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New Jersey Devils Top 10 Prospects Written by StajanFan - September 23rd, 2009

As a result of winning the free agency contest, GM Marty has the honor and privilege of recieving an in depth article of his teams top 10 prospects, written by yours truly!!

With three first round picks in Season 5, and one in Season 6, the Devils built one of the most top prospect rich teams in the league. And with three of the four first rounders still with the team, the Devils are showing a commitment to their draft picks that is rarely seen in the league these days.

The future is bright with Cody Hodgson

The future is bright with Cody Hodgson

Top prospects Cody Hodgson, Mikkel Boedker, and Jordan Schroeder form arguably one of the best trifectas of prospects in the league. All three players have star potential, are extremely high skilled, and it might be a coincidence that none of them stand over 6 feet tall. It seems that GM Marty likes to bring in smaller, skilled, speedy players who usually develop a little faster than players with size who have to adjust to their bodies as they develop their game. New Jersey has a lot of talented prospects in their organization, and many are on the cusp of not only making the NHL, but having an immediate impact with their teams. The only concern some may have with the prospect pool is the considerable dropoff of talent and potential after the top 10 prospects. But with the young talent already on the Devils pro roster, it shouldn't be much of a concern.

 

Did Tony Rajala make the top 10?

Did Tony Rajala make the Top 10?

 

1. Cody Hodgson - Few prospects have seen their stock rise since being drafted as much as Cody Hodgson. After his outstanding performance at the World Juniors last year, pople saw first hand how much talent and potential this kid. Though he isn't the fastest skater or have Datsyuk like puck handling, he is an outstanding all around player who plays as well in the defensive zone as he does in the offensive zone. He can play in all situations, whether it be penalty kill, powerplay, late game situations, he does it all. He is the closest thing to a Mike Richards type player I have seen, except for the grittiness and fighting ability Richards brings. He has first line centre potential who has the ability to be a franchise type player. Still unsigned with New Jersey, he could sign after this season if he makes the Vancouver Canucks. Most likely is that he returns to junior this year, plays in the NHL next year, and then plays in the CMHL the following year. The question will be if Marty is willing to wait possibly three years before hsi prized top prospect plays in the CMHL.

2. Mikkel Boedker - Boedker is a very interesting prospect. Considered by many as one of the future pieces of the puzzle for New Jersey, Boedker brings an exciting blend of speed, skill, and quickness that a lot of players do not have. He has excellent puck protection skills an outstanding shot with a very quick release, making him an almost sure bet to be a top 6 player, with the potential to be a first line player for the Devils. Like most 19 year olds, he does need to add weight to make him more dangerous down low and in the corners protecting the puck. Once he does that, we should witness Boedker evolve into an elite level player, who's pure offensive skills are a joy to watch and bring scare into the opposition. Look for Boedker to sign an entry level deal after this upcoming season. Although if he has a good start in the NHL putting up points, Marty will have to decide whether to wait until after the season to sign him or sign him midseason and see what he can on the Devils.

3. Jordan Schroeder - Schroeder is a highly talented prospect who can do it all offensively. He posseses all the toolsyou look for in a prospect, except his size. Listed at 5'8, he is a small player by CMHL standards, and could toruble adapting to the CMHL game once he graduates from college hockey. But given his small stature, he knows how to use his body extremely well, protecting the puck and using his on ice awareness to create plays and create chances for himself and his linemates. His speed is quite impressive, and should only get better as he matures. I would consider him a high risk, high reward type player. He has incredible offensive skills, but you do have to consider given his size if he can make it. I believe he will, and his ceiling is a top line player who could put a point a game, possibly more if he gets stronger and doesn't get pushed around in the CMHL.

4 Vjateslav Voinov - Voinov is a Russian defensive prospect who not has good offensive skills but is also good defensively, something that is rarely seen from a Russian prospect at his age. He played in the AHL last year as an 18 year old, and did not look out of place. I would consider him a defenseman who is the jack of all trades, master of none. He is good at almost everything, from physical play, rushing the puck, one ice vision, passing, on ice awareness, he does everything good but not great, which is no shot at him at all, it is a compliment. Voinov is very close to making the Devils, probably a year away from getting a shot at making the Devils blueline, but with a bunch of other defenseman who are also close, Voinov will need to progress, or he could be an asset Marty might use to bring in a forward or goalie prospect.

5. Matt Gilroy - Gilroy is a free agent signing by the Devils who was wanted by a number of teams in the league. He is an amazing skater for a defenseman, with good offensive skills and adequate defensive skills. Gilroy thrives offensively, and is capable of making any pass and carrying the puck out of the defensive zone every time. His skating is the key to his game, which allows him to join the rush with regularity and get back to position in time, though sometimes he does get caught out of position. Gilroy could be ready for the CMHL as soon as next season, and could be the Devils best defensive prospect they have right now.

