Earlier this afternoon, the New Jersey Devils announced their roster for this year’s rookie camp and the 2022 Prospect Challenge. The Devils will play three games in this year’s Prospect Challenge, starting with Montreal on Friday night, Buffalo on Saturday night, and Boston on Monday morning. Yes, morning. As in 10 AM. The Devils’ website will be streaming all three games of the challenge. The New Jersey Devils roster features 28 players, including a few invited forwards. Here is a breakdown of the roster.
Goaltenders (4): Nico Daws, Akira Schmid, Tyler Brennan, Isaac Poulter
Daws and Schmid were the top goaltenders with Utica last season, and Daws had an extended call-up in 2021-22 for 25 games. I am a little surprised he qualifies for this tourney, but I will not complain about additional minutes for a young player. Brennan was the Devils’ one goaltender selected in the 2022 draft. Isaac Poulter was signed to a two-way contract by Utica back in June. He played for the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League for four seasons and was arguably their starter for the last two full WHL seasons. He posted his best season in terms of overall save percentage last season with a 91.1% in 49 games for a poor Swift Current team. We’ll see how he gets on in pro hockey. Do not be shocked if he ends up with Adirondack of the ECHL just to keep him active in 2022-23. I would anticipate these four to be rotated across the three games coming up.
Defensemen (9): Kevin Bahl, Nikita Okhotiuk, Reilly Walsh, Simon Nemec, Michael Vukojevic, Topias Vilen, Jeremy Groleau, Filip Bratt, Jarrod Gourley
The biggest name among this group is the 2022 second overall pick, Simon Nemec. This tourney will be his first time playing for the New Jersey Devils. I would anticipate a lot of eyes to be on him throughout this rookie camp and, later, the Devils’ preseason. Bahl, Okhotiuk, Walsh, Vukojevic, and Groleau were mainstays in Utica last season. With maybe one (two?) spots up for grabs and establishing an order on the depth chart, there will be a lot of competition in camp to see which Comet gets ahead of the other. That competition starts on Friday night. Like Nemec, this tourney will also be Vilen’s first set of games as a Devil as he signed his ELC last season.
The two less-familiar names are Filip Bratt and Jarrod Gourley. Bratt is indeed Jesper’s brother. He appeared at the Devils’ development camp back in the Summer. Filip signed a two-way AHL deal in July. He’s 20, he’s not large (5’10”, 179 pounds), and was only productive with AIK U-20s last season. Gourley is a bit older (23), much larger (6’2”, 212 pounds), came through the NCAA wherein he did not produce a lot, and signed with the organization earlier. He transferred to UConn for his senior season after three seasons with Arizona State University. Someone in the organization had their eye on him as he signed an ATO with Adirondack after the Huskies’ season ended in March. He played 10 games with them and was also loaned to Utica for four games. Gourley did well enough to get a one-way AHL contract with Utica in June. With a crowded blueline - which does not include veterans like Robbie Russo and Tyler Wotherspoon - the competition just for the Comets will be fierce. This camp and Utica camp will go a long way to determining if Bratt and/or Gourley starts 2022-23 as a Comet or a member of the Adirondack Thunder.
Forwards (15): Alexander Holtz, Nolan Foote, Aarne Talvitie, Graeme Clarke, Brian Halonen, Chase Stillman, Josh Filmon, Garrett Van Wyhe, Noah Corson, Luke Bignell, Daniel D’Amico, Zack Jones, Billy Jerry, Xavier Parent, Brody Crane
Of the 15 forwards, 6 have NHL entry level contracts as of this writing: Holtz, Foote, Clarke, Halonen, Stillman, and Talvitie. The hope is that Holtz pushes for a NHL job ahead of this season. The rest are more about who can improve, although time may be shorter for some of them. After all, Halonen and Talvitie are both 23 and Foote will turn 22 in November. Filmon was drafted by New Jersey in the 2022 NHL Draft; the Devils have his rights for two seasons so he does not yet need an entry level contract. The rest of this group needs a little more information. (Player names in the following list link to their Elite Prospects profile.)
- Xavier Parent - Parent was at the Devils’ development camp and signed an AHL contract in July along with Bratt. He absolutely went off for Sherbrooke of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last season with 51 goals and 106 points in 65 season games as well as 9 goals and 22 points in 11 playoff games. He was a bit above a point-per-game rate in the pandemic-shortened 2020-21 season for the ‘Q’ and had issues producing before then. Parent is not large at 5’8” and 170 pounds and his past production suggests his glow up was more of a result of being older and used to the league compared to his junior peers. Still, he’ll get his chance to see if his game can handle the professiona level with Utica or Adirondack.
