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New Jersey Devils Draft Review

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06-26-2017, 02:28 PM
  #1
StevenToddIves
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New Jersey Devils Draft Review

Let me start by saying that no one "wins the draft" as many writers will have you believe. Outside of a handful of players, it will take years to see most of these kids play at the NHL level. That being said, Las Vegas won the draft. It helped that the Golden Knights (really? "Golden Knights"?) had 42,609 draft picks, but they also seemed to use all of them shrewdly. And, since it seems that many of you here do not particularly like the Rangers, you'll be glad to know that their #7 pick of Lias Andersson I think is tied for the worst pick in the draft with the Bruins annual head-scratcher of Urho Vaakanainen at #18.

But, you're all on here for the Devils, so...

1 (1) C Nico Hischier: Most of you know I was in the Nolan Patrick camp, but most of you also know I said repeatedly that the Devils were huge winners either way. Hischier will be an outstanding NHL player, a two-way center with top-end skill, speed, hands, vision and heart. This pick alone puts the Devils among the big winners of the 2018 draft. I think we're two years away from a top three center punch of Hischier-McLeod-Zajac (I think Zacha gets moved to the wing after this pick) which will be among the most exciting and complete in the entire NHL.

2 (36) LW/C Jesper Boqvist: Okay, hold back the boos, but I did not like this pick. I did not hate it simply because this kid oozes speed and skill -- quite simply, his talent level is of a first liner and surefire first round pick. So, why didn't he go in the first round? Well, quite simply, he's very soft. Not just "does not initiate physicality" soft, but "hit him good once and he avoids that part of the ice for the rest of the game" soft. The player who he reminds me most of at the same age is Sergey Samsonov -- a sublime skillset, but lacking the gumption to first stay at center, and second stay in the NHL. Again, I don't hate the pick because this is something he can address, and if he succeeds he absolutely has star potential. But I would have preferred the Devils take a player like Heponiemi or Lipanov or Anderson-Dolan or Ikonen, who all have similar talent but also play with more consistent passion.

3 (63) RW/LW Fabian Zetterlund: The Devils went the boom/bust/Sweden route for the second pick in a row, taking a Swedish sniper with great hands and just a ridiculously sick shot. Flat out, this kid can score. The problem is, he does not do much of anything else. He's not a great skater, he avoids the dirty areas and his defensive play can best be described as non-existent. Again, I am not putting down the player or the pick because his scoring ability is something you cannot teach, while everything else can be taught. If he rounds out his game, you are looking at a 30+ goal scorer with a third round pick, which is incredible. The worry is that he reminds one of Reid Boucher at a similar age. I don't hate this pick due to the upside, but I just don't see how we left Lipanov on the board here if the Devils were looking for another high-upside F.

3 (81) RD Reilly Walsh: I had a feeling the Devils would go D here. I was thrilled when we took Walsh -- his skating was better than any D left on the board, and he's just terrific with the puck. He's ridiculously smart and outstanding positionally. The only knock on him is his size, but Reilly's upside as a NHL power play quarterback who plays a strong positional defensive game is sky-high. Just an outstanding pick here -- think a smarter Torrey Krug with better wheels.

4 (98) RW Nikita Popugayev: Every once in awhile, while watching the draft I get to cheer like I just saw a highlight reel overtime goal in the playoffs. This was one of those times. This is one of the best picks in the draft, by any team. You just don't see many 6'5 wingers with plus-plus shooting and stick handling skills. His upside, quite simply, is a hybrid of John LeClair and James Van Riemsdyk. How did he fall to the fourth round? Quite simply, he had a slump following a mid-season trade, which is apparently unforgivable for a 17-18 year old Russian playing in a new country where he doesn't speak the language in his first year overseas. In Milbury-speak, it means he's "lazy". Give me a break -- this is a first round talent with first-line, 35+ goal upside. Prove 'em wrong, Nikita! FUN FACT: "Popugayev" directly translates from the Russian as "The Parrot".

5 (129) G Gilles Senn: Okay, I'd be lying to you if I said I spent any degree of my extremely busy schedule scouting overage Swiss goaltenders. So I'm just going to trust the scouts on this one. It does seem that we're trying to get more Swiss. Hischier, Mueller, Senn. Next year I fully expect the Devils to draft Nando Eggenberger. No, really, that's a real name of a guy who could be taken in the first round. I don't make this stuff up.

5 (143) RW Marian Studenic: Another outstanding pick by Castron, Shero & co. Getting an upside pick of this caliber in the 5th round is always a great move, and Studenic has a mix of size, skill and skating which could really come together and bloom as he gets an increased role with the OHL's Hamilton Bulldogs next season. He's going to be a player to keep an eye on. Also of note is that the Devils went into the 2017 draft organizationally deep at C and LW but thin at D and RW. While D still needs to be seriously addressed, the picks of Zetterlund/Popugayev/Studenic combined with 2016 picks Nathan Bastian and Joey Anderson really solidify the Devils on the right side.

