LUKE HUGHES SIGNS (And What it Means for the Prospect Pool)
If you’ve been avoiding the Internet for some reason and haven’t heard the news about Luke Hughes signing with the Devils, I suggest reading John’s excellent recap here. I will not rehash the story. Instead, I will simply point out that in eighty games of college hockey Luke Hughes scored 27 goals and 60 assists for 87 points. Luke Hughes was the best prospect in the Devils system and one of the top prospects in the entire NHL. The signing is — dare I say it — a big deal.
As this page covers Devils prospects, it’s worth noting that Luke Hughes has started his professional career as a New Jersey Devil. As such, Luke Hughes will likely not be considered a prospect for much longer. Simon Nemec is likely not far behind. This season, the Devils also graduated Kevin Bahl out of the prospect pool and lost two prospect defenders (Shakir Mukhamadullin and Nikita Okhotiuk) in the excellent Timo Meier trade.
This summer, these pages will take a more in depth view of the Devils prospect depth chart. However, it should be clear to everyone that the Devils highly-touted defensive prospect pool is starting to thin out. This isn’t bad news. Players graduating to the NHL is the whole point of developing players in the first place and leveraging developed prospects for a star like Timo Meier is icing on the proverbial cake. However, the prospect update always looks forward in the pipeline and with the thinning ranks on defense players like Topias Vilen and Daniil Orlov are rising quickly up the depth chart. The departures may also be an opportunity for someone like Ethan Edwards, who appeared to be blocked by the New Jersey Devils LHD depth, to now sign and fill out the ranks.
Here is a quick look at the Devils best defensive prospects next season should Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec both graduate to the NHL next year. For purposes of the chart, only non-established NHL players 23-years and younger will be considered prospects.
- Topias Vilen
- Ethan Edwards
- Santeri Hatakka
- Daniil Orlov
- Michael Vukojevich
- Jeremy Groleau
- Daniil Misyul
- Seamus Casey
- Case McCarthy (if he recovers and signs)
- Charlie Leddy
- Viktor Hurtig
The price of success is always the prospect pool. It’s nearly inevitable. Personally, I’d rather the Devils be playing for cups than sitting on a mountain of prospects and looking forward to another lottery ball night. Don’t be surprised or discouraged when the Devils slip down the prospect rankings next season. That doesn’t mean the Devils have all of a sudden been drafting badly. It merely means that they are finally graduating their prospects and using them as trade chips along with first round picks for long-term success.
The mini-spotlight of last week’s article, Josh Filmon, has signed his ELC with the New Jersey Devils and is currently playing for the Utica Comets on an ATO. This is valuable experience for Filmon, who will almost certainly be returning to Swift Current for one more season before becoming a full-time pro at the end of next season. Filmon broke out in a big way this year with 47 goals and 75 points in 64 games. While his shooting percentage is likely unsustainable at 23%, Filmon does have an elite shot. Dobber’s PNHLe model has Josh Filmon at 54, which projects his production in the NHL between that of a first and second line forward. That may be a tall order, but it certainly seems to be in the realm of possibility a few years down the road once Filmon fills out his lanky frame.
Trending: Big-time breakout season. Filmon scored his first professional goal on Saturday in a 5-1 loss to Rochester off a terrific feed from Graeme Clarke.
Chase Stillman stagnated this year finishing with roughly the same NHLe as last season. On Dobber’s PNHLe model, which takes age into account, this dropped Stillman from 37 last year to 29 this year and puts Stillman squarely in the bottom-six forward camp. Stillman brings those infamous intangibles to the table and may turn out to be a useful NHLer one day with a long career killing penalties and providing energy with a little punch of offense. While there has been little word on Stillman, one would expect his pro career to start relatively soon once his playoffs end. Chase Stillman and the Peterborough Petes swept the Sudbury Wolves in the first round of Series D in the East.
Trending: Status Quo.
Goaltender Tyler Brennan finished the season a beast in net and ended up surrendering a full goal a game less than his platoon-mate Ty Young during the regular season. Considered the best North American goalie in his class by Central Scouting and the best-overall goalie in the class by NHL.com, Brennan improved greatly from his 3.58 GAA last season. While Brennan’s seasonal numbers this year still weren’t eye-popping, they were solid enough (especially down the stretch) to believe that Brennan has a bright professional future. Echoing that sentiment, Central Scouting goal-tending evaluator Al Jensen in the NHL.com article cited above, believes that Brennan’s game has “very good pro potential.” As of Thursday when this part of the article was written, Brennan and Prince George were tied 2-2 in their first round series with Tri-City. Brennan will likely return to Prince George next season, but as a September birthday, Brennan is eligible to play for Utica next season should the Devils decide on that route for the young netminder.
Trending: Up, especially in the second-half of the season.
AROUND THE POOL
- With Michigan being defeated by Quinnipiac and Boston University losing to Minnesota, the Devils prospects are officially out of the Frozen Four, but check out this goal by RHD Seamus Casey.
New Jersey Devils prospect Seamus Casey ties it up with this beautiful goal. 1-1. pic.twitter.com/aKXCRT9e1V— Steven Ellis (@SEllisHockey) April 7, 2023
- KHL playoffs update: As of Saturday, Avangard (Winger Arseni Gritsyuk) was losing 3-1 in their series with AK Bars. SKA (Wingers Zakhar Bardakov and Nikitia Popugayev) were tied 2-2 against CSKA. [Pribalt]
- In the Liiga, Lahti (LHD Topias Vilen) is tied (as of Saturday) Ilves (Goaltender Jakub Malek) 2-2. [Pribalt]
- With the 5-1 loss against Rochester on Saturday, Utica fell to fourth place in the North Division, two points behind Syracuse with three games left. Though the Comets have not yet technically clinched a spot, the top 5 teams in the North Division make the postseason, so the Comets are not in serious danger of missing the playoffs. For that to happen, the Cleveland Monsters would have to win all four of their remaining games and the Comets would have to lose all three of theirs without earning more than a point. However, any home ice advantage seems likely lost at this point.
- Nolan Foote scored his 20th of the season for Utica in a 5-4 shootout win against Syracuse on April 2nd. [TheAhl.com]
Tell us what you think in the comments below. Next week the prospect update will circle back to the Utica Comets and will likely be covering the Comets each week until their post-season ends.