The future is bright for this young and promising Devils team.

The New Jersey Devils had a disastrous 2021 season. They fell victim to a serious COVID-19 outbreak and, while they did get off to a hot start, they ended the season as one of the worst teams in the league.

However, after the trade deadline, the Devils became the youngest team in the NHL. Many players made their NHL debuts this season and it’s hard to criticize such a youthful team.

If anything, Devils fans should like what they’ve seen from the youngsters. Overall, they’ve been impressive.

The Devils aren’t done, though. They have many promising prospects in their system, several of whom will have the opportunity to make their NHL debuts within the next few seasons.

So, who are these prospects?

Kevin Bahl, LHD

• 20 years old
• 6’6”, 229 lbs.
• New Jersey Devils (NHL)

Regarded as the key piece coming back to the Devils as part of the package they received from the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for Taylor Hall, Kevin Bahl was given the opportunity to show off his ability at the NHL-level this season.

He played just seven games with the Devils, recording two assists, but has become a player the Devils will try to factor into the future. Bahl’s size is what makes him so special.

He isn’t an offensive-defenseman, but is expected to be a shutdown blueliner. His reach and range, in particular, are unique and allow him to be a nightmare for the opposition.

One of the best defensive prospects in the Devils’ system, fans are excited that Bahl is finally here and will look forward to watching him develop at the highest level.

Graeme Clarke, RW

• 20 years old
• 6’0”, 174 lbs.
• Utica Comets (AHL)

A top prospect in the Devils organization, Graeme Clarke has significant potential as a top goal-scorer on the team if he can stay healthy.

He’s suffered from injuries over the years and wasn’t amazing in his first season in the AHL (although he did improve with time), but he does have a great shot.

Clarke has signed his ELC and is one of several Devils prospects who has a legitimate chance at making his NHL debut next season.

Will he be able to use that great shot of his to take the Devils’ offense to the next level? Or will his injury history be too much for him?

Ethan Edwards, LHD

• 18 years old
• 5’11”, 176 lbs.
• University of Michigan (NCAA)

One of the Devils’ youngest prospects, Ethan Edwards is a ways away, but has good upside. With the Sioux City Musketeers of the USHL, Edwards scored six goals and 27 points in 51 games and scored one goal in four playoff games.

He had a strong season and is ready to begin his collegiate career at the University of Michigan. He’s an excellent skater and has the potential to be a solid offensive-defenseman in the NHL.

The Devils will take their time with Edwards, who must work on a few things and likely add some muscle before being considered NHL-ready, but the potential certainly is there.

Nolan Foote, LW

• 20 years old
• 6’4”, 201 lbs.
• New Jersey Devils (NHL)

Nolan Foote was acquired by the Devils as part of a trade package they received for Blake Coleman in Feb. 2020.

Foote quickly became one of the organization’s top prospects and was held in such high regard that he was given the chance to make his NHL debut in 2021.

Foote scored one goal and one assist in six games with Devils and will have the chance to show what he’s really about next season.

Foote is a big guy, who plays a physical game and has a lethal shot. His skating has been his most significant weakness, but he worked on that in the AHL, where he was impressive.

If Foote pans out, the Devils will have themselves a physical, aggressive forward with a good shot and the ability to score.

Arseny Gritsyuk, LW

• 20 years old
• 5’10”, 174 lbs.
• Avangard Omsk (KHL)

Arseny Gritsyuk had an interesting season. He played with a total of three different teams in three different leagues, eventually winning the Gregarian Cup with Avangard Omsk. He recently signed a two-year extension with the Russian club.

Gritsyuk wasn’t noticeable with Avangard, but he does have potential in terms of hockey skills and skating. His size remains his most glaring issue and he must add muscle and grow stronger if he hopes to make it in the NHL.

Partly due to his small stature, Gritsyuk is a poor defensive forward. The Devils might grow to like what he brings to his own zone if he puts on weight and gains confidence while defending.

