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Zetterlund Wants More | PROSPECT WATCH

The Devils forward prospect is hungry for more games in the NHL after getting a brief taste

by Peter Robinson / Special to NewJerseyDevils.com

Like a traveller who first gets a taste of what it's like collecting stamps in his passport, Fabian Zetterlund wants more.

The 22-year-old Utica Comets forward just returned to the American Hockey League after making his NHL debut.

"When I spoke with (Devils general manager) Tom Fitzgerald, he told me I should be proud of my first callup (and) I thought I played well," he said. "The (goal) is to make sure I stay there next time."

Zetterlund suited up three times for the Devils and spent another game as a healthy scratch as the Devils started returning regulars to the lineup and Nathan Bastian was re-acquired via the waiver wire. The Swede didn't exactly look at it this way, but he nearly had his first NHL goal on one of his first shifts in a Devils uniform against the Florida Panthers.

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Reilly Walsh: Harvard to Utica | PROSPECT WATCH

It's been a long journey for defenseman Reilly Walsh from collegiate hockey to the American Hockey League

by Peter Robinson / NewJerseyDevils.com

Reilly Walsh has yet to play his 50th game as a professional hockey player, but somehow the 22-year-old Utica Comets defenseman's journey seems longer.

He has now been part of the Devils organization for four years, drafted in the third round (81st overall) in 2017, the club's fourth selection that year followed by Nico Hischier, Jesper Boqvist and Fabian Zetterlund. Since that time, he's played three seasons of college hockey at Harvard, signed an NHL contract and lived through a pandemic.

He's now settled in nicely to his first full American Hockey League season.

"I'm getting to know the lay of the land," said the leading scorer among defensemen of the Devils affiliate, who lost their first game of the season Wednesday night after an AHL-record 13-game winning streak to start the year. 

No one was unaffected by the pandemic, but Walsh's situation was unique. He was a junior at Harvard, playing on a good team with a handful of other NHL-drafted players when COVID-19 hit in March 2020, cancelling the season. Unlike most college programs, Harvard and the rest of the Ivy League scrubbed the following campaign.

In theory, Walsh could have waited out the pandemic and played his senior season right now. Though there are worse places to pass the time than Harvard, hockey-wise that would not have been the best option for a player deemed ready to turn pro. And so, when the Devils came calling, he signed. His rookie pro season took place in a closed shop at the Devils' practice facility in Newark, playing an abbreviated schedule against just a few AHL opponents

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Schmid's Gaudy Numbers Help Utica's Ridiculous Start | PROSPECT WATCH

Akira Schmid, the Devils' prospect goaltender, is a major factor in the Comets 10 start to the season in his first career AHL action

by Peter Robinson / Special to NewJerseyDevils.com

The Devils' American Hockey League affiliate in Utica is firing on all cylinders.

The Comets are a perfect 10 on the ice (as in a 10-0 record to start the year) and the fantastic play starts from the crease out. Rookie pro goaltender Akira Schmid has allowed just five goals in four games, posting a 1.23 goals-against average and .957 save percentage in 244 minutes of work.

"There is more traffic, guys are bigger and stronger," said the 6-foot-5, 190-pound Schmid of the adjustment to the AHL from the United States Hockey League, where he had spent the past three season, one of which was largely scrubbed due to injury.

"(Opposing shooters) seem to be more patient with the puck, and in (using) their hockey sense."

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Nikita Okhotiuk 'More Comfortable' at Pro Game | PROSPECT WATCH

After an injury and COVID made the last two years difficult for the Devils' Russian prospect, he's starting to find his way in the American Hockey League

by Peter Robinson / Special to NewJerseyDevils.com

It's difficult to tell speaking with Nikita Okhotiuk if his calm demeanor over the telephone line is simply a personality trait, or a sign of his growing comfort at being a professional hockey player.

Maybe it's a bit of both.

"We have a good team, good guys (in Utica) and some new, older guys, too," said Okhotiuk, who turns 21 next month.

"And the arena with fans is a lot different. It's more comfortable now."

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Daws, Late Bloomer to Early Arrival | PROSPECT WATCH

Overlooked in his draft year, Nico Daws made the necessary changes to go from a late bloomer to winning his first NHL start in one year

by Peter Robinson / Special to NewJerseyDevils.com

Nico Daws is a late bloomer who arrived early in the NHL.

The contradiction is not lost on those close to the Devils goaltending prospect, but they are also not shocked at the 20-year-old's dramatic NHL debut.

"Not surprised," remarked George Burnett, his former junior coach, after Daws' first NHL win, in overtime Saturday over the Buffalo Sabres.

"And I'm not surprised because what I've seen him do the last two years to get to where he is now pretty quickly."

