Drafting Skills: New Jersey Devils

Recent Draft History – Evaluating the first 3 rounds of the last 5 Drafts for each team. I’ve left out 2016, as it’s way too early to tell on 95% of the picks. Instead, this will be examining drafts from 2011 to 2015.

New Jersey Devils

2011 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Adam Larsson (D) 4th overall – I’m tempted to solidify this as the best pick of the draft, as he was traded 1 for 1 to the Oilers for Taylor Hall this year. Larsson has played a solid game since coming into the NHL, but it’s a very one-dimensional game, as he provides little offence. As far as a defenceman goes, this was the best they could do all-around from this draft. Smart pick by the Devils.

Round 2 – Pick was traded to Nashville for Jason Arnott. He played 1 season for the Devils, contributing 24 points in 62 games. Meanwhile, the pick was used on Magnus Hellberg, a goalie currently playing in the AHL for the Rangers farm team. He’s got some upside, but likely won’t develop into more than a backup. The trade was worth the gamble.

Round 3 – Blake Coleman (F) 75th overall – Coleman made his NHL debut this year, and adding a measly 2 points in 23 games. He’s already 25, and unlikely to grow anymore as a player. The Devils HOPE to be better than last year, and that will mean Coleman is back in the AHL.

2012 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Stefan Matteau (F) 29th overall – Matteau was traded to Montreal for Devante Smith-Pelly in 2016, and spent all of this season in the AHL. I can’t imagine him making an impact other than a 4th line role in the NHL. Smith-Pelly meanwhile, is about the same type of player. He had 9 points in 53 games for the Devils this year. He will need to be better next year to keep a spot with the big club.

Round 2 – Damon Severson (D) 60th overall – Severson played a lot of minutes this year for a weak Devils team, so it’s not surprise he ended the year -31. That being said, he had positive possession numbers most of the year, and was one bright spot in a brutal season for the Devils. He has played over 200 NHL games now, which is very rare for a 2nd round pick only 5 years after being drafted. I think any club would be happy with this pick.

Round 3 – Ben Johnson (LW) 90th overall – Johnson last played in the ECHL in 2015-2016, before being found guilty of sexual assault in 2016 and having his contract terminated by the Devils. Smart move by the Devils, but bad pick.

2013 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Pick was traded to the Canucks for Cory Schneider. Steal of a deal, as Schneider has been one of the best starters league-wide since coming to New Jersey. He had a down year this season, as did all of New Jersey, but his career GAA of 2.28 and SV% of 0.922 are both great numbers. I don’t think any Devils fan would undo this trade.

Round 2 – Steven Santini (D) 42nd overall – Santini started the year in the NHL, before being demoted to the AHL. He doesn’t add much offensively, but plays a good defensive game. I’d imagine he’ll be back in the NHL this upcoming season, as the Devils hope to improve on their bottom of the league finish.

Round 3 – Ryan Kujawinski (C) 73rd overall – He has never excelled offensively, and will hope to improve his defensive game if he ever hopes to have a shot at the NHL. He sits down on the prospect ladder, on a team that doesn’t exactly have a full shelf. That’s never a good sign.

2014 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – John Quenneville (C) 30th overall – They picked this late due to the Kovalchuk contract, which hurt the Devils as there were plenty of better options available with what would have been 11th overall, including Kevin Fiala and Dylan Larkin. Made his NHL debut this year, but managed only 4 points in 12 games. He was off to a great start at the AHL level, with 46 points in 58 games. He will have a good shot at the big club next year, and should make the jump easily. Pretty good pick for this late in the draft.

Round 2 – Joshua Jacobs (D) 41st overall – Jacobs finished the year in the ECHL, after being demoted in his first pro season. He’s not very offensive (a reoccurring theme with the Devils), but is a big-body that the Devils are hoping can adapt to the quicker professional game. He will need a season or two to grow, but the future isn’t looking too bright for Jacobs.

Round 3 – Connor Chatham (RW) 71st overall – This looks like a poor pick by the Devils, as Chatham played 49 games in the ECHL and recorded all of 16 points. To make matters worse, plenty of better prospects/players were taken after him, including goalie Ilya Sorokin, Brayden Point and Viktor Arvidsson.