Alexander Holtz, RW

• 19 years old
• 6’0”, 184 lbs.
• Utica Comets (AHL)

The Devils’ first pick of the 2020 NHL draft, Alexander Holtz was praised for having arguably the best shot in his draft class.

Holtz hasn’t played jaw-dropping hockey since being drafted: he didn’t stand out in the WJC and scored just 18 points in 40 games with Djurgårdens IF of the SHL, even though his play improved as the season progressed.

Holtz was signed to his ELC later on and immediately joined the Binghamton Devils, with whom he scored one goal and three points in five games.

Whether he starts the 2021-22 season in Binghamton or not, Holtz will definitely make his NHL debut next year.

He was one of the best prospects in his class, he’s the best prospect in the Devils’ organization, and is an elite goal-scorer, something the Devils don’t exactly have an abundance of.

If Holtz can be the goal-scoring top-six winger that the Devils need and expect him to be, then they’ve won big time.

Dawson Mercer, RW

• 19 years old
• 6’0”, 179 lbs.
• Chicoutimi Saguenéens (QMJHL)

The Devils took Dawson Mercer with their second pick of the first round of the 2020 NHL draft and he’s emerged as arguably their second-best prospect.

Mercer immediately caught the attention of Devils fans as well as the hockey world at the World Juniors, where he was one of Team Canada’s most noticeable and most impressive players. He hasn’t slowed down since.

As an alternate captain with the Chicoutimi Saguenéens in 2021, Mercer scored a whopping 19 goals and 36 points in 23 games. He went on to score six goals and 13 points in six playoff games.

Mercer shouldn’t need much more time to develop if he continues to progress the way he has. The Devils love his versatility and the fact that he can be used in all situations. He’s a solid two-way forward who can score and be a playmaker.

He’s also great in the faceoff circle. Devils fans have much to look forward to with Mercer.

Nick Merkley, RW

• 23 years old
• 5’11”, 194 lbs.
• New Jersey Devils (NHL)

The highlight of the trade package the Devils received from the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for Taylor Hall, Nick Merkley is still trying to earn a permanent spot on this Devils team, but is on the right track.

He scored two goals and an impressive 10 points in 27 NHL games this season and should have an even bigger role on the team next year. Merkley is a physical forward who is impactful offensively.

He’s proven that he’s capable of producing at this level and it’s now up to the coaching staff to decide how and where they want to use him. Merkley has the potential of quietly becoming an important offensive presence on this young and promising team.

Daniil Misyul, LHD

• 20 years old
• 6’3”, 187 lbs.
• Lokomotiv Yaroslav (KHL)

Daniil Misyul is another Devils prospect who is flying under the radar. He’s young and has time to grow and improve his game, but he’s showing a great deal of potential.

He’s very physical, which makes sense given his size, and has emerged as Lokomotiv Yaroslav’s best defenseman. They use him in all situations and he has shown strength as a skater, good puck-handler, and an important force on the man-advantage.

Misyul does need to work on his positioning and must refine his defensive game in order to not be beaten by the opposition, especially if he hopes to succeed at the NHL-level.

However, the potential is there and he’s become quite the curious prospect who could sneakily become a contender for a long-term job with the Devils.

Shakir Mukhamadullin, LHD

• 19 years old
• 6’2”, 170 lbs.
• Salavat Yulaev Ufa (KHL)

A polarizing first-round pick in the 2020 NHL draft, Shakir Mukhamadullin has all the tools to be an impactful NHL defenseman. He just needs to refine them and add some strength and muscle.

Mukhamadullin is a skater that the Devils are going to have to be very patient with. For various reasons, it’s going to take some time before the organization knows exactly what they’re getting in him.

Mukhamadullin is very young, skinny, and must iron out a few things in his defensive game.

