Sports. Honestly. Since 2011

Previewing the New Jersey Devils Prospect Challenge

Hockey is back… sort of. This weekend the Devils will yet again be taking part in the Prospect Challenge being held by the Buffalo Sabres. Joining them will be the aforementioned Sabres, as well as the Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadians, Ottawa Senators, and Pittsburgh Penguins. The Devils will be bringing a handful of top prospects such as former first-round picks Simon Nemec and Chase Stillman (Luke Hughes was originally scheduled to participate but later dropped out). There are a few other interesting prospects that have been included, in addition to a few tryouts. The full roster can be found below.

The Devils will be taking on Ottawa on Friday afternoon and Buffalo on Saturday night before wrapping up Monday morning against Boston. The team also announced Brian Halonen, Nemec, and Graeme Clark will be the alternate captains. There are a few interesting storylines heading into the weekend.

What to Watch for at the Prospect Challenge

Simon Nemec

Let’s get the obvious one out of the way. With Luke Hughes dropping out, all eyes will be on Nemec. The 2022 second-overall pick will be the main focus as he’s one of the few attending who will be pushing for a shot on the NHL roster. Nemec is coming off of a very good rookie year in North America and looks to continue his upward trajectory. All signs point to him eating a ton of minutes during the tournament, and early reports are that he’s quarterbacking the top power-play unit. Anything short of dominating would be disappointing.

Trio of Young AHL Defenceman

Outside of Nemec, three young defencemen figure to have a big role in the AHL this season. Daniil Misyul (2019 3rd round), Topias Vilen (2021 5th round), and Santeri Hatakka (acq. from San Jose) are all players who could have significant roles with Utica this year. Misyul and Vilen are set to play their first season in North America after playing in the KHL and Liiga, while Hatakka gets ready to play his first season with Utica.

Vilen is a tried and true two-way defenceman and hopefully, he can show off his composure against lesser players after spending the past three seasons playing against men. On the other hand, Misyul and Hatakka are known more for their size and physicality. Look to see which of the three can impose their playing style against the opposition.

Who Could Breakout

There are a handful of lesser-known prospects who are poised to break out. However, I’ve narrowed it down to two; Xavier Parent and Cam Squires. Parent earned himself an AHL contract last offseason and turned in a productive season split between the ECHL and AHL. He scored 51 points in 50 ECHL games to go along with six points in 14 AHL games. Parent lacks size, but is agile, shifty, and has a knack for scoring. Most eyes will be on the drafted prospects, but Parent has the potential to steal some of the spotlight with his offensive game.

As for Squires, the 2023 fourth-round pick was one of the standouts from development camp. He lacked high-end production in the QMJHL last season (64 points in 67 games), but has a phenomenal shot and a great change of direction. Squires reminds me a lot of another Prospect Challenge attendee, Josh Filmon. Even if he doesn’t dominate this weekend, he’s one of my top breakout players for the 2023-24 season.

Main Photo: Daniel DeLoach / The Observer-Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK


More Posts

Send Us A Message