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August 1, 2013
Top 10 Prospects 2013
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. Damon Severson, Defense
3. Steve Santini, Defense
4. Eric Gelinas, Defense
5. Stefan Matteau, Left Wing
6. Alexander Urbom, Defense
7. Reid Boucher, Left Wing
8. Ryan Kujawinski, Center
9. Reece Scarlett, Defense
10. Arturs Gavrus, Left Wing

Organizational Ranking: 28th

System Overview

Despite their low organizational ranking, all is not hopeless for the Devils' farm system. They have several quality defense prospects, and pretty decent names in the 7-9 range. New Jersey, however, lacks a true top-end prospect, and their depth is below average. There also is not much much in terms of forward prospects in this pipeline, but that factor did not contribute to the low ranking. Several of New Jersey's mid-tier prospects have notable upside, but also carry an equal amount of risk.

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1. Jon Merrill, Defense
2010-11 Ranking: 1st
Date of birth: 02/03/1992
Age: 21
Height: 6'3''
Weight: 206
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 21 GP, 2 G, 11 P (University of Michigan, NCAA) / 11 GP, 1 G, 8 P (Albany, AHL)
Acquired: Second round, 38th overall in 2010 by New Jersey

Year in Review: It was another injury-shortened season for Merrill but he was a quality defenseman at both ends when he returned.

The Good: Merrill has what one NHL scout describes as "exceptional hockey sense and feel for the game," as when he has the puck, he can slow the game down. He is a really good puck mover with good offensive instincts, whether on a breakout or manning the power play. Coaches want him controlling the puck. Merrill is a good defensive player as well, as he stick checks effectively. He has a good wingspan and frame to box out opponents.

The Bad: Merrill's skating is average and he could be a little quicker. He also could be a little meaner. He has missed significant portions of the last two seasons, so he has lacked the consistent repetitions young players need to develop.

Projection: He could be a fringe top pairing defenseman, but there is a lot of risk with his projection.

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2. Damon Severson, Defense
2011-12 Ranking: 4th
Date of birth: 08/07/1994
Age: 18
Height: 6'2''
Weight: 198
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 71 GP, 10 G, 52 P (Kelowna, WHL)
Acquired: Second round, 60th overall in 2012 by New Jersey

Year in Review: Severson had a very successful season, as he was one of the top defensemen in the WHL.

The Good: Severson is a do-it-all type of defenseman who has all the tools to succeed at the pro level. He is mobile, as he can rush the puck and stay with his checks. Severson thinks the game at an above-average level, knowing when to make the easy or difficult plays, and he has a good panic threshold. He has put on strength well, and he is able to win battles effectively while also showing a nasty edge. Severson has solid offensive skill.

The Bad: His defensive game is decent, although he can still make the odd mistake here and there. Severson also does not have a standout skill, but other than those nitpicks, he has no glaring weakness.

Projection: He could be a good second pairing defenseman.

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3. Steve Santini, Defense
2011-12 Ranking: N/A
Date of birth: 03/07/1995
Age: 18
Height: 6'2''
Weight: 207
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 66 GP, 0 G, 15 P (USA Under-18, USHL)
Acquired: Second round, 42nd overall in 2013 by New Jersey

Year in Review: Santini was average in the first half, but his play really picked up after January. He was named the best defenseman at the IIHF Under-18's.

The Good: Santini is an above-average to plus skater with very good four-way mobility, first step quickness, and a technically sound stride. Santini is an excellent defensive defenseman. He is tough on his checks, he closes his gaps well with his body or as a stick checker, and he makes a lot of good defensive reads. He is an average puck mover, and a physically-developed player as well.

The Bad: Santini's offensive upside is his one notable question mark. His production this year was low despite getting power play time. He is not really an instinctual offensive player, and he does not have much of a shot.

Projection: He could be a good second pairing defenseman.

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4. Eric Gelinas, Defense
2011-12 Ranking: 2nd
Date of birth: 05/08/1991
Age: 22
Height: 6'4''
Weight: 205
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 57 GP, 6 G, 22 P (Albany, AHL)
Acquired: Second round, 54th overall in 2009 by New Jersey

Year in Review: Gelinas had another quality season in the AHL although he missed some time after getting his jaw broken by a puck.

