Whether energized by the luster of new management or coincidentally meshing at the same time, the majority of the New Jersey Devils prospects have performed well this season. Credit goes to General Manager Ray Shero and Head Coach John Hynes for what they have brought to the organization: opportunity and a modernized direction for the franchise. Not only has this applied to the top prospects but it has trickled down to the role-players as well. More work needs to be done by Shero but the prospects are showing New Jersey’s system is better the sum of its parts.
20. (9) Stefan Matteau, LW, 6.5 D
1st Round, 30th Overall, 2012
The biggest mover on this list, Matteau has cratered to the bottom of the Top 20. The power forward got the opportunity to play in the Devils line-up this season, mostly in a bottom-six role because of his size. With New Jersey fighting for a playoff spot, Matteau finds himself as an extra forward in the press box more often than not. The Devils need more scoring from their third and fourth liners, but Matteau has been rather unimpressive when given the chance to step up. Unable to outperform veteran forwards, Matteau is in a tough spot. This can only be fixed when he starts to put his game together.
19. (NR) Colton White, D, 6.5 C
4th Round, 97th Overall, 2015
White breaks into the Top 20 for the first time. On the ice, the Sault Ste. Marie blueliner continues to see his offensive game grow. He also plays well good without the puck with a focus on strong positioning and having an active stick. What separates White from his counterparts on this list are his intangibles. He is a smart player who brings leadership skills to the locker room and has the ability to quarterback the power play.
18. (17) Ryan Kujawinski, C, 6.5 C
3rd Round, 73rd Overall, 2013
Kujawinski has had a decent rookie season in the pros. While he has the skill to do more in a top-six role in the future, his size and physicality have helped him earn a spot on the third line with Blake Pietila and Ben Thomson. The trio has played in most of Albany’s games this season and has provided steady depth offensively and defensively.
17. (12) Raman Hrabarenka, D, 6.5 C
Signed as a Free Agent, 2013
Hrabarenka is one of many Albany players who have been hampered by injuries this season. For the bustling Belarus native, his ailment has been an ankle injury that he picked up in November. He returned on December 31st against Utica, but he has slowly been returning to form. Hrabarenka seems more focused this season on his defensive play as well as remaining a physical bulwark to bully opponents from the puck. He continues to remain active on the blue line but his offensive numbers are down from previous years.
16. (13) Reece Scarlett, D, 6.5 C
6th Round, 159th Overall, 2011
With another batch of young prospects starting their pro careers in Albany, Scarlett has become a veteran on the squad. Since development camp, he has been a leader for other blueliners to look to for experience and has welcomed the new challenge. On the ice, Scarlett has benefited from the change to a faster system which utilizes his offensive skills. Handling physicality remains a concern, but his presence on the power play and in transition opportunities make him appealing to have in the system.
15. (NR) Vojtech Mozik, D, 6.5 C
Signed as Free Agent, 2015
Mozik has quickly adapted to the North American style and has proven to be a steady two-way player on Albany’s blue line. The Czech Republic native has lived up to his billing on the offensive end, but it has been his attention to playing responsible defense that stands out. In fact, he leads all defensemen in shots and plus/minus. As a result, he receives quality minutes as one of Albany’s go-to defensemen.
14. (11) Seth Helgeson, D, 6.0 B
4th Round, 114th Overall, 2009
Helgeson’s exposure to the NHL last season was a benefit for his development. Along with that experience, he has improved as a defenseman with the help of a development and skills coach Pertti Hasanen. The one-on-one work has made him confident on the offensive side, but he has not forgotten his role as a shutdown defenseman. Throughout the 2015-16 season, he has been the anchor on Albany’s blue line. He was recalled to New Jersey in late January where he has become an everyday player alongside Damon Severson.
13. (10) Blake Pietila, C/LW, 6.0 B
5th Round, 129th Overall, 2011
Outside of a handful of games, Pietila has been a regular in Albany’s lineup. The stocky forward has excelled in his role as an energy forward alongside Kujawinski and Thomson. While he may not be as skilled as Kujawinski nor as big as Thompson, Pietila makes up for it with an unrelenting engine that would make the energizer bunny proud. Hard on the forecheck and stout defensively, the Michigan native can play in all situations at even strength and special teams.
12. (20) Scott Wedgewood, G, 7.0 C
3nd Round, 84th Overall, 2010
The 2015-16 season has been tough on Wedgewood mostly due to health reasons. Primed to be Albany’s starter on opening night, he suffered a high ankle sprain during a preseason game. The Ontario native had to watch as veteran goaltender Yann Danis held down the fort during Albany’s hot streak in the fall. Wedgewood came back strong when he returned to the crease and made 17 saves in his first start of the season on December 12th in Albany’s 3-1 win over Syracuse. He continued his strong performance going 6-2-2 with a 1.67 goals-against average and .932 save percentage. Unfortunately, he injured his labrum on January 27th against Hershey, but he is expected to play again this season.
11. (16) Alexander Kerfoot, C/LW, 7.0 C
5th Round, 150th Overall, 2012
The Devils have a handful of prospects developing in college. Most of them have developed into impact players for their respective clubs. Case in point: Alexander Kerfoot. The West Vancouver native was a scrawny forward when he joined Harvard who had notable puck skills. Fast forward to today and Kerfoot is centering arguably the best line in the nation. His offensive skills are tremendous but combined with his elusive skating and hockey sense, has made him quite effective as a point-per-game player. Staying relatively healthy this season has also benefited his performance. With Kerfoot in top form entering the final two months of the season, Harvard could be ready to make a run to the Frozen Four.