Many of the prospects on the list are more familiar with than in the past given that New Jersey has had to promote an unusually high number of prospects due to an abundance of injuries with the big club. The depth of this prospect pool has been exposed in a very positive way with how these players have performed. Depth played a major role in New Jersey’s acquisition of star forward Ilya Kovalchuk from Atlanta, as top prospects Niclas Bergfors and Patrice Cormier were sacrificed in the trade.
Things are looking up throughout the Devils organization, as there hasn’t been this much depth and up and coming talent in quite some time. Some players appear to have made permanent jumps to New Jersey, while many are just on the cusp.
Top 20 at a glance
1. Mattias Tedenby, LW
2. Jacob Josefson, C
3. Matt Corrente, D
4. Alexander Urbom, D
5. Jeff Frazee, G
6. Brandon Burlon, D
7. Tyler Eckford, D
8. Nick Palmieri, RW
9. Matt Halischuk, RW
10. Vladimir Zharkov, RW
11. Alexander Vasyunov, LW
12. Eric Gelinas, D
13. Adam Henrique, C
14. Mark Fayne, D
15. Mike Hoeffel, LW
16. T.J. Miller, D
17. David McIntyre, C
18. David Wohlberg, C
19. Nathan Perkovich, RW
20. Corbin McPherson, D
Key: Rank (previous rank), name, position, (grade), age, league
1. (1) Mattias Tedenby, LW, (7.5 C), 20, SEL
Acquired: 1st round, 25th overall, 2008 NHL Draft
The most dynamic and exciting prospect the Devils have in the organization, Tedenby is just starting to get hot and find his stride in the Swedish Elite League with HV71, ripping off six goals in a six-game span. In 37 games, he’s recorded nine goals and six assists, despite limited ice time. He also performed well for the bronze medal-winning Swedish 2010 World Junior team, scoring three goals and three assists in just five games.
Tedenby offers an elite package of speed, stick-handling prowess, and in-close finishing skills that help him overcome his relatively small stature. With an out clause of his contract with HV71 at the end of the SEL season, the Devils will likely try to sign Tedenby and bring him to North America to hone his skills and get him adapted to the smaller ice surface. He will have to continue to get stronger, but there is no doubt he is a top-six sniper in the making.
2. (2) Jacob Josefson, C, (7.5 C), 18, SEL
Acquired: 1st round, 20th overall, 2009 NHL Draft
While not as electrifying as his fellow countryman Tedenby, Josefson’s overall game continues to mature at a rapid rate. With Djurgardens of the SEL, Josefson is putting up tremendous numbers as an 18-year-old in one of the best leagues in the world. The youngest player on the team, Josefson has seven goals and 11 assists in 36 games to go along with a solid +7 rating. He is often teamed up with fellow youngster Markus Kruger (CHI), also a linemate at the World Juniors. Josefson scored three goals and three assists in six games at the tournament.
Showing poise and smarts beyond his years, the lanky 6’0 center has sublime playmaking skills and plays a prototypical Devils two-way game. After this season, Josefson will have had two full years of development in the SEL, and despite the fact he’s only just about to turn 19, he probably is ready to come to North America. That decision will have to wait until the offseason. There is no denying the fact though that Josefson’s all-around skill set will have him in New Jersey sooner rather than later, perhaps a Josefson-Tedenby combination in the not too distant future.
3. (4) Matt Corrente, D, (7.0 B), 21, AHL/NHL
Acquired: 1st round, 30th overall, 2006 NHL Draft
While he didn’t crack New Jersey’s opening night line-up, Corrente got off to a phenomenal start in the AHL with Lowell, which eventually led to him getting called up to the NHL later on. While he’s been riding the NHL/AHL shuttle for most of the season, he was looked solid in limited duty, even seeing action as a winger. In 12 games with New Jersey, he’s recorded 24 PIM’s and an even plus/minus rating. His Lowell numbers show three goals and 12 assists in 25 games to go along with 55 PIM’s and a +3 rating.