- Garrett Van Wyhe - Van Wyhe was a solid, bottom-six hand for the Michigan Wolverines for four seasons. He was never a particularly productive player in the NAHL or USHL prior to going to Michigan. At Michigan, his point totals were 10, 10, 5, and 12. He works hard, he helped balance a very strong Wolverines team in his college time, and he got Utica’s attention as he signed a two-season AHL deal after Michigan lost to Denver in the Frozen Four semifinals.
- Noah Corson - Noah is indeed Shayne Corson’s son (and a nephew of Darcy Tucker) and he is a journeyman already at the age of 24. The forward started with Moncton in the QMJHL, was traded to Drumondville, went down the the Junior A QJHL with Granby and then transferred to St-Gabriel-de-Brandon, went to the AJHL to play for Grande Prarie, signed first in Sweden for the first of two teams in 2019-20, then finished 2019-20 with Evansville of the SPHL, joined Knoxville for 2020-21, and then signed with Chicago Wolves of the AHL but mostly played for Norfolk of the ECHL in 2021-22. He signed a two-way contract with Utica for this season last month. If nothing else, he is well-traveled.
- Luke Bignell - Bignell is a center who plays for the University of Guelph in Canada. Yes, a Canadian college player. Unlike the NCAA, he can (and is) joining the Devils on a try-out basis for this camp. Bignell played for three seasons with Barrie, never was drafted, and was certainly valuable to the Colts (he was their captain in 2019-20) but not enough to garner any attention after his junior season ended with the cancelled 2020-21 OHL season. With 6 points in 14 games in 2021-22 (and the OUA All-Rookie team), I expect Bignell to make up the numbers. But anything good he can show can help him get some more eyes on him when his time with Guelph comes to an end.
- Daniel D’Amico - Another invited player to the Devils’ rookie camp is Daniel D’Amico of the Windsor Spitfires. He just finished his fourth season with the Spits out of the last five seasons (remember: the OHL cancelled 2020-21) and he was fairly productive since his second one. Last season, the 21-year old had his most productive with 32 goals and 58 points in 67 season games and 11 goals and 21 points in 25 playoff games (Windsor lost in the OHL Finals in 2022). This is D’Amico’s second try out with a NHL team as he was a part of St. Louis’ camp last season. As with other overage prospects, the goal is to come out of this with some kind of deal. We’ll see if he does.
- Zack Jones - Like D’Amico, Zack Jones is an overage junior player with the Devils on a tryout. Unlike D’Amico, Jones’ time with the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL was not as fruitful. He played in the Boston area before making the jump to the ‘Q’ in 2019-20. With the Mooseheads, he averaged a bit above a half-point-per-game. I think he is here to make up the numbers unless the 5’9”, 172 pound center can show much more than his junior career suggests.
- Billy Jerry - Jerry came up through Wisconsin youth teams, played for Madison in the USHL, and joined RPI in the 2017-18 season. The forward was not that productive and what would have been his senior year was denied as the Ivy Leagues - and the ECAC - did not have spots for 2020-21. He transferred to Long Island University, he was named their captain, and he put up 14 goals and 31 points in 34 games to lead the Sharks in scoring in 2021-22. He joined Adirondack in March on an ATO, played in 15 games, and has been re-signed by the Thunder in August. He is here to make up the numbers, although he is a member of the organization. How he does as a rookie with the Thunder over a full season may show whether he has a future at Utica or not. The work will be put in now.
- Brody Crane - Crane is another junior player invited to the Devils’ camp. However, he is just 18 (he turned 18 in May) and is still draft eligible. Crane just finished his rookie season with London with 8 goals and 15 points in 56 games. The left winger apparently likes to go inside the offensive zone per the short scouting blurb in his EP profile. Brock Otten had Crane 44th on his top 50 OHL players for the 2022 NHL Draft, noting he was aggressive to a fault and perhaps someone who can blossom next season with the Knights. I do not think the Devils can sign him (I’m unsure at least?), but at least they can get an up-close look at what he could do.
For the forwards, the main interest will be on the NHL-signed players. I would expect them to carry the load in the Prospect Challenge games and set an example in any other sessions before the full camp begins next week. For the purposes of preparing for a season with Utica, Adirondack, or going back to junior (or in Bignell’s case, the University of Guelph), these games do carry plenty of value. We shall see how they get on and how the coaches will utilize these players.
One last note: Here are the 2022 All About the Jersey Top 25 Under 25 rankings for all of the rookie camp players who have been ranked: #7 Nemec, #8 Holtz, #13 Daws, #16 Walsh, #18 Bahl, #19 Foote, #20 Okhotiuk, #23 Clarke, #24 Stillman, #28 Vukojevic, #29 Talvitie, #30 Vilen, #33 Brennan, #34 Halonen, #38 Filmon, #48 Groleau.
Who among this group are you excited to see perform at the Prospects Challenge? Who do you think has to have a good rookie camp in order to get attention in next week’s camp? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the Devils’ rookie camp roster in the comments. Thank you for reading.