Part 6 in my "State of the Franchise" series.
Feel free to leave comments; I'm always willing to take feedback and I readily accept that I'm not the next Charles Dickens, so any constructive criticism would be great.
Current Rankings List:
25. New Jersey
30. San Jose
#25: New Jersey Devils
Top Fws: Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias, Adam Henrique
Top Ds: Marek Zidlicky, Anton Volchenkov
Top G: Martin Brodeur
Top 3 Under-23s:
1. F Adam Henrique (22)
2. D Adam Larsson (19)
3. F Jacob Josefsson (21)
Top 5 Prospects
1. D Jon Merrill (20)
2. D Alexander Urbom (21)
3. D Eric Gelinas (21)
4. G Scott Wedgewood (20)
5. D Reece Scarlett (19)
Prospect Pool Rating:
Bluechip Talent: D
Ilya Kovalchuk remains one of the best players in the game, and he's joined on a forward corps that has Patrik Elias, who successfully converted to center, and rookie phenom Adam Henrique. The organization also has a solid group of young players both on the roster and in the system; names like Jacob Josefsson and Adam Larsson will likely be heard out of Newark for years to come. Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg make for a solid, if wizened, goaltending duo.
The Devils lack severely on the backend. Anton Volchenkov, Andy Greene and Marek Zidlicky are good players to be sure, but on any other squad they're number 3 or 4 guys at best. Mark Fayne and Adam Larsson are still young and prone to rookie slipups. There is no true scoring RW on the team, and even if David Clarkson is a good player he'll be hardpressed to match his career high 30 goals of this last season.
If there's one thing the Devils know, it's defense. And it's shown in their prospect pools; Jon Merrill, while controversial, is a potential top pairing defenseman, and he's joined by a cast of fellow prospects such as Urbom, Brandon Burlon, Damon Severson and Reece Scarlett that provide depth on the blueline. They've also built up their goalie pool and while none of the goalies look like franchise netminders, they have depth at the position.
Two words: scoring forwards. While the backend is solid, the forward prospect group is likely the worst in the NHL. Reid Boucher looks like the only potential top 6 forward, and he underwhelmed to begin his OHL career. Their latest first rounder, Stefan Matteau, projects as a very solid 3rd liner checker. Even grinding type 4th liners are few and far between. To compound that fact, there is no depth, especially on the right side.
New Jersey surprised most everyone when they elected to keep their first round pick in a year where they advanced all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. Lou Lamouriello has a penchant for pulling off risky moves that pan out and his team responded with a tremendous postseason after barely holding off the Florida Panthers, one that would have been labelled remarkable for a 6th seed had the LA Kings not overshadowed them with an even more unlikely romp through the playoffs as an 8th seed.
Unfortunately, a largely successful campaign was overshadowed by the loss of their captain and face of the franchise in Zach Parise. However, the Devils have lost more than a few impact players over the years and have survived each time, and this time is no exception. They have a core of young talent to build around, led by 4th overall pick Adam Larsson and clutch rookie Adam Henrique, to go along with their savvy veterans on the roster.
Depending on the development of players such as the aforementioned Larsson and Henrique, 2008 1st rounder Mattias Tedenby and 2009 1st rounder Jacob Josefsson, the team will remain among the teams fighting for the playoffs next season.