While he hasn’t earned himself a permanent spot in New Jersey just yet, he has shown in spot duty this season that he is very close to making that full-time jump to the NHL. Corrente is an all-purpose rearguard, leaning more to defense. He skates well, isn’t afraid to mix it up and play physically, and will not hesitate to drop his gloves to defend a teammate. With the return of Paul Martin imminent, Corrente will likely finish the season in Lowell, with an eye towards getting a full-time NHL gig next year.
4. (13) Alexander Urbom, D, (7.5 C), 19, WHL
Acquired: 3rd round, 73rd overall, 2009 NHL Draft
By moving up nine spots in the top 20, Urbom is the biggest riser on the list. Since being drafted last summer, he has already made a tremendous impact in the organization. After impressing greatly with his play during training camp and the pre-season, Urbom was signed to an NHL entry-level contract before being dispatched to the Memorial Cup host Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL where he has put up some outstanding numbers. Through 57 games, Urbom has recorded 12 goals, including five on the power play as well as 21 assists. He’s posted 77 PIM’s and a +39 rating, second best in the WHL behind teammate Colby Robak’s (FLA) +47.
An imposing 6’4, 200+ lb defenseman, Urbom has made a seamless transition to the CHL on a loaded Wheat Kings squad that boasts eight NHL draftees. While he is known as more of a stay-at-home defenseman, Urbom’s offensive game has developed at a rapid pace. He rushes the puck up the ice with ease, and shows great decision-making ability in the offensive end, jumping into the play and pinching down low at the right time. For such a big man, he is graceful on his skates, both forward and backward, showing off his great mobility. Urbom may be ready for a promotion to the AHL next year. A potential No. 2 or 3 defenseman, Urbom is looking like a third-round value.
5. (6) Jeff Frazee, G, (7.5 C), 23, AHL
Acquired: 2nd round, 38th overall, 2005 NHL Draft
Expectations for Frazee were quite high this year after he had a splendid pro debut in 2008-09, and though his season got off to a late start due to a deep laceration to his neck in an AHL pre-season game, Frazee has had a steady, yet unspectacular second year. Splitting time with AHL vet Mike McKenna, Frazee has posted a record of 12-13-0 with one shutout to along with a 2.53 goals against average and .920 save percentage.
Still the only goaltending prospect in the organization, Frazee has come a long ways since his disastrous junior season at the University of Minnesota in 2007-08. The athletically gifted goaltender is developing at a slow and steady pace, and while more goaltenders will likely be added to the system over the course of the summer, at this point, Frazee is still the hope of the organization. He’ll likely finish the year out with Lowell, and would likely be best served by spending one more full season in the AHL before challenging for a spot in New Jersey.
6. (7) Brandon Burlon, D, (7.0 C), 19, NCAA
Acquired: 2nd round, 52nd overall, 2008 NHL Draft
Burlon is making good progress in his sophomore season under the tutelage of University of Michigan head coach Red Berenson. Burlon has been fully healthy this year after missing a good chunk of his freshman season with a sprained ankle. His offensive numbers are off a touch from last year, but part of that can be traced back to the slow start both Burlon and his Wolverine teammates had to start the season. In 35 games, Burlon has scored three goals and seven assists, while boasting a respectable +6 rating.
A great skater who possesses superior mobility, Burlon is slowly but surely rounding out the rough edges in his game to become a more complete defenseman. The offensive tools are there, and now he has learned to play a simpler game that has improved his defensive positioning and ability to defend off the rush. Burlon is being brought along slowly by New Jersey, but is developing at a good and steady pace. A future multi-purpose mid-pairing defenseman, Burlon will likely max out his college eligibility before turning pro.
