Devils Top 20 prospects

By Jared Ramsden

With half a season complete, the Devils have some new faces in the Top 20 list of prospects. David Hale and Paul Martin, two highly regarded prospects, have graduated, as have Scott Clemenssen and Mike Rupp. There have been some surprises and some disappointments that are reflected in some prospects rising and falling on the list. Here is the mid-season ranking of the prospects for the New Jersey Devils.

Zach Parise, C, North Dakota (NCAA)
Opening Rank: #1 Mid-season Rank: #1

There is no change at the top, as Parise has done just about everything Devils management had expected when they drafted him in the first round this year. The 5’11″, 185 lb. Parise got off to a decent start with North Dakota, but he took his game to another level at the World Junior Championships, and was a huge reason why the United States was able to claim their first ever gold medal at the tournament. He was named to the first All-Star team, was named top forward, and to top it off, was named tournament MVP. Parise tied for second among all players at the tournament with 5 goals and 6 assists for 11 points in 6 games. At his second season at UND, Parise currently has 8 goals and 14 assists for 22 points in 15 games, and has a very impressive +12 rating.

Ari Ahonen, G, Albany (AHL)
Opening Rank: #2 Mid-season Rank: #2

Ahonen still remains one of the organization’s top prospects. After spending a good part of the first quarter in New Jersey, recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery, Ahonen returned to Albany with quite a bang. The Rats are a much better team with him between the pipes, and in his third AHL season, he is showing signs of taking his game to another level. He spent a good part of late December and early January backing up Martin Brodeur in New Jersey while Corey Schwab rested a groin injury. He is still awaiting action his first NHL game, and that may come this season should his stellar play continue. He has won 6 of his 15 starts for a weak Albany squad and has a respectable 2.83 GAA and a .905 save percentage.

Alexander Suglobov, RW, Albany (AHL)
Opening Rank: #8 Mid-season Rank: #3

A fast riser in the system, Suglobov has been a pleasant surprise so far in his AHL rookie season as he has made a remarkably quick transition to the AHL, and is currently sitting 10th in rookie scoring and sits second in scoring for the River Rats with 10 goals, 11 assists and 21 points in only 26 games. If not for missing a few games due to a knee injury, Suglobov’s point total would likely be higher. He recently made his NHL debut in early January against the Edmonton Oilers, playing on a line with fellow Russian’s Sergei Brylin and Igor Larionov. Devils management have to be very pleased with the play of Suglobov as he has shown the ability to score, something that is rare among most Devils, and most Devils prospects. He will be Albany’s lone representative at the AHL All-Star Classic.

Tuomas Pihlman, W, Albany (AHL)
Opening Rank: #4 Mid-season Rank: #4

Despite an average start to his pro career, Pihlman retains the No. 4 spot in the Top 20. His potential as a power forward (6’2″, 205) still has Devils management salivating. Pihlman got off to a quick start in Albany, but cooled off considerably before picking his game up once again, and even earned a two game call up to New Jersey for his first NHL action. It took quite a while for Pihlman to adjust to the AHL level, but as of late, his game has really started to come around. Through 31 games, he has 5 goals and 5 assists for 10 points to go along with 20 PIM’s.

Adrian Foster, C, Albany (AHL)
Opening Rank: #6 Mid-season Rank: #5

Foster rounds out the top 5 Devils prospects. It looked like Foster was going to have another injury-plagued season early on, but after missing the first few weeks due to injury, Foster has seen action in 28 games already, a big accomplishment for him considering the amount of time he has missed in years past. Recently, he has really started to pick his game up and through 28 games, Foster has 6 goals and 7 assists for 13 points. The Devils hope Foster can remain healthy through the rest of the year and can continue to score as he has been lately.

Anton Kadeykin, D, Sarnia (OHL)
Opening Rank: #7 Mid-season Rank: #6

Kadeykin has had a rough go of it in his second season in with Sarnia of the OHL, struggling to stay healthy. He was likely to have played for Russia at the World Junior Championships if not for a leg injury that has hindered him throughout most of the season. Kadeykin’s numbers are down from where they were at this point last year, but he still has a bright future, and will be brought along slowly as there is no need to rush him. He has 1 assist and a +2 rating through 22 games.

