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Devils' top 10 prospects paced by Boucher, Matteau

Sunday, 08.03.2014 / 3:00 AM / NHL.com's 30 in 30 package: 2014-15

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Devils' top 10 prospects paced by Boucher, Matteau
Forwards Reid Boucher and Stefan Matteau will be among those pushing for jobs with the New Jersey Devils this season, and the blue line is stocked with blue-chip prospects as well.

Opportunity always knocks for top prospects in the pipeline for the New Jersey Devils.

In 2013-14 the Devils recalled six players from their American Hockey League affiliate in Albany to replace injured starters. A seventh player, defenseman Seth Helgeson, was recalled on an emergency basis and practiced with the team but never got into a game.

"I think the organization sets the table with opportunity; that's the one thing I've seen over the three years I've been here," coach Peter DeBoer said. "Some of the young players grabbed it and ran with it like Jon Merrill and Adam Henrique, and some haven't yet. We need a few of these guys to do that this year."

One area the Devils have successfully stocked with A-grade prospects is along the blue line. Merrill and Eric Gelinas stepped in nicely when called upon last season, and it appears several others are ready to make the jump.

"I would put our defensive depth up against any other organization in the NHL," DeBoer said. "It's a long list of guys that are either able to play or have the potential to play very soon."

Here's a look at the Devils' top 10 prospects, according to NHL.com:

1. Reid Boucher, RW

How acquired: 4th round (No. 99), 2011 draft

Last season: Albany: 56 GP, 22-16-38, Albany, AHL; 23 GP, 2-5-7, New Jersey

The 5-foot-10, 195-pound right-shot forward split his first professional season between New Jersey and Albany and impressed. As long as he is more responsible defensively, Boucher, 21 in September, likely will get a good shot to stick with the Devils this season.

"I'm looking for [Boucher] to come into [training camp] and be in good shape," DeBoer said. "He's a veteran and I'm looking for some leadership. He needs to have a workmanlike mentality. Whether he's playing on a first line or fourth line, he has to bring that workmanlike mentality. I told him that the beauty about Zach Parise was that he was a first-line player with a fourth-line work ethic. I think Reid can take some notes from that."

Projected NHL arrival: 2014-15

2. Stefan Matteau, LW

How acquired: 1st round (No. 29), 2012 draft

Last season: 67 GP, 13-13-26, Albany, AHL

After playing in 17 NHL games in 2012-13, Matteau, 20, spent all of last season honing his skills in Albany in his first full professional season. Matteau is a big-bodied forward (6-2, 220) capable of shielding the puck and generating good scoring chances off strong moves to the net. He  represented the United States at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship in Malmo, Sweden, where he had three goals, four points and a team-high 10 penalty minutes in five games as the U.S. finished fifth.

Keith Kinkaid, 25, is one of three goalies who will battle to be the backup to Cory Schneider this season. (Photo: Getty Images)

"Having played as an 18-year-old and not last year … it is what it is," Matteau said. "But I want to prove that I can play and I do want to play."

Projected NHL arrival: 2014-15

3. Keith Kinkaid, G

How acquired: Signed as free agent, April 18, 2011

Last season: 43 GP, 24-13-5, 2.29 GAA, .912 SVP, 4 SO, Albany, AHL

Kinkaid arguably was Albany's best player last season and had the third-lowest goals-against average (2.29) in the AHL. Kinkaid, 25, is one of three goaltenders in the organization who will battle for the backup role behind Cory Schneider this season. His NHL debut came March 5, 2013, when he stopped 12 of 13 shots in 25:45 in relief of Johan Hedberg during a 5-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. His finest stop in that game came 1:08 into the third when he denied Steven Stamkos on a breakaway. Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello has said he would like to see Kinkaid (6-2, 190) seize the chance to be the backup, though he did sign veteran Scott Clemmensen to a two-way contract as insurance.

Projected NHL arrival: 2014-15

4. Damon Severson, D

How acquired: 2nd round (No. 60), 2012 draft

Last season: 64 GP, 15-46-61, Kelowna, WHL

Coming off his fourth full season in the Western Hockey League, the 6-2, 210-pound right-shot 19-year-old believes he's ready to take the next step. He was tied for sixth among WHL defensemen in scoring and had four goals and 18 points in 14 playoff games.

"I played a couple of games in Albany after my season in Kelowna [in 2012-13] and didn't feel out of place at all," Severson said. "I felt like I belonged there when I was 18 and I've come a long way since then. I felt very comfortable in main camp with the pros and got in a couple of exhibition games, and I feel I'm close."

Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16

5. Steven Santini, D

How acquired: 2nd round (No. 42), 2013 draft

Last season: 35 GP, 3-8-11, Boston College, H-E

As a freshman at BC last season Santini earned All-Hockey East Rookie Team honors. He led the Eagles with 68 blocked shots and was first among all BC defensemen with a plus-25 rating. The 6-2, 207-pound right-shot 19-year-old represented the United States at the 2014 WJC and is a candidate to be back on the blue line for the 2015 WJC in Montreal and Toronto.

Projected NHL arrival: 2016-17

6. John Quenneville, C

How acquired: 1st round (No. 30), 2014 draft

Last season: 61 GP, 25-33-58, Brandon, WHL

Quenneville, who turned 18 in April, impressed during development camp in July, a continuation of a strong 2013-14 season. He had career highs in goals, assists and points in his second season with Brandon, and led them  with 13 points in nine playoff games. Quenneville (6-1, 182) might spend two more seasons in Brandon and take on more of a leadership role before turning professional.

"He has similar playing patterns to an Adam Henrique," Devils director of amateur scouting David Conte said. "He's similar in stature to when Adam was that age. I think he's a complete player and on the cusp of developing into a more impactful guy."

Projected NHL arrival: 2016-17

7. Seth Helgeson, D

How acquired: 4th round (No. 114), 2009 draft

Last season: 75 GP, 1-9-10, Albany, AHL

He provided a stabilizing presence in his first professional season, finishing with a plus-12 rating in 75 games. The 6-4, 215-pound left-shooting defenseman spent four seasons at the University of Minnesota and was an alternate captain for the Gophers as a senior in 2012-13 when he was named an All-WCHA Academic Team honoree. Signed to an entry-level contract by New Jersey in 2013, Helgeson, 24 in October, played in 121 straight games for Minnesota dating back to his freshman season in 2009-10.

"I used a combination of physicality and my size to an advantage, and when the time came to protect my teammates I did," Helgeson said. "You're also a target as one of the bigger guys out there, but I'll try and help the team any way I can."

Projected NHL arrival: 2016-17

8. Scott Wedgewood, G

How acquired: 3rd round (No. 84), 2010 draft

Last season: 36 GP, 16-14-3, 2.39 GAA, .899 SVP, 4 SO, Albany, AHL

He was 11th in the AHL in goals-against average last season, his first in the AHL. Wedgewood signed an entry-level contract in 2012 and the 22-year-old (6-2, 190) will compete with Kinkaid to serve as Schneider's backup this season.

"There are obviously a lot of people ahead of me if you were to look at a depth chart on paper, but I think it's definitely how you play and the way you handle yourself in situations," Wedgewood said. "So I'm not going to come into camp [in September] thinking, 'It's back to the [AHL],' or anything like that. You want to push and see how far you can take yourself. There's obviously a mental side to things and a timely side, but you don't want to get complacent and just walk through the job."

Projected NHL arrival: 2016-17

9. Raman Hrabarenka, D

How acquired: Signed as free agent, July 12, 2013

Last season: 48 GP, 6-15-21, Albany, AHL

The 6-4, 235-pound right-hand shot had five power-play goals and 75 shots on goal in 48 games for Albany last season. The 21-year-old represented Belarus at the IIHF World Championship for a third time and had two assists in eight games.

"Any time you have a 6-foot-4 guy that has hands, can skate and can be as tough as he chooses, it is interesting," Conte said. "Raman has excelled at the world stage with Belarus at a young age and has progressed in the AHL in adapting, so the sky is the limit."

Projected NHL arrival: 2016-17

10. Ryan Kujawinski, C

How acquired: 3rd round (No. 73), 2013 draft

Last season: 45 GP, 23-18-41, Kingston, OHL

Finished with a career best in goals last season, his third with Kingston. A 6-2, 207-pound 19-year-old, he has 56 goals and 125 points in 170 OHL games. He won a gold medal as a member of Canada at the 2013 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup.

"Ryan has size, skill, sense and work ethic; he's a unique player," Conte said. "He just has to establish some durability and consistency, but a 6-foot-2 player possessing talent like that is very appealing."

Projected NHL arrival: 2017-18

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Quote of the Day

There's no discouragement in that room. There's no issues there at all to be honest with you. It's more about, 'Hey, it's opportunities for players.' And if we become that bad of a team because of one player, it's not a real good sign for our hockey club. So this is part of sports. It's part of hockey.

— Bruins coach Claude Julien on the loss of Zdeno Chara to injury
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