We continue our Top 25 Under 25 series today by revealing the players that make up the bottom of the top 10. This group includes four forwards and a defenseman. One of the forwards is already an established goal-scoring threat for New Jersey. The other forwards have differing amounts of experience with New Jersey but figure to feature for the team this upcoming season. One of the forwards is among the top prospects for the Devils. The defenseman in this group is a top prospect from the 2022 Draft class and should make his debut for the Devils this season. Let’s take a look at who these players are.
It’s no surprise to see Fabian Zetterlund crack the Top 10 after a breakthrough season in 2021-22. The 5’11”, 220 lbs. wing was drafted by the Devils in the 3rd round of the 2017 Draft. His draft season of 2016-17 saw him get on the radar of scouts as he put up 36 points in 40 junior games with Färjestad BK J20 and make 14 appearances for the first team in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL). Zetterlund was also productive on the international level for Sweden’s U18 team with 3 points in 5 games at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament and he had 5 points in 7 games at the U18 World Junior Championship (WJC). Zetterlund would spend the next two seasons in Sweden with Färjestad BK, posting 7 points in 35 SHL games in 2017-18 and 4 points in 16 games in 2018-19. It’s worth noting that in the 2017-18 season he did move down a division to play in 8 games for Timrå IK in the Allsvenskan where he had 5 points in 8 games. He also represented Sweden’s U20 team at back-to-back U20 WJCs. He scored twice in 7 games at the 2017 U20 WJC as Sweden failed to medal. He had no points but was an alternate captain for Sweden at the 2018 U20 WJC as they captured a Silver Medal.
Zetterlund made the move to North America to play for Binghamton in the American Hockey League (AHL) for the 2019-20 season. As a rookie, he put up 8 goals and 11 assists in 46 games. That was a solid showing but didn’t stand out among his peers. The 2020-21 season would see Zetterlund open the season with AIK in the Allsvenskan until the AHL season started. In 21 games with AIK, he produced 4 goals and 6 assists. In 34 games with Binghamton, Zetterlund would add 7 goals and 12 assists.
Last season, Zetterlund was able to use his skill and strength to break out with Utica in the AHL. In 58 games with the Comets, he had 24 goals and 28 assists to finish tied-2nd on the team in scoring. Among U23 players in the AHL, Zetterlund ranked tied-8th in goals, tied-10th in points, and 11th in points per game (0.90, minimum 45 GP). According to Pick 224, among Utica’s forwards to play in at least 45 games, Zetterlund ranked 4th in primary points per game (0.74), 4th in EV primary points per game (0.50), 2nd in PP primary points per game (0.22), and 3rd in primary points per estimated 60 minutes of ice time (2.44). At the NHL level, Zetterlund impressed in 14 games with 3 goals, and 5 assists, and averaged 13:21 per game.
Zetterlund turned 23 years old last month and seems to have a solid shot of cracking the Devils’ roster out of training camp. His high-intensity motor, strength, and desire to compete in the corners and net-front suit a 4th line role. His ability to add some secondary scoring could see him make a career as a solid bottom 6 wing at the NHL level. While primarily developing as a right wing, he did play on the left wing for Utica at times last year which adds to his ability to be utilized in multiple spots in the lineup. I’m excited to see how Zetterlund performs this upcoming season as I think he can be a real asset for the Devils.
#9 - Jesper Boqvist - C/LW - Age: 23 - 2022-23 Team: New Jersey Devils (NHL) - 2021 Rank: 15 - Elite Prospects Profile
Moving from the Top 15 to the Top 10 is Jesper Boqvist. The Devils drafted the offensively gifted, 6’0”, 181 lbs. forward in the 2nd round of the 2017 Draft. His draft season of 2016-17 would see Boqvist post 6 assists in 16 regular season games for Brynäs IF in the SHL and make 10 appearances in the playoffs with a goal to show for it. At the junior level, he was dominant with 15 points in 15 games for Brynäs IF J20. Boqvist was also able to showcase his skills for Timrå IK in the Allsvenskan with 12 points in 19 games. Boqvist would then spend the bulk of the 2017-18 season with Brynäs IF in the SHL where he would put up 13 points in 23 games. He would also represent Sweden at the 2018 U20 WJC as they went on to earn a Silver Medal. His final, full-time season in Sweden would take place in 2018-19 where he would produce 13 goals and 22 assists in 51 games for Brynäs IF. Those 35 points would be tied-2nd among all U21 players in the SHL that season.