Petr Vrana, C, Halifax (QMJHL)
Opening Rank: #9 Mid-season Rank: #7

Vrana has had an up and down year so far, and the downs have definitely overshadowed the ups so far. Vrana got off to a cold start after returning from New Jersey Devils training camp averaging well under a point per game. Then on November 2nd Vrana suffered a shoulder injury that kept him out of the lineup for two months and out of the World Junior Hockey Championships for team Czech Republic. Vrana returned to the lineup in late December and has played fairly well since the injury and now has 23 points in 25 games. Vrana seems to be taking on the role of a playmaker rather than scorer, and his linemates play a large part in that not having the star power that the team had last year. Vrana will have to work on his strength. He has been looking a lot like a younger version of current Devil Sergei Brylin.

Barry Tallackson, LW, Minnesota (NCAA)
Opening Rank: #10 Mid-season Rank: #8

Tallackson has struggled this season for Minnesota. He had played in every game thus far this season for Minnesota, but has only 9 points (5 goals, 4 assists) to show for it. He had probably his best outing of the season thus far this past weekend versus the Mavericks of Minnesota State-Mankato where he was just everywhere on the ice, making things happen, making plays and giving an all-around solid effort. One reason for his performance success against the Mavericks could be attributed to the fact that he was moved from his usual right wing position to center, and having two positionally solid grinding forwards in Jon Waibel and Garret Smaagaard on the line with him. When Tallackson is on his game, he can be a real mucker and difficult to play against. He uses his 6’4″, 205-pound frame quite well. He’s also an excellent skater who possesses a great shot. He’s a player who could be relied upon when the game is on the line.

Teemu Laine, RW, Jokerit (Finland)
Opening Rank: #11 Mid-season Rank: #9

Still the fastest skater in the organization, the 6’1″, 200-pound Laine has had a steady, yet unspectacular start to the season with his club team in Jokerit. He has been a regular in the lineup, but sees most of his minutes on the fourth line. He hasn’t shown any signs of having a breakthrough offensive season, and that may not ever happen. However, Laine still has the ability to make it to the NHL as an energy type, checking line player. Through 41 games, Laine has 3 goals and 6 assists for 9 points to go along with 34 PIM’s.

Ivan Khomutov, C, London (OHL)
Opening Rank: #12 Mid-season Rank: #10

Khomutov has had a rough season so far, and he was just under a point per game in his first 13 games with 12 points until he broke his arm. He has just returned to the lineup but is only getting fourth line duty until he gets back into fit form. Khomutov was previously playing on the 3rd line and getting lots of powerplay ice time. He seems to have great abilities but can’t put it all together. He has trouble getting open and will need a fair amount of time in Albany before he gets a shot in the NHL. The tall and lanky Russian through 15 games has 3 goals and 9 assists for 12 points. Khomutov will look to finish up his season healthy and hopefully being able to score like he did before he got injured.

Matt DeMarchi, D, Albany (AHL)
Opening Rank: #13 Mid-season Rank: #11

Of the three defense prospects signed over the summer, DeMarchi was the least likely to make an impact with the big club and as expected, DeMarchi has spent his first pro season at the AHL level with Albany. He has been up and down, and has been in and out of the lineup (he missed 10 games early with a groin pull), but overall, he seems to be developing at a good pace. He also recently missed some time due to a knee sprain but has since returned to the lineup. The physical rearguard has 1 goal and 5 assists for 6 points to go along with 23 PIM’s in 15 games.

Jason Rynzar, LW, Michigan (NCAA)
Opening Rank: #15 Mid-season Rank: #12

Rynzar currently plays on a Michigan’s “Big Line” with junior David Moss and freshman David Rohlfs. He currently has racked up 7 points (2 goals, 5 assists) this season thus far. Ryznar missed the first six games of the season due to a shoulder injury. He made his season debut in November in the game versus Niagara. Ryznar had been plagued with shoulder woes for portions of last season as well. Since his return to the Wolverines lineup, any lingering effects of his shoulder injury look to have subsided and he’s played quite well, being utilized in defensive situations such as the penalty kill as well as in offensive situations where his physical presence looks to be back to form. Ryznar uses his 6’3″, 205-pound frame quite well. He is good along the boards and is difficult to move off of the puck. The attribute that Ryznar is most known for is his physical play and crushing hits.

Aaron Voros, LW Alaska-Fairbanks (NCAA)
Opening Rank: #19 Mid-season Rank: #13

After missing the majority of last season after undergoing surgery to remove a bone tumor from his thigh, Voros has amassed 11 points (9 goals, 2 assists) thus far this season, that includes his first career hat trick on January 3rd in the weekend series versus Ferris State. He also leads the Nanooks in penalty minutes with 80. It was not known how Voros would respond to missing so much time last season, but the 6’4″, 190-pound bruising forward has shown that he has the power type game to eventually succeed at the NHL level.

