After 1 1/2 of non stop work, Andrew Clark and I have worked feverishly to get the Devils Prospect Page as updated as possible. Besides a new Top 20, each player has been asigned a new rating, and the majority of those players have had their bios completely revamped. The strengths and weaknesses have also been revised.
Andrew and I have worked hard on this, so please post your comments, suggestions or anything else you would like to say about the Devils and their Prospects on the Devils Message board, or the Prospect Talk board
Jared Ramsden(Devils Editor)
After losing Bobby Holik to the rival Rangers, many think that the Devils will suffer from that, and fall back in the standings, and possibly miss the playoffs. Even though a blockbuster deal with Anaheim gives fans some optimism, many are still skeptical about this upcoming season. True, the Devils may take a step or two back this year, but it will be nothing more than that. There is plenty of young talent on the way to help in the next couple of seasons.
Here are the New Jersey Devils Top 20 Prospects
1. Ari Ahonen, Goalie, Albany (AHL), previous rank – #1
Everyone knew that young Ahonen was good, but no one really knew how good until we saw him this past year in Albany. His numbers were not that impressive (6 wins in 34 starts with a 3.04 GAA), but considering the team in front of him and the more experienced and talented competition he faced, he did very well. There is no doubt that one day he will be backing up Marty and even possibly replace him. But until that day comes, Ari will spend time in the AHL getting tons of playing time and honing his skills with coach and former Devil goalie Chris Terreri in Albany. It is unclear what netminders will be in Albany this year, however Ahonen will be the #1 guy and get more time than last year.
2. Brian Gionta, Right Wing, Albany/New Jersey (AHL, NHL), previous rank – #3
Every league Brian has ever played for, he hears the same thing over and over again like a broken record. He’s too small, he’s not strong enough, he won’t be able to take the hits, he won’t be able to play at the higher level, he doesn’t have the heart. With every game, he quiets more and more of his critics. After leading the BC Eagles to a National Championship, he joined the professional ranks first with Albany. He proved himself one of the most talented players on the farm and he got his shot in New Jersey. He took full advantage of the situation and finished the season in the NHL. Most of his time spent in Jersey was on the fourth line, but as he got more experience and the injury bug attacked the squad, he was moved up and saw shifts on special teams. His short-handed goal in the playoffs was one for the highlight reel and don’t be surprised to see this mighty mite in a regular role under the new coaching staff.
3. Christian Berglund, Right Wing, Albany/New Jersey (AHL, NHL), previous rank – #2
The Swedish sensation also put in his dues down on the farm and was rewarded with time in New Jersey, partly because of injuries. The point is after playing 60 games in the AHL and scoring 21 goals and 26 assists, he was the best player in Albany. Besides, the nasty side of his game was what the Devils needed late in the season and into the playoffs with Turner Stevenson out. Christian proved that one day he will be an excellent second or third line winger, but he still needs some more time in the minors, but no more than one full year.
4. David Hale, Defense, University of North Dakota (NCAA), previous rank – #4
Overall, life on the reservation for the Fighting Sioux was not a happy time, but David had an excellent second season. The loss of older and talented players proved to be too much for North Dakota to get back to the Frozen Four, so they had to look to the younger guys. Hale filled his role nicely and proved himself as the future leader for the next two years. This next Scott Stevens got more ice time and improved upon every aspect of his game. He will be a top two defensemen over the next couple of years in the collegiate ranks and eventually be asked to play the same role in New Jersey for the 2004-05 season.
5. Adrian Foster, Center, Brandon (WHL), previous rank – #5
The 6’1”, 205-pound center might have seen the last of his dark days. He opened the season in training camp and was not sent back to the CHL until the Devils organization was satisfied with his progress and conditioning towards finally defeating that nasty abdominal injury. He experienced a couple bumps in the road but eventually he would return to action and play in 42 games scoring 18 goals and helping on 24 others. Foster seems very close to playing at 100% and regaining on lost ground. Expect him to be in training camp turning some heads. It is unclear if he will be playing back in the juniors or playing with the big boys, because of Holik’s departure, he could be viewed as a possible replacement.
