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Atlantic: Bergfors could be next youngster for Devils


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http://www.nhl.com/nhl/app/?service=page&a...rticleid=315627

For two-straight seasons, the New Jersey Devils found pieces of their future in North Dakota, where they plucked first-round draft picks Zach Parise and Travis Zajac and turned them into budding stars.

Parise, taken 17th overall in 2003, proved his strong rookie season was no fluke by netting a team-high 31 goals in 82 games this season.

Zajac, the 20th player taken in 2004, proved to be a solid two-way center for the Devils this season with 17 goals and 25 assists in 80 games.

The Devils are hoping their string of consistency with first-round picks extends to Swedish-born right wing Nicklas Bergfors, who was taken 23rd overall in 2005. In his first two AHL seasons with the Albany River Rats and Lowell Devils, Bergfors' play has been uneven, at least for a first-round selection.

The Devils drafted Bergfors because of his offensive tools, but the fleet-footed winger managed just 13 goals in Lowell this season after netting 17 in his first pro season with Albany. Like many high draft picks, many believe Bergfors' skill level is best suited for the NHL and not the AHL.

But if Bergfors does not prove in the exhibition season that he can put up points alongside NHL talent, the Devils' retooling efforts by be taxed next season unless they take a dip in the free-agent pool.

Here's a look at the Devils' top prospects.

Andy Greene, defense -- When the Devils decided to trade David Hale to Calgary, they did so with Greene in mind. After playing mistake-free hockey for Lowell, Greene was recalled by the Devils and showed he was just as capable at the NHL level. In 23 games with the big club Greene averaged more than 14 minutes a game and ended the season with one goal, five assists and a respectable minus-1.

Greene also made sound decisions on the Devils' second power play unit and played well enough to get a full season in Newark next season, where he could be paired with another sophomore defenseman, Johnny Oduya as the Devils' third pair. Oduya was impressive in his rookie season this year with two goals and nine assists in 76 games for the Devils.

Matthew Corrente, defense -- The Devils thought enough of Corrente to make him the final player taken in the first round last year (30th overall), but it's clear the 19-year-old blue liner needs some more seasoning in the OHL.

Corrente struggled early in the season and was involved in an off-ice incident that led to him being traded from Saginaw to Mississauga of the OHL. Once he got back on track, Corrente showed the speed and aggressiveness that enamored the Devils, finishing the year with three goals and 26 assists while recording a plus-13 in 43 games. Corrente has a mean streak he'll need to keep in check next season when the Devils hope a full year of logging heavy minutes will result in a defenseman they can someday mold into a No. 1 or No. 2 blue liner.

Sean Zimmerman, defense -- A late-round pick of the Devils in 2005 (sixth round, 170th overall), Zimmerman could find himself in a similar role Greene found himself in this season. At 20-years-old, Zimmerman is likely to make his pro debut for Lowell next season where he will be expected to improve his overall game.

Zimmerman won't impress the Devils with his offensive ability, but he is positionally sound and played well enough last season to land a spot on Team USA for the World Junior Championships, where he earned a bronze medal.

Kirill Tulupov, defense -- At 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, Tulupov looks like he's ready to step into the pro game, but he's also just 19-years-old and the Devils likely will give him another season in the Quebec League. Tulupov might be the most physically gifted two-way defenseman in the Devils system. He had eight goals and 20 assists in 54 games with Chicoutimi this season and likely will return there for another year of seasoning.

Taken in the third round (67th overall) in last year's draft Tulupov can use his big frame to punish forwards in front of the net and along the boards and has a big shot from the blue line. With another year of progress, Tulupov could see be patrolling the Devils blue line as early as 2008-09.

Kyle Henegan, left wing -- The last player taken by the Devils in the 2006 draft (208th overall) Henegan is a fearless defenseman-turned-winger whom the Devils foresee as their next fourth-line role player. Henegan is not going to impress anyone with his offense (five goals, 13 assists for Victoriaville in the Quebec League) but he is a hard-hitting forward who proved he can play with his head as well as his heart, finishing the season with 136 penalty minutes, 64 fewer than last season.

