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07 14 18 1 - HIGH PRAISE FOR DEVILS TOP EUROPEAN PROSPECTS

BY: JULIE ROBENHYMER

Development coaches Pat Rissmiller, Eric Weinrich and Scott Clemmensen travel throughout the season to check in on Devils prospects. Here’s what they had to say about those playing in Europe. 

Fabian Zetterlund – Färjestad – SHL – 18 – Forward:

“Last year was good for him. He wasn’t invited to Sweden’s world junior evaluation camp in the summer, but got a chance at a European tournament at the start of the season and played well enough to earn an invite to selection camp in December, made the team and ended up becoming a pretty big part of their team. He played on the fourth line and was their net front presence on the power play. They earned a silver medal too. He’ll be on the team again this year, so we’ll see what role they have him in.

He didn’t get a lot of ice time with Farjestad and was eventually loaned out to the Allsvenskan (Swedish 2nd tier) Hopefully, he’ll be playing more this year. He’s pretty strong, so it’s not like he has much work to do there. He can always refine his skills, but he plays hard and physical when he has to. He’ll go to the net and do all the dirty work. He’s super competitive, all over the puck and willing to battle. He’s shown that over and over again, but for him the biggest challenge will be getting more ice time.” – Rissmiller

Jesper Boqvist – Brynas – SHL – 19 – Forward:

“Was a tough start for him last year with the wrist injury. He made it back in time for the world junior championship, but you could tell his wrist could function, but it wasn’t quite back to the point where he could do the things with the puck that he can do and he didn’t have the tournament he was probably hoping to have. The good news is that eventually his wrist loosened up and he had a strong finish to the season in Brynas. He got a good amount of ice time, but we’d like to see him get involved a little bit more in the middle of the ice and not stick so much to the perimeter. I think that will come when he gains a little more strength and gets a little more confident, but he’s got lots of skill, is a great skater – kind of floats around the ice. He’s very smooth. Needs to add some strength, but for him, a lot of that is genetics, so that will take some time for him to develop in that way.” – Rissmiller

Aarne Talvitie – Espoo Jr Blues – Jr A SM-Liiga – 19 – Forward:

“He took his game to another level, but he was playing in a junior league that isn’t one of the top leagues in Europe. So, the guys that he was playing against weren’t quite at his level, but he’s doing all the right things to develop his game and played a ton of minutes in every situation. He’s become a real leader over there, he was even their captain. Last year might not have been the best for him to be able to develop, but he matured a lot and I think he’ll do real well going to Penn State in the fall. 

There was talk that he might come over and play in the USHL in the second half of the season, but he didn’t want to leave his teammates, like he was giving up on them. He wanted to stick by them and I respected that decision. I thought it was very mature of him. He didn’t get selected for the world junior team, which was a surprise because we all expected him too, but he took ownership of it and said that the tournaments he needed to play well in, he didn’t play well and it was his fault. Those kinds of comments go a long way for me because here’s a kid who is already analyzing his game and recognizes what he needs to improve on. He’s just a great kid and a hard worker and you can see that he really wants to make it to the next level. The good news is he should be on their world junior team this year.” – Weinrich

Gilles Senn – HV Davos – NLA – 22 – Goaltender:

“He plays in the Swiss National League and is the starter on the team. He’s come a long way and even at a young age he’s playing against men. He’s got good size and good athleticism and his skating ability is really good. His foundation and the tools he already has in his toolbox is what we’re going to work off of to be able to improve in other areas. He was the third goalie at the world championship and that was really exciting for him to just be around the national team and all the good players in that tournament. Even though he didn’t play, it was a real good learning experience for him.” – Clemmensen

Yegor Zatisev – Dynamo Moskova – KHL – 20 – Defense:

“He’s an interesting kid because he’s pretty average in size and has good mobility. He’s got a little bit of an edge to him and, if you look at all our prospects right now, we have a lot of good, skilled, mobile, puck-moving defensemen and he brings an element that we don’t have with those guys. He’s more physical and has some snarl to his game. He doesn’t mind running guys and getting involved that way. He will be the guy that’s really hard to play against and every team needs that kind of player. He’s also a pretty good leader. That’s why he was captain of their world junior team. The guys respect him a lot.” – Weinrich

Mikhail Maltsev – SKA St Petersburg – KHL – 20 – Forward:

“On the world junior team, he played on the power play, killed penalties and played in pretty much every situation. I wouldn’t consider him a prototypical top center on a team, but if he was your third center, that’s be a great fit for him. He’s a pretty big kid and he skates really well and handles the puck really well and understands what to do in different situations really well. You can rely on him to do whatever you need him to do. Hopefully, he continues to develop into that kind of player at the NHL level. 

The junior level in Russia isn’t much of a challenge for him. If he could play a regular shift in the KHL, that would be ideal for him in terms of his development. He just needs more ice time playing with and against better talent right now so he can continue to grow and improve.” – Weinrich

Nikita Popugayev – CSKA Moskova – KHL – 19 – Forward:

“He’s a bit slender at the moment, but he’s still pretty strong and is strong on his skates. He probably could improve his footwork and maybe get a half a step quicker to really be an effective player at this level, but he handles the puck well in traffic and he can shoot the puck really well. That might be his biggest strength – his shot – and they play on a bigger sheet over there – it’s pretty wide – so we really want to get him over here and playing in North America so he can work on shooting closer to net and be an effective player that way. 

Like the other Russians, he could benefit from more ice time. There are former NHL guys on his team that are healthy scratches, so it’s really hard for him to get ice time.” – Weinrich

Note: Marian Studenic is Slovakian, but has played the past two years in Hamilton of the Ontario Hockey League and is not included in this list.

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