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PROSPECT REPORT: Merkley Doing Small Things to Work Toward Call-Up

Nick Merkley understands it's a process and he's fighting to earn an opportunity to join the Devils in the NHL soon

by Peter Robinson / Special to

There is a calm, relaxed tone to Nick Merkley's voice over the phone. It takes only a few seconds to get the sense that the 23-year-old from Calgary understands the circuitous journey that most pro hockey players take to get to the top level. 

"I think that this is a great opportunity for me, definitely," said Merkley, of his move to the Devils organization in the Taylor Hall trade in December. "I think with (Arizona) they are going to go for it this season and that's why they made the (Hall trade). But right now, I have to fight for a job here to get (an opportunity) in New Jersey and earn a callup."

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PROSPECT REPORT: Vukojevic Developing Nicely

Read up on Devils prospect Michael Vukojevic in our latest prospect report

by Peter Robinson NJDevils / Special to

It took just a few minutes during a phone conversation with Devils prospect Michael Vukojevic to show that the 18-year-old Kitchener Rangers defenseman has a balanced short- and long-term perspective. 

Asked about his team's eight-game win streak, at the time, he was quick to point out a minor detail. 

"Well, it's actually nine games," he corrected his interviewer, before offering the wider view. 

"I think we came into this year and we were considered a contender. 

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PROSPECT REPORT: Schnarr Working Hard to Reach NHL

Read about Nate Schnarr, who was acquired in the Taylor Hall trade earlier this season

by Peter Robinson NJDevils / Special to

For Nate Schnarr, his time with the New Jersey Devils all started with a missed phone call from his old boss. 

"I saw that I had a missed call from (Arizona Coyotes GM) John Chayka," said the 20-year-old, who was born and grew up in Ontario city of Waterloo, "on the second (call) he thanked me for my time with Coyotes organization and said that I had been traded to the New Jersey Devils." 

For a player whose junior and fledgling pro career was already something of a whirlwind, being dealt to the New Jersey Devils organization as part of the trade that sent Taylor Hall to Arizona was a bit of a shock. 

It didn't take long for Schnarr to realize that it was also a new opportunity. 

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FEATURE: Bringing Bahl into the Fold

Read more about the big, fast defensive prospect the Devils acquired on Monday via trade

by Peter Robinson / Special to

In much the same way Kevin Bahl's gigantic frame is difficult to miss, James Boyd makes some obvious but interesting observations about his prized defenseman. 

"I've made this point, especially in the last week or so in interviews," said the Ottawa 67's GM, who has had a direct hand in the development of six current Devils prospects/players, "Kevin is a legitimate NHL prospect. Every year he plays against the other teams' best players and he plays against them a lot. 

"Not only that, we've had some good teams since he's been here, so he's played against a lot of good teams fighting for first place, and their players in important games."

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PROSPECT REPORT: Here Come World Juniors

Preview the World Junior Championships and Devils who may participate in our latest prospect report

by Peter Robinson / Special to

It will soon be the most wonderful time of the year…to watch the best available teenage hockey players in the world play for their country. 

The World Junior Championship starts the day after Christmas at two sites in the Czech Republic. The final selection camps lists have been announced and countries will be setting their rosters between now and Dec. 26, when the tournament opens with four games, including the U.S. vs Canada in Ostrava. 

Four Devils prospects are in the mix: defensemen Ty Smith (Canada) and Daniil Misyul (Russia), forward Nikola Pasic (Sweden) and goaltender Akira Schmid (Switzerland).  

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PROSPECT REPORT: Reilly Walsh off to a Fast Start

With seven points in his first six games this season at Harvard, Reilly Walsh has taken some great strides

by Peter Robinson / Special to

Mike Walsh remembers one the first times he got an inkling that his son Reilly had tremendous natural skating and hockey ability.  

"I think it showed pretty early," said the 57-year-old Walsh, whose own professional career wound down in 1992. "We had him out on an Olympic sheet and it was like a flock of seagulls with all the other kids trying to catch him." 

That young boy is now 20 and a prized Devils prospect playing at Harvard University, where he's been since New Jersey selected him with the 81st pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. 

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PROSPECT REPORT: The Providence Boys

Read up on the Devils connections to Providence in our latest Prospect Report

by Peter Robinson / Special to

Providence Friars head coach Nate Leaman laughed at the characterization: you don't need to look to see a connection between his hockey team and the Devils. 

"You're right," said Leaman when asked about the link between Prudential Center and Schneider Arena, the Friars home arena, "…I probably run into Tom Fitzgerald once a month at a rink somewhere."

Devils Executive VP/Asst GM Fitzgerald played at Providence before his 17 years in the NHL. He is just one example of the pipeline between Providence and New Jersey. It goes all the way back to former GM/President Lou Lamoriello, includes Devils scouting director Gates Orlando, Fitzgerald and more recently a handful of players with the big club and in Binghamton, highlighted by current Devil Kevin Rooney. 

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DRAFT: A Look Ahead to the 2020 Draft

Take an extremely early look at some of the top prospects in the upcoming 2020 NHL Draft

by Peter Robinson / Special to

With Rimouski Oceanic winger Alexis Lafreniere leading the way, the 2020 NHL Draft Class is coming into focus.

Lafreniere is the clear consensus choice but not a slam dunk No. 1 pick for the Draft that takes place in Montreal, not far from where Lafreniere grew up in Ste. Eustache. 

Four other players, Sudbury Wolves center Quinton Byfield, Swedish forwards Lucas Raymond (Frolunda) and Alexander Holtz (Djurgardens) and Russian goaltender Yaroslav Askarov (St. Petersburg) have also emerged near the top of the class. 

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PROSPECT REPORT: Okhotyuk Steps Back In

Read our weekly prospect report to catch up on the latest with Nikita Okhotyuk

by Peter Robinson / Special to

Devils defensive prospect Nikita Okhotyuk has returned to action for the Ottawa 67's after injuring a finger in early September that kept him out of Devils training camp. 

Okhotyuk, taken 61st overall at the NHL Draft in June in Vancouver, is now in his third season playing in Canada's capital and is one of three Devils prospects on the 67's. 

"The good thing with Nikita was that he was able to skate," said 67's GM James Boyd, of Okhotyuk's six-week layoff. "And because of that, he's stepped right in for us."

Okhotyuk, who has been back for four games and recorded two assists in that span. He returned to action at the same time fellow Devils prospect Graeme Clarke was sidelined. Clarke has a serious shoulder injury that required surgery and will keep him out for what is expected to be four to six months. Boyd said everyone is taking a cautious approach but he's optimistic that Clarke will return before the season is over. 

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PROSPECT REPORT: Smith Gearing up for Canada-Russia Series

Our weekly prospect report focuses on Ty Smith and how the young Devils prospect is doing in the WHL

by Peter Robinson / Special to

Ty Smith is re-asserting his position as the best defenseman in Canadian major junior hockey. 

The 19-year-old from Saskatoon, Sask., was sent back to the Western Hockey League's Spokane Chiefs on the eve of the Devils season opener. His first week back in Spokane saw him pick up WHL player of the week honors and he has settled in at a point-a-game pace through seven games (4A, 3G).

"Things are going good," said the 19-year-old, "we have had some injuries, waiting on some guys to return and are .500. When we start to get back (to full strength) I think we'll be where we want to be."

The Chiefs are not currently featured in the Canadian Hockey League's top 10 rankings but generally considered to be a WHL contender, especially after Smith was returned. 

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