(This is the first in a two-part series in which Dave Turner will break down six Devils prospects with the best chance to make the NHL roster at some point this season. There's not a lot of room at the NHL level, so chances are only one or two will make it. Part 2 of this series will run Sunday.)
The Devils' top prospects took center stage at the organizations' development camp this week. With it wrapped, the question now becomes which prospects have a chance at cracking the roster at some point this season?
Let’s take a look at the odds of each prospect cracking the roster at some point this season.
First, we’ll start with the long shots in this field of six top Devils prospects.
30 to 1: Reid Boucher (LW)
Everyone is calmly waiting the arrival of what might be the next offensive superstar in New Jersey, in Reid Boucher. With the departures of Zach Parise and now Ilya Kovalchuk, this is a team in great need of an offensive spark, but it wont be the former Sarnia Sting record holder coming to New Jersey any time soon.
We know Boucher can score, and score at an astounding pace. He broke the Sting’s record for goals in a season with 62 tallies in 2012-2013. Steven Stamkos previously held the record, with 58 goals, so he’s in good company with that mark.
Does Boucher have Stamkos-like potential? I think that assessment is a bit high. Boucher is a naturally gifted scorer with a deadly accurate wrist shot, but I think at his best, he has 40-goal potential in the NHL. Still, the young forward is considered raw, and his game needs a lot of work.
To say Boucher is a work in progress in regards to his two-way play might be a bit of an understatement. The slick-scoring winger needs to learn to backcheck more consistently and be more responsible in the defensive zone at all times.
Of course, for a team that looks to be so offensively challenged, it doesn’t make all that much sense to keep him in the minors, but Boucher needs at least a full season in the AHL to adjust to the pro-style game.
There is the possibly that Boucher could be a late-season call up if the team is out of contention, but that’s really his only chance. The plan seems to be to let him mature in Albany for at least one season, so that’s why Boucher is considered a long shot.
20 to 1: Mike Sislo (RW)
Mike Sislo is one of the few remaining Devils offensive prospects that have any real shot at cracking an NHL roster anytime soon. The Devils are pretty weak in terms of offensive prospects, but Sislo seems to be the best of the rest.
The speedy right-winger had 13 goals and 13 assists for Albany last year so he has proven that he can add some offense at the pro level. The biggest assets to his game are his tremendous speed and soft hands.
Sislo is someone that could step in on a good line and be able to produce, but I’m not sure he has the potential to be someone that can carry a line. He seems like more of a solid complimentary player to me. If he progresses enough, I think he could be a fringe second line player, but I think a more realistic
With another year in Albany, who knows what could happen. If he’s able to take another step forward, I think he could even be one of the first names called when a winger goes down in New Jersey.
Outside of being an injury call up, I don’t think there’s any way he could make this team. If he can pot 20+ goals in Albany next year, he might begin to put himself on the team’s radar for 2014.
8 to 1: Jon Merrill (D)
Based on talent alone, Merrill might get a very strong look in training camp, but there are red flags that can’t be ignored.
Merrill was suspended for most of his sophomore season at the University of Michigan for violating an undisclosed team rule. Though we’ll most likely never know what it was that resulted in his suspension, his overall maturity level is something that the team may consider in terms of bringing him up in the near future.
On the ice, Merrill has top-pairing potential. He is an extremely talented offensive defenseman who can create offense both with excellent breakout passes, as well as on the power play. The former Wolverine has a wicked shot and has all the makings of a future power play quarterback.
Because he joined Albany after the college season ended last year, I believe that the team will give him ample time to log major minutes in Albany and hone his skills.
He’s still a little raw defensively and he needs to add more physicality to his game to reach the lofty potential that the team believes he has. Merrill has the potential to be a 40-plus point scorer if he can continue to round out his game.
As long as his play warrants a promotion, it’s completely possible that he might be an injury call up at some point.