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September 27, 2012
Top 10 Prospects
New Jersey Devils

by Corey Pronman

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Full list of NHL Organizational Rankings

New Jersey Devils Top 10 Prospects

1. Jon Merrill, Defense
2. Eric Gelinas, Defense
3. Alexander Urbom, Defense
4. Damon Severson, Defense
5. Stefan Matteau, Left Wing
6. Arturs Gavrus, Left Wing
7. Reece Scarlett, Defense
8. David Wohlberg, Center
9. Scott Wedgewood, Goaltender
10. Brandon Burlon, Defense

Organizational Ranking: 27th

System Overview: The Devils have a pretty defense-heavy system, with their top four prospects all being —plus the fact they just graduated Adam Larsson. They did just draft Stefan Matteau, but in general, there is a lack of talented scoring punch up front for New Jersey and their amount of truly quality prospects isn't that high, either.

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1. Jon Merrill, Defense
2010-11 Ranking: 2nd
Date of birth: 02/03/1992
Age: 20
Height: 6'3''
Weight: 206
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 19 GP, 2 G, 11 P (University of Michigan-CCHA)
Acquired: Second round, 38th overall in 2010 by New Jersey

The Good: Merrill has a high-end hockey brain at both ends. He has such a high panic threshold and looks at times like he's sleeping standing up from the effortless way he makes plays. Merrill has skill and great vision, as he can make good outlets, run a power play, and see all the options on the ice. He's equally smart defensively, as he's always in position, closes gaps well, knocks pucks away from forwards with an active stick, and generally doesn't lose his check.

The Bad: Merrill's skating is okay, but he could be a little quicker. He was suspended this year for a lengthy amount of time for an off-ice incident, which has not been an isolated case for him.

Projection: He could be a top pairing defenseman, although with a fair amount of uncertainty surrounding him.

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2. Eric Gelinas, Defense
2010-11 Ranking: 5th
Date of birth: 05/08/1991
Age: 21
Height: 6'4''
Weight: 206
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 75 GP, 16 G, 37 P (Albany-AHL)
Acquired: Second round, 54th overall in 2009 by New Jersey

The Good: Gelinas is a toolsy defenseman with size and offensive ability. He was actually seven points removed from tying his AHL team's scoring leader. He's an above-average, maybe even a plus skater with really good four-way movements. Gelinas has good hands and can move the puck pretty well. He's certainly an offensive defenseman between those elements, his ability to jump into the rush with his speed, and a big shot from the point.

The Bad: Gelinas could play the body a little more. His decisions aren't always the best as his defensive reads still need improving and he can try to do too much offensively. He needs to continue putting on strength as well.

Projection: He could be a good second pairing defenseman.

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3. Alexander Urbom, Defense
2010-11 Ranking: 3rd
Date of birth: 12/20/1990
Age: 21
Height: 6'4''
Weight: 215
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 50 GP, 2 G, 12 P (Albany-AHL)
Acquired: Third round, 73rd overall in 2009 by New Jersey

The Good: Urbom had a very solid season in the AHL, showing significant defensive value, and he was an AHL All-Star. Urbom features an elite physical game due to his size, strength, and how often he plays the body on opposing forwards. He's a mobile player who skates at an above-average level and well above-average for his size. He's a smart and makes good defensive reads in terms of positioning and decisions. Urbom doesn't panic with the puck and can make a good first pass.

The Bad: Urbom's offensive ceiling is limited as he's not really a puck skills player and his offensive hockey sense isn't all that desirable.

Projection: He could be a second pairing defenseman.

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4. Damon Severson, Defense
2010-11 Ranking: N/A
Date of birth: 08/07/1994
Age: 18
Height: 6'2''
Weight: 193
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 56 GP, 7 G, 37 P (Kelowna-WHL)
Acquired: Second round, 60th overall in 2012 by New Jersey

The Good: Severson is a pretty well-rounded player who can skate and move the puck well. He has a good calmness to his game as a puck-mover, as he regularly executes smooth, crisp passes. He reads the play quickly and sees the ice well. Severson has desirable mobility, on top of good acceleration and agility. He projects as an average physical player.

The Bad: Severson's defensive game isn't bad, but he can be the victim of the odd brain cramp moment here and there. He needs to bulk up quite a bit. Severson also lacks that one "wow" caliber skill that really stands out to you.

Projection: He could be a #4 defenseman.

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5. Stefan Matteau, Left Wing
2010-11 Ranking: N/A
Date of birth: 02/23/1994
Age: 18
Height: 6'2''
Weight: 210
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 46 GP, 15 G, 32 P (USA Under-18-USHL)
Acquired: First round, 29th overall in 2012 by New Jersey

The Good: Matteau is an above-average skater with a powerful stride and is a player who can get up to his top gear pretty quickly. He's got solid hands as he can make plays in tight spaces and will flash some impressive creativity to his game here and there. Matteau is a physically developed player who competes with a ton of aggressiveness and energy. He wins most of his battles and throws his weight around with regularity.

The Bad: Matteau's offensive upside is somewhat questionable as his offensive instincts and vision aren't really impressive. He has had a habit of taking too many penalties and had a few incidents this year where his emotions on the ice went a bit too far.

Projection: He could be an average NHL forward.

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6. Arturs Gavrus, Left Wing
2010-11 Ranking: N/A
Date of birth: 01/03/1994
Age: 18
Height: 5'10''
Weight: 168
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 45 GP, 15 G, 37 P (Owen Sound-OHL)
Acquired: Sixth round, 180th overall in 2012 by New Jersey

The Good: Gavrus is a plus skater with really impressive acceleration, technique, and top speed. He's a nearly equally good puck-handler who can dangle well and make moves with the puck well in top flight. He's a hard-working player who will forecheck hard and show a good battle effort for loose pucks.