The Good: Gelinas is a gifted defenseman who skates very well for a big man, and he has a lot of interesting offensive qualities. He moves the puck at an above-average level, and he thinks the game well in the offensive aspects. Gelinas has a top-end shot, the kind of bullet that makes goalies shake a little bit in the net.

The Bad: Gelinas has an average physical game; while he is a big man, he is not overly mean or physical. His defensive decisions and reads still leave a little to be desired.

Projection: He could be a second pairing defenseman, and possibly, a good one.

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5. Stefan Matteau, Left Wing
2011-12 Ranking: 5th
Date of birth: 02/23/1994
Age: 19
Height: 6'1''
Weight: 215
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 35 GP, 18 G, 28 P (Blainville-Boisbriand, QMJHL)
Acquired: First round, 29th overall in 2012 by New Jersey

Year in Review: Matteau had quite a tumultuous season. He started off solid in the QMJHL, was a last cut by the USA World Junior team, but then made the Devils, where he showed some decent stretches in the NHL. He then tailed off and was sent back to the QMJHL, where, at one point, he got into an altercation and left the team.

The Good: Matteau is a skilled power forward. He is a strong winger who plays a tough brand of hockey, with good puck protection skills. He regularly lays out big checks. He skates well, with nice power in his stride and a desirable top speed. Matteau flashes good puck possession skill, and he has the raw offensive tools to be a scoring line forward.

The Bad: Matteau's offensive IQ is questionable, with one NHL source calling it a weakness, and another saying he lacks in that area. I lean towards the latter. He also has had red flags raised about his intangibles, based on taking bad penalties, as well as off-ice matters.

Projection: He could be a top-six forward, but with above-average risk on his projection.

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6. Alexander Urbom, Defense
2011-12 Ranking: 3rd
Date of birth: 12/20/1990
Age: 22
Height: 6'5''
Weight: 215
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 68 GP, 0 G, 8 P (Albany, AHL)
Acquired: Third round, 73rd overall in 2009 by New Jersey

Year in Review: Urbom was a very good defensive player in his third pro season, as he appeared to be on the verge of an NHL spot. However, his offensive game has failed to progress.

The Good: Urbom is a big, strong defenseman who projects to be a high-end or better physical player at the top level. His natural physical gifts are apparent, and he even elevated that part of his game this season. He is a mobile four-way skater who does not have fantastic speed but he keeps the play in front of him effectively. Urbom makes good defensive reads, and he does not hurt his team. He also works hard and competes well on the ice.

The Bad: At this point, Urbom looks like a replacement-level offensive player. At the NHL level, he will be a basic first-pass type of player and not a whole lot more.

Projection: He could be a fringe second pairing/good third pairing defenseman.

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7. Reid Boucher, Left Wing
2011-12 Ranking: 11th
Date of birth: 09/08/1993
Age: 19
Height: 5'11''
Weight: 187
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 68 GP, 62 G, 95 P (Sarnia, OHL)
Acquired: Fourth round, 99th overall in 2012 by New Jersey

Year in Review: Boucher had a terrific season. He was fifth in the OHL in points and he had one of the best goal-scoring seasons in that league in recent years.

The Good: Boucher is a skilled player who scouts unanimously describe as a goal scorer. The nearly goal-per-game pace he played at this season is partially why. He is an elite shooter who can wire accurate wrist shots with power from just about anywhere in the offensive zone. Boucher also has solid puck skills to go along with good offensive instincts. This year, he displayed more grit in his one-on-one battles.

The Bad: His skating is average, and while improved, he does not blaze like scouts want to see in a smaller player. Boucher's defense and physical game remain question marks.

Projection: He could be a second line forward but he needs to be in a scoring role to be in the NHL.

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8. Ryan Kujawinski, Center
2011-12 Ranking: N/A
Date of birth: 05/30/1995
Age: 18
Height: 6'1''
Weight: 204
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 66 GP, 17 G, 48 P (Kingston, OHL)
Acquired: Third round, 73rd overall in 2013 by New Jersey

Year in Review: Kujawinski was inconsistent in his second OHL season, especially in the offensive end of the ice. He entered the year as a potential first rounder, but fell to the third.

The Good: Kujawinski is a strong forward with the ability to be a quality physical presence. He skates really well, as he can simply jet up and down the ice with good top speed and first-step quickness. Kujawinski is an aware defensive player, and he will back check with effort. In the offensive end of the rink, he is good at protecting the puck and helping in the cycle game.