7. (9) Tyler Eckford, D, (7.0 C), 24, AHL
Acquired: 7th round, 217th overall, 2004 NHL Draft
Though he has cooled off since his red-hot start to the season, Eckford has shown significant improvement in his all-around game after posting the worst plus/minus rating on the Lowell Devils last year (-16). He is now leading the club with a +12 rating through 48 games. He has 27 points and is second behind Matt Taromina (9) for the most goals by a defenseman on the club with eight. Five of those goals have come on the power play. Eckford earned player of the week honors in mid-November, which led to a three-game cup of coffee up in New Jersey where he recorded his first NHL point.
Eckford is a perfect example of the Devils being patient with a late round draft pick, letting him develop at his own pace, and now he is on the cusp of making the jump to the next level. He has a great offensive skill set and has done a great job quarterbacking Lowell’s power play this year, one of the league’s best. But most importantly, he has improved his defensive game exponentially. He’ll likely spend the rest of this season Lowell, but he should be in fierce competition with Corrente for a full-time spot in New Jersey next year.
8. (12) Nick Palmieri, RW, (7.0 C), 20, AHL/NHL
Acquired: 3rd round, 79th overall, 2007 NHL Draft
Palmieri has made a seamless transition to the pro game. He has perhaps benefited the most out of any prospect from new Lowell head coach John McLean. Palmieri has been running neck and neck with Tyler Ennis (BUF) and Logan Couture (SJ) for most of the season for the goal-scoring lead among AHL rookies and is currently tied with those two forwards with 18 goals. That puts him tops for Lowell and his 31 points are fourth on the club. His strong play earned him six-game promotion to New Jersey where he recorded one assist and saw some time on the top line.
A fantastic combination of skill, size and speed, Palmieri, 6’3 220 lbs, is on the right path to becoming a top-six power forward. He appears to be maturing and developing at a much quicker rate in the AHL after an up and down junior career. Consistency was Palmieri’s biggest downfall, but he looks to be rectifying that. A job in New Jersey isn’t completely out of the question next year, but it wouldn’t be a bad thing if he spent at least part of another season in the AHL in 2010-11.
9. (8) Matt Halischuk, RW, (6.5 B), 21, AHL/NHL
Acquired: 4th round, 117th overall, 2007 NHL Draft
It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster season for Halischuk. He started the year in New Jersey, suiting up in 20 games, where he recorded one goal and an assist, before being demoted to the minors with the return of some key players from injury. In the AHL, Halischuk has battled through some nagging injuries, missing some games. In 13 games for Lowell, he has recorded four goals and seven assists and a +5 rating.
Perhaps he was promoted a touch too early to the NHL, but Halischuk still is not far away from a full-time NHL gig. Unfortunately, injuries have taken away some valuable development time this year. An all-weather winger with great speed and a high revving motor, Halischuk has the requisite two-way skills to become an effective third liner at the next level. With another half a year of seasoning in the AHL in store for the rest of this year, he’ll likely challenge again next season for a full-time job in New Jersey.
10. (15) Vladimir Zharkov, RW, (6.5 B), 21, NHL/AHL
Acquired: 3rd round, 77th overall, 2006 NHL Draft
Quite possibly the biggest surprise of the season has been the excellent play of Zharkov. A fast start to the AHL campaign moved Zharkov to the top of Lowell’s scoring list (six goals and 14 assists in 22 games) and also helped propel him to a promotion to New Jersey where he still remains after an injury to David Clarkson in late November. Though he is still looking to score his first NHL goal, he has recorded eight assists and a +2 rating through 33 games and has provided a lot of speed and energy to New Jersey’s bottom six group of forwards.
One of, if not the fastest player in the organization, Zharkov has proven to be a vastly effective forechecker with his blazing speed and tenacity. His steady two way play has also endeared him to New Jersey coach Jacques Lemaire. Though his hands haven’t yet caught up to his wheels at the NHL level, the goals will eventually start to come. With the return of Clarkson after the Olympic break, Zharkov’s roster spot for the remainder of this year may be in jeopardy due to the fact he doesn’t have to clear waivers to be assigned to the minors. No matter what happens with him the rest of this year, there doesn’t appear to be much doubt he will be in New Jersey for good next season.
