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31 in 31

Top prospects for New Jersey Devils

Hughes, Smith lead impressive group set to reach NHL this season

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

NHL.com is providing in-depth prospect analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, the top five prospects for the New Jersey Devils, according to NHL.com.

 

[Devils 31 IN 31: Season preview | 3 Questions | Behind the Numbers | Fantasy breakdown]

 

1. Jack Hughes, F

How acquired: Selected with No. 1 pick in 2019 NHL Draft

Last season: USA U-18 (NTDP): 50 GP, 34-78-112

The 18-year-old set the NTDP record for assists (154) and points (228) in 110 games in his two seasons. Hughes (5-foot-10, 171 pounds), who was arguably the best skater and most dynamic playmaker available in the 2019 draft, signed his entry-level contract July 12. 

If he begins the season with New Jersey, he would be the first player from the NTDP to go directly from the draft to playing in the NHL. 

"I'm focused and ready to play in the NHL," Hughes said. "I want to be successful, and it's not really a thing I think about because it's kind of an expectation for me."

Projected NHL arrival: This season

Video: Jack Hughes stands atop the Top Prospects List

 

2. Ty Smith, D

How acquired: Selected with No. 17 pick in 2018 NHL Draft

Last season: Spokane (WHL): 57 GP, 7-62-69

Smith (5-11, 175) tied for the lead among Western Hockey League defensemen with 62 assists and ranked fourth with 69 points to earn Defenseman of the Year in the Canadian Hockey League. The 19-year-old, who can quarterback a power play -- he had 22 multipoint games and 31 power-play points (five goals, 26 assists) -- was the last player cut by the Devils prior to last season.

"He looks better physically," New Jersey coach John Hynes said. "After a year of maturity and the work ethic he put in, his body looks more fit, thicker, and that's something you want to see. I don't want to say he's necessarily on a mission, but he seems a little more focused as opposed to taking everything in for the first time."

Projected NHL arrival: This season

 

3. Jesper Boqvist, F

How acquired: Selected with No. 36 pick in 2017 NHL Draft

Last season: Brynas (SHL): 51 GP, 13-22-35

Boqvist (6-foot, 180), who signed an entry-level contract with the Devils on June 10, will play for New Jersey or return to Brynas of the Swedish Hockey League. Boqvist, who will turn 21 on Oct. 30, ranked in the top 20 in goals and assists among players age 20 or younger in the SHL last season, rebounding well after being limited to 23 games because of a wrist injury in 2017-18.

"He has NHL skill, speed, and size," Devils director of amateur scouting Paul Castron said. "He's not thick, but big enough. On the bigger rinks in Sweden, a lot of the game is on the outside, but I think he did a better job of getting to the inside last year, taking pucks to the net. Sometimes these high-skill guys can thrive on the smaller rink because they're so quick and can make things happen with better opportunities."

Projected NHL arrival: Next season

Video: Shero on Devils' improvements for the 2019-20 season

 

4. Michael McLeod, F

How acquired: Selected with No. 12 pick in 2016 NHL Draft

Last season: New Jersey (NHL): 21 GP, 0-3-3; Binghamton (AHL): 55 GP, 6-27-33

The Devils are hoping the 21-year-old can steal a spot in the lineup after playing most of last season for Binghamton. McLeod (6-2, 188), who can play center or wing, needs to exhibit confidence to make plays because he has the size and speed to produce offensively.

"I've been working on my shot a lot this summer and it's been big for me to try and get more shots off this year," McLeod said. "When I'm in those key areas, [I need to] shoot the puck."

Projected NHL arrival: This season

 

5. Joey Anderson, F

How acquired: Selected with No. 73 pick in 2016 NHL Draft

Last season: New Jersey (NHL): 34 GP, 4-3-7; Binghamton (AHL): 13 GP, 2-4-6

Anderson (5-11, 190) plays a strong two-way game and will challenge for a bottom-six role out of training camp after earning significant time with New Jersey last season despite missing 33 games because of a broken right ankle. The 21-year-old can help on the power play, penalty kill, and is a solid net-front presence.

"He's not the biggest guy, but he's hockey strong with good leverage and can use his assets to make plays," Hynes said. "I think it's him understanding time and space and using his skill set, which is smarts and strength and competitiveness, to be able to put himself in situations to make more of an offensive impact."

Projected NHL arrival: This season

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