By Mike Gambill
As the current season sits at an impasse with a hiatus/suspension due to the extensive outbreak of COVID-19, now is the time to look at the future of the New Jersey Devils. If the season officially ended today, the Devils would certainly be out of the playoffs so it’s time to plan for the future and continue a rebuilding effort for the 2020-21 season and beyond.
The Devils are well-stocked in terms of potential NHL prospects and some of them have actually had a taste of life with the “big club.” One of the top prospects is left-wing Jesper Boqvist. Boqvist is a 6’0′, 180 lb. forward who has bounced around this season between the Devils and their AHL affiliate Binghamton Devils. While down in the AHL, Boqvist posted 6 goals and 3 assists in 19 games and played with New Jersey as a reserve and in 35 games had four goals. Boqvist is young and is considered a prototypical speedy winger and with time will certainly pay dividends for the Devils.
Another player with NHL experience this season is goalie Gilles Senn. While veteran netminder Cory Schneider is considered to be the presumptive backup goalie to new sensation MacKenzie Blackwood, recent injuries to goalies in multiple games combined with the drama of the “EBUG” or emergency backup goalie paints a picture that successful NHL teams must invest heavily in developing and grooming goalies. Senn is a 6’5′, 202 goaltender from Switzerland who actually got a call up from the Devils just before Christmas. In two games, Senn posted a save after 70 minutes of playing time and had a 3.42 GAA and a .901 save percentage. Senn looks to be a strong future goalie candidate for the Devils and posted 17 wins to seven losses with two OT losses and one shootout loss in Binghamton this season with a 2.77 GAA and a .901 save percentage.
Right-winger Nick Merkley came over from the Arizona Coyotes organization in the Taylor Hall trade and is looking to make a statement within the Devils organization. Merkley has split his time between the AHL Tucson Roadrunners and the Binghamton Devils. During this season before the suspension of play, Merkley has played in 54 games and shows great promise with 11 goals and 24 assists between both clubs. Merkley looks to move into a solid third or fourth liner with the Devils at forward and his 5’11”, 192 lb frame is well suited for the rigors of the NHL.
As the Devils look to next year as a continuation of their rebuilding program, these young prospects may quickly find themselves as part of that rebuilding equation and make their mark on both the Devils and the NHL. Players like Boqvist, Senn, and Merkley hope to follow in the success of current Devils rookies with solid performances by Mackenzie Blackwood and Jack Hughes, as both players have solidified their status in Newark this season. Even higher expectations are in the mix within the Devils organization as the next crop of prospects moving up will need to have an immediate impact on the rebuilding efforts inside the Prudential Center.
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March 18th, 2020