In today’s article, we’re going to discuss which prospects can take the leap and make the New Jersey Devils roster next season. As I discussed in the previous article, there should be a few available slots for the kids to step up and become NHL regulars.
In April, Corey Pronman of The Athletic released his infamous NHL Prospect Pipeline Rankings. He had the New Jersey Devils ranked third. That’s an extremely promising pipeline for a team whose window is just opening for a long Stanley Cup run. The Devils will certainly need some of these guys on ELCs (Entry Level Contracts) to balance the Salary Cap.
Let’s dive right into which star-studded prospects should have a chance to make the team next year!
New Jersey Devils: Prospects Who Could Shine in 2023
Luke Hughes is all but a lock to make the team next year. He finished his college career with the Michigan Wolverines totaling 10 goals and 38 assists in 39 games, but most importantly, he sharpened up his defense.
Lindy Ruff decided in the final game of the regular season to put Hughes out there and he shined. Hughes had an assist and the overtime game-winning goal against the Washington Capitals. He blew through the zone, toe-dragged through three defenders, and turned on his speed for a beautiful wrap-around goal.
Hughes was then thrown to the wolves in the playoffs after gaining Ruff’s trust and held his ground. He finished with two points in three games and 19:15 of time on ice. He will no question be on the team next year.
Šimon Nemec, the rangy Slovak right-shot defenseman taken second overall in the 2022 NHL Draft, has been more than solid in his first stint in American pro hockey. He played in 65 games and finished with 12 goals and 22 assists for a total of 34 points with a goal share of +5.2% at even-strength. Doing all this at only the age of 19.
When the puck is on his stick, he shines with confidence and uses his deception and body control to his advantage. Nemec is an outstanding two-way defenseman with a high-end hockey sense. He excels with his passing and has a knack for finding the open man. Some compare his play to Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings. His control and patience are why he will find himself in the NHL next season.
Schmid is in an interesting position. He had an outstanding season and playoff performance. He stepped up and did everything right when called upon. I think everyone will agree, he saved the season against the New York Rangers with his incredible comeback.
It’s really going to depend on what the organization decides to do at the goaltender position. Mackenzie Blackwood will be gone. Will GM Tom Fitzgerald want to pay up to bring in a proven goaltender like Connor Hellebuyck? I think that’s a terrible idea considering it would block Schmid’s development and crush the salary cap.
The Swedish winger has been a highly regarded pick in the New Jersey Devils system for some time now. Alex Holtz was drafted seventh overall and has high expectations. Many have expected him to be in the big league by now, but his skating and pace have really held him back.
Holtz has an elite shot that has New Jersey Devils fans foaming at the mouth to get this guy on Jack Hughes’s wing already. The question is, can he keep pace with the speedy center? It’s been frustrating for both parties considering he hasn’t found his footing and he had a rocky season in the AHL as he only played in 14 games.
In those 14 games though, he produced six goals and five assists. I think Holtz will finally take advantage of the opportunities in front of him and join the big-league next year. He’s just too talented.
Graeme Clarke, the big brother of the highly touted defensive prospect for the Los Angelos Kings, Brandt Clarke. Graeme, however, hasn’t had the smoothest transition to the NHL like his little brother is expected to have. He was drafted in the third round at 80th overall in the 2019 draft class.
In his D+1 season, he had a gruesome shoulder injury. In his D+2 season, the OHL canceled forcing him to develop in the Chechia league.
However, Clarke has been improving year after year and lit it up this AHL season finishing with 25 goals and 33 assists in 68 games for the Utica Comets. He’s been one of Utica’s top players and has proven he can overcome adversity. Look for Clarke to possibly carve out a role as an NHL regular next year.
Nolan Foote was drafted 27th overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round of the 2019 draft. He was eventually traded to the Devils as a piece of the Blake Coleman trade. Foote had a rough start to his development as he was injured for quite a while.
By the time Foote was traded to the Devils, his injury was still nagging him, and he struggled in the AHL. Now he’s turned it up a notch scoring 20 goals and 17 assists for 37 points in 55 games.
Foote’s most dangerous attribute is his shot. Like Holtz, Foote has had trouble keeping pace in the AHL but has certainly turned a corner this year and should have a shot at joining the Devils next season.
Reilly Walsh is an interesting prospect; I believe he could be playing in the NHL now if he was in a different organization. He’s probably hit the peak of his production as he’s 24 years of age.
Walsh is an offensive defenseman who has above-average skating and a decent shot. His defense is what holds him back from really excelling in his development. Walsh has turned himself into one of Utica’s star players as he’s finished this season with nine goals and 32 assists in 71 games.
I could see the Devils using Walsh next season as either the extra defenseman or sending him to another team in a trade to give Walsh a chance to better his career.
The New Jersey Devils have plenty of talented prospects in their system. It should be interesting to see how things unfold with some veterans leaving and younger prospects getting a shot at making the big club. Time will tell who is going to step up and make the best of their opportunities.
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