New Jersey Devils' Top Five European Prospects
Swede Niclas Bergfors has emerged as one of the top rookies in the NHL this season. Hopefully for the Devils, Bergfors is just the beginning of the influx of European talent into the New Jersey Devils' system.
This slideshow is meant to highlight the top five European talents the Devils have waiting in the wings, some of which we could see in an NHL sweater very soon.
No. 5: Alexander Urbom - Defenseman
Drafted: Third round of the 2009 NHL Draft.
Hometown: Djurgarden, Sweden.
Overview: Urbom will be the only European defenseman to make this list. Currently playing in the CHL, Urbom is known as a big, physical defenseman who doesn't mind taking the body.
He's probably one of the most solid and responsible defenseman the Devils have in the minors, which is a big reason why he makes this list.
Urbom made a big impression on head coach Jacques Lemaire in the most recent prospect development camp. When asked if he thought Urbom's age and inexperience was a roadblock, Jacques said, "Doesn't matter. Not to me. If he's good, I want him".
No. 4: Vladimir Zharkov - Right Wing
Drafted: Third Round of the 2006 NHL Draft.
Hometown: Elektrostal, Russia.
Overview: I decided to include "Sharky" (as he's lovingly called by his teammates) on this list because I don't see him being on the big league roster once Clarkson and Elias come back from injury. But it's hard to say you haven't liked what Zharkov brings to the team.
He seems to always be on or around the puck, and although his numbers don't show it (zero goals), he can quite often give the offense some momentum just by his sheer ability to get control of the puck. He still might need some seasoning in the AHL, but you can expect Zharkov to be an impact winger on this team as soon as sometime next season.
No. 3: Alexander Vasyunov - Left Wing
Drafted: Second Round of the 2006 NHL Draft.
Hometown: Yaroslavl, Russia.
Overview: Maybe one of the most underrated prospects in the Devils system, but one of the most promising. Vasyunov is projected to possibly be a top-six forward, and he can definitely put the puck in the net (he is said to have an exceptional wrist shot).
In his first full year in the AHL last season, he scored 15 goals and 13 assists, good for fourth-best on the team. So far this year, he has 12 goals through about two-thirds of the season.
He's not particularly skilled in any facet of the game besides scoring, but if he can bring a scoring touch to a Devils team that has struggled offensively for the past few seasons, they'll be pleased.
No. 2: Jacob Josefson - Center
Drafted: First round of the 2009 NHL Draft.
Hometown: Stockholm, Sweden.
Overview: The most recent first-round pick of the Devils makes the No. 2 slot on this list. Josefson plays the two-way game the Devils have prided themselves on for the past 15 years. Considering the depth (or lack thereof) the Devils have at center, Josefson will be a welcomed addition in the coming years.
He's still young, not even old enough to buy cigarettes yet, so I think it's fair to say it might be a few years before we see him here. He's been billed as a "pass first" forward, which might be nice to set up Parise and whatever other big forwards we have at the time, but he's been criticized for not shooting often enough.
Hopefully he can choose his spots a little better and make himself more of an all-around player in the coming years.
No. 1: Mattias Tedenby - Left Wing
Drafted: First round of 2008 NHL Draft.
Hometown: Vetlanda, Sweden.
Overview: The No. 1 spot on this list goes to 19-year-old winger Mattias Tedenby, and with good reason. Tedenby, considered one of the most talented forwards under 20 in the world, morphs his game around his blazing speed.
While he still may be a year or two away, hard not to get excited about this: HockeysFuture.com- "Tedenby is by far and away the most exciting and offensively-gifted prospect the Devils have had in the organization since Zach Parise and has the potential to turn into a Martin St. Louis type of player."
Comparing Tedenby to Parise (biggest offensive threat the Devils have had in a while) and St. Louis (2004 MVP) is a huge compliment to his skill set. Look for Tedenby to make waves when he comes up to the NHL, which could be as early as next year.