Boqvist would make the move to North America for the 2019-20 season. He would split time between New Jersey and Binghamton as he looked to establish himself. He adjusted well to the AHL level with 11 points in 19 games for Binghamton. With New Jersey, he played in 34 games but only managed 4 goals and averaged 10:57 in ice time per game. The 2020-21 season would see him return to Sweden and link back up with Timrå IK in the Allsvenskan. He got off to a hot start with 3 goals and 7 assists in 13 games before the North American season commenced. In 8 games with Binghamton, he excelled with 2 goals and 5 assists. He showed signs of being NHL caliber with New Jersey but still struggled a bit, posting 4 goals and 3 assists in 28 games with an average ice time of 11:09 per game.
Boqvist needed to take the next step to prove himself as an NHL-caliber player in the 2021-22 season. He got off to a great start with Utica in the AHL with 2 goals and 6 assists over the opening 7 games of the season. He earned a call-up to New Jersey and would not look back. Overall, he posted 10 goals and 13 assists in 56 games with the Devils. He also logged a career-high 13:08 per game. Perhaps, most notable was the way he produced towards the end of the season. In 15 games in April, Boqvist had 5 goals and 4 assists and averaged 15:09 per game, looking the part of a player with a long-term NHL future ahead of him.
Boqvist will turn 24 years old on October 30, 2022, and now is the time for him to not only play in the NHL but produce at a consistent level throughout the season. He’ll face plenty of competition for playing time among the bottom 6 but his skill, speed, and playmaking ability could help him stand out from other players fighting for playing time. This should be the season when the Devils find out just how Boqvist could fit into their long-term plans.
#8 - Alexander Holtz- RW - Age: 20 - 2022-23 Team: New Jersey Devils (NHL) - 2021 Rank: 10 - Elite Prospects Profile
Maintaining a Top 10 ranking is the top forward prospect in the Devils’ pool, right wing Alexander Holtz. The 6’0”, 194 lbs. goal-scoring machine from Sweden was drafted by the Devils with the 7th overall pick in the 2020 Draft. At the time, he was coming off of a strong rookie season with Djurgårdens IF in the SHL that saw him post 9 goals and 7 assists in 35 games. He was also a key member of Sweden’s Bronze Medal-winning team at the 2020 U20 WJC where he had 3 goals and 2 assists in 5 games. He would spend the 2020-21 season with Djurgårdens IF with 7 goals and 11 assists in 40 regular season games as well as 2 goals and 2 assists in 3 playoff games. Holtz would then get some experience at the AHL level with Binghamton to close out his season, with 3 points in 10 games. He struggled with an injury midway through that season and was limited to just 3 points in 5 games for Sweden’s team at the 2021 U20 WJC.
Last season, Holtz was a dominant player for Utica with 26 goals and 25 assists in 52 regular season games. Among U21 players in the AHL, Holtz ranked tied-3rd in goals, 8th in assists, 6th in points, and 3rd in points per game (0.98, minimum 45 games played). He got his first taste of NHL action with New Jersey with 2 assists in 9 games with an average ice time of 12:16 per game. As impressive as Holtz was with Utica, he seemed to struggle to get comfortable in his brief NHL appearances which aren’t surprising for a 20-year-old. Overall, it was a solid season that showed that it’s a matter of when, not if, Holtz becomes a full-time NHL player.
It will be interesting to see how much and in what role Holtz plays for New Jersey this season. He can score from all over the offensive zone thanks to his quick release and accuracy. He’s dangerous on the PP, especially when utilized on his off-wing. The best position for him to succeed in playing with either Jack Hughes or Nico Hischier though he’ll have to earn that in training camp. At this moment, it seems that Ondrej Palat and Yegor Sharangovich have the left wing spots locked down in the top 6. Jesper Bratt should slot in nicely as the top-line right wing. The Devils could open a top 6 spot on the right by moving Dawson Mercer back to center on the 3rd line but I’m not sure if that’s what their intention is. Holtz could start the season on the 3rd line or they could opt to give him more time in Utica to play big minutes until they need to make a call-up. Regardless, Holtz is a top talent and a player that should be a significant goal scorer for this team long-term. I’m looking forward to seeing how his NHL career unfolds.
#7 - Simon Nemec - RD - Age: 18 - 2022-23 Team: Utica Comets (AHL)/New Jersey Devils (NHL) - 2021 Rank: N/A - Elite Prospects Profile
Simon Nemec makes his debut all the way up #7. The 6’1”, 190 lbs. right-handed defenseman was drafted by the Devils 2nd overall in the 2022 Draft. Nemec has been a top prospect from Slovakia for a few seasons now thanks to his cerebral positioning, mobility, transition skills, and offensive game. Perhaps it doesn’t come as a surprise that this steady defender has been playing top-flight games in his native country since debuting for HK Nitra in the Slovak Extraliga as a 15-year-old during the 2019-20 season. That season he had 3 assists in 12 games with HK Nitra. He also produced well on loan for HK Levice in the 2nd division with 2 goals and 6 assists in 20 games. The 2020-21 season would see a 16-year-old Nemec play full-time for HK Nitra in the top-flight with 2 goals and 17 assists in 37 regular season games. On top of that, Nemec would represent Slovakia at the U20 WJC and make his senior debut in the World Championships.
