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The New Jersey Devils open up the 2019 Prospects Challenge Friday night against the Buffalo Sabres, who are once again hosting this year.
The Devils are taking 27 players
(15 forwards, nine defensemen, three goaltenders) to the three-game mini-tournament and, as you'd expect, all are expected to see game action.
Let's take a look at a few players – including some beyond the obvious – to keep your eyes on:
Center - Jack Hughes
This will be Hughes' first competitive action in a Devils uniform. Last season he put up 187 points in 92 games – most of which were played against his age group – so you'd like to think the team's projected No. 2 scoring line center will be able to put on a show against a bunch of prospects, albeit some good ones, this weekend.
Winger - Graeme Clarke
I really liked the Clarke pick. He is years away from making the NHL but I think he has real potential to get there. I'm expecting a big breakout year from him and this could be the start of it. In particular, anyone who watches these games should be on the lookout for his shot. He can absolutely rip it and is not at all shy about doing so. His release is probably already NHL caliber. I think some unsuspecting goaltenders could be caught off guard in this tournament.
Defenseman - Nikita Okhotyuk
The Devils don't have many guys like Okhotyuk in the system. He is very mobile, very aggressive, and he'll never hesitate to put his body on the line in order to make a play. I think that's what made the Devils use a fairly high pick on him despite a lack of offensive upside. Knowing Okhotyuk's style, I doubt he'll be trying to make any friends or taking it easy in this tournament. He's all out, all the time, and this is his first chance to prove it. He might make some fans this weekend.
Goaltender – Akira Schmid
Schmid started last season with the Lethbridge Hurricanes (WHL). He and the team parted ways just one game into the year and he eventually found a new home with the Omaha Lancers (USHL). There, he was nothing short of spectacular. Schmid posted a league-best .926 save percentage while appearing in 37 games. For perspective of how good Schmid was, only one other goaltender (15+ games played) finished with a save percentage above .915. The Devils aren't overflowing with quality goaltending prospects so Schmid's development is certainly encouraging. It'll be interesting to see how he fares against teams made up almost entirely of drafted players, as opposed to teams with two or three.
As for how you can tune in, the Devils will be streaming it all.
Devils 2019 fantasy projections
Who will win the Vezina Trophy in 2019-20?
Who will win the Norris Trophy in 2019-20?
Three reasons to be optimistic about the Devils in 2019-20
Three question marks for the Devils heading into 2019-20
best 1-2 punch in the Metro?
best forward duo in the Metro?
Pavel Zacha will play an important role in 2019-20