Alexander Holtz was selected by the Devils with the 7th overall selection in the 2020 NHL Draft. The right wing is off to a solid start in the SHL with Djurgardens with 2 goals and an assist in 5 games. | Photo by Andrew Maclean/NHLI via Getty Images
The first prospect update of the 2020-21 season is finally here! This update will go over the prospects that are already in action and introduce all of the prospects that we will be tracking this season. This also includes players that are out on loan to European clubs as they await the start of the NHL and AHL seasons.
Welcome back to another season of the New Jersey Devils prospect update! It’s a crazy time so this update will differ from previous seasons. The main differnce is that not all of the leagues are back playing. Right now the QMJHL and European leagues are all underway. The OHL, NCAA, and USHL all have various plans that are still a bit fluid. The other big difference is that a handful of prospects that have spent time between the NHL and AHL have opted to go out on loan in Europe to ensure that they are getting the ice time they need to develop and be ready for when they get called back to New Jersey for training camp at some point in the future. I’m excited to add these players into the prospect update for the time being. In the stats tables below, I’ve noted any player that is out on loan with an *.
Also, please note that for NHL Equivalencies (NHLe), I am using the factors from Emmanuel Perry which can be found on his twitter here.
Dawson Mercer was the Devils 2nd selection in the 2020 Draft as the team took him with the 18th overall selection. The Devils must have been very happy to see Mercer on the board as he was expected to go earlier in the draft. Mercer is capable of playing at center or right wing though should see most of his ice time down the middle at the QMJHL level. He’s a two-way forward with excellent hands and defensive abilities though his skating is still a work in progress. Andy Lehoux of Future Considerations recently posted the below scouting report video on Mercer:
So far this season, Mercer has 4 goals, 2 assists, +1, and has won 50.98% of his faceoffs. The QMJHL keeps track of what shots come from dangerous areas and have deemed 11 of his 17 shots have been in scoring areas. Mercer is an alternate captain for Chicoutimi this season and figures to once again make Canada’s U20 team at the upcoming WJC. Check out one of his early season goals below:
Dawson Mercer >>>>>>
Après sa feinte magistrale, le voici avec un tir dans la partie supérieure pour donner l’avance aux #Sags en deuxième!
— Saguenéens (@SagueneensLHJMQ) October 11, 2020
The Devils players in the OHL this season will include RW Graeme Clarke, D Michael Vukojevic, C Jaromir Pytlik and G Nico Daws. Clarke and Vukojevic were already in the Devils organization while Pytlik and Daws were picked up in the 2020 NHL Draft. I’ll have more on these players when their seasons start or if anything noteworthy pops up. I may also post some thoughts on these players as well as any of the NCAA or USHL players that are waiting for their seasons to start in future posts. Right now, the OHL is planning on starting their season on December 1, though nothing is official yet.
The Devils once again boasts a large group of college players to follow this season. They include D Matt Hellickson, C Aarne Talvitie, C Tyce Thompson, C Patrick Moynihan, D Case McCarthy, C Artem Shlaine, and G Cole Brady. Hellickson, Talvitie, Thompson, Moynihan, McCarthy, and Brady were already in the Devils organization. Shlaine is a new addition and it’s worth mentioning that Brady is making the jump from the USHL to NCAA.
The Big 10 is planning to start their season on November 13 and Arizona State is expected to join them by playing each Big 10 team multiple times. This affects Hellickson (Notre Dame), Talvitie (Penn State), and Brady (Arizona State). Hockey East is hoping to start in November but has no set plans. That affects Thompson and Moynihan (Providence), McCarthy (Boston University), and Shlaine (UConn).
The Devils have a pair of prospects on Sioux City in G Akira Schmid and D Ethan Edwards. Schmid is returning to Sioux City after a lost year of development while Edwards is set to make his USHL debut. The USHL is supposed to start their season on November 5.
VHL & MHL
Yegor Zaitsev was a 7th round pick of the Devils from the 2017 NHL Draft. He’s entering his 3rd full season with Dynamo Moscow in the KHL though did get some action in the prior two seasons before that. So far this season, Zaitsev has 2 assists, +3, 10 PIM, and 21 shots in 14 games. He is averaging 15:40 per game which is line with what he played last year (15:52 per game over 58 games). According to Elite Prospects, he is signed with Dynamo through the end of this season. Cap Friendly notes that the Devils hold his rights indefinitely so it will be interesting to see if/when he makes the switch to North American hockey. With this season being his age 22 year, I wouldn’t be surprised if the 6’1”, 191 lbs. left handed defenseman tries to make the jump to North America after the season.
