Devils junior prospects 2008-09 review

By Jared Ramsden

OHL

Adam Henrique, C- Windsor Spitfires
Acquired: 3rd round, 82nd overall, 2008

After playing in a support role with Windsor last season, Henrique was expected to take on more responsibilities with the powerhouse Spitfires for the 2008-09 season. Included in those responsibilities was more of an offensive role, while not sacrificing his strong defensive zone play and he did just that as Henrique’s regular season play was quite stellar. Despite battling through a few nagging injuries, Henrique’s numbers across the board show just how far he came in his third full season of junior hockey. On one of the CHL’s top-ranked teams that had many players post gaudy numbers, Henrique averaged over a point per game, scoring 30 goals and 33 assists in 56 games, all career highs. Though his +39 rating paled in comparison to some of the other plus/minus ratings on the team, it is an impressive stat nonetheless. In the Spitfires first-round sweep of Owen Sound, he posted three assists and a +2 rating.

Henrique’s stock wasn’t high going in the 2008 draft, but the Devils realized that he wasn’t playing a prominent role on the team, and were able to snag him in the third round, and though he’s only been in the organization for one season, he’s already looking like a great value pick. Standing at around a solid 6’0, 185 lbs and still packing on muscle, Henrique is the poster boy for what the Devils crave in a forward — responsible defensively, but with the requisite two-way skills to hopefully succeed offensively at the next level. He excels on the penalty kill, is well above average in the faceoff circle, and in general, does the little things that often go unnoticed that help a team win. He’ll more than likely return to Windsor for his fourth year of junior next year, but in the meantime, as the Spitfires march towards a potential OHL championship and a berth in the Memorial Cup, Henrique will play a key cog in keeping the Spitfire engine churning throughout the post-season. 

Nick Palmieri, RW – Belleville Bulls
Acquired: 3rd round, 79th overall, 2007

Palmieri got his wish for a trade early in the season and for the first time in his junior career, he is finally getting a taste of the playoffs with the Belleville Bulls, after three consecutive seasons languishing with the Erie Otters, who ironically, also ended up making the post-season after dealing Palmieri to the Bulls, one of the top teams in the OHL. Palmieri wasn’t required to carry the scoring load in Belleville like he often had to do in Erie, instead playing a secondary scoring role on a loaded Bulls team. He recorded seven goals and 12 points with Erie before the trade, but really seemed to take off with Belleville, potting 20 goals and nine assists in 43 games. After combining his stats with both clubs together, he recorded 27 goals and 14 assists in 61 games. He also finished with 116 PIM’s and a +6 rating. Through Belleville’s first five playoff games against Sudbury, he has scored two goals.

Though Palmieri can still leave you wanting more some nights, there is no doubting the fact that he is can be a dangerous offensive force when he applies himself and uses all of his 6’2, 215 lb frame to his advantage. When drives to the net, he is nearly impossible to stop, and not only does he have good hands around the net, but he also owns a hard shot, with a quick, accurate release. The Devils don’t have many prospects of Palmieri’s ilk in the organization, so the power forward is definitely held in high regard by the Devils. He needs to continue to get stronger, something that will help his adjustment into the pro hockey ranks next season, and will likely need a couple of seasons in Lowell before being ready for the NHL, but there is no doubting the fact that Palmieri’s future in New Jersey is very bright.

Kory Nagy, C/W, Oshawa Generals
Acquired: 5th round, 142nd overall, 2008

The relative unknown of the Devils 2008 draft class going into this season, Nagy quickly made a name for himself in the Devils organization with a great year for an Oshawa Generals squad that threw in the towel this year, dealing phenom, and likely top pick for the 2009 draft, John Tavares to the London Knights at the OHL‘s trade deadline. Nagy’s 2008 six-goal, nine-point playoff outburst was obviously a sign of things to come, as he easily set career bests in all offensive categories. While playing a lot with Tavares before he got traded obviously helped his numbers somewhat, his improved numbers also came by some of his own hard work. In 63 games, he finished third overall in scoring for the Generals with 17 goals and 38 assists, while also posting 83 PIM’s, good enough for second on the squad. His  -19 rating was more a reflection of the team’s struggles, rather than his own play.

