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Future Watch – New Jersey Devils: Picks 'O' Plenty

Thanks to a focus on prospect accumulation, the Devils now have plenty of options in the system. And they’re not done.

B+ / 9th overall

Since Ray Shero took over as New Jersey Devils GM in 2015, his main focus involved adding picks to the organization, and since 2016 New Jersey has picked 26 players to replenish a system that did not produce much NHL talent early in the decade. (New Jersey had just 34 picks in the six drafts from 2010 to 2015 – eight fewer than the 42 they started with.) Those deeper draft classes haven’t paid off at the NHL level yet outside of 2017 No. 1 overall pick Nico Hischier. The Devils still have 21 picks in the next three drafts and will aim to keep adding assets while some of the players below help the team climb back into contention.

NJ_Trend

1. Ty Smith (20th overall)
D, 18, 5-11, 177 – Spokane (WHL)
52–6–58–64–29
2018 draft, 17th overall
Smith showed enough to make a serious run at the Devils’ roster in his first NHL camp. He’s one of the top scoring D-men in the WHL, and the Devils value his puck-moving ability and offensive prowess. Despite his smaller size, Smith’s hockey IQ and positioning will allow him to handle NHL competition on the defensive end. He doesn’t have blazing speed, but a Devils blueline that lacks young, top-line talent is banking on Smith to become a long-term fixture.
FW18| n/a – NHL | 2020-21

2. Jesper Boqvist (75th overall)
C, 20, 5-9, 174 – Brynas (Swe.)
47–13–20–33–14
2017 draft, 36th overall
Boqvist has the most upside of any forward in the system. He has the speed, skill and scoring ability to drive a line, and he’s taken big strides in Sweden’s top league. He ranks among the league’s top scorers for players 21 or younger and, after breaking his wrist in 2017-18, he’s soared past his production from last year. The question surrounding Boqvist is if his size can translate to the NHL, where he would need to deal with more physical play to avoid getting knocked off the puck easily.
FW18| No. 3 – NHL | 2020-21

3. Mackenzie Blackwood (78th overall)
G, 22, 6-4, 225 – Binghamton (AHL)
8–10–0, 2.95, .902
2015 draft, 42nd overall
When the Devils drafted Blackwood as their second selection in 2015, it was easy to peg him as the goalie of the future. When he struggled mightily in his second AHL season in 2017-18, that projection became murkier. He’s rebounded in 2018-19. He made the AHL All-Star Game and made a big NHL statement: Filling in for an injured Cory Schneider, Blackwood won six games with a .926 save percentage in 13 games. His size and athletic ability help him cover the net.
FW18| No. 10 – NHL | 2019-20

4. Michael McLeod (87th overall)
C, 21, 6-2, 188 – Binghamton (AHL)
52–6–25–31–37
2016 draft, 12th overall
McLeod hasn’t turned into an impact NHL player yet despite his high draft position, and his first pro season is on track to be spent entirely in the AHL. McLeod is one of the Devils’ fastest prospects, and he has nice puck skills. The challenge is translating those skills to the pro game. He could get away with doing things on his own in junior, but he still needs to adapt to the pro structure at 5-on-5. McLeod has always been a pass-first player, but the Devils want him to shoot more.
FW18| No. 1 – NHL | 2020-21

5. Joey Anderson
RW, 20, 5-11, 190 – Binghamton (AHL)
10–2–3–5–0
2016 draft, 73rd overall
The Devils have given a handful of forward prospects NHL chances this season, and Anderson has stuck out as a keeper. Following eight AHL games to start the season, he jumped to the NHL and did enough to impress before breaking his ankle. Once he returned, the Devils committed to getting him ready to stay in the NHL. At this point, Anderson doesn’t have the scoring upside to be a top-six player. Most of the offense he generates comes from working hard to win battles along the boards and in front of the net.
FW18| No. 4 – NHL | 2019-20

6. John Quenneville
LW, 22, 6-1, 195 – Binghamton (AHL)
32–16–14–30–35
2014 draft, 30th overall
Keeps producing in the AHL, but scoring hasn’t carried over in his NHL stints.

7. Reilly Walsh
D, 19, 6-0, 185 – Harvard (ECAC)
29–11–18–29–12
2017 draft, 81st overall
Sophomore has impressive stats. Needs to round out his 5-on-5 and defensive play.

8. Nathan Bastian
RW, 21, 6-4, 205 – Binghamton (AHL)
56–17–6–23–63
2016 draft, 41st overall
Not the flashiest prospect, but plays a physical game around the net.

9. Aarne Talvitie
C, 20, 5-10, 198 – Penn State (Big Ten)
17–5–11–16–2
2017 draft, 160th overall
Freshman pivot underwent knee surgery after WJC, thus ending his season early.

10. Fabian Zetterlund
RW, 19, 5-9, 202 – Farjestad (Swe.)
16–2–2–4–8
2017 draft, 63rd overall
Plays with a physical edge. He’s tough to knock off the puck. High-energy player.

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