Daniil Misyul was a 3rd round pick of the Devils from the 2019 NHL Draft. He turns 20 years old in a week and is entering his 2nd full season with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl of the KHL. So far this season he has played in 10 KHL games with a -1, 4 PIM, 5 shots, and average ice time of 8:15. He did play in one MHL (junior) game for Lokomotiv where he was a +1 with 2 PIM, 3 shots, and 15:32 in ice time. The 6’3”, 187 lbs. left handed defenseman is signed with Lokomotiv through the 2022-23 season which is fine as the Devils hold his rights indefinitely. I’m hoping to see him earn more ice time this season compared to last season’s 8:49 per game over 35 games. So far he has only cracked the 10+ minute mark three times this season (in games 2-4).
Arseni Gritsyuk was a 5th round pick of the Devils in the 2019 NHL Draft. The 19 year old doesn’t turn 20 until mid-March and is one of the most offensively entertaining players in the Devils prospect pool. Last season he put up 28 goals and 35 assists for 63 points in 59 MHL (junior) games. This season he will likely spend most of his time at the MHL level though he could see time in the KHL and VHL (2nd tier). He already made his KHL debut this season with a +1, 2 PIM, and 2 shots while averaging 6:54 across 4 games for Avangard Omsk. In 4 MHL games he has a goal, 3 assists, -1, 2 PIM, and 18 shots while averaging 21:14 per game. Hopefully he’ll get more pro experience at the KHL or VHL levels as it seems like he is rather comfortable in the MHL. The 5’10”, 174 lbs. left wing is still developing and figures to spend a few more seasons in Russia. Elite Prospects has him signed through 2020-21 and I expect Avangard to re-sign him to another deal. The Devils also hold his rights indefinetly so they can afford to be patient with his development. You can check out one of his early season goals below:
— Dylan Griffing (@Dylan_Griffing) September 29, 2020
Nikita Popugayev was a 4th round pick of the Devils from the 2017 NHL Draft. It’s worth noting that he was selected out of the WHL so the Devils only hold his rights until June 1, 2021. He had previously spent time on an AHL deal with the Devils but was never signed to an ELC. He’ll try to make his case this year as he signed a one year deal with Dynamo Moscow. It’s been a wild ride for Popugayev since his draft as he’s spent time in the WHL, KHL, VHL, MHL, AHL, and ECHL. He turns 22 years old in late November and the hope is that the 6’6”, 216 lbs. wing can finally realize his potential and develop into a power forward. So far this season he has played in 3 KHL games with a -1, 1 shot, and 9:16 average ice time. In 4 VHL games he is a -3 with 8 shots and 15:21 average ice time.
Shakir Mukhamadullin was the Devils third 1st round pick in the 2020 Draft at 20th overall. This pick shocked many as an off the board selection. Some scouting services had him more as a 2nd or 3rd round prospect while others (Elite Prospects) wouldn’t have taken him at all. Regardless, Tom Fitzgerald and his staff liked the 6’4”, 179 lbs. mobile defender with raw tools enough to take a chance on him. As a converted forward, his defensive game, especially in 1v1 situations requires quite a bit of development but there also seems to be some offensive upside to his game. I’m interested in seeing how his development plays out over the next few seasons. So far he is off to a great start offensively in 2020-21 with 2 goals, 5 assists, +3, 4 PIM, and 18 shots in 17 KHL games for Salavat Yulaev Ufa. The 18 year old is also averaging a solid 13:07 in ice time per game.
According to the Elite Prospects premium filter, the record for points by a U19 KHL defender is 9 which Zakhar Arzamastsev put up in 47 games during the 2010-11 season. Dmitri Orlov put up 7 in 41 games in the 2009-10 season. It’s encouraging that Mukhamadullin has already tied that mark. The record for a U20 defenseman is 15 points in 47 games from Maxim Goncharov in 2008-09.
