It seems as if it has been said repeatedly throughout the 2017-2018 NHL season that the New Jersey Devils have been one of the biggest surprises this year in the hockey world. With seven games left in the season the Devils find themselves in a playoff spot. Almost the exact opposite place they sat in a year ago when they finished near the basement of the NHL standings and selected first overall in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. As the playoffs are fast approaching New Jersey would be welcoming to any contributions they can get on the offensive and defensive side of the puck. Thus, the Devils front office should be watching this years NCAA men’s hockey tournament closely.
It appears that if New Jersey makes the postseason they will be facing the Tampa Bay Lighting or the Boston Bruins in the first round. Tampa Bay is a phenomenal offensive team, while Boston’s strengths mainly fall on the defensive side of the puck. New Jersey currently holds the rights to three players who are on teams which made the NCAA tournament this year. Defenseman Jeremy Davies from Northeastern University, right winger Joey Anderson from the University of Minnesota-Duluth, and defenseman Matt Hellickson from the University of Notre Dame.
Minnesota-Duluth and the University of Notre Dame have both punched their ticket to the frozen four, while Northeastern University was eliminated by Michigan in the first round. However, New Jersey Devils prospect Jeremy Davies was effective for Northeastern in their losing effort against Michigan on March 24 recording one assist for the Huskies in his only NCAA tournament game this season. Davies also was impressive throughout his entire sophomore campaign putting up 35 points in 36 games with a plus 17 on ice rating. He is definitely a player who New Jersey could sign to an entry level contract to contribute during the playoffs this spring.
Joey Anderson has shown flashes of NHL talent throughout his two NCAA tournament games against Minnesota St. Mankato and Air Force. Anderson has tallied one goal on four shots and has an even on ice rating. Throughout his sophomore season this past year, Anderson scored 27 points in 34 games with a plus 14 on ice rating. Matt Hellickson from the University of Notre Dame was less impressive during his two games throughout the NCAA tournament thus far. However, the youngster is still impressive in his own right. Hellickson is still only a freshman and could use some more time at Notre Dame to improve his skills. Although, he put up solid numbers during his first season in South Bend putting up 12 points with a plus four on ice rating over the course of 38 games played.
New Jersey should look into offering entry level contracts to Jeremy Davies and Joey Anderson as the NHL playoffs approach. Both players could contribute to the Devils playoff run in 2018. In regards to Hellickson, I think he could use another year or two at Notre Dame to foster his skills before coming to the Garden State. Overall, these three prospects give Devils fans and the front office a reason to pay close attention to the NCAA tournament this year and see what talent is coming up through the ranks in New Jersey.