Photo: Defenseman Adam Larsson was selected 4th overall by the New Jersey Devils in the 2011 NHL Draft. (Rich Graessle/Icon SMI)
The New Jersey Devils started the lockout shortened 2012-13 season on fire. Following a home-and-home sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins in February, New Jersey sat atop of the Eastern Conference. Then the injuries started to take their toll. Without key contributors like Dainius Zubrus, Martin Brodeur and Ilya Kovalchuk, the team tumbled down the standings. An inability to score, combined with some terrible luck down the stretch, kept New Jersey out of the playoffs for a second time in three years.
Photo: Seth Helgeson was the only senior defenseman on the Minnesota Golden Gophers roster this season. Helgeson recently signed a two-year entry-level contract with the New Jersey Devils. (courtesy of Scott A. Schneider/Getty Images)
As the 2012-13 season comes to a close, it is time to hand out the end of the year awards for the New Jersey Devils prospects. While the NHL team struggled, many of their junior players performed very well for their respected clubs. What may be surprising are that most of the recipients are forwards. New Jersey features a healthy stock of quality defensemen, but lacks depth and talent up front. Still, the few standouts had terrific seasons that cannot be overlooked.
Photo: Defenseman Jon Merrill remains the top prospect for the New Jersey Devils. Merrill recently signed an NHL contract after playing three years at the University of Michigan. (courtesy of Scott A. Schneider/Getty Images)
An important summer approaches for the New Jersey Devils organization. With a plethora of free agents that may or may not be re-signed, the organization may give its minor league and junior prospects an opportunity to crack the NHL lineup.
Photo: Forward prospect Stefan Matteau had plenty of drama in his 2012-13 season, from playing 17 games in the NHL to later being dismissed by his QMJHL team. (Andy Mead/YCJ/Icon SMI)
The New Jersey Devils 2012 draft class included seven junior level prospects, the most they have had come out of the CHL and Junior 'A' levels since 2008. With seven of the nine players at the junior level being forwards, the Devils can look ahead to restocking a struggling and low scoring Albany Devils AHL squad that has missed the playoffs three years in a row.
Photo: Cam Atkinson is one of several Blue Jackets prospects who has seen regular time in the lineup for Columbus during the 2013 NHL season (courtesy of Jason Mowry/Icon SMI)
Welcome to the Hockey's Future Spring NHL Team Rankings, the staff's ranking of each NHL team's system based on the strength of the entire prospect pool. For reference, just the top five prospects are listed. To be eligible, a prospect must meet HF's prospect criteria. The ranking is done twice a year, with this edition being an update to the Fall ranking.