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NHL Prospect Report: New Jersey Devils

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From now until the start of next season, I’ll be looking at each NHL team’s prospect situation and assessing each prospect’s projected fantasy value. With all due respect to turnover leagues, I will be focusing solely on keeper and dynasty leagues, because prospects have minimal value in re-draft leagues. Most fantasy leagues vary in structure, so for the purpose of this exercise, I will be referring to leagues that include a main roster and a prospect roster, each with their own respective draft.

This week we move up to the 27th placed New Jersey Devils.

2016-17 Recap

After a strong 2015-16 season, expectations were heightened in New Jersey. Adding Taylor Hall via trade only fueled aspirations further. That couldn’t have been more wrong, as the Devils had fewer wins, scored fewer goals, and were disastrous defensively. Hall missed more than 10 games with a knee injury and Cory Schneider had a long funk. Neither helped matters as New Jersey floundered for much of the year.

Sadly, Pavel Zacha showed some promise, but like so many Devils, they just could not finish. It was a theme for most of their prospects, rookies, and veterans alike. Even shots and scoring chances began to tail off later in the campaign as well. New Jersey wound up finishing with the fourth worst record but won the lottery. They drafted Nico Hischier No. 1 overall. He instantly became the top prospect in their system.

1. Nico Hischier, C

Age: 18  H/W: 6’1″/179 pounds.

Drafted: Round 1, Pick 1 in 2016 by New Jersey

2016-17 Team: Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL

57 GP, 38 G, 48 A, 86 Pts, +20, 24 PIM

Hischier had a phenomenal season for Halifax and then turned in a heck of a playoff performance in the QMJHL. The center showed a flare for passing and sticking to plays. His ability to play a two-way game is almost effortless. He is a young Devils forward that many have a ton of hope for. Hischier shined in the World Juniors with seven points in five games. New Jersey has center depth in their prospect and team ranks.

He may start off as the second or third line center for the Devils. It all depends on how New Jersey arranges their surplus of centers. Travis Zajac will still center the top line, but Hischier may see some power play time. That may increase as the season goes on. He is a Devils forward that has room to grow.

2. Pavel Zacha, C

Age: 20  H/W: 6’3″/ 214 pounds.

Drafted: Round 1, Pick 6 in 2015 by New Jersey

2016-17 Team: New Jersey Devils

70 GP, 8 G, 16 A, 24 Pts, -17, 19 PIM, 13 PPP, 83 SOG, 40.3% FOW

Zacha enjoyed a decent campaign for New Jersey but produced nice numbers on the power play. Overall, the forward had 24 points in 70 games for the Devils. Yes, the center created his share of chances. On the other hand, execution on those chances and face-offs was problematic. What has to be different now?

[the_ad id=”384″]The most vital key will be for Zacha to continue to work on those close-to-the-net battles. His lower body is extremely strong and upper body is noticeably present. Few can dispute that. Now the increased hand-to-eye coordination near the net must improve. Those 50-50 battles are ones Zacha needs to win more in order to break through for the Devils. One final issue is defensive gap play covering other forwards. Zacha must learn to catch trailers and maintain coverage better.

3. Michael McLeod, C

Age: 19  H/W: 6’2″/194 pounds.

Drafted: Round 1, Pick 12 in 2016 by New Jersey

2016-17 Team: Mississauga Steelheads

57 GP, 27 G, 46 A, 73 Pts, +28, 49 PIM

McLeod had another successful season for the Steelheads of the OHL. He did have 27 points in the playoffs, and his possession metrics were amazing. His speed and hands were a huge asset as the year went on. McLeod’s competitive fire makes him hard to play against. Also, his two-way play improved in the OHL dramatically from 2015-16.

As he fills out a bit more body-wise, McLeod should see a better shot at cracking the Devils roster. That could mean a nine-game audition or something longer. The forward might be able to play bottom six on the wing. He has the kind of agility that could drive bottom pairing defensemen nuts at the NHL level.

4. John Quenneville, C/W

Age: 21   H/W: 6’1″/ 205 pounds.

Drafted: Round 1, Pick 30 in 2014 by New Jersey

2016-17 Team: Albany Devils

58 GP, 14 G, 32 A, 46 Pts, -19, 53 PIM, 12 GP, 1 G, 3 A, 4 Pts (New Jersey)

Quenneville almost made the Devils roster out of camp but the first full year in Albany proved to be profitable. He had 46 points in 58 games including 14 goals. That resulted in a call-up to New Jersey where he showed some flashes of offense. It did not mean things were all rosy, however.

Quenneville’s best opportunity is on the wing as a bottom six forward. The forward must play a better two-way game and show a knack for getting in front of the net. His shot is erratic and also needs improvement. Again, there is much to work on but he has come a long way in three years. That has to be kept in mind.

5. Miles Wood, LW

Age: 21  H/W: 6’1″/ 185 pounds.

Drafted: Round 4, Pick 100 in 2013 by New Jersey

2016-17 Team: New Jersey Devils

60 GP, 8 G, 9 A, 17 Pts, -21, 86 PIM, 4 PPP, 105 SOG

Wood is one of those players who has a knack for being a pest. He had eight goals on the year but did possess some serious speed and energy, which the Devils lacked. For some spurts, Wood saw time on the power play and proved to be effective as a screen. He is a player who cannot get flustered defensively as the winger was apt to get lost.

It will be intriguing to see where the forward ends up. Can he make that next step to be a leader on the team like he claims? This is an excellent question. Wood has been underestimated his entire career so far. He is someone who cannot be counted out. Expect the forward to be in quite the fight for a bottom six roster spot. It is a fight he should survive.


Prospect Grade: B

New Jersey’s prospect situation is improving, as the Devils now have top prospects at every position. On top of that, the Devils keep adding more top prospects. If GM Ray Shero continues the plan, the Devils will start improving. New Jersey took a step back last season and could take a slight step forward this campaign. The coaching staff is on the hot seat to continue the development curve in an upward direction. Hischier will be the big key, obviously. His development will have huge repercussions.

That does it for this week’s prospect report, but be sure to come back next week when we look at the Buffalo Sabres. As always, feedback is always appreciated, and I’d love to hear what changes you would all make to this list. Leave your thoughts in the comment section! Thanks for reading, and keep your stick on the ice!


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