11. (10) Alexander Vasyunov, LW, (7.0 C), 21, AHL
Acquired: 2nd round, 58th overall, 2006 NHL Draft
It was expected that Vasyunov would build off his solid rookie year in the AHL. While he hasn’t disappointed, already passing the 28 points he put up last year, he hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire. In fact, in a recent interview with Hockey’s Future, he described his season as "going rather bad." Playing most of the season with Ben Walter as his center, Vasyunov has scored 13 goals and 17 assists through 54 games, along with a steady +6 rating. He also recorded his first career AHL hat trick back in December.
Like many of his teammates, Vasyunov has heeded McLean’s advice to shoot whenever possible, as he is on pace to surpass the 135 shots he had in 69 games last year. It is his best weapon, as he is one of the best pure goal scorers in the organization. By his own admission, consistency is the only thing holding him back from taking that next step to become an NHL’er. Next year could be the year that he really breaks out and takes his game to the next level.
12. (11) Eric Gelinas, D, (7.0 C), 18, QMJHL
Acquired: 2nd round, 54th overall, 2009 NHL Draft
A second round draft pick of the Devils last summer, Gelinas went from one struggling team to another when he landed in Chicoutimi, after arriving via trade from Lewiston, through Cape Breton at the QMJHL’s trade deadline. Since being traded, Gelinas has a goal and six assists though 19 games and a -17 rating. On the year, his combined totals read four goals and 22 assists, to go along with 51 PIM’s and a -29 rating. That rating can be more attributed to the teams that Gelinas has played on than his play as an individual.
Arguably one of the rawest prospects in the system, Gelinas has oodles of talent and upside. Already 6’4, the mobile blue liner with solid puck skills will become quite an imposing figure once he fills in his lanky frame. A converted forward, Gelinas is still learning the nuances of playing defense, but there is no doubting the offensive upside he possesses. Gelinas is probably three or four years away from fully maturing and reaching his long-term potential, but there is a mid-pairing two-way blueliner just waiting to be unleashed at the next level.
13. (14) Adam Henrique, C, (6.5 C), 20, OHL
Acquired: 3rd round, 82nd overall, 2008 NHL Draft
One of the more underappreciated prospects in the system until this year, Henrique garnered a ton of attention early on in the season for the powerhouse Windsor Spitfires, which helped earn him a spot on Canada’s World Junior team. Before leaving for the tournament, Henrique was neck and neck with potential top pick Taylor Hall for the OHL goal-scoring lead. However an shoulder injury limited him deeper into the tournament, and hindered him upon his return to Windsor. Only recently has he started to regain the form he showed in the first half of the season. That said, he has already surpassed his career best point totals through 47 games with 33 goals and 33 assists to go along with a +27 rating.
Though Henrique’s offensive numbers are quite impressive, it’s the little things that he brings to the table that make him such a well-rounded prospect. He’s good in the face off circle, has excellent hockey sense, plays a steady two-way game, and thrives killing penalties. The Devils signed him earlier in the season. Could he be the Devils next John Madden? It is a definite possibility down the road.
14. (18) Mark Fayne, D, (6.5 C), 22, NCAA
Acquired: 5th round, 155th overall, 2005 NHL Draft
In his senior season on an average Providence Friars squad, Fayne has been leaned on heavily, but has emerged as a workhorse on the blueline, often playing between 25-30 minutes a game. Not surprisingly, he gets lots of action on both special teams. In the process, the Friars captain has already set a career high in points with 21 (five goals and 16 assists) and has a -3 rating and 14 PIM’s in 30 games.