James Massen, RW, North Dakota (NCAA)
Opening Rank: #14 Mid-season Rank: #14

After having a career season last year, Massen is off to a very slow start for UND, amassing a mere 5 points (1 goals, 4 assists). His lone goal of the season thus far came in the opening game of the Subway Hockey Classic Tournament versus Findlay back in late December. Massen was out of the UND lineup earlier this season due to a groin injury. Having fully recovered, he is still seeing less ice time than he did last season thus far. One reason for his current slump could be due to a lack of confidence. He seems to be trying too hard at times to make the offensive plays work.

Eric Johansson, C, Albany (AHL)
Opening Rank: NR Mid-season Rank: #15

At No. 15, Johansson is the highest ranked new entry to the Top 20 list. After a somewhat slow transition to the AHL last season, Johansson has shown much more confidence, especially offensively, and that is shown in his stats. Through 31 games, the playmaking center has 5 goals and 11 assists for 16 points, already surpassing his point totals of last season. Johansson is now one of the offensive leaders on an offensively challenged River Rats team, and his +3 rating shows that he is responsible defensively as well.

Andrei Posnov, RW, Spartak (Russia)
Opening Rank: #18 Mid-season Rank: #16

Posnov has moved up a couple slots in the ranks, and he seems to have matured greatly, as evidenced by a substantial drop in his usually high penalty minute total. He only has 8 PIM’s so far this season, and that is well below the pace of his usual totals. Posnov still though maintains his abrasive, in your face play, but he has seemed to learn to become more disciplined. He seems to be rounding out his two way game as well as shown by his impressive +13 totals. Posnov has 7 goals and 4 assists for 11 points through 26 games.

Marek Chvatal, D, Sarnia (OHL)
Opening Rank: NR Mid-season Rank: #17

Chvatal makes his debut in the top 20 at No. 17. Currently in his second season at Sarnia with the Sting, Chvatal, who tips the scales at 6’1″, 185 lbs., has had a good start to the year and is one of the top defensemen on the club. Chvatal also represented the Czech Republic at the World Juniors for the second straight year over the holidays. The two way defenseman has 3 goals and 8 assists for 11 points through 30 games and will look to finish strong and help Sarnia advance through the postseason.

Kenny Magowan, RW, Boston University (NCAA)
Opening Rank: NR Mid-season Rank: #18

Another new face to the Top 20, Magowan has been BU’s most consistent offensive player this season. He currently leads BU in goals scored (8) and second in points with 14 (8 goals, 6 assists). Magowan is an excellent playmaker that possesses some great hands and hockey smarts. His play around the boards and net is outstanding. He uses his 6’2″, 205-pound frame very well. Two of the greatest things that Magowan brings to the Terriers are his leadership and his work ethic. Magowan is not a “rah-rah” kind of guy. He simply works hard, will give 110 percent each night and can always be depended upon to score a goal or simply jumpstart the team. This past Saturday night in the series vs. Boston College, he left the game with a knee injury and at this time it is unknown how bad it is or how long he is out for. This is a huge blow to the Terriers because they have had trouble getting consistent offensive production out of their forwards all season thus far and to lose their top scoring forward is devastating to say the least.

Chris Hartsburg, C, Albany (AHL)
Opening Rank: #16 Mid-season Rank: #19

Hartsburg had hoped to build off a solid pro debut in his second season with Albany, but he has had a difficult time just getting into the line-up with the Rats having a glut of centermen. Hartsburg, an ace penalty killer, is a defensive, shutdown type player, who will likely never be known for his offensive game. Through 23 games with the River Rats, Hartsburg has a goal and assist.

Krisjanis Redlihs, D, Albany (AHL)
Opening Rank: NR Mid-season Rank: #20

Redlihs rounds out the Top 20 as the fourth new entry to the list. The Latvian defender in his second AHL season has shown much improvement in his offensive game, as his 5 goals and 6 assists have already passed his offensive totals for last season. However, Redlihs needs to improve his defensive work, especially his decision making before he will be moved any further up the list.

Tallackson, Rynzar, Voros and Massen reports contributed by HF’s NCAA writer, DJ Powers. Vrana and Khomutov reports contributed by Jason MacIsaac.