The New Jersey Devils have a few number of prospects in the NCAA, but many of them are playing impactful roles with their respective teams. The college pipeline has greatly benefited the franchise under Lou Lamoriello. That will likely remain the same under the guidance of General Manager Ray Shero and Head Coach John Hynes, both of whom had previous experiences in the college ranks and internationally with Team USA.
Meanwhile, the European pipeline remains depleted with just Artur Gavrus playing overseas. While Pavel Zacha was drafted in the 2015 NHL Draft, it remains to be seen how keen Shero will be to bring European prospects into an organization that has not had much success in recent years developing them.
Steve Santini, D, Boston College (Hockey East)
Drafted 2nd round, 42nd overall, 2013
The ever-stalwart Steve Santini has had an offensive awakening in 2015-16. Since the Devils drafted him back in 2013, the defensive-defenseman’s biggest flaw has been his one-dimensional play, not doing enough offensively from the blue line. He had some skill with the puck as an underclassman, but only now is that coming out. In his first two years of college hockey, he only had 16 points. As a junior, the New York native has scored 19 in 38 games. By getting himself involved in the offensive zone and jumping into transition opportunities, the bruising defenseman can make an easier transition to the pros in the next year or two.
That does not mean Santini has forgotten his defensive responsibilities. He continues to chew large chunks of minutes on the top-pair with Scott Savage. Both play smart, defensive hockey and are contributors on the penalty kill. In fact, the penalty kill unit is amongst the best in college. However, defense cost Boston College in the Hockey East tournament as they were upset by Northeastern and looked shaky at times in the second half of the season. Santini and his teammates will need to tighten up as they head into the Frozen Four with no room for error.
Miles Wood, LW, Boston College (Hockey East)
Drafted 4th round, 100th overall, 2013
As we have mentioned previously, Wood has made the transition to college and is amongst Boston College’s top producers. Along with fellow freshman Colin White and junior Ryan Fitzgerald, the trio has brought energy and excitement to the Golden Eagles. Whether he has played with them or on a separate line with junior Austin Cangelosi, Wood is part of one of most dynamic offenses in the nation. For Wood, he has learned how to use his size to open up space but can also create plays with his good puck skills and shot. He also plays on the special teams and has no qualms about battling in the dirty areas; whatever he can do to help the team win. In 34 games, Wood has 10 goals, 24 assists, and a +15 rating.
After a good first half of the season, Wood’s goal-scoring production has abruptly dried up. His two goals against Northeastern in the Hockey East semifinals was the first time he tasted twine since January 22nd, thought to be fair, he did add nine assists during that nine-game stretch. Still, Wood might be needed to contribute a goal or two if White and Fitzgerald get shut down in the Frozen Four.
Joey ‘JD’ Dudek, C, Boston College (Hockey East)
Drafted 6th round, 157th overall, 2015
After being humbled in the USHL last season, Joey Dudek joined Boston College in the fall. Since he was 16-years old, he was committed to the program and projected to be a high caliber player. That has not been the case this season. Boston College brought in many freshmen this season, many of them highly skilled, including White and Wood. Throughout the year, Dudek was mainly featured in a bottom-six role with limited ice time. What helps him earn ice time is his elite skating ability and his strong will to fight for the puck. As a result, he skated in 31-of-38 games for Boston College. Dudek only scored once this season, the tying goal in the third period of game three of the Hockey East Quarterfinals against Vermont. BC would eventually win in overtime to advance to the semifinals where they would be upset by the eventual conference champions Northeastern. Dudek will have to continue to fight for playing time at Boston College, but his reputation as a hard worker on and off the ice could help him earn a spot in the top-six eventually.
Dudek only scored once this season, the tying goal in the third period of game three of the Hockey East Quarterfinals against Vermont. BC would eventually win in overtime to advance to the semifinals where they would be upset by the eventual conference champions Northeastern. Dudek will have to continue to fight for playing time at Boston College, but his reputation as a hard worker on and off the ice could help him earn a spot in the top-six eventually.
Alexander Kerfoot, C, Harvard University (ECAC)
Drafted 5th round, 150th overall, 2012
In the past two years, Harvard has been an exciting team to watch and a perennial power amongst the nation’s best squads. The team overall is very good, but much of the recognition goes to the Crimson’s top line of Jimmy Vesey, Kyle Criscuolo and Alexander Kerfoot. They are very good, accounting for 112 of Harvard’s 310 total points this season, more than a third of the team’s overall production. Vesey is arguably the best player in college hockey, but Kerfoot has not ridden his coattails along the way. Rather, both have brought out the best in each other. Having players like Vesey and Criscuolo has helped Kerfoot develop his playmaking ability to an elite level. Having a high hockey IQ has also aided him in realizing where he needs to go to create the best chances for his teammates, whether he has the puck on his stick or not. Entering the NCAA Tournament, Kerfoot is a point-per-game player with four goals, 30 assists and a +12 rating on the year.
Entering the NCAA Tournament, Kerfoot is a point-per-game player with four goals, 30 assists and a +12 rating on the year. Whenever Harvard’s season ends, Vesey will depart for the pros. Kerfoot could decide to forgo his final year in college, but it is more likely he returns to Harvard for his senior year.
Brett Seney, LW, Merrimack College (Hockey East)
Drafted 6th round, 157th overall, 2015
Brett Seney is Merrimack’s most skilled players and one of the fastest skaters in the Devils system.In 2014-15, he enjoyed a good rookie season which saw him, for a time, keep pace with Jack Eichel in points-per-game amongst freshmen. In 2015-16, he remained the Warrior’s top threat, finishing with 26 points like last season. Despite the struggles the Warriors faced this season, Seney had another good season, though he did not take any large steps forward. The Ontario native focused more on his overall game, developing his playmaking and improving his defense zone play. These were not big changes to his game, but tightening up his overall performance that will make him a better player. Merrimack was also a different team when he wasn’t in the line-up.
Seney’s best part of the season came towards the end. In a six-game stretch, he scored two goals and eight assists, including games against Arizona State and Boston College where he scored three assists in each contest. However, Seney’s scoring would dry up after the Maine series as he went pointless in the final seven games of the season, including the playoffs. Merrimack was eliminated by Providence in a tightly played quarterfinal series of the Hockey East Tournament.
Artur Gavrus, LW, Dinamo Minsk (KHL)
Drafted 6th round, 18oth overall, 2012
Considering his previous struggles in the KHL, Gavrus made a curious decision to stay with Dinamo Minsk following an offer to play in Finland. Whether spurred on by the Devils new management or experience kicking in, the Belarus native started the season surprisingly well. In the past, he has had a difficult time earning top-six minutes and dealing with the physical play of the opposition. That changed this season as Gavrus started putting his game together, producing consistently and earning more time in the top-six. Through the first 19 games of the season, he scored three goals, seven assists and was averaging 16:54 on the ice. His good run of form came to an abrupt end when he suffered a concussion on October 19th. He ended up missing the rest of the season as Dinamo’s season ended in February.
Prospect of the Month: John Quenneville
Quenneville returns for the second time this year as the prospect of the month. He continues to provide a steady presence in the Wheat Kings line-up and is getting the job done on both ends of the ice. In the final month and a half of the season, Quenneville finished like the fury of a fireball. In February he scored seven goals and four assists for 11 points, yet he beat that tally in March with nine goals and 10 assists for 19 points. He finished the regular season with 31 goals and 42 assists, a +28 rating and well over a point-per-game average. Quenneville will look to finish his junior career on a high note with Brandon in the postseason, but he could also play a role in Albany’s postseason run should he choose to do so.