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Schnarr Controlling the Controllables | PROSPECT WATCH

The Devils prospect is working on the 'preparation and practice of being a pro'

by Peter Robinson / Special to NewJerseyDevils.com

Devils forward prospect Nate Schnarr echoes a refrain that virtually every Utica Comets player has said since the Devils American Hockey League affiliate started fresh there for the 2021-22 season.

"Utica is awesome, I love it here," said the 22-year-old, who lives in town with fellow Comets Colten White and Mike Vukojevic. "Winning games is always fun...especially in front of sell-out crowds."

Though the Comets have cooled off a bit since their record start, it is hard not to be content playing for a first-place team. But being happy in the AHL is a bit like enjoying visits to your in-laws: you don't want to overstay your welcome.

"I think it is always in the back of your mind if you're going to get that call," explained Schnarr, when asked to explain the mindset a player takes when the end goal is to play in the NHL, but the timetable is not defined for all but the top prospects.

"But you have to maintain your focus and (concentrate) on the factors you can control."

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Moynihan Working to Round Out his Game | PROSPECT WATCH

The Devils prospect is trying to elevate all areas of his game in his junior campaign with Providence College

by Peter Robinson / Special to NewJerseyDevils.com

Patrick Moynihan is in on one of the most notable group chats in the hockey world.

Moynihan turns 21 in two weeks, so it is hardly surprising that the Devils prospect, currently in his junior season at Providence College, communicates with hockey buddies via group text. But it's who is on one of his group chats that is especially interesting.

There's Jack Hughes, Trevor Zegras (Anaheim) and Alex Turcotte (Los Angeles). Hughes was recently named the NHL's Second Star of the Week, Zegras's slick stickwork out west created perhaps the biggest social media buzz so far this season, and Turcotte just made his NHL debut.

Not bad company to keep, even if it's virtual.

"That's pretty much my best-friend group," said Moynihan, "we had the texts going back and forth (last week) when Jack got second star."

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Takeaways From Canceled World Junior Tournament | PROSPECT WATCH

A look at how Devils prospects faired in the abbreviated yearly tournament

by Peter Robinson / Special to NewJerseyDevils.com

Speaking Tuesday, on the day that his team would likely have been playing in a semi-final game, U.S. head coach Nate Leaman still sounded disappointed but reasonable - when an unreasonable reaction would be completely reasonable - at the events that led to last week's cancellation of the 2022 World Junior Championship.

It was one of the Leaman's players at Providence, Devils prospect Patrick Moynihan, who won gold with the U.S. last year, which summed up the situation best.

"You spend your entire life hoping to play in the World Junior," remarked Moynihan, letting the comment hang in the air, "…and then it's cancelled."

Moynihan was speaking in specific reference to how badly he felt for his Providence teammate Brett Berard and Leaman, who both returned to defend the title won last year in the Edmonton bubble when the U.S. beat Canada 2-0 in the gold medal final.

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Clarke's Approach is 'Get Better Next Time' | PROSPECT WATCH

Devils prospect Graeme Clarke is looking to improve upon his game following a COVID and holiday hiatus

by Peter Robinson / Special to NewJerseyDevils.com

Graeme Clarke is back from the extended/unexpected holiday break and ready to pick up where he left off with the Utica Comets.

"You have to expect the unexpected," he said.

After two seasons of pandemic and injury uncertainty, the 20-year-old right winger continues to improve and get more comfortable playing in the American Hockey League. Clarke has scored five times and added nine assists in 19 games for the relocated and re-energized Devils affiliate.

"Well, we are winning most nights, so everyone is pretty happy," said Clarke, in reference to the great fan support the Comets have enjoyed in Utica. "We have the best fans to play in front of here as well, sold out every night.

"I think I've left (a few goals) on the table and I'm working on my defensive game and bearing down a bit more in front of the net … I'm learning a lot here from the coaches and we've added some older players, veteran guys who are almost like coaches themselves."

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Four Devils to Play in World Junior Championship | PROSPECT WATCH

A preview of the four Devils players that will represent their country in this year's annual tournament

by Peter Robinson / Special to NewJerseyDevils.com

The hockey world is collectively holding its breath and crossing its fingers as the 2022 World Junior Hockey Championship gets underway in Edmonton and Red Deer on Sunday.

Despite the Omicron surge that has postponed NHL games until later in the week, the annual tournament is going ahead on schedule under much the same circumstances it did last year in the Edmonton bubble, though there will be a limited number of fans allowed to attend.

Four Devils prospects are in action, three of whom are likely to play key roles on medal contending teams.

Luke Hughes, taken fourth overall in last summer's NHL Draft, will suit up for the U.S. and become the third sibling from his family to take part in the annual holiday tournament.

Hughes, off to a roaring start to his collegiate career at the University of Michigan, is expected to get plenty of ice time as the U.S. attempts to defend its gold medal won in the Edmonton bubble last year. Hughes is just 18 and could cede a bigger role to older defensemen on coach Nate Leaman's side, in particular Jake Sanderson (Ottawa) who is on a heater in his sophomore year at the University of North Dakota

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Edwards Growing His Game at Michigan | PROSPECT WATCH

The other Devils prospect playing for Michigan is also in his freshman season with the university

by Peter Robinson / NewJerseyDevils.com

Most Devils fans are aware that the University of Michigan is home to a player who some day is expected to be a big part of the club's future.

You can't discuss Devils prospects without mention of Luke Hughes, a Wolverines defenseman currently with the U.S. team for the upcoming World Junior Hockey Championship.

But Ethan Edwards is another intriguing Michigan defenseman who bears watching. The 19-year-old is in his freshman season playing on a stacked Wolverines team that provided four of the top five picks in the 2021 NHL Draft.

After some time to get adjusted to college hockey, Edwards has picked up his game, recently scoring his first goal for the No. 3-ranked Wolverines. He's also had two assists in 14 games.

"My role here has grown," said Edwards, "… it took some time for me to get the game to slow down in my mind, so there was an adjustment period.

"(The Big Ten) is such a good, deep league."

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Luke Hughes Excited for World Junior Opportunity | PROSPECT WATCH

Hughes dreams about winning a gold medal for his country in the upcoming tournament

by Peter Robinson / Special to NewJerseyDevils.com

Rolling along in his freshman season at the University of Michigan, Devils prospect Luke Hughes is expected to don U.S. national team colors over the holiday break.

The 18-year-old defenseman is slated to play with the No. 3-ranked Wolverines this weekend for a pair of games against Ohio State and then report to the U.S. squad for the upcoming World Junior Hockey Championship that begins on Dec. 26 in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alberta.

"It's always an honor to wear the USA crest," said Hughes, who has seven goals and nine assists in 18 games for the Wolverines so far this season.

"I think (US management) knows what I bring to the table… I can defend the cycle, have a good stick and can (lead) controlled entries off the rush."

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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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