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I think Corrente will be a solid pick. The Devils definately will need a big, physical defenseman in the future and I think he fits that bill. His off the ice issues don't worry me too much, that will straighten out as he matures, and I am sure the Devils will keep a close watch on him. What do you guys think his time table is like? Maybe another year in the OHL and then a year or two in the AHL?

Zimmerman has me real excited. He is my sleeper pick to be a solid defenseman. I feel he has been getting decent exposure on the international level and gaining tons of experience. Like the report says, he is solid positionally and thats a perfect fit for the Devils. I am excited to watch him and Fraser in Lowell next year.

Tulupov is a beast with his size. The Devils will need a physical body in front of the net, something that seems to be missing, and I think Tulupov will fit that role. I hope this is his last year in the Q and he goes to the AHL after that.

I would think that at least 3 out of the 4 of Corrente, Zimmerman, Fraser, and Tulupov will make an impact. Perhaps this will help with the changing of the guard as guys like Rafalski and Matvichuk grow older. The next couple of years are going to be exciting to follow the defensive prospects.

So is Henegan essentially the next Janssen? It seems that he has the physical part of the game down, but how long will it take for his skating and hockey sense to mature so he could make it to the AHL or NHL?

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Corrente isnt overly big, He is only 6ft, but its his speed and shot that will prove valuable.

I really hope he pans out, if the numbers are thin on the ground in Lowell next season and he impresses in camp (he should get an invite,but wont make the Devils), he should get a shot in Lowell.

In 3 years if Corrente stays focused he could be on the first team.

He cant make it soon enough in my oppinion, a gritty hard hitting player with a good shot is one of the key things missing from the Devils.

Tulupov and zimmereman also interest me, they both sound like they could be steady 4-6 D men if they pan out ok.

Henegan sounds like 100 other forwards who the Devils hava had pass though, No offense, but hits hard and is gritty. WOW could use another one of thoes. No offence to him but hopefully he can be turned into a comodity and traded for higher picks later on.

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Unlike some of those other players, it seems that he is being bred strictly as an enforcer and not as a fourth line player. Perhaps, the Devils could include Janssen in some sort of package of draft picks and personnel to get one of St. Louis first round draft picks, then use a FA enforcer or no enforcer for a couple of years until Henegan is ready. Just some speculation on my part during a boring off-season. :P
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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 3 weeks later...

I see it as such... when the Devils get good picks, they pick good players. People passed on Parise and Zajac, we saw talent and picked them.

Late-Late 1sts, 2nd and on picks... are harder to pick. If you knew theyd play in the NHL, they'd be taken in the first round. Plenty of first rounders never even see the NHL. So I think it speaks wonders that most of ours do...

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I see it as such... when the Devils get good picks, they pick good players. People passed on Parise and Zajac, we saw talent and picked them.

Late-Late 1sts, 2nd and on picks... are harder to pick. If you knew theyd play in the NHL, they'd be taken in the first round. Plenty of first rounders never even see the NHL. So I think it speaks wonders that most of ours do...

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I think the credit goes to David Conte after picking up hidden gems. Speaking of the swap, I think the Devils swapped with St.Louis in 2003, the year we got Parise. (suppose the Blues can halt the swap but they chose to swap it, another dumb move by the Blues!!!)

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Some interesting info about Bergfors from www.hockeysfuture.com...he's rated #20 on thier list of top 40 prospects....not too shabby...

http://www.hockeysfuture.com/hockey_top_50_prospects/

20. Nicklas Bergfors - RW - New Jersey Devils

Height: 5-11, Weight: 195

After a fantastic first pro season as the youngest player in the AHL last year, Bergfors hasn\'t taken the giant leap forward offensively that some projected and was one of the more disappointing players at the 2007 WJCs for Team Sweden. However, the Devils shouldn\'t be overly concerned about the swift-skating Swede. He just recently turned 20, and most 20-year-olds can\'t lay claim to being in their second season of pro hockey like Bergfors can. Through 48 games in Lowell this season, he has scored 13 goals and 18 assists. Bergfors plays an up-tempo style that suits the new NHL to a T and is by far and away the most talented player in the Devils system. He should be ready to challenge for some full-time NHL duty next fall.

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