6. Paul Martin, Defense, University of Minnesota (NCAA), previous rank – #6
Paul nearly doubled his point total from his first season in the WCHA and played a key role in helping Minnesota capture a National Championship. Martin was the #2 defensemen behind Hobey Baker winner Jordan Leopold who is off to the NHL next season. Martin will become the #1 blueliner for the Golden Gophers in hopes of repeating as Champs. Also, since Brian Rafalski and Scott Neidermayer are both still relatively young, there is no reason to rush him. With time, Martin will develop nicely into an excellent offensive back line threat for the New Jersey Devils.
7. Aleksander Suglobov, Right Wing, Lokomotiv (Russia), previous rank – #7
Aleksander has been a victim of circumstance over the past two years. He has been bounced back and forth between strong and weak teams in the Super League as well as up and down to junior clubs. Unfortunately, this lack of consistency has taken a toll on his development and could hinder his progression. However, the fact remains that he is a strong and fast skater with a lot of raw talent and ability. If things go his way and he gets more ice time this coming season, he could become a quality second line scoring threat and very valuable in the Devils organization. More than likely, Suglobov is not receiving the attention he deserves and is lacking a structured support system he needs to become the player he can.
8. Teemu Laine, Right Wing, Jokerit (Finland), previous rank – #8
Teemu Laine is still young and developing while seeing most of his ice time in the premier league. He obviously proved that he did not belong in the tier II or under 20 leagues because he scored 24 points in 17 matches. He received a promotion but got very little ice time on a very good Jokerit team. As the season progressed and the team got deeper into the playoffs, Laine was only utilized as an extra skater when someone needed a rest. This, however, was not a reflection of his abilities and he should be able to land a more regular role on Jokerit in the upcoming season.
9. Toumas Pihlman, Left Wing, JYP Jyvaskyla (Finland), previous rank – #9
This power forward saw quality time with on a young JYP team for his second season in the SM-Liiga. He also performed well at the WJC representing Finland by scoring 4 points in seven games. This upcoming season will be his third in the elite league, but he might be better suited in the AHL developing his North American game for an eventual tryout with the Devils.
10. Scott Clemmensen, Goalie, Albany (AHL), previous rank – #8
Scott surprised everyone and took advantage of an excellent situation in beating out Damphousse and Henry as Brodeur’s back up after training camp last season. He saw action in only two NHL games as a replacement for Marty, but was shipped to the AHL in December to get some playing time. It is unclear what will happen to Clemmensen in the upcoming season, but Lamoriello is looking for a veteran back-up for Marty so that his goalie prospects can get quality playing time in the AHL. Since Damphousse was traded to the Ducks, this allows Scott to have a little more breathing room in Albany if he doesn’t make the Devils. However, he will do anything and everything to get back to the NHL and prove to Lou he doesn’t need a veteran.
11. Matt DeMarchi, Defense, University of Minnesota (NCAA), previous rank – #12
The fourth and final year in the collegiate ranks will be very important for DeMarchi as far as his professional career is concerned. He overcame a nagging ankle injury at the beginning of last season and played a large part in winning the National Championship for Minnesota. Expect him to have another good season with the Gophers and then be wearing a River Rat sweater the following year.
12. Mike Rupp, Center, Albany (AHL), previous rank – #18
Rupp is the total package at the center position with his big size, smooth skating, excellent face-off techniques and punishing hits when checking. After two seasons in Albany, Mike’s role has increased because of his development. He posted solid numbers considering he was on a young and inexperienced team. With the subtraction of Arnott and Holik, Mike could get a serious look at this upcoming training camp for a spot on the Devils. However, his career and game would be better off with one more season in the AHL.
