Devils drop in NHL prospect rankings

Former NHL scout and current ESPN Insider draft guru Grant Sonier released his latest NHL organizational rankings today, a rating in which he evaluates the quality and depth of the prospects within each team's system. It's the first update from 2011-12 after the rookie picture has gained a little clarity and ... let's just say the Devils took a bit of a dip.

New Jersey dropped from No. 16 in the first edition of the rankings to No. 27 Thursday, one of the biggest falls on the list. Only the Philadelphia Flyers fell farther (No. 15 to No. 29).

Before fans start flipping out, the rationale for the slide seems to stem from the solid play of D Adam Larsson, a player who instantly became the team's top prospect when he was selected No. 4 overall in June's draft. With Larsson in the big leagues, it's left the rest of the New Jersey system a little barren of top tier talent.

Sonier makes this point in his entry for the Colorado Avalanche, who also slipped a ways, but I think it applies to the Devils' situation as well:

"Dropping ... would seem like a bad thing, but look at it this way. Would you rather drop because a prospect has proven himself in the NHL? Or would you rather rank higher with doubts still swirling about how good your past draft picks can be? I'd take the bird in hand."

Sonier also writes that the Devils do have a few prospects to keep an eye on:

"Jon Merrill (38th overall, 2010) is in his sophomore season at the University of Michigan of the CCHA and has time to grow into his 6-3 frame while goaltender Scott Wedgewood (84th overall, 2010) is playing on a very strong Plymouth Whalers team in the OHL and some have suggested he should get a tryout for the World Juniors with Team Canada."

Meanwhile, the Islanders fell slightly from No. 7 to No. 11 following the promotion of Nino Niederreiter, and the Rangers moved up two pegs to No. 15 thanks to the strong performances of Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller and Christian Thomas for their respective teams.