mercer (20) is coming off of a strong rookie season though it remains to be seen whether he will be a right wing or center long term. Either way, the Devils could use more prospects that can skate on the wing and score goals. Whether that is to play in the top 6 with Hughes or Hischier or potentially partner up with Mercer as a 3rd line option that can provide secondary scoring depth.

In terms of prospects already in the organization, LW Jesper Boqvist (23) finally made the full time jump to the NHL level last season. He finished the season on a strong note and seems likely to be a contributor in the middle 6 going forward. At the AHL level, wings Alexander Holtz (20), Nolan Foote (21), Graeme Clarke (20), and Tyce Thompson (22) have varying shots to make an impact in New Jersey. Holtz in particular seems very likely to make the jump into the Devils top 6 next season and become a core player. Holtz is an elite goal scoring talent and a clear tier above any of these other prospects. Fabian Zetterlund (22) had a great season in Utica but his NHL potential seems more bottom 6 than top 6. Outside of these prospects, LW Arseni Gritsyuk (20) has a real chance to become an impact player but his NHL debut is at least another season away as he’s signed in the KHL through next season and he hasn’t signed with New Jersey yet.

I’d like to see the Devils target wings with some goal scoring upside at some point in the early rounds of the draft. As mentioned above, they do have some interesting prospects in the system but there’s nothing wrong with adding some more options to give them a better chance of hitting on one of these prospects. Using the consolidated rankings from Elite Prospects and with reference to the Hockey Prospecting model, a few potential options in the 1st round could be:

  • #5 Juraj Slafkovsky (TPS - Liiga): 5 goals in 31 Liiga games last year, 7 goals in 7 Olympic games last year, 14 goals in 27 U20 SM-sarja games over last 2 seasons, 14% Star Probability, 45% NHLer Probability
  • #6 Joakim Kemell (JYP - Liiga): 15 goals in 39 Liiga games last year, 6 goals in 5 U18 World Junior Championship games last year, 33% Star Probability, 52% NHLer Probability
  • #8 Danila Yurov (Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk - MHL): 13 goals in 23 MHL games last year, 32 goals in 64 career MHL games, 70% Star Probability, 74% NHLer Probability

Potential Outside 1st Round Options (NHL Central Scouting Ranking listed):

  • #34 EUS Viktor Neuchev (Avto Yekaterinburg - MHL): 40 goals in 61 MHL games last year, 26% Star Probablity, 57% NHLer Probability
  • #42 EUS Adam Sykora (HK Nitra - Slovakia): 10 goals in 46 Slovakian games last year, 33% Star Probability, 52% NHLer Probability
  • #12 NAS Jagger Firkus (Moose Jaw - WHL): 36 goals in 66 WHL games last year, 23% Star Probability, 61% NHLer Probability
  • #73 NAS Jordan Dumais (Halifax - QMJHL): 39 goals in 68 QMJHL games last year, 23% Star Probability, 61% NHLer Probability

Goaltending

As everyone knows, the Devils goaltending situation is far from settled. Mackenzie Blackwood (25) seemed like the long term option after his first two seasons (2018-20) that saw him put up a .916 SV%, 56.3 Quality Start%, and 12.5 Goals Saved Above Average. Of course the past two seasons (2020-22) have been a complete disaster as he posted an .898 SV%, 45.8 QS%, and -17.1 GSAA. This forced the Devils to play 21 year olds Nico Daws (25 GP, .893 SV%) and Akira Schmid (6 GP, .833 SV%) more than they should have at the NHL level. While both of those goaltenders struggled at the NHL level, they did play well as rookies at the AHL level. As I noted in last week’s prospect update, among U22 goaltenders, Nico Daws ranked tied-2nd in SV% (.916) and Akira Schmid ranked 4th (.911). Among the 57 AHL goaltenders to play at least 20 games, Nico Daws ranked 14th in Goals Saved Above Average per 60 minutes (0.37) and Goals Saved Above Average per 30 shots (0.37). Akira Schmid ranked 19th in GSAA/60 (0.24) and 20th in GSAA/30 (0.24). Hockey Prospecting currently gives Daws a 46% NHLer Probability and Schmid a 25% NHLer Probability.