Even though he showed improved offense this year, that is not his calling card. Nagy is a strong-skating, energetic, all-effort forward, who is at his best playing a pesky in-your-face game. He’s very reliable in his own end of the rink, and is not afraid to get his nose dirty, playing physical and willing to pay the price along the boards and in the corners. Nagy has his work cut out for him with more physically gifted prospects ahead of him on the depth chart, but as long as he continues to work hard and give it his all each and every shift, he could have a future down the road as fourth-line forward.

Tony Romano, C – Peterborough Petes
Acquired: 6th round, 178th overall, 2007

Nobody in the New Jersey system had a better bounceback year than Romano had as a 20-year-old with Peterborough, after an atrocious 2007-08 season that saw him try to play through injury. After being on a short leash in London last year, Romano quickly emerged as a leader on the young rebuilding Petes, and as a result, saw a huge increase in ice time. Before the season was even half over, he had already surpassed the paltry 22 points he put up last year. He led the squad with 36 goals and 69 points, and somewhat surprisingly, finished third on the club with 86 PIM’s. He posted a -16 rating, but the fact he played a ton of minutes on a not so great Peterborough team greatly contributed to that stat. Unfortunately for Romano and the Petes, they were quickly dispatched in the first round of the OHL‘s playoffs by the Brampton Battalion, being swept in four games. He missed two games in the series due to injury, but still managed to put up two goals and three points.

There was never any doubting Romano’s offensive talents, even after last season, but the bigger question was whether or not Romano’s defensive play could catch up to his offense, but now that his season is complete, it’s safe to say that area of his game is much less of a question mark. Though he is still somewhat undersized, there is no doubting the skill set Romano possesses. He is a great skater, a dynamic stickhandler, and has great hands around the net. While Romano is still going to need to put on some more muscle if he is going to want to succeed at the next level, this season looks like it might serve as a springboard for him in his hockey career. It would be downright shocking now if the Devils chose to not sign Romano to an entry-level deal.

Harry Young, D – Windsor Spitfires
Acquired: 7th round, 202 overall, 2008

Despite missing six weeks early on in the season with a fractured foot, Young returned and looked like he didn’t miss a step, providing steady defensive play, toughness and leadership on the blueline for the Spitfires. All of those qualities are what likely helped earn Young the role of captain on arguably the best team in the CHL. In 46 games, Young posted quite an odd stat line: 8 goals and 4 assists. Considering he had scored only two career goals in his previous three seasons combined, the eight-goal outburst was definitely a bit of a surprise to Windsor, and probably to Young himself as well. More importantly, he posted 138 PIM’s and a +27 rating. Had Young not missed time due to the injury, he likely would have cracked over 200 PIM’s, and posted an even better plus/minus rating.

With Young, what you see is what you get; a physical, no-nonsense stay-at-home blueliner who gives it his all every shift and provides a steadying influence on the back end. At 6’4, and just over 200 lbs, Young possesses an imposing figure, and is not afraid to drop the gloves on occasion as evidenced by his penalty minute totals over the past few seasons. While Young will have to continue to improve his skating and footwork to ultimately succeed at the next level, he has the work ethic, attitude and perseverance to make it down the road as a tough as nails bottom pairing/depth defenseman. In the meantime though, he hopes to captain a deep and talented Windsor team to a Memorial Cup.

QMJHL

Patrice Cormier, C – Rimouski Oceanic
Acquired: 2nd round, 54th overall, 2008

Cormier struggled last season due to injury, which caused his draft stock to tumble, before the Devils picked him in the middle of the second round. However in his third full QMJHL season, he was able to put that rough 2007-08 year behind him and rebound to have a fantastic season for the Memorial Cup hosting Rimouski Oceanic this year. He was an all-around force for the Oceanic, who as a team struggled out of the gate with key injuries, but caught fire down the stretch and into the playoffs. His numbers improved across the board, as he finished fourth in team scoring with 23 goals and 28 assists in 54 games. He lead the team with 118 PIM’s, and also posted a respectable +9 rating. In a first-round playoff sweep of Chicoutimi, he put up four points in four games. The highlight of the year for Cormier up to this point though has to be the gold medal he earned on Team Canada’s entry at the World Junior Championship this past winter, where he excelled as a physical, checking-line torpedo, sparking the team with timely hits and great two-way play. 