The Bad: Gavrus is a small player without a whole lot of muscle. The fact he's been injured a few times, including concussion issues, doesn't help matters either. He also needs to work on his defensive game.

Projection: He could be a below-average second line forward.

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7. Reece Scarlett, Defense
2010-11 Ranking: Unranked
Date of birth: 03/31/1993
Age: 19
Height: 6'1''
Weight: 178
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 71 GP, 9 G, 49 P (Swift Current-WHL)
Acquired: Sixth round, 159th overall in 2011 by New Jersey

The Good: Scarlett is an offensively-gifted defenseman. He skates at a high level with a technically sound stride, good footwork, and impressive straight line speed. He's an above-average puck-mover who makes a lot of smart and creative plays. Scarlett processes the game quickly and his feeds tend to be on the mark.

The Bad: Scarlett's physical game needs work. He's pretty slight and loses a fair amount of battles. He's also not the meanest player, and those elements combined can hurt him in his own end.

Projection: He could be a top-four D, but looks like a bit of a project.

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8. David Wohlberg, Center
2010-11 Ranking: 8th
Date of birth: 07/18/1990
Age: 22
Height: 6'1''
Weight: 203
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 41 GP, 16 G, 33 P (University of Michigan-CCHA)
Acquired: Sixth round, 172nd overall in 2008 by New Jersey

The Good: Wohlberg is a strong, hard-working player with a fair amount of speed. He's pro-ready in terms of his body, as in college he showed the ability to battle forwards off the puck well, translating to good defensive value, and he can drive the net effectively. Wohlberg gets to a good top gear, and coupled with his physical game, he can be an annoying forechecker. He has solid two-way hockey sense.

The Bad: Wohlberg's offensive ceiling isn't really high. He's not a puck skills player or one who will be looked to be put on a pro power play. He's not a null factor, though, as his sense and speed lets him create some chances.

Projection: He could be a bottom-six forward.

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9. Scott Wedgewood, Goaltender
2010-11 Ranking: Unranked
Date of birth: 08/14/1992
Age: 20
Height: 6'1''
Weight: 187
Catches: Left
Statistics: 43 GP, .911 SV%P (Plymouth-OHL)
Acquired: Third round, 84th overall in 2012 by New Jersey

The Good: Wedgewood is an athletic goalie who moves around the net pretty well. His lateral movements across the crease are notably above average. He also shows pretty flexible and nimble limbs with saves that require stretch efforts or scrambles. He has impressive reflexes which translate to a good glove hand. Wedgewood plays the puck well.

The Bad: Wedgewood's upside draws questions from a few scouts I've talked to: one says he doesn't stand out from a skill standpoint while another questions his consistency.

Projection: He could be a league-average goaltender.

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10. Brandon Burlon, Defense
2010-11 Ranking: 6th
Date of birth: 03/05/1990
Age: 22
Height: 6'0''
Weight: 195
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 51 GP, 1 G, 9 P (Albany-AHL)
Acquired: Second round, 60th overall in 2012 by New Jersey

The Good: Burlon is an above-average skater with fine four-way mobility and a good first step burst. He has solid size and a good physical game due to his competitiveness. He's pretty smart and makes simple plays and can defend fairly well. Burlon makes a good first pass and has decent touch with the puck.

The Bad: Burlon had a bit of a struggle in his first pro season, although towards the end of the season, he started to play better. He's not great offensively and will need to play within his limits in the NHL.

Projection: He could be a third pairing defenseman.

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The Next Five

11. Reid Boucher, Left Wing: Boucher has one of the best shots in the prospect world and some skill, too. I question how much he can impact games outside of his shot, though.

12. Blake Colman, Center: Coleman is a versatile player with solid hands and a good physical game.

13. Mike Hoeffel, Left Wing: Hoeffel is strong, physical forward with nice speed and limited skill.

14. Ben Johnson, Center: Johnson is a high-end skater who plays with a lot of energy, but he's really raw and needs to find another weapon to add to his offensive arsenal.

15. Seth Helgeson, Defense: Helgeson is a high-end physical player due to his size and aggressiveness. His skating is okay, but he has no offensive upside and questionable hockey sense.

The Sleeper: Graham Black, Center

Black is an above-average skater with a good work ethic and decent scoring ability. He only played his first CHL season last year in his second draft-eligible season, and could put up bigger numbers in 2013.

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New Jersey Devils Organizational Top 10

Players 22 or under as of 09/15/2012 or still considered a prospect as defined here.

1. Adam Larsson, Defense
2. Adam Henrique, Center
3. Jon Merrill, Defense
4. Jacob Josefson, Center
5. Eric Gelinas, Defense
6. Mattias Tedenby, Left Wing
7. Alexander Urbom, Defense
8. Damon Severson, Defense
9. Stefan Matteau, Left Wing
10. Arturs Gavrus, Left Wing

Larsson is an emerging star who can do everything you want out of a defenseman, and while he didn't get a lot of ice-time in the playoffs, he's not far off from being a tough minutes player and projects as a legitimate number one defenseman. Henrique had a very good, and somewhat surprising year. He emerged as a quality scorer while logging very tough minutes and staying above water possession-wise. From scouts I've talked to and my own observations, I certainly did not see that kind of value coming. He looks like he could be a very good player for a while, but I want to see what he does next season before I get really excited about him. Josefson is a very smart two-way player with skill who could potentially be a top-six player and a good defensive player. Tedenby is an elite skater with skill but his physical game hampers him and at some point he needs to create more chances at the NHL and even the AHL level.

Corey Pronman is an author of Hockey Prospectus. You can contact Corey by clicking here or click here to see Corey's other articles.

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