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Over the past few drafts, the New Jersey Devils accumulated a wide range of prospects, spread across the world in many different leagues. Going into every season, Devils fans are always interested in what leagues and teams to follow for tracking the progress of the organization’s young up-and-comers, so I took the liberty of showing which Devils prospects are worth following in each major hockey league (outside of the NHL). Like I mentioned earlier, Devils prospects are playing all over the globe throughout multiple hockey leagues, and that degree of particular diversity is strongly demonstrated below.
Nathan Bastian is the player to watch in Binghamton this season. The former second round pick had a mediocre final year in the OHL but has the tools to become a big-bodied playmaking center. What holds Bastian back is his footspeed. A season of playing against pro-caliber skaters should benefit him. Hopefully he gains the necessary tools to go along with an already quality skillset to help him reach the NHL. I wouldn’t expect more than a third line center out of Bastian but with all the quality the Devils already have down the middle that could prove useful.
Joey Anderson enters his second season at University of Minnesota Duluth, where he’s looking to build off a strong freshman campaign. The former third round pick broke out and was a key contributor on UMD’s road to a championship appearance, tallying 12 goals and 37 points in 39 contests. Anderson looks to be a great complimentary player, and has shown his ability to play with a wide range of line mates. He has the shot and skill to score combined with the effort and tenacity of a grinder. He can battle and create space for skilled players, or use the space he has to make other teams pay.
Reilly Walsh is entering his freshman year at Harvard University. The supremely skilled offensive defenseman impressed at rookie camp with his playmaking ability and puck skills. He also has great skating and agility. All Walsh needs to work on is his strength and defensive coverage.
Seeing how impressive Jesper Bratt and Michael McLeod have been, I don’t think it’s pertinent to evaluate their outlooks. Both players could both stick with the Devils for at least the near future, namely Bratt who currently leads the Devils in scoring going into tonight’s game. If either player returns to juniors, they’ll certainly be worth keeping an eye on in 2017-2018.
Nikita Popugaev has started his season with mixed reviews, as the same character and effort issues that plagued him in 2016-2017 seemingly spilled over into this year. Popugaev exhibited his strength on opening weekend with a booming one-timer from the top of the left circle, a play that was sandwiched between lackadaisical shifts. If Popugaev can elevate his game, he’ll turn out to be the steal fans think he is, but could very easily flame out at the same time. Popugaev’s boom or bust label continues to hold true.
Jesper Boqvist had a rough start, breaking his wrist early in September. According to reports, the young Swede will remain sidelined for the foreseeable future. Boqvist will hopefully make a full recovery and return in time to participate in the World Juniors. He’s an extremely skilled forward and is going to be a key prospect in the Devils system.
Fabian Zetterlund is the other Swedish forward the Devils drafted last June. Zetterlund also returned to his team and struggled during his first five SHL games. The young Swede has since been sent down to the U20 team, where he’s tallied one goal in as many games played.
Yegor Rykov has continued his strong KHL career through SKA St. Petersburg’s first 17 games. He’s currently a +5 with four assists. Rykov continues to play and mature in the world’s second-most competitive hockey league. When he becomes available to play in North America, Rykov should jump right into the NHL and take on a top-four role.