After only one season in the organization, Cormier has already shown that he is arguably the most well-rounded prospect in the Devils have in their prospect arsenal. Recently named the top QMJHL prospect here at Hockey’s Future, Cormier is finally living up to the vast hype that was bestowed upon him before he even played a game of major junior hockey. Cormier thrives playing a power-forward style of game, and has the 6’2, 200 lb frame to handle it. As shown by his stats this year, he’s a deadly two-way player, easily capable of contributing at either end of the rink. As an added bonus, he’s emerged as a top-notch face-off artist, a valuable, but somewhat often overlooked trait to have. Cormier is just starting to come into his own as a prospect and is only going to get better. While another year of junior is likely in the cards for Cormier next season, he is on the fast track and could be in New Jersey as soon as 2010-11.

John-Sebastien Berube, LW – Rouyn-Noranda Huskies
Acquired: 7th round, 205th overall, 2008

It was a good year of development for the 18-year-old Berube, as he was able to contribute in a variety of ways this season for the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, who just managed to sneak into the playoffs with a .500 record. While he didn’t shatter any career highs statistically, he still showed slight improvement in most categories, including a team-leading 143 PIM’s. In 64 games, he scored 15 goals and added 11 assists, to go along with a -8 plus/minus rating.

Berube is slowly, but surely developing into a very well-rounded prospect. While the Devils, and most of the QMJHL, know that he’s one of the top fighters in the league, he’s shown the ability to chip in offensively as well, which bodes very well for his future. One-dimensional enforcers are becoming extinct in the NHL, being replaced by more well-rounded players who can contribute in all areas, much like current New Jersey Devil forward David Clarkson. Berube still has two years of junior eligibility remaining and will likely use them both as he hopes to continue to make gains in his all-around play and earn himself a contract with the Devils.

WHL

Matt Delahey, D – Regina Pats
Acquired: 4th round, 112th overall, 2008

Though it was a rough season for the Regina Pats, who had high hopes coming into the season but ended up missing the post-season all together, it was a good season of development for Delahey. A mid-season shoulder injury shelved him for about six weeks, and the injury was a big hit to the Pats defense corps where Delahey played major minutes and emerged as one of the top blueliners on the team. Before and after the injury though, his numbers improved significantly from last season. In 56 games, Delahey tallied six goals and 22 assists, to go along with 93 PIM’s, and a respectable -3 rating on a Regina team that struggled mightily down the stretch. At the commencement of the season, he was named the Pats defenseman of the year.

At this stage in his development, Delahey appears to be a jack of all trades type of defender, capable of contributing at both ends of the rink. He excels playing a physical brand of hockey, is a sound and steady defender and has those intangible qualities like leadership that you just can’t teach. As he continues to mature offensively and fill out his 6’1, 215 lb frame, Delahey should start to climb up the Devils prospect ladder fairly quickly. He has tremendous upside and could easily emerge as one of the top defenders in the WHL next season.

Ryan Molle, D – Swift Current Broncos
Acquired: 7th round, 207th overall, 2007

Much like last season, Molle had another steady, yet unspectacular season for the Swift Current Broncos. He was again counted on to provide a strong defensive presence on the back end for the Broncos and did just that, while also managing to improve almost all of his numbers across the board from last season. Though he was held without a goal, he put up a career best 15 assists, 94 PIM’s and a strong +13 rating for a Broncos squad that managed a fourth place finish in the WHL‘s ultra-competitive Eastern Conference.

With Molle, what you see is what you get. While he has the mobility and skating skills to effectively move the puck up the ice, that’s just not his forte. He’s not going to blow people away with a flashy, high-end offensive skill set, but provides consistent play in his own end of the rink, playing a physical, no-nonsense brand of hockey. He’s usually on the ice in most key defensive situations for the Broncos and is a strong penalty killer, thanks to his above-average positional play. As of this writing, he has yet to sign with the Devils, and though he’s done nothing through his play to not merit a contract, it remains to be seen where he fits in the Devils long-term plans. The team has accumulated a lot of depth in that area over the course of the past few seasons, so at this point, it could go either way on inking him before the signing deadline this June.

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