Summer is here. Beaches. Traffic. And changes to the prospect pool. This post updates the all-prospect team I made at the end of 2023 and analyzes the current state of Devils pool by creating a team of only prospects. Let’s dig in.
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 am graduating Luke Hughes and Akira Schmid out of the prospect pool. Although it’s possible that Schmid may see time in Utica should Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald take a big swing on another goaltender, as of now, Schmid looks to be one of the Devils two goaltenders next year. As to Luke Hughes, although still technically a prospect, I doubt he will be seeing any action for Utica this coming season.
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 decided to make no changes to the top two lines from December. Here is what I said in back then.
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), Lenni Hameenaho (RW)
3rd line in December:
Nolan Foote (LW), Zakhar Bardakov (C), Chase Stillman (RW)
Hameenaho takes Stillman’s place on this line, but the line functions the same. Bardakov and provides hard-forechecking and high-energy, Foote provides the cycle and Hameenaho 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: Cole Brown (LW) Shane Bowers (C) Chase Stillman (RW)
4th line in December:
Tyce Thompson (LW), Aarne Talvitie (C), Peter Hauser (RW)
A slightly better line than my winter selections due to the dropping of Stillman and the additionof Bowers. Talvitie went overseas after a disappointing AHL career. Thompson regressed after a promising season in 2022-23. Hauser may still be a viable prospect, but he still needs to work on his skating and show that he can perform in the higher leagues.
As to the new line, Bowers is a career AHLer, but he’s still an upgrade from Talvitie. Stillman gives this line some potential even if he underperformed this season in the OHL. Cole Brown is still a very raw prospect, but he has the ability to crash the net in what would have to be a second crash line based on what is in the pool. I picked him over Thompson based on raw potential at this point in time.
EXTRA FORWARD: Peter Hauser (RW)
December selection: Patrick Moynihan (RW)
Moynihan’s collegiate regression certainly helped solidify Hauser’s spot here.
Topias Vilen, Simon Nemec
Ethan Edwards, Seamus Casey
Daniil Misyul, Santeri Hatakka
Extra Defenseman: Daniil Orlov
Lots of turnover on defense. These were my pairings in December.
Luke Hughes, Simon Nemec
Shakir Mukhamadullin, Seamus Casey
Nikita Okhotiuk, Topias Vilen
EXTRA DEFENSEMAN: Ethan Edwards
Luke Hughes graduated out of the pool and Okhotiuk and Mukhamadullin were traded to San Jose in the Timo Meier trade. Hatakka came back in the same trade and takes Vilen’s spot on the third pair playing offhand. Vilen moves all the way to the top pair after a strong season. Edwards moves up to the 2nd pair to play with his college teammate Seamus Casey. Misyul gets a look on the 3rd pairing as a shutdown defender after being signed this summer. Lastly, Orlov skates as the extra forward. I considered one of the defenders in the most recent draft, but I think they are too raw right now to project. So I went with Orlov, who is slightly further along.
All in all, it’s a lot of turnover on defense. Good teams trying to improve their roster by making good hockey trades will do that. I still think the Top four is fairly strong (at least until Nemec graduates), but with a lot more uncertainty than in December.
In December, I struggled between Malek and Brennan as the extra goalie. With the graduation of Schmid, I decided on Brennan over Malek this time simply because he is signed for next season and therefore closer to the NHL than Malek, whose future with the Devils remains uncertain.
Overall, I think it’s still a solid team. What do you think? Hate my choices? What would you do differently? Let us know in the comments below.