In terms of prospects outside the AHL, Cole Brady (20) is coming off of 2 up and down seasons for Arizona State where he posted a .905 SV% in 25 games. He is now transferring to UMass to continue his NCAA career. Hockey Prospecting has his NHLer Probability at 32%. Jakub Malek (19) is coming off of an impressive season in the Czech 2nd division where he posted a .932 SV%, 70.97 QS%, and 20.89 GSAA in 31 games. Hockey Prospecting has his NHLer Probability at 31%. The Devils have 4 interesting prospects but certainly should look to add another goaltending prospect to the mix after the 1st round. The Devils have three picks in the 4th round so I think it’s likely they take a shot on a goaltender there if they don’t do it in the 2nd or 3rd round.

Before I list some potential options, I want to point out how low the average SV% was across the junior leagues in North America to provide some context. They were QMJHL (.893), OHL (.889), WHL (.898), USHL (.888), and NAHL (.904). I’ll be including Goals Saved Above Average stats where possible. Now here are some options that should be available from the 2nd-7th rounds:

  • #1 EUG Topias Leinonen (JYP U20 - SM-Sarja) 21 GP 9-10-0, .916 SV% last year, 36% NHLer Probability
  • #2 EUG Hugo Havelid (Linkoping HC J20 - J20 Nationell): 28 GP 21-7-0, .920 SV% last year
  • #1 NAG Tyler Brennan (Prince George - WHL): 39 GP 11-25-2, .899 SV%, 1.31 GSAA last year, 29% NHLer Probability
  • #4 NAG Tyler Muszelik (USNTDP - USDP/USHL): 35 GP 24-5-3, .900 SV% in USDP, 16 GP 10-3-2, .900 SV%, 5.48 GSAA in USHL last year, 23% NHLer Probability
  • #10 NAG Emmett Croteau (Waterloo - USHL): 35 GP 16-16-3, .899 SV%, 10.83 GSAA last year
  • #15 NAG Luca Di Pasquo (Maryland - NAHL): 33 GP 16-11-5, .924 SV%, 19.55 GSAA last year
  • #18 NAG Jacob Oster (Guelph - OHL): 34 GP 16-8-4, .892 SV%, 2.35 GSAA last year, 21% NHLer Probability
  • #24 NAG Domenic DiVincentiis (North Bay - OHL): 27 GP 14-8-1, .907 SV%, 12.23 GSAA last year, 19% NHLer Probability
  • #Not Ranked Daniel Hauser (Winnipeg - WHL): 40 GP 34-3-1, .914 SV%, 14.81 GSAA last year

Right Handed Defensemen

This is a need that I listed last year and to be fair to the Devils they did address it to some degree. Last year, they drafted defensemen Luke Hughes, Topias Vilen, and Viktor Hurtig. Hughes and Vilen are both left handed but are capable of playing on the right side. Hurtig is right handed and naturally plays that side. I’m still listing this as a need since the Devils are still mostly left handed on defense throughout the organization.

At the NHL level they have RHD Dougie Hamilton (28) signed long term and RHD Damon Severson (27) signed through next season. In terms of help coming from the AHL soon, they have RHD Reilly Walsh ready to make the jump to the NHL next season. Behind him the most notable right handed defenseman prospect is Case McCarthy who is entering his senior season for Boston University. Other defensemen prospects such as Kevin Bahl and Nikita Okhotiuk that could contribute soon are left handed. Outside of the AHL, you have LD Shakir Mukhamadullin who is coming over to North America but is also left handed. Now to be clear, the Devils should be drafting the best prospect they can at whatever slot they are picking at despite handedness. However, if they find themselves caught between two defensemen that they value identically, then I think it would be in their interest to go with the right handed player. Here are some RHD that I think could be worth a look depending on where they pick in the 1st round (Elite Prospects Consolidated Ranking):