2015 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Pavel Zacha (LW) 6th overall – Zacha played the full year in the NHL this season, with 24 points in 70 games. Many, including myself, expected bigger numbers, and there’s still hope he can develop into that. He needs more support for one, as the Devils are weak offensively, but should be growing

Round 2 – Mackenzie Blackwood (G) 42nd overall – Blackwood appears to be the real deal so far in his early career, as he started in 36 games this year at the AHL level, at 19-20 years of age. He had solid numbers for a young goalie, with a GAA of 2.55 and a SV% of 0.907. The Devils don’t need to rush him along, as Schneider will likely be the go-to-guy for the next couple of years. Blackwood is a great pick early in the 2nd round.

Round 3 – Blake Speers (RW) 67th overall – Speers just finished off his junior career with another great season (34 points in 30 games). The Devils will definitely need him to continue this kind of production, as they’ve historically been known as a team that has a hard time scoring. He’s likely a year or more away, but still a solid pick in the 3rd round.

The Devils were a hard team for me to grade, they’ve had some good late picks, but some bad early picks. They haven’t hit any “homeruns” with their selections; none really leap out at you as an amazing pick. They’ve done well in their last two drafts, but have missed on a lot of picks in the past 5 years.

Sources: www.hockeydb.com ; http://www.prosportstransactions.com/hockey/DraftTrades/Years/index.htm

Outlook on 2016-2017: Edmonton Oilers

Continuing to attempt to predict outcomes of the 2016-2017 season. Next up: The Edmonton Oilers

2015-2016 Important Notes:

Finish – 14th place in the Western Conference, 29th overall

Goals for vs. goals against – minus 42 (28th overall)

Picked 4th overall in 2016 NHL Entry Draft – Jesse Puljujarvi

Where will the Oilers finish?

Everyone has to think that EVENTUALLY the Oilers will not be a lottery team. Will it be this season? With a healthy team, they have the best shot they’ve had in years. For a team that has picked in the top 10 in nine of the last 10 seasons (!!), the fact that they’re still stuck in the basement is an embarrassment. All non-Oiler fans rejoiced when the team fell out of 2nd place in the entry draft down to 4th, only to see Puljujarvi drop right into their laps. Even when the Oilers lose the lottery, they end up on the winning end. Puljujarvi projects to play a key role, riding shotgun on Connor McDavid’s wing for the foreseeable future.

Even with a team that boasts the likes of McDavid, Milan Lucic, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Leon Draisaitl, the team is filled with holes on defense, and question marks in net. How will Adam Larsson fare? Is Cam Talbot capable of carrying this team into the playoffs? These have been the same questions facing the Oilers for the last few years, and this year is no different. I see the Oilers as a team who is still outside of the playoff picture come April, but further up from the basement. I see them right around 11th place in the west, and 22nd overall.

Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson?!?

Everyone knew the Oilers had to improve their defense this offseason, and that a star player was likely on his way out of Edmonton. That being said, I don’t think anyone expected it to be Taylor Hall, and the return to be ONLY Adam Larsson. This was a nightmare trade for Oilers fans, as they watched both PK Subban and Shea Weber (who are much better options) be traded minutes later. This is no knock on Adam Larsson, he’s an immediate and substantial upgrade to the Oilers defense. But he’s no superstar. Taylor Hall is a top 5 player at his position. He’s been the Oilers best player since he came into the NHL, and while that is surely now McDavid, I can’t think of any Oilers fan who didn’t want to see Hall and McDavid play a full season together, or many seasons together for that matter.

This came down to the Oilers being desperate to acquire something that would improve them defensively, even if it hurts their offensive production. Unfortunately for Larsson, he will have the weight of this trade on his shoulders this season, as fans look for him to replace a fan favorite. Will he live up to the trade? No. Will he be an upgrade in an area that the Oilers needed? Yes. How big of an upgrade is the question many will be looking to answer this year.

What can we expect from Connor McDavid?

Greatness. Magic. Dominance.

McDavid comes into this season healthy, and ready to continue right where he left off last year. Everyone will be watching to see how he does at the World Cup, surely leading the ‘Young Stars’ team in all aspects. He seemed to pick up right where he left off after coming back from injury last season, and barely missed out on winning the Calder.

With a full season, and an improved defensive team behind him, McDavid should have no problem challenging for the scoring crown. He possesses all the tools necessary to carry the Oilers to heights they haven’t seen in quite some time. Losing Hall as a key member of the offense could hurt McDavid slightly, but if can rekindle the magic he had last season, it could be a great year for both Oilers’ and McDavid fans.