Fayne has come a long way since the Devils drafted him out of Nobles and Greenough Prep School back in 2005. Now standing at an imposing 6’3, 220 lbs, it looks like the patience the Devils took with Fayne has paid off. While he may not have as high a ceiling as other defense prospects in the system, Fayne has shown enough to the Devils over the course of his development to give them hope he will eventually develop into a stay-at-home, bottom-pairing blueliner, much along the lines of Mark Fraser who just made the jump to the Devils this year.
15. (17) Mike Hoeffel, LW, (6.0 B), 20, NCAA
Acquired: 2nd round, 57th overall, 2007 NHL Draft
Despite just returning to action after missing nearly a month due to a bout of mono, Hoeffel has really taken a step forward in his development and actually still leads the Golden Gophers with 12 goals and a +6 rating in 27 games. The junior forward also sits third overall on the club with 20 points.
Hoeffel is developing into what was envisioned when drafted back in 2007: a prototypical Devils checking line winger, cut from the same cloth as Jay Pandolfo, with maybe a touch more offense to his game. Hoeffel might not have the hands to score more than 10 goals a year as a pro, but his speed and relentless forecheck should make him a dependable foot soldier at the next level. Hoeffel could finish off his college eligibility next season at the University of Minnesota, or the Devils may opt to try and sign him next summer.
16. (16) T.J. Miller, D, (6.5 C), 23, NCAA
Acquired: 4th round, 176th overall, 2006 NHL Draft
While Miller never really fell off the prospect radar, missing a large portion of last season didn’t give him the exposure that other prospects received. And of course the lost development time didn’t help him any either. However, in his senior year at Northern Michigan, he has had a solid season for the Wildcats, providing leadership and decent numbers on the blueline. In 32 games, he has already surpassed his career high in points that he set back in his sophomore year with four goals and 11 assists. He also leads the team with an impressive +15 rating.
An intriguing, multi-purpose blueliner, Miller has shown the ability to contribute in all facets of the game. Much like Fayne, he has made exemplary progress as a prospect over the course of his collegiate career. Standing at a towering 6’4, 220 lbs, Miller skates well and has markedly improved his overall mobility, which has helped make him a better two-way player. Miller has the tools and skill set to contribute offensively, but has mostly focused on improving his defensive play under Wildcats head coach Walt Kyle. Expect the Devils to sign Miller at the end of the year. After a few years in the AHL, he should be ready for a look at the NHL level.
17. (20) David McIntyre, C (6.5 C), 22, NCAA
Acquired: Trade from Anaheim, March, 2009
In his senior season at Colgate, McIntyre remains a vital cog in the Red Raiders offensive attack. The co-captain is second on the team in points, with 10 goals and 24 assists through 31 games. His 24 assists are tied for the second best mark on the team. He also leads the club with 50 PIM’s and at +5, owns one of the more respectable plus/minus ratings on the team. He has shown great playmaking ability this year, perhaps the best of his collegiate career.
McIntyre has upped his point total every year at Colgate and is on pace to do the same in his final year of NCAA eligibility. He likely won’t be quite the offensive force at the next level, but has enough skill, combined with his grit and intensity to possibly emerge into a pesky checking line center for the Devils in the future. With the trade of Patrice Cormier, McIntyre could emerge as a more mature and poorer man’s version of the since traded prospect after a few seasons of development time in the AHL.
18. (19) David Wohlberg, C, (6.0 C), 19, NCAA
Acquired: 6th round, 172nd overall, 2008 NHL Draft
Wohlberg hasn’t had quite the impact that he had last year in his freshman season for the University of Michigan, but he has made progress in other areas to help further his development as a prospect. He was cut from the American entry at the 2010 World Juniors, but he came back to the Wolverines and began to find his stride after a slow start to the season. In 34 games, he has five goals and 14 assists, a respectable +4 rating and he also leads the club in PIM’s with 66. Wohlberg, like last year, has also shown his versatility by lining up and both center and left wing.
