Going into this weekend’s draft the Devils had nine picks for the seven rounds of the NHL draft, and after yesterday’s minor trade down with Ottawa they added a tenth pick. After all the speculation on what the Devils would do with their picks, the answer turned out to be using all ten on players – nine prospects plus a trade of a third-rounder (the one we got yesterday in the move down) to Pittsburgh straight up for Beau Bennett, a one-time first-round pick of then-GM Ray Shero. Who of course is now the current Devils GM who traded back for him now. Bennett’s largely been a dissapointment as a pro, mainly thanks to an assortment of injuries but he’s still only 24 with the talent to win a spot in the top six on this roster, and at RW he could clearly fill a need as well. Assuming Bennett’s on the roster, the top three RW’s are likely Kyle Palmieri, Devante Smith-Pelly and Bennett. Still not great but certainly worlds better than what it was at this time last year, with potential to get better.
As far as the prospects drafted, I wrote about our first-rounder Michael McLeod yesterday. For what little I knew about McLeod I know about as much of anyone else we drafted today but certainly it seemed as if we took a run on forwards early and defense late. In the second round, we selected Nathan Bastian – a big (6’3 206) RW from the OHL who coincidentlally (or not) played on a line with McLeod at Mississauga. It’s extremely rare that a line in juniors carries its success over to the NHL level but draft day is a time to dream after all.
In the third round the Devils first selected Joey Anderson (5’11, 192) with pick #73, another RW who was talented enough to play on a line with first-rounders Clayton Keller and Kiefer Bellows in the US National Team Development Program and yet willing enough to do the dirty work on that line though he still put up 57 points in 64 games. After trading for Bennett, the Devils used their third third-rounder on Brandon Gignac (5’11, 173), a C/LW from Shawinigan from the QMJHL. Gignac put up 61 points in 67 games and 16 points in 20 playoff games despite being stuck behind other talented players on his team.
After that, the Devils used their first fourth rounder on another forward, C/LW Mikhail Maltsev (6’3 190) from Russia who had the talent to go earlier in the draft but dropped due to an injury-plagued draft year. With our other fourth rounder obtained in the Lee Stempniak trade, the Devils drafted goalie Evan Cormier from Saginaw of the OHL. We finished our draft with another forward in the sixth round – Jesper Bratt from Sweden, and two defensemen