New Jersey Devils represented by small group at CHL level

By Jared Ramsden
Photo: Defenseman Reece Scarlett is currently plying his trade with the Swift Current Broncos of the WHL. Scarlett is believed to have some untapped offensive ability. (Photo courtesy of Aaron Bell/CHL Images)

The Devils are now down to three CHL prospects after a low of four last year. If not for the decision by Reid Boucher to go the CHL route instead of playing in the USHL before playing in the NCAA, there would have only been Scott Wedgewood and Reece Scarlett. Though those three are the only CHL prospects the Devils have, they all currently reside in the Devils Top 20.

OHL

Scott Wedgewood, G, Plymouth Whalers
Acquired: 3rd round (84th overall) in 2010

A scintillating performance by Wedgwood last season for Plymouth, highlighted by a spectacular playoff showing in the first round against Kitchener did enough to catch the eyes of the Team Canada brass as he was invited to the summer evaluation camp for the 2011 World Junior Team. He got off to a bit of a slow start and has been sharing the load with Matt Mahalak (CAR), but he along with the rest of his Whaler teammates have found their groove and appear to be on course for a successful regular season and playoff run.

In 16 games thus far, Wedgewood has compiled a 9-4-2-1 record to go along with a 2.91 goals against average and .908 save percentage. His goals against average and save percentage are on par with his numbers from last season. He had a shaky month of October, but he has been red-hot in November compiling a 5-0-0-1 record with a 1.64 goals against, .946 save percentage, and two shutouts over Saginaw and Sault Ste Marie.

Much like last season, Wedgewood’s month of November seems to have gotten him on track, and though Mahalak’s numbers are even better right now than Wedgewood’s, the team has rolled with the hot goaltender.

He will be eligible to return to junior next season, but he’s likely going to be ready to turn pro. With Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg’s contracts both up at the end of the year, the Devils are getting closer and closer to having to decide what direction they want to go in net. Wedgewood will need some time to mature in the minors, but he’s on the right path.

Reid Boucher, LW, Sarnia Sting
Acquired: 4th round (99th overall) in 2011

It was hard to ignore Boucher’s goal scoring exploits with the USNDTP and at international events for Team USA. Boucher was ticketed for Michigan State in 2012-13 and was set to spend this coming year in the USHL. However he changed his mind at the last minute and decided to go the CHL route instead and hooked up with high-powered Sarnia Sting of the OHL.

Though he’s been very streaky thus far, he is still second on the club with 14 goals (seven of which has come on the power play) and third on the team with 22 points. He had a run of nine goals in six games in October (including two hat-tricks), but also had a drought of eight straight games without finding the back of the net. He spent some time with one of the top 2012 draft eligible prospects in Nail Yakupov, but his linemates have fluctuated. While his minus-six rating isn’t awful, it is one of the worst marks on the team and can partly be attributed to his success on the power-play.

There is no doubt Boucher knows how to find the back of the net, as he has scored at will at every level he’s been at. He has a laser-like shot, very accurate release, and always seems to be in the right spot to rip home a shot or bang home a garbage goal. He is willing to compete in the dirty areas despite his small stature. He is going to need to work on his first step quickness and attention to detail in the defensive zone though, along with finding some consistency to his game. The Devils can afford to be patient with him and will let him ripen and mature in junior for a few years before turning pro.


WHL

Reece Scarlett, D, Swift Current Broncos
Acquired: 6th round (159th overall) in 2011

Scarlett took quite a tumble down the draft board in 2011 after being considered one of the better defense prospects for the draft. Playing for one of the worst teams in the WHL hurt his draft stock. The Devils didn’t really need to select a defenseman given the depth they’ve accumulated in the system, but the team couldn’t resist the value of drafting Scarlett in the sixth round. Many scouting outlets and draft experts had him going as high as the second round.

Scarlett is on pace to obliterate his offensive numbers with Swift Current. Playing upwards of 25-30 minutes a night on the Broncos top pairing with Richard Nedomlel (DET), Scarlett has scored at nearly a point a game clip with four goals and 17 assists in 23 games. He is fourth on the Broncos in scoring, and is tied with Alexander Petrovic (FLA) for third in overall scoring amongst WHL defensemen. His minus-15 rating leaves something to be desired, but just like last season, that is more a result of the workload he shoulders than a direct result of his play in his own end.

So far this season, he’s looked quite comfortable rushing the puck up the ice and has been very active in the offensive end of the rink, picking the right time to pinch down low and create scoring opportunities. More of a positional defender, Scarlett has added a bit of muscle to his frame, which has allowed him to engage more physically. Though it’s still early, it looks like the Devils have gotten some great value with the drafting of Scarlett.