Of course, his defensive game is what needs the most work and draws the most scrutiny. Julie Robenhymer had an excellent thread on twitter discussing Mukhamadullin’s game. She talks about her first hand viewings of the prospect, her interview with the prospect, why scouts feel the way they do about his game, and how he can improve. You can check that out in the first tweet below and you can see his most recent goal in the tweet after that:
Here’s a thread ⤵️ https://t.co/gOAgJSy2Y8
— Julie Robenhymer (@JulieRobenhymer) October 12, 2020
How did Mikhail Vorobyov know that 18-year-old Shakir Mukhamadullin was back there remains a mystery. pic.twitter.com/SyyZXWS0IM
— KHL (@khl_eng) October 12, 2020
Yegor Sharangovich’s loan to Dinamo Minsk seems to be going well so far with 5 goals, 2 assists, +2, 14 PIM, and 37 shots while averaging 18:56 per game for Dinamo Minsk in the 13 KHL games. He’ll return to North America once the NHL and/or AHL seasons are ready to start but it’s great to see him playing a lot of minutes in a quality league in the meantime. He is in the final season of his Entry Level Contract (ELC) so it’s important he does well to show the Devils he deserves a new deal. Check out one of his goals below:
— KHL (@khl_eng) September 29, 2020
Mikhail Maltsev is another player out on loan until the NHL and/or AHL seasons are ready to start. He is back at SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL where he had an assist, +2, 2 PIM, and 10 shots while averaging 13:51 per game across 4 games. He’s currently in the 2nd year of his ELC. Maltsev is a large center that is capable of playing on the wing. If he can get off to a good start in the KHL, then perhaps he comes back and challenges for a bottom 6 spot in NJ.
Eetu Pakkila was selected by the Devils in the 7th round of the 2018 NHL Draft. He is currently signed with Ilves in the Finnish top league on a contract through the end of the season that includes an option for another year. The Devils hold his rights until June 1, 2022. So far this season he has a goal, even rating, 7 shots, and average ice time of 12:07 across 2 games.
Nick Merkley is on loan with Assat in Liiga until the NHL returns. In 4 games he is a +1 with 25 PIM and 7 shots while averaging 12:48 per game. Those 25 PIM’s all came in his first game when he picked up a game misconduct for a check to the head. He’s a player that I think could make an impact in New Jersey this upcoming season so hopefully he has a productive loan stint in Finland and comes back ready to win a roster spot.
Janne Kuokkanen is also on loan in Finland but with Karpat. He has a goal, assist, -2, and 6 shots while averaging 12:39 per game in 4 games. Like Merkley, he is another bubble player for the Devils that could use a strong loan spell to help him come back to New Jersey ready to earn a roster spot.
SHL & Allsvenskan
Nikola Pasic was drafted by the Devils in the 7th round of the 2019 NHL Draft. Pasic turns 20 in a few days and is looking to establish himself as a full time, productive SHL player for Linkoping HC this season. He is signed with them through this season and the Devils hold his rights until June 1, 2023. It’s been a tough start to the new season for Pasic with no points in 6 games. He is a -5 with 6 shots and is averaging 10:20 per game. Like Gritsyuk, I think he’s one of the under the radar players with a lot of offensive talent in the prospect pool. I’m hoping this can be a breakout year for him.
Alexander Holtz is an extremely talented right wing with a great shot. The Devils selected him at 7th overall in the 2020 NHL Draft. He is currently with Djurgardens IF in the SHL where he is signed through the 2021-22 season. The Devils have his rights until June 1, 2024 but he will certainly be signed well before then. I think it’s possible we see him in the NHL on a full time basis as early as the 2021-22 season. So far Holtz has 2 goals, an assist, +1, and 11 shots while averaging 17:19 per game in 5 games. Check out his first goal since being draft below:
— C More Sport (@cmoresport) October 8, 2020
Jesper Boqvist is on loan to Timra IK in the Allsvenskan (2nd Division) until the NHL returns. The SHL wasn’t taking players NHL players on loan which is why Boqvist is in the Allsvenskan. Still, this should be a great chance for him to play a ton of minutes and gain some confidence. He’s started his loan well with 3 assists in 2 games while averaging 12:12 per game.
Switzerland & Slovakia
Benjamin Baumgartner was selected by the Devils in the 6th round of the 2020 NHL Draft. This overager turned 20 years old in April but has excelled professionally in the Swiss league for HC Davos. His fantastic passing and playmaking ability along with great defensive game made him an interesting prospect to take a chance on late in the draft. He’s currently signed with Davos through this season and it’s possible he comes over to North America in 2021-22. The Devils hold his rights until June 1, 2022. So far he has a goal, -1, 2 PIM, 7 shots, has won 63.64% of his faceoffs and is averaging 17:04 per game across 2 games.
Marian Studenic is another one of the Devils AHL players on loan in Europe. He is with HC Slovan Bratislava in his native Slovakia. He is off to a strong start with 3 goals, an assist, +3, 2 PIM, and 12 shots while averaging 16:29 per game across 4 games. He is entering the final year of his ELC so it’s crucial he makes a good impression on the Devils staff wherever he plays this year.
Which of these prospects are you most excited about following this season? What are your expectations for some of these players both in the short term and in the long term? How do you feel about the Devils prospect pool? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!