He has the size to succeed in the league, is a good skater, and has promise as an offensive defenseman, even though he scored just 10 points in 39 games with Salavat Yualev Ufa in the KHL this season.

Marián Studenič, RW

• 22 years old
• 6’1”, 181 lbs.
• New Jersey Devils (NHL)

A former fifth-round pick, Marián Studenič was given the opportunity to show his NHL potential this season. He made his debut on April 11 and ended up scoring a goal and an assist in eight NHL games.

Studenič hasn’t been known for putting up points, but he can score and is an excellent skater and penalty killer. The Devils have a problem scoring goals and had the worst penalty kill in hockey in 2021.

Studenič didn’t stand out in his short stint with the Devils, but will be able to put his important skill-set on display next season.

Tyce Thompson, C

• 21 years old
• 6’1”, 172 lbs.
• New Jersey Devils (NHL)

Tyce Thompson has developed nicely, especially as a former fourth-round pick, and was given the opportunity to put that on display on the biggest stage.

The Devils signed Thompson to his ELC during the 2021 season and he made his NHL debut on April 6th.

Thompson’s three-year collegiate career at Providence College came to an end this season, and the Devils loved what they had seen from him through the years.

As captain of Providence, he averaged a point per game before heading to the Binghamton Devils, where he scored three points in nine games before getting called up to the big club.

Thompson recorded one assist in seven NHL games and has the chance to continue working on his game at the NHL-level next season on the youngest team in the league.

The goal is for Thompson to help resolve the goal-scoring issue that the Devils have been suffering from for some time.

Michael Vukojevic, LHD

• 19 years old
• 6’3”, 212 lbs.
• Utica Comets (AHL)

Not many know much about young Devils defensive prospect Michael Vukojevic.

He’s flown under the radar for some time, but began to catch the eyes of some last season, when he scored 30 points in 63 games as an alternate captain of the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL.

In his first AHL season, Vukojevic scored nine points in 24 games. Offensively, Vukojevic was one of the best U20 offensive defenseman in the AHL. This is particularly interesting given the fact that he is more of a defensive defenseman.

He’s quite big and physical, giving him the ability to become a future shutdown defenseman in the future. As time passes, Vukojevic continues to develop and improve every aspect of his game.

He’ll likely need some more time, especially since he’s still so young, but he’s definitely on the right track and has true potential to be a solid blueliner for the Devils.

Reilly Walsh, RHD

• 22 years old
• 6’0”, 185 lbs.
• Utica Comets (AHL)

Taken by the Devils in the third round of the 2017 NHL draft, Reilly Walsh has worked his way up to becoming one of the best prospects in the Devils organization and is in line to make his NHL debut next season.

Walsh had a great three-year career at Harvard University and scored five goals and 14 points in 31 games in his AHL rookie season.

Walsh is regarded as more of an offensive-defenseman, who has a great shot that could turn him into a dangerous goal-scoring blueliner. The Devils have wanted Walsh to get stronger, too.

If he continues to work on himself during the offseason and even continue to add strength when he does make it to the NHL, he might see his defensive game improve. Walsh will bring much-needed depth to an underwhelming defensive unit.

Fabian Zetterlund, RW

• 21 years old
• 5’11”, 218 lbs.
• Utica Comets (AHL)

Fabian Zetterlund was a question mark in the eyes of many heading into this season. He was drafted in 2017 and while he isn’t old, he isn’t as young and hasn’t shown as much promise as many other Devils prospects.

However, Zetterlund made it a point to change the Devils’ opinion of him in 2021, his second season in the AHL. Zetterlund was Binghamton’s best player and one of their leading scorers.

His all-around game took a step up and he has the potential to be a strong winger who can do damage in front of the net and on the man-advantage.

Zetterlund was so good in the AHL this season that he might have earned an invitation to New Jersey’s training camp for the 2021-22 season.

This will be important for both Zetterlund and the Devils, who need to begin determining if/how the Swede plays into their plans for the future.

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