Last season, Nemec would fully break out with HK Nitra. In 39 regular season games, he had a goal and 25 assists to finish 8th in scoring by defensemen. Among defensemen to play in at least 35 games, his 0.67 points per game rate ranked 5th overall. Most impressively, he took his game to another level in the playoffs with 5 goals and 12 assists in 19 games which rank as the best scoring by a defenseman in a single Slovak Extraliga playoffs.
On the international level, Nemec starred for Slovakia first with the U18 team at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup where he had a goal and 5 assists in 6 games while serving as team captain. He earned MVP honors for the tournament and a Silver Medal. He then was an alternate captain for the U20 team at the U20 WJC before it was canceled. He played in 7 games for Slovakia’s senior team at the Olympics as they captured a Bronze Medal. He then stuck with the senior team for the World Championships where he had a goal and 5 assists in 8 games. Overall, the 2021-22 season proved that Nemec could not only just play against men, but do so at a high level on both ends of the rink.
The future is very bright for Nemec, as well as the Devils when you factor in the pending arrival of Luke Hughes following this season. Nemec is a high-end prospect that profiles to reach a high floor at a bare minimum. He should be a game changer once he reaches his prime. I expect to see Nemec get some minutes in New Jersey this season though as of right now I think he gets some time to acclimate to professional hockey in North America with Utica at the AHL level first. However, a strong training camp from Nemec could see him push his way onto the opening night roster. I can’t wait to see him test his skills against a jump in competition this season.
#6 - Yegor Sharangovich - C/W - Age: 24 - 2022-23 Team: New Jersey Devils (NHL) - 2021 Rank: 5 - Elite Prospects Profile
Yegor Sharangovich maintains a Top 10 ranking as one of the Devils’ late-round success stories. The 6’2”, 196 lbs. forward from Belarus was drafted by the Devils in the 5th round of the 2018 Draft in his third year of eligibility. At that time, he was coming off of a successful rookie season for Dinamo Minsk in the KHL that saw him post 4 goals and 8 assists in 47 games. He was also a key member for Belarus on the international stage with 5 points in 6 games at the 2018 U20 WJC and played in 7 games for the senior team at the World Championships. Sharangovich would then make the jump to North America to play for Binghamton in the AHL in 2018-19. He had 9 goals and 8 assists in 68 games in a depth role for the team. He would increase his production in 2019-20 for Binghamton with 10 goals and 15 assists in 57 games.
The 2020-21 season would prove to be his breakout campaign. He started the season on loan with Dinamo Minsk in the KHL as he awaited the start of the North American season. In 34 games with Minsk, he had 17 goals and 8 assists as he became one of the better goal scorers in the league. He carried that success over to New Jersey when the NHL season started and ended up adding 16 goals and 14 assists in 54 games as a rookie with the Devils. He also earned plenty of ice time as evidenced by his 16:48 per game average. He would go on to captain Belarus in the World Championships where he produced 3 points in 7 games.
Last season, Sharangovich solidified his spot with the Devils with 24 goals and 22 assists in 76 games with an average ice time of 16:30 per game. He’s thrived on Jack Hughes’ wing and seems to have that spot locked down. Overall, he was one of 21 players under the age of 24 in the NHL last season to post at least 20 goals and 20 assists. On the Devils, he trailed only Jesper Bratt and Jack Hughes in goals which shows how important he was to the team. He also continued to captain Belarus in international competitions with 3 goals in 3 Olympic qualifying games.
The upcoming season will be both important for the Devils and Sharangovich. They need to start winning games and will rely on him to score goals as Hughes’ linemate. For Sharangovich, it’s a contract year where the pending restricted free agent will be looking to get a raise on his $2M per year average annual value and prove that he could be worth a multi-year deal. It will be interesting to see how he performs and if he can continue to be a part of the team’s future.
Rankings & Your Take
For full disclosure, here is how everyone ranked the players in this post:
Next week, I will reveal which players finished in the Top 5 of this year’s list. Now back to the group from this post, where did you have these players ranked? What do you expect out of each of these players in 2022-23 and beyond? Which of these players are you most excited about? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!