While the NHL might be on pause, there is still hockey happening in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alberta. The 2022 World Junior Championships get underway Boxing Day, Sunday, December 26th. The New Jersey Devils will be well represented at the tournament this year with four players playing on four different countries. All four players have been recently drafted by the organization under Tom Fitzgerald‘s reign as general manager of the New Jersey Devils. Let’s take a look at the New Jersey Devils prospects at the tournament.
2022 World Juniors: New Jersey Devils Prospects
Alexander Holtz, Sweden
This is Alexander Holtz‘s third trip to the World Juniors. The Devils selected Holtz, seventh overall in the 2020 NHL Draft. In prior years Holtz played alongside Lucas Raymond, the front runner to win the Calder Trophy in the NHL. Raymond and Holtz were known as the Terror Twins for Sweden. Holtz was a late edition to Team Sweden as they were unsure if the Devils were going to release him to play in the tournament.
Holtz has spent most of the 2021-22 season playing in the AHL where he has recorded 10 points (six goals, and four assists) in 11 games with the Utica Comets. The Devils called up Holtz from the AHL for six games where he recorded two points. However, the Devils expect big things from Holtz in the coming years. And so does Team Sweden.
Holtz is a highly-skilled player and will most likely play alongside San Jose Sharks prospect William Eklund and Colorado Avalanche prospect Oskar Olausson. For Team Sweden to go far in this tournament, they will need Holtz’s shot to be very accurate. Last year at the World Juniors, Holtz just had three points. In 2020, Holtz record five points. Considering his age and this being a 19-year-old tournament, expect him to be one of the leading point-getters of the tournament.
Luke Hughes, United States
Another Devils prospect playing in the tournament is Luke Hughes. The Michigan freshman and fourth overall pick by the Devils in the 2021 NHL Draft, is going to be relied upon by Nate Leaman on defence. Hughes is one of the anchors of the Team USA defence and will look to win a gold medal at the tournament something his two brothers Jack and Quinn were not able to accomplish.
Like his two brothers, Luke is a highly-skilled offensive talent that plays defence. In 20 games with Michigan this season, Hughes has recorded 18 points. He will likely be the quarterback of Team USA’s second powerplay unit as Jake Sanderson will anchor the top pair. With Sanderson getting the workhorse minutes, Leaman will expect Hughes to generate offence as part of a second pairing, where he can shine. If the 18-year can play to his ability, Team USA has a chance to go back-to-back for the first time in tournament history.
Shakir Mukhamadullin, Russia
Another player making a return trip to the World Juniors is Shakir Mukhamadullin. Mukhamadullin played for Team Russia last year at the World Juniors. And though he did not record a point last year, he played big minutes for Russia mostly playing second pair minutes. However, at times, Mukhamadullin saw time on the top pair for Russia’s defence. Mukhamadullin expects to have a similar role for Team Russia this season as well.
The Devils selected him 20th overall in the 2020 NHL Draft. It was a strange pick at the time for many Devils fans, but Mukhamadullin’s recent play has shown, the Devils might have something here with him. Clearly, he was a work in progress when the Devils drafted him, but he has continued to progress each season. Though his point production is down this season, he has taken strides. And if he can a good showing at the tournament at a 19-year-old, the Devils future is in good hands on defence.
Jakub Málek, Czech Republic
The New Jersey Devils have a goaltending prospect at the tournament as well. Jakub Málek will be playing for Czechia. Málek is a tall, athletic overage-drafted goaltender with a proactive mindset. He uses his stick very efficiently to block out the shot. However, his low posture makes him susceptible to shots from long distances. The Devils selected Málek in the fourth round of the 2021 NHL Draft. At the time it was a head-scratcher with other goalies on the board. Not to mention, the Devils had goaltending prospects Akira Schmid and Nico Daws in their system already.
In 23 games with VHK Vstetin, in the Czech Republic’s second division of hockey, Málek has put up a .936 save percentage, which ranks first in the league. Expect Málek to get some games for Czechia in the tournament as Jan Bednar, Detroit Red Wings prospect is expected to be the number-one netminder. However, if Bednar struggles, Málek could take over the starting role.
Three of the New Jersey Devils prospects at the tournament have a chance to take home gold at the 2022 World Junior Championships.
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