The Bad: Kujawinski's offensive upside remains a question mark. NHL scouts say he shows flashes of quality hands and instincts, but for stretches, he will be a very basic player with the puck.

Projection: He could be a third line forward with a chance to be on a scoring line.

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9. Reece Scarlett, Defense
2011-12 Ranking: 7th
Date of birth: 03/31/1993
Age: 20
Height: 6'1''
Weight: 178
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 67 GP, 9 G, 49 P (Swift Current, WHL)
Acquired: Sixth round, 159th overall in 2011 by New Jersey

Year in Review: Scarlett had another quality WHL season, as he was one of the top offensive defensemen in the league.

The Good: Scarlett is a skilled defenseman who can put up points. One scout described him as a "dimensional skater", with a technically sound stride, good footwork, and impressive straight-line speed. Scouts say he projects to have good value on the power play, as he moves the puck at a notably above-average level.

The Bad: Scarlett's physical game and defense need work. He is somewhat slight, and he is not the toughest guy on his check. On the whole, his defensive game can leave observers wanting more.

Projection: He has top-four tools, but he may end up as a third pairing defenseman.

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10. Arturs Gavrus, Left Wing
2011-12 Ranking: 6th
Date of birth: 01/03/1994
Age: 19
Height: 5'11''
Weight: 178
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 45 GP, 15 G, 37 P (Owen Sound-OHL)
Acquired: Sixth round, 180th overall in 2012 by New Jersey

Year in Review: Gavrus started the year in Belarus due to family issues before returning to the OHL. He was rocky at first but better at the end of the season. He signed in the KHL for 2013-14.

The Good: Gavrus is a very quick skater with a powerful stride, and he can pressure opponents with his speed. His ability with the puck is also notably above average, as he can play at a high tempo with his hand speed and creativity. Gavrus also has the ability to slow the game down, to be a starting point on the power play, and ro make a lot of quality passes. He is a good character-type of player who works hard on the ice.

The Bad: Gavrus is a small, and he needs to continue gaining strength to play in the pro level at his size. He struggled when he came back to North America after going overseas due to family issues, but he picked up his game towards the end of the OHL season.

Projection: He could be a sheltered scoring line forward.

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The Next Five

11. Blake Pietila, Left Wing: Pietila does a little of everything well. He protects the puck effectively, skates well, can defend, and has some offensive skill.

12. Brandon Burlon, Defense: Burlon struggled at the start of the season, but picked it up in the second half. He is a smart defenseman, and he can move the puck. Burlon's physical game is a question mark.

13. Myles Bell, Right Wing: Bell is a converted forward. He skates fine, with good hands and a big shot. Despite being a former defenseman, his own-end play is not the best.

14. David Wohlberg, Center: Wohlberg is a very good skater, and he plays hard at both ends. He missed a good chunk of the season due to injury.

15. Harri Pesonen, Left Wing: Pesonen skates well and has offensive ability, but he may end up being a tweener who is not skilled enough to either score in the NHL or play a defensive role.

The Sleeper: Ben Johnson, Center

Johnson is a very gifted athlete, with the ability to create a scoring chance with just his plus speed. He has skill but he needs his hockey sense to catch up to his natural abilities.

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New Jersey Devils Organizational Top 10

Players 22 or under as of 09/15/2013 or still considered a prospect as defined here.

1. Adam Larsson, Defense
2. Jon Merrill, Defense
3. Damon Severson, Defense
4. Steve Santini, Defense
5. Jacob Josefson, Center
6. Eric Gelinas, Defense
7. Stefan Matteau, Left Wing
8. Alexander Urbom, Defense
9. Reid Boucher, Left Wing
10. Ryan Kujawinski, Center

Larsson struggled this season as the Devils tried to instill more defensive responsibility into his game, and he was not given that many offensive opportunities. His all-around skill set is good to enough to be a top pairing cornerstone, but significant development needs to happen soon. Josefson is another all-around type of player who has not been able to show much offense at the NHL level. He could be an above-average forward, but he may end up just stagnating as a defensive forward.

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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Top 10 Prospects 2013 (07/31)
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Top 10 Prospects 2013 (07/31)
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Top 10 Prospects 2013 (08/02)
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Top 10 Prospects 2013 (08/02)

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