Although the current NHL season is on an indefinite hiatus and the sports world around us has come to a screeching halt, professional teams still have work to do to compete when it’s time to play again.
The New Jersey Devils have been amassing a talented pool of young players who will soon be able to make an impact on the “big club” and become household names to Devils fans around the world.
Teams you continuously prepare for the future prepare for success; teams who ignore player development will endlessly be fighting to get out of the NHL standings cellar.
Young players such as Graeme Clarke are clamoring for a chance to prove that they’re NHL-caliber players, and Clarke may soon get that chance. Clarke is only 18 years old and a 5’11”, 175 lb. Right-winger who was drafted originally by the Devils in the third round of the 2019 NHL Draft.
While playing with Ottawa of the OHL during the 2018-19 season, Clarke had a breakout year, and in 55 games scored 23 goals with 11 assists. This season in Ottawa was a bit of a different story as Clarke was recovering from a torn labrum and only played in 16 games, where he still scored nine goals and eight more assists for 17 points.
Now, Clarke is healthy and looks to possibly move up to Binghamton of the AHL this coming season in further preparation for his NHL debut.
According to the 2019 edition of McKeen’s Hockey, Clarke is clearly talented and will have a shot at making a Devils line: “he is a very gifted puck handler, blending skills with certainty.”
One of the true top prospects within the Devils system currently is Ty Smith. Smith, a 20-year-old, 5’11”, 175 lb. the defenseman was a first-round pick for the Devils in the 2018 Draft and tried to make the Devils roster during the 2019 training camp.
Smith is considered to be a top-notch defenseman in the CHL, and this season with the Spokane Chiefs, he scored 19 goals and 40 assists for 59 points in 46 game, which is impressive by itself for a forward, let alone a blueliner.
It will not come as a major surprise if Smith does, in fact, make the Devils opening day roster for the 2020-21 season and bring his scoring abilities to the Prudential Center in the very near future.
Another top young player who has a strong chance at making the Devils opening day roster is left winger Janne Kuokkanen. Kuokkanen may not be as familiar with Devils fans since he came over in the Sami Vatanen trade with the Carolina Hurricanes in February.
Kuokkanen is another young 21-year-old prospect, and this season with the Charlotte Checkers, he was able to put in 14 goals and 32 assists for 46 points in 55 games played. Kuokkanen will undoubtedly make a push to end up on the Devils roster next season, whether by opening day or some time during the regular season.
An exciting prospect enigma within the Devils organization is Russian defenseman Daniil Misyul. Misyul was drafted by the Devils in the third round of the 2019 NHL Draft and the 6’2″, 176 lb. blueliner is looking to make a name for himself in the NHL.
During this season with Lokomotive Yaroslavl, Misyul only scored two goals and had one assist in 35 games. Still, these statistics underscore that Misyul is a tough defensive player, and his goal-scoring abilities may, in fact, cause him to be underestimated as a prospect. However, during international competition, Misyul played on the Russian U20 team, and in 14 games played scored a respectable goal and had five assists.
The Devils are grooming Misyul for his defensive play in helping Mackenzie Blackwood.
He could quickly become a dominant traditional blueliner in the NHL: “he clears the crease effectively to let his goalie see the puck and doesn’t let anyone jump on rebounds.”
The New Jersey Devils will need to make great strides in team development to make the Stanley Cup playoffs next season.
The organization’s first step is to properly develop the right young prospects to become critical players in the future for the Devils. Any sports organization is only as good as the players they are nurturing.
If that rings true, then the Devils should be competitive again in the Metropolitan Division by next season and for many seasons to come as a youth movement surges over Newark.
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