6. Evan Oberg - Oberg is a personal favorite of mine, because I personally know him, I am friends with him, and I grew up playing hockey together with him (we were linemates for 2 years). I watched in Camrose for 2 the years he played for the Kodiaks, and went to school at Minnesota-Duluthe, where many other Kodiak players have gone to play NCAA. He is an excellent skater like he has been his whole life. He displays excellent vision and awareness on the ice, never seems to be out of position. He has good offensive skills, makes an excellent first pass, and can carry the puck out of the zone with ease. He has very good acceleration and a quick first step. He can play the physical game, but it is not his strongsuit, only being about 165 pounds. He needs to add some strength to handle the physicality of the CMHL. He is probably at least 2 years away from getting a tast of the CMHL, most likely 3 years away, but with the amount he has progressed the last few years, it is possible he could make the jump to the pro's in 2 years.

7. Aaron Ness - Ness is an interesting prospect. He has outstanding offensive instincts, and has become a good defensive player, but he is quite undersized for a defenseman. Listed at 5'10 and maybe 160 pounds, overcoming the size issue will be Ness' biggest hurdle in getting to the CMHL. He has all the offensive tools you look for in a defenseman. Smart, fast, good passer, vision, awareness, patience, quickness, Ness is really a rare breed of defenseman in terms of an offensive standpoint. If he can prove to the Devils that his size ad strength will not be an issue, Ness could turn out to be an outstanding offensive defenseman who is able to put 60 points a year from the blueline. It will be interesting to see just how patient Marty will be with Ness.

8. Tony Rajala - One word. Offense. With Rajala, he is the typical boom or bust type prospect. He has all the skill in the world. He is an incredible stick handler, has a great shot with a very quick release, and he's a good passer with outstanding vision on the ice. He can almost sense where teammates are and are going to be, and can create scoring opportunities by himself. He is another one of the Devils prospects who biggest shortcoming is his size and strength. He is only 5'9 and about 160 pounds, and history shows that more of these types players don't make it than those that do. But being that he was just drafted in this past Entry Draft, Marty will have up to 3 years to watch his progression before he has to sign him to a contract. By then he could be the Devils best prospect, or could completely fall off the radar, but I have a feeling that Rajala will continue to get stronger, show some progress defensively, and shoot up the Devils depth chart and eventually turn into a top 6 player.

9. Billy Sweatt - When Sweatt was drafted in 2007, there were many different opinions about his potential at the CMHL level. I remember having conversations with scouts about Sweatt, whether he had top 6 potential or was better suited as a third line checking forward with some offensive skills. I was confident Sweatt had the skillset to be a top 6 forward at the pro level. Sweatt's game is all about speed. He has the rare ability of making plays at top speed, and he is always at top speed. He also does not shy away from physical play, he can dish out the hits despite having average size. The thing with Sweatt is if his offense will translate from college to the pros. He doesn't posess the greatest puck handling abilities, it is above average but it shows he needs a little work by not increasing his offensive production in college. He needs to continue to work on his offensive skills before he turns pro, but he absolutely has top 6 potential. But he is so fast and such a good skater, he will definitely be a top 9 player in the CMHL for a long time.

10. Colby Robak - In my eyes, Robak had a breakout year last year. With the increase in ice time, Robak showed the offensive side of his game that we had seen in 2008. He is well known to be a big physical defenseman capable of landing huge open ice hits. But last year he showed what a complete defenseman he is, putting up 13 goals and 42 points in 65 games for Brandon (WHL).  He plays physical, but yt plays disciplined, a trait that scouts and the Devils alike love to see. He has good mobility for a 6'3 player, and has good hockey sense and awareness on the ice. He can make a good first pass out of the zone, and is a good passer overall. Robak should continue to elevate his game this year in junior, and show how much potential he has. I believe he could be a solid top 4 dman for new Jersey, but with the list of defenseman on this list alone, that might be hard to accomplish. Marty will have to decide in the next couple of years if Robak will be part of his plans on the blueline, but Robak is still a few years away from competing for a spot.

Sleepers: Jerry D'Amigo, Peter Andersson

 

There is a look at New Jersey's top 10 prospects in the organization. It is apparent that Marty loves to draft smaller forwards with high end skill, and likes to have a combination of different styles of defenseman in his toolbox. There is no question that all these prospects have very good potential and are highly skilled, but many of them are 2-3 year projects, and some could amount to nothing more than a career minor leaguer. Gilroy will most likely move ahead of Voinov in the rankings during the year as Gilroy plays on the Rangers in the NHL, and Voinov plays his second season in the minors for LA. Sweatt is also much closer to a CMHL ready prospect than Rajala, but Rajala's top end potential is higher than Sweatt's, even though Sweatt is virtually a lock to be in the NHL in the next couple years after he finishes his last year with Colorado College this year. No question there are some very interesting prospects in the swamp though!!

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