We’re in that strange period halfway between last year’s draft and this year’s draft, which often gives prospect sites the time to look back to how certain players are doing in certain leagues. Also, this usually happens midway through the season when teams are figuring out their likely draft position. This year? Not so much. But despite the season being five games, let’s take a look at a couple of the Devils’ defensive prospects currently skating in the Western Hockey League.
Damon Severson (NJD), Kelowna Rockets
While Severson is not frequently mentioned among the top five defensemen in the WHL, he is very definitely developing into a force on a Rockets team that is serving notice of its intention to challenge for a league title. The 6’2”, 200-pounder was not at all out of place at the 2012 Top Prospects Game, despite missing most of the Rockets league play leading up to the game last January with a hand injury suffered just prior to the Christmas break.
Reece Scarlett (NJD), Swift Current Broncos
Selected in the sixth round by the Devils at the 2011 NHL Draft, 159th overall, the Sherwood Park, Alberta native excels in the defensive zone. It is also fair to say that his skills and deportment have rubbed off on current Broncos prospects like Dillon Hetherington (2012). In 43 games, Scarlett has scored six goals and 21 assists.
Corey GriffinI am in no way a prospect expert and I suggest you give the link a read and review what HF has to say in full about Severson and Scarlett. I just wanted to post this as a means of highlighting the very intelligent draft strategy and really, organizational strategy, the Devils have enacted in over past four years or so. Much like in baseball you can never have enough pitching, you never hear anyone in hockey say, “Boy, we’ve got way too many defensemen in the pipeline.” The only thing you do is hear is teams like Edmonton and Detroit grasping at straws as they have to overpay, overreach and oversell for average defensemen just to fill out their roster and sometimes play meaningful minutes. While it might be frustrating that Adam Larsson isn’t playing, it’s a testament to the Devils’ front office that he’s not. THis team has seven NHL-caliber defensemen just on their current roster. That doesn’t even count Severson, Scarlett or Jon Merrill, all of which could play (or, in the case of Merrill, star) in the NHL within the next three years. Players like Larsson two years ago and Seth Jones this year as so valued in part because they both play a position where it is incredibly difficult to find NHL-caliber players on a regular basis. Signing Ilya Kovalchuk was helpful immediately. Extending Travis Zajac was a smart move for the next five to seven years. But focusing this team’s personnel strategy around building through the blue line was truly brilliant and it will pay off in spades more and more.