To ring in the new year, I wanted to do something a little different — and hopefully a little fun, so this post analyzes the Devils pool by creating a team of only prospects. Enjoy.
THE NOT-SO SCIENTIFIC CRITERIA
So as not to undervalue younger prospects, this team will be selected based on my own personal projections of what I believe these players skillsets and talent levels will be in their primes should they hit somewhere in the middle of their projected potentials without ignoring their perceived weaknesses at the time of this writing. For example, if a prospect needs to work on his defensive game, I’m not going to project him to be elite defensively and so forth even if he is likely to improve. This obviously includes a lot of guesswork and leaves things open for debate. Feel free to have at it in the comments below.
For purposes of this exercise, I’m also graduating Kevin Bahl out of the prospect pool. Although he hasn’t been great in limited action, he appears to be the Devils 7th defender. I’m leaving Holtz and Schmid in the pool for now as Holtz hasn’t really solidified a spot and Schmid is back down in the AHL now that Blackwood is back. Arguments could be made to exclude them as well or to keep Bahl in the pool, but this is my approach.
Lastly, this is not a depth chart. Players are being selected based on team structure. Therefore, the team will need penalty killers and the like, not just the most offensive players on the board and lines will be constructed with potential chemistry in playstyle in mind. Therefore, better players may end up on lower lines or not even selected in order to make the team work. I will carry three extras: one forward, one defenseman and one goalie.
With that in mind, let’s delve in.
LINE 1A: Josh Filmon (LW), Samu Salminen (C), Alexander Holtz (RW)
LINE 1B: Arseni Gritsyuk (LW), Artem Shlaine (C), Graeme Clarke (RW)
I call these lines 1A and 1B as the first two lines are interchangeable, so order them how you wish. I originally had Holtz and Clarke flipped on a clear top line, but after thinking about it for way too long, I worried about them getting cratered in the defensive end, so I swapped the pair in order to balance out the lines better.
For line 1A, Salminen, who is known more for his dirty goals around the netmouth, isn’t your prototypical offensive scoring line center, but options are limited with most of the Devils top young centers already playing in the NHL, so he gets the nod here to provide some defensive ability and physicality to that line. Josh Filmon gives this line a bit of a power forward edge, which should pair well with Salminen’s style. Holtz is here to bury the pucks the other two grinders work out of the corners and from behind the net.
Line 1B is probably the better balanced of the two scoring lines. Gritsyuk plays either wing, so he’s chosen for the weaker of the two in the pool — the left side. Clarke is the defensively-responsible sniper on this line, who is quietly putting together a breakout season this year, while Shlaine is your more traditional offensive pivot. It’s a high spot in the lineup for Shlaine, but again, centers are limited and this is the best role for Shlaine as this prospect team is constructed.
LINE 3: Nolan Foote (LW), Zakhar Bardakov (C), Chase Stillman (RW)
A traditional crash line of sorts that has the potential to be an actual bottom six line one day, I tinkered with Foote on the second line, but I like the make up of this line too much. Bardakov and Stillman provide hard-forechecking and high-energy and Foote cycles and crashes the net for the dirty goals. Arguments could be made for Bardakov to play higher up, but I like him here and if he’s to make the Devils one day, this is likely to be his role.
LINE 4: Tyce Thompson (LW), Aarne Talvitie (C), Petr Hauser (RW)
Tyce Thompson has to play on his off-hand as there just aren’t any leftwings that make sense in this spot. Hauser, who has played well for Czechia in the World Juniors in a similar role, should provide some depth scoring for this line. Talvitie gets chosen more or less out of necessity as the pool dries up at center unless one prefers Jaromir Pytlik.
EXTRA FORWARD: Patrick Moynihan (RW)
A near coin flip between Moynihan or Nikola Pasic, I ultimately decided on Moynihan for the versatility, namely his two-way play and ability on special teams.
Luke Hughes, Simon Nemec
Shakir Mukhamadullin, Seamus Casey
Nikita Okhotiuk, Topias Vilen
EXTRA DEFENSEMAN: Ethan Edwards
The first two pairs were easy decisions as all four players have top 4 (or higher) potential should they reach their projections. The third pairing was much tougher and after spending much of my holidays hand-wringing over this, I ended up picking two left-handed defensemen.
Reilly Walsh is the clear omission, but his bread and butter is on the power play and with Nemec and Casey in the lineup, a right shot power play specialist just wasn’t needed. That left Case McCarthy or Charlie Leddy as the next right shot defensemen in the system. Both make more sense for a hard-nosed penalty killer on this team. I strongly considered Leddy as a shutdown, but he’s so far from a finished product that I couldn’t justify him here right now as there are clearer prospects to choose from.
So, in the end, I decided to cheat and have Vilen play off-hand. I went with Okhotiuk and Vilen on the third pairing as they project a little stronger defensively than the other options. Edwards probably has a higher ceiling than Okhotiuk, but someone needs to kill penalties, so I went with Okhotiuk. Daniil Orlov was also considered, but his development status has been a bit of a question mark as he’s been injured so much to start his post-draft season. For that reason, I wasn’t comfortable projecting him over Edwards.
Lastly, I strongly considered playing Luke Hughes off-hand as he does in college, but I didn’t want to tinker with the Top-Four. Pushing Hughes to the right side, moves Casey down to the third pairing and Big Shak into the top LHD spot with Topias Vilen rounding out the Top-Four. It’s not a bad option, but it’s not my first choice.
The easiest decision by far, Schmid and Daws are the clear one and two right now. I might be able to be convinced to choose Tyler Brennan over Jakub Malek based on pedigree, but I gave Malek the edge as he seems to be finding his game once again.
Overall, top-end scoring aside, which one would expect to be slim on any all-prospect team as those guys tend to jump into the NHL very young, I think it’s a really solid team. What do you think? Hate my choices? What would you do differently? Let us know in the comments below.
Next week the prospect update will recap the World Juniors before returning back to normal format the week after.