While the New Jersey Devils showed signs of life earlier this season, it’s another subpar season for the club and they continued their rebuild at the trade deadline by moving three veterans for picks and prospects. However, help is on the way in the form of an elite prospect. Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald confirmed to the media, including The Athletic’s Corey Masisak, that he is actively working on a contract with 2020 first-round pick Alexander Holtz. Fitzgerald did not provide a timeline and stated that the details of the deal and the immigration issues are still being hammered out, so at this point in the season it’s possible that Holtz may not actually suit up with the Devils until next season. Whenever he does arrive though, the reigning No. 7 overall pick should make an immediate impact. The 19-year-old just wrapped up his second full season in the SHL, the top pro level in Sweden, and recorded 18 points in 40 games. Holtz is a prolific goal scorer whose junior and WJC performances have pointed toward a potential future 30-goal scorer or better. Playing with New Jersey’s young forward corps filled with upside, Holtz could make an immediate impact next year as the Devils finally look to take the next step.
- Similarly, the Vancouver Canucks are in a holding pattern this season with top prospect Vasili Podkolzin. Although GM Jim Benning had stated earlier this season that his intention was to have the 2019 tenth overall pick make his NHL debut this season, he seemed less optimistic about the possibility speaking with the media, including The Athletic’s Thomas Drance. Podkolzin’s KHL season is now over, his SKA St. Petersburg club losing in the semifinals of the Gagarin Cup, so contract talks have officially begun. However, it is more likely that Podkolzin’s deal will not begin until next season with limited time left in this season and contractual and immigration hurtles to jump through. When Podkolzin does debut in Vancouver, he will be hard to miss. The big, strong winger plays an explosive offensive game and is always making his presence felt around the net. Although he recorded only 11 points in 35 KHL games this year, that’s quite an accomplishment for a 19-year-old playing a bottom-six role on a top contender. Canucks fans should be excited for the arrival of Podkolzin, whenever that will be.
- The NCAA’s extension of eligibility has prolonged a number of NHL prospects’ collegiate careers and the transfer market has been buzzing, with a number of names heading to new places. The biggest move of late has been former Bemidji State goaltender Zach Driscoll transferring to North Dakota. Driscoll has been one of the best goaltenders in the NCAA over the past few years, posting three straight seasons with a GAA of 2.32 or lower, including a 1.63 GAA and .937 save percentage last year. He now moves to the program that finished No. 1 in the nation in the regular season and will take over the starter job for the departed Adam Scheel, who signed with the Dallas Stars, hoping that he too will earn an NHL contract this time next year. In fact, upon Driscoll’s arrival, Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Peter Thome announced that he was leaving for the newest Division I program, St. Thomas. Thome, a 2016 sixth-round pick, had sat behind Scheel and Cam Johnson for four years as a stellar backup, but was finally eyeing the Fighting Hawks starting job. Instead, he’ll man the net for St. Thomas in their inaugural season before turning pro.
- Elsewhere in the transfer market, defenseman Will Cullen, who was expected to have pro interest following a dominant season at Bowling Green, has graduated in three years and has opted to become a grad transfer to Miami (Ohio). Cullen, 24, is a mobile, right-shot defensemen who recorded 25 points in 28 games for the Falcons this season as one of the top scoring defensemen in the NCAA. His decision not to turn pro is a surprise, but the interest should still be there next season.