Wohlberg wasn’t drafted for his offense, so perhaps it’s not surprising to see his numbers where they are this year. He does fit into the Devils traditional mold of a two-way player with a good work ethic. His hockey smarts, aggressive style of play and the improved physicality that he’s shown this year add to his overall package as a player. Wohlberg is likely a player who will need one more, maybe two more years of college before turning pro, and his future likely lies as a No. 3 or 4 center.
19. (NR) Nathan Perkovich, RW (6.0 C), 24, AHL
Acquired: 8th round, 250th overall, 2004 NHL Draft
Though he has cooled off somewhat after a torrid start to his pro career, Perkovich has shown the same ability to score in the AHL as he did coming up through the USHL and NCAA at Lake Superior State. In 50 games, he’s one of eight Lowell forwards who have hit double digits in goals, with 13, six of which have come on the man advantage. Part of his success scoring this year can be traced to his 123 shots on goal. His respectable +6 rating and 57 PIM’s also show he has contributed in other areas of the game.
The one thing Perkovich has to do to be successful at any level is score goals, because that is what he does best, and so far in his rookie pro season, he has been able to do just that. The lanky, 6’5 forward still needs to continue to pack on some muscle and improve his skating, but as long as he continues to score, he’s going to be noticed and may eventually get a chance to see if he can put the puck in the net in the NHL after another year or two of minor-league seasoning.
20. (NR) Corbin McPherson, D (6.0 C), 21, NCAA
Acquired: 3rd round, 87th overall, 2007 NHL Draft
McPherson is finally in the top 20 after just missing out the past two times. The sophomore blueliner is showing good signs of progression as a prospect after a steady freshman year, and is quickly turning into one of the Red Raiders most reliable defensemen. Through 31 games, he has already posted career-best offensive numbers with two goals and six assists. He also boasts a adequate +5 rating.
Another one of the Devils stable of physically imposing defensemen, the 6’4, 210+ lb McPherson moves tremendously well for his size. One of two California-born prospects in the Devils system (T.J. Miller being the other), McPherson has shown more confidence with the puck this season, which has led to an improvement in his puck distribution skills. He is already steady in his own end, but also continues to make strides in that area of his game as well. McPherson still is one of the lesser-known Devil prospects, but is slowly making a name for himself.
Missing the cut
Anssi Salmela, D, (6.0 C), 25
A familiar face to some, Salmela was re-acquired by the Devils in the Kovalchuk trade in early February after being traded to Atlanta at the trade deadline this year. Salmela stuck with Atlanta for the whole season until his trade back to New Jersey, but he was unable to carve out a regular spot in the line-up. In 33 combined games, he has scored two goals and five assists. He has gotten a good opportunity to play with the Devils, but the return of Paul Martin will ultimately determine the role for the rest of the season for the offensively talented blueliner.
Mark Fraser, D (5.5 B), 23
Fraser has been a huge surprise for New Jersey this season. He took advantage of injuries on the Devils blueline and has slowly earned the trust of coach Jacques Lemaire as the season has worn on. His minutes are still fairly limited, but he hasn’t been overwhelmed at the NHL level. A steady, yet unspectacular stay at home defenseman, Fraser has stuck with New Jersey all season long, suiting up in 53 games, scoring two goals and three assists to go along with a +4 and 34 PIM’s. Much like Salmela, his role might change with the return of Paul Martin, but he appears to have established himself as an NHL regular.
John-Sebastien Berube, LW (6.0 C), 19
Berube has made significant strides in his development as a prospect in his fourth year of junior hockey with Rouyn-Noranda. While he has still shown his usual temperament for the rough stuff with 103 PIM’s, he has toned it down a notch, which has led to a major spike in all of his offensive numbers. In 56 games, he’s scored 22 times and added 16 assists and a +10 rating. His 22 goals are third best on the club. A potential crash and bang, lower-tier power forward, Berube has turned into a pretty well-rounded player since the Devils selected him back in 2008. He needs to be signed at the end of the season, but his strong year has likely swung the signing pendulum in his favor.
Alessandro Seren Russo contributed to this article.