13. Chris Hartsburg, Forward, Colorado College (NCAA), previous rank – #17
As assistant captain for Colorado College in his final year, Chris really stepped it up on both ends of the ice. The gritty forward who gives 110% every game posted impressive numbers, especially on the power play and penalty kill. Chris’ father, Craig, has just made the jump to the NHL as an assistant coach in Philly, can young Chris do the same with the Devils this upcoming season? Only if he has a strong camp, but more than likely, he will be in Albany but might get in a game or two at the NHL level.
14. Mikko Jokela, Defense, Albany (AHL), previous rank – #13
Mikko had a good first year with the Rats and a good first year in North America after coming over from Europe. This stay at home defender, who does possess some good skating and puck handling skills, will appear in more than 56 games this upcoming season and will have another solid season in the AHL.
15. Aaron Voros, Center, University of Alaska-Fairbanks (NCAA), previous rank – unranked
Standing at six foot and four inches, this eighth round selection proved to be the surprise draft pick of 2001 for the Devils. Voros had a great season in the NCAA scoring 18 goals and helping on 12 others. He has improved a lot over the past season and will continue to do the same for UAF.
16. Barry Tallackson, Forward, University of Minnesota (NCAA), previous rank – unranked
The recent 2002 draft pick seems very promising as a power forward on a very good Minnesota team. In 44 games, he scored 23 points and established himself as a very tough and physical player. His lack of consistency and hard work might make him a project prospect, but this problem could fade as he matures.
17. Scott Cameron, Center, Albany (AHL), previous rank – #11
After three excellent seasons in the OHL with Barrie and North Bay, Scott had a difficult time in his first season with a young River Rats team. Appearing in 54 games, Cameron only registered nine points. He will be looking to turn things around in his second season in the AHL and get back to his old form while posting numbers similar to his CHL days.
18. Viktor Uchevatov, Defense, Albany (AHL), previous rank -#19
Big, strong, smart, tough, aggressive, and still very young. This 19 year old will be playing his second season in the AHL starting in the fall. He is a solid #4-5 stay at home defensemen that plays a style similar to Ken Daneyko.
19. Anton Kadeykin, Defense, Elektrostal (Russia), previous rank – unranked
Selected with the Devils first overall pick in the 2002 draft, Kadeykin went unnoticed to most scouts because he was not selected for the Russian National squad. He possesses fine hockey skills and a strong sense of the game. This big and strong defensemen will be making his North American debut this fall in the CHL for the Sarnia Sting.
20. Jason Ryznar, Forward, University of Michigan (NCAA), previous rank – unranked
This power forward plays a strong and physical game for the University of Michigan. Selected in the third round of the 2002 draft, Jason had a good first year for the Wolverines scoring nine goals and assisting on seven. This native of Anchorage, Alaska is able to use his 6’4” and 205-pound frame in front of the net effectively, especially on the power play where he scored three goals this past season. He makes a nice addition to the Devils organization with his size and strong work ethic at a position where the organization is lacking.
The Next Tier
21. Andrei Posnov should have a good upcoming season in Russia as he develops to make the jump to North America, but has some considerable work to do.
22. Phil Cole, after a couple of strong seasons in the CHL, was rewarded with a contract to play in the Devils organization and will join the River Rats this coming season.
23. Max Birbraer is proving himself more of a career minor leaguer than an NHL prospect. In two seasons, he has only appeared in 90 games and only scored 26 points.
24. Brett Clouthier is mean, nasty, big and tough, but seems to be a one-dimensional goon who racked up 104 penalty minutes this past year in Albany. However, he still could prove himself useful to the Devils if he picks up his offensive production.
25. Maxim Balmochnykh obviously had problems in the Anaheim organization with his attitude, injuries and suspensions and he found it difficult adjusting to the North American game. Maybe a change of venue is what the right-winger needs. Besides, he would not be the first, nor last project prospect in the Devils organization.