Ty Smith, Kevin Bahl
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images, AP Photo

While the New Jersey Devils’ struggles continue, fans should focus on prospects Ty Smith & Kevin Bahl at the 2020 World Junior Championship.

Kyle McKenna

There’s no point in a wish list this holiday season for the New Jersey Devils. It’s too long at this rate and unrealistic for the last place and disappointing Devils.

Maybe next December.

There’s hope, though—at least when the conversation focuses on the team’s future stars and two in particular that are skating for Canada at the 2020 World Junior Championship in the Czech Republic.

Jersey fans should have all eyes on defensemen Ty Smith and Kevin Bahl come Thursday, Dec. 26, when the global tournament officially begins.

It’s evident that New Jersey needs an overhaul for its blueline and the chances are that process ensues with draft picks and prospects. At this rate, Smith and Bahl could be in the defensive rotation as early as October of 2020.

Captain Andy Greene and Sami Vatanen are unrestricted free agents this offseason, and the chances are that if one of those blueliners isn’t traded by the 2020 NHL trade deadline than one of those skaters will depart via UFA or retire this summer.

Smith, 19, was selected by general manager Ray Shero with the 17 overall selection at the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. The Lloydminster, SK native has spent parts of the past five seasons skating out of the Western Hockey League (WHL) with the Spokane Chiefs.

Smith was named captain of the Chiefs prior to 2018-19 and posted an impressive 69 points (7g-62a) in 57 games that season. Smith’s Hockey IQ and dynamic style are what fans can appreciate most when he takes to the ice for Canada at the WJC.

He offers finesse and doesn’t lack discipline with or away from the puck. Jersey fans will be calling for his name once the tournament is over and Canada takes home a gold medal.

Seriously, the youngster is an all-decade and franchise blueliner that the Devils haven’t had since the Cup years.

Play Bahl

After a painful wait to trade Taylor Hall, New Jersey received notable value in the historic transaction with the Arizona Coyotes earlier this month. One of the three prospects the Devils received was Bahl.

The 6-foot-6 blueliner offers a sense of size New Jersey’s blue line hasn’t entailed since… well, ever?

Bahl has spent parts of the last four seasons with the Ottawa 67’s of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and was selected by the Arizona Coyotes with the 55 overall selection at the 2018 draft. The 19-year-old is skating in his first U-20 WJC and should thrive with the talent that surrounds him. You can’t miss him out on the ice with his height and long reach.

For these Devils’ prospects, the exposures and magnitudes that the WJC offers are invaluable for these young skaters. They’re challenged by the World’s best at their respective level and age group, but more importantly, they’re experiencing the ultimate spotlight.

Everyone’s in the house at World Junior.

By “everyone,” that means every NHL team’s front office is present and you’ll never see more scouts in black coats in the press box or somewhere else in the arena.

Bahl and Smith won’t disappoint and offer that ‘hope’ Devils fans need heading into 2020.

Kyle McKenna is a freelancer who covers the NHL for Elite Sports New York, Hooked On Hockey Magazine & Fansided. Follow him on Twitter @KMcKenna_tLT5 and use the hashtag #McKennasDigest to have your NHL questions featured in an article or answered over his weekly NHL podcast.