Video: BUF@NJD: Daws stones Asplund at the doorstep

 

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Luke Hughes Eyes Collegiate Prize | PROSPECT WATCH

The Devils fourth-overall pick, and younger brother of Jack, is settling into his freshman season of college hockey at Michigan

by Peter Robinson / NewJerseyDevils.com

In the not-too-distant future Luke Hughes is expected carve out his own large presence on the Devils.

First, he has big plans for his freshman season at the University of Michigan.

"Right now, I'm just concentrating on winning as many games as possible, (contending for) a Big Ten championship and a national championship," said the 18-year-old, who was the club's first pick (fourth overall) in the 2021 NHL Draft and the second defenseman taken.

"The campus is bumping right now."

Video: Luke Hughes | 1-ON-1

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Bahl Hoping to Learn from Hamilton & Co. I FEATURE

The towering defenseman is hoping that the newest added Devils blueliners of similar stature can help his own game

by Sam Kasan @SamiKasan / NewJerseyDevils.com

BUFFALO, NY - Kevin Bahl got his first taste of the National Hockey League during the 2020-21 season, playing in seven games for the New Jersey Devils. 

But as the offseason progressed, the Devils added several new defensive faces to the mix with Dougie Hamilton, Ryan Graves and Christian Jaros. Suddenly, the blue line has become more crowded and more competitive for jobs. 

But Bahl, a 6-foot-6, 230-pound blueliner, is looking forward to how those similarly built defensemen (Hamilton, 6-6, 229; Graves, 6-5, 220) can help him improve his own game. 

"I'm excited to learn from those guys," Bahl said. "Those are two huge defensemen. I want to learn more about how they play.

"To play with that height and size is difficult, so learning some tricks will be important."

Video: Kevin Bahl | RAW 9.18.21

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Daws Looks to Leave His Mark with the Devils Franchise | FEATURE

The Devils 2020 Third-Round pick hopes to build a strong legacy with New Jersey, following in the footsteps of another Devils goaltender, Martin Brodeur

by Catherine Bogart catherinebogart / NewJerseyDevils.com

For goaltender Nico Daws, being a part of the Devils organization is being a part of a franchise with a strong history of net minders.

"It's intimidating looking at the list of goalies that have played here," Daws said. "Martin Brodeur was one of my favorites as a kid."

Now Daws has the opportunity to fight for a roster spot, and the opportunity to leave his own mark on the Devils franchise.

"My goal is to win a Stanley Cup, at least one. And that's something that I'm hoping I can do here," Daws said. "I'm a hard worker but overall I can help the team win. As a goalie you don't need to steal the show every night, but you need to be able to help the team win and make key saves. I hope (Devils management and coaches) can see that for my game."

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Devils to Participate in 2021 Prospects Challenge I RELEASE

New Jersey prospects will compete in a round-robin tournament against Buffalo, Boston

by Devils PR NJDevils / NewJerseyDevils.com

The Buffalo Sabres today announced the team will again host the Prospects Challenge from Sept. 17 to 19 at LECOM Harborcenter. The Sabres will be joined by the New Jersey Devils and Boston Bruins to compete in a round-robin challenge featuring prospects from each team. The participating teams will each play two games during the course of the event, which will be held entirely at LECOM Harborcenter.

Tickets will be available for purchase at Sabres.com/Prospects and will cost $10 per ticket. LECOM Harborcenter and fans will be subject to the policies and guidelines issued by any federal, state, county or other governmental entity that govern the COVID 19 pandemic and admission into the facility at the time of the event. At this time, per New York State and CDC guidance, fans who are unvaccinated will be required to wear a mask at all times within LECOM Harborcenter. Masks are optional for fans who are fully vaccinated.

A full game schedule for the Prospects Challenge is below:

Friday, Sept. 17

• Buffalo vs. New Jersey, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 18

• Buffalo vs. Boston, 3 p.m.

Sunday, Sept. 19

• New Jersey vs. Boston, 1 p.m.

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The Project Piece I FEATURE

The Devils' sixth-round pick could be a diamond in the rough

by Amanda Stein amandacstein / NewJerseyDevils.com

Catch a glimpse of just one picture of Devils 2021 draftee Viktor Hurtig and you might miss the opponent he's trying to take the puck from. That's because they're hidden behind Hurtig's big 6-foot-6 frame.

Where the Devils drafted Luke Hughes as the youngest player available, they went the other route with their sixth-round (164th overall) pick in Hurtig, who was drafted as an overaged player, turning 19 in April, two months prior to the draft.

A second thing you'll notice, digging into Hurtig's profile, is that he became a defenseman just three (maybe four) years ago, making the switch when he says he was either 15 or 16. He couldn't quite remember when. But he does remember why.

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