  • #3 Simon Nemec (HK Nitra - Slovakia): 39 GP 1-25-26 in the regular season last year, 19 GP 5-12-17 in the playoffs, 57% Star Probability, 94% NHLer Probability
  • #7 David Jiricek (HC Plzen - Czechia): 29 GP 5-6-11 last year, 13% Star Probability, 56% NHLer Probability

Here are some that could be worth a look from the 2nd round on (NHL Central Scouting Ranking):

  • #12 EUS Elias Salomonsson (Skelleftea AIK J20 - J20 Nationell): 35 GP 11-11-22 last year, 13 career SHL games at the age of 17, 13% Star Probability, 54% NHLer Probability
  • #18 NAS Ryan Chesley (USNTDP - USDP/USHL): 59 GP 12-17-29 last year in USDP, 26 GP 5-10-15 in USHL, 7% Star Probability, 46% NHLer Probability
  • #48 NAS Christian Kyrou (Erie - OHL): 68 GP 18-42-60 last year
  • #82 NAS George Fegaras (North York - OJHL): 52 GP 13-35-48 last year, 13% Star Probability, 48% NHLer Probability

Center Depth

The Devils are obviously in a great place at center with Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier anchoring the top 2 lines for at least the next 5 years together. There is also Dawson Mercer who could emerge as the long term answer as the 3rd line center if they don’t keep him on the wing. For that reason, this isn’t a huge need, but I would like to see them address the center depth in the prospect pool at some point in this draft.

Tyce Thompson has been a productive player at the AHL level but it remains to be seen if he will play center or wing long term. Aarne Talvitie is another center at the AHL level but there are questions about his upside. Outside of the AHL, they have center prospects such as Samu Salminen, Benjamin Baumgartner, Nikola Pasic, Jaromir Pytlik, Zakhar Bardakov, and Artem Shlaine. An issue with this group is that Baumgartner and Pytlik are prospects that need to be signed by June 1, 2022 or the Devils will lose their rights. Besides that both of those prospects have spent considerable time on the wing in the 2021-22 season. Spending time on the wing instead of center has also been something that Pasic and Bardakov did a lot of this past season. Salminen is a true center that has been productive at the U20 level in Finland but we won’t really get a good idea of how his development has gone until he takes the ice for the University of Denver this upcoming season. Artem Shlaine is another true center but has had an up and down college career and is transferring to Northern Michigan to hopefully jump start his development. I don’t think it would hurt the Devils to add a center or two in the draft. Of course, depending on where they pick in the 1st round after the lottery, any of these players could be in play (Elite Prospects Consolidated Ranking):

  • #1 Shane Wright (Kingston - OHL): 63 GP 32-62-94 in the regular season last year, 7 GP 2-7-9 in the playoffs, 60% Star Probability, 76% NHLer Probability
  • #2 Logan Cooley (USNTDP - USDP/USHL): 51 GP 27-48-75 in the USDP last year, 24 GP 13-23-36 in the USHL, 56% Star Probability, 79% NHLer Probability
  • #4 Matthew Savoie (Winnipeg - WHL): 65 GP 35-55-90 in the regular season last year, 5 GP 3-3-6 in the playoffs, 51% Star Probability, 69% NHLer Probability

In terms of options from the 2nd to late rounds, some of these players stood out to me (NHL Central Scouting Ranking):

  • #25 EUS Aleksanteri Kaskimaki (HIFK U20 - SM-sarja): 31 GP 19-21-40 last year, 17% Star Probability, 51% NHLer Probability
  • #46 NAS Ryan Greene (Green Bay - USHL): 59 GP 19-32-51 last year, 17% Star Probability, 51% NHLer Probability
  • #58 NAS Servac Petrovsky (Owen Sound - OHL): 65 GP 28-26-54 last year, 19% Star Probability, 61% NHLer Probability
  • #75 NAS Pano Fimis (Niagara - OHL): 54 GP 14-30-44 last year, 17% Star Probability, 55% NHLer Probability

Your Take

Do you agree with these needs that I have identified for the Devils prospect pool? What type of prospects do you think they could use to add to the system? Are there any specific prospects that you already have your eyes on? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!