6 (160) C/LW Aarne Talvitie: After shooting for the stars with high-upside picks all through the draft, the Devils took a do-it-all coach's dream in Talvitie. He's a two-way player who gives maximum effort on every shift, a leader with the versatility to play a scoring or checking role at center or wing. He reminds me of a slightly bigger but not as quick Sergei Brylin, and Talvitie has, in my mind, an insanely high probability of making the NHL in a regular role for a 6th round pick. I just love this pick -- Talvitie was right behind Jan Drozg (Pittsburgh) on my list of late-late round super sleeper Fs.

7 (191) LD Jocktan Chainey: You have to be a complete dork to say you absolutely loved a 7th round pick. That being said, I absolutely loved this pick. He was the best defenseman for Nico Hischier's Halifax Mooseheads all season long despite playing through a shoulder injury all season long. He's a very smart puck mover who is very good in his own zone. Though no one aspect of his game lifts you out of your seat, he also has no discernible weakness. He has the potential to be a very smart and steady mid-pairing defenseman in the NHL. Just an outstanding selection this late in the draft.

7 (205) RD Yegor Zaitsev: An overaged D, I have yet to see him play. But my man Steve Kournianos (The Draft Analyst) has been high on him for a couple of years now, and I trust Kournianos more than any other draft pundit. Apparently, Zaitsev is physical, mobile and moves the puck well. Fingers crossed!

7 (214) LD Matthew Hellickson: Another young D I have not seen much of, but it's worth noting that he is a good friend of one of my favorite Devils prospects in Joey Anderson. He's got NHL size at 6'0-180 and we will get to see him play at Notre Dame in the NCAA this fall.

CONCLUSION: The combination of Castron/Shero had one of the best drafts in the NHL in 2016, and then were blessed with the top overall pick in 2017. Perhaps the lottery win could be attributed to "Lottery Good Luck Charm" Taylor Hall. But, we won the draft as soon as we won the lottery -- Hischier will be the franchise center the Devils have needed for pretty much ever.

Though I was not completely sold on the Devils 36 & 63 picks, I respect that the organization shot for the proverbial moon with high upside offensive players. I just thought there were better options of this type on the board with each selection. I will have nightmares if Lipanov becomes the next Kucherov for Tampa. But, that being said, Boqvist and Zetterlund both have top-six high-scoring potential, so hopefully they both will reach this in New Jersey. Walsh made me feel better -- I think he immediately steps to the head of the Devils D prospects, give or take Rykov.

In the late (4 through 7) rounds, the Devils picked as well as any team -- and because of Popugayev, I will go so far to say that the Devils had the best late draft in the league. Despite 100 players taken before him, Popugayev has appreciably more upside than players taken #7 or #18 overall. Throw in Studenic, Talvitie and Chainey and it's just an impressive late round haul.

So I'm happy, and all Devils fans should be happy. Two excellent drafts in a row and a very strong future foundation. And, of course, Nico Hischier!

I'd love to hear what you all think.

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06-26-2017, 02:36 PM
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mtnet
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I don't know enough to agree/disagree on most of the picks but just wanted to say thanks for all of your insight and contributions both pre and post draft

Much appreciated

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06-26-2017, 02:38 PM
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CoryForVezina
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Couldn't agree more about the Boqvist pick.

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06-26-2017, 02:40 PM
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Thanks for the analysis as always! Definitely an interesting take and info about Boqvist & Zetterlund.

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06-26-2017, 02:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mtnet View Post
I don't know enough to agree/disagree on most of the picks but just wanted to say thanks for all of your insight and contributions both pre and post draft

Much appreciated
Ditto, you are amazing. Thank you!

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06-26-2017, 02:54 PM
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StevenToddIves
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mtnet View Post
I don't know enough to agree/disagree on most of the picks but just wanted to say thanks for all of your insight and contributions both pre and post draft

Much appreciated
Thanks to everybody for reading, you folks are all great.

Let me know if you want me to review any other team. I'm not going to go this in depth for everybody, but I can pump something out if I have time.

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06-26-2017, 02:58 PM
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I've been hoping you'd post something like this, and you didn't disappoint. I was hyped for Walsh before, but now you just put me through the roof. Very excited about the Parrot as well.

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06-26-2017, 03:00 PM
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SteveCangialosi123
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I loved the Boqvist pick. Load up the system with skill, hope they figure out the rest. I'm tired of being boring and lacking high end skill.

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06-26-2017, 03:08 PM
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I'm high on Boqvist and a little skeptical on Zetterlund at the moment.

Time will tell, hopefully both attend the upcoming Development Camp.

***If we still had 49th, we could have taken Ikonen or Lipanov.

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06-26-2017, 03:11 PM
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Devils Dominion
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Any idea why Farrance fell?

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06-26-2017, 03:18 PM
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Devils Dominion
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Originally Posted by SteveCangialosi123 View Post
I loved the Boqvist pick. Load up the system with skill, hope they figure out the rest. I'm tired of being boring and lacking high end skill.
Me too.

FYI: "Boqvist models his style of play after Capitals forward Evgeny Kuznetsov."

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06-26-2017, 03:20 PM
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This organization seriously lacked high end scoring skill in our prospect pool going into this draft, so I'm pretty thrilled we loaded up on that.

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06-26-2017, 03:29 PM
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Thunderfest
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Steve's writeups are always a must-read.

I'm not sure I could handle having Nando Eggenberger and Jocktan Chainey in the same prospect pool. Too many amazing names.

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06-26-2017, 03:32 PM
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Triumph
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Sergei Samsonov played almost 900 regular season games, many of them as a 1st line quality forward. I'll take that player in the 2nd round all day.

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06-26-2017, 04:09 PM
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StevenToddIves
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SteveCangialosi123 View Post
I loved the Boqvist pick. Load up the system with skill, hope they figure out the rest. I'm tired of being boring and lacking high end skill.
Agreed, but I just had Boqvist ranked below Lipanov, Heponiemi, Anderson-Dolan and Ikonen -- all "similar-styled" players with similar upside. I do not think Boqvist has a ceiling higher than Lipanov or Heponiemi, and I think he has the lowest floor of these five players.

My point is I agree with your point. The Devils needed more high-end skill in the developmental pipeline. I simply feel Boqvist was not the best option to do this at #36.

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06-26-2017, 04:12 PM
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StevenToddIves
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Devils Dominion View Post
I'm high on Boqvist and a little skeptical on Zetterlund at the moment.

Time will tell, hopefully both attend the upcoming Development Camp.

***If we still had 49th, we could have taken Ikonen or Lipanov.
Though I disagreed with the pick at the time we made it (primarily because Lipanov/Popugayev were on the board), I am still rooting for Zetterlund to reach his upside, which I guess we can call "Jeff Skinner-lite". The kid has an unbelievable shot, and if he can hone the rest of his game into (at the very least) NHL-caliber, we could have a 25-35 goal RW in a few years.

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06-26-2017, 04:14 PM
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AfroThunder396
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Hey Steven, I was wondering if you would mind doing a brief list of our top-20 prospects like HF used to do. You don't have to spend tons of time thinking it over but I'm curious how you rank all of our prospects.

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06-26-2017, 04:15 PM
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Emperoreddy
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I am still a little confused how Popugayev fell so far.

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06-26-2017, 04:16 PM
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StevenToddIves
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Originally Posted by Devils Dominion View Post
Any idea why Farrance fell?
No. Although I also had him ranked behind guys picked ahead of him like Mitchell, Ferraro and Walsh, I still believe that Farrance has top-4 upside.

I was more shocked by the meteoric falls of Phillips and Minulin -- two defensemen I remain very high on.

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06-26-2017, 04:16 PM
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Steven, could you possibly give us a very very early version of how you see our prospect depth at each position now that the 2017 picks are in?

And thank you so much for this write up. Great read!


Edit: I see Afro asked for something similar.

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06-26-2017, 04:17 PM
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FYI, this wasn't Popugaev's first season in NA.

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06-26-2017, 04:18 PM
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StevenToddIves
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Originally Posted by Triumph View Post
Sergei Samsonov played almost 900 regular season games, many of them as a 1st line quality forward. I'll take that player in the 2nd round all day.
I prefer the description "defensively nebulous turnover machine" when describing Samsonov's game.

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06-26-2017, 04:19 PM
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StevenToddIves
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Originally Posted by Thunderfest View Post
Steve's writeups are always a must-read.

I'm not sure I could handle having Nando Eggenberger and Jocktan Chainey in the same prospect pool. Too many amazing names.
Also on tap for the 2018 1st round: Bode Wilde and Jett Woo.

I kid you not.

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06-26-2017, 04:29 PM
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StevenToddIves
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Originally Posted by Blender View Post
This organization seriously lacked high end scoring skill in our prospect pool going into this draft, so I'm pretty thrilled we loaded up on that.
Agreed. Again, I laud Castron and Shero for another job well done.

That being said, if we had the same draft with Heponiemi/Lipanov over Boqvist/Zetterlund, I'd be calling it the best draft in Devils history. Which hopefully, it will turn out to be anyway five years down the road.

These things are all opinions, and even when their based on research and precedent they can still sometimes be wrong.

For instance, in 2011 I said that Nikita Kucherov was a superior prospect to Jonathan Huberdeau, so you can say I'm a genius. But I also said that Jonathan Huberdeau was a superior prospect to Mark Scheifele, so you can say I'm an idiot.

Then in 2012, I said that both Griffin Reinhart and Ryan Murray were not worthy of first round picks, much less top 10 picks, and that Jacob Trouba was the top D in the draft. But I also said that Nail Yakupov was the next Pavel Bure.

So this is how these things go. Right now, I absolutely love Heponiemi, Lipanov, Anderson-Dolan. But maybe you guys can come back to me in 2023 when those three guys are on a checking line and Boqvist is scoring 40 goals and laugh at me. "Having an opinion", after all, means "taking a chance on being wrong".

That being said, all my opinions are better than all of Mike Milbury's opinions. Just sayin'.

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06-26-2017, 04:35 PM
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It's really helpful reading your insights. I knew a little bit about some of the first round players but not all of them. So for me reading this was a pleasure. Thanks for doing this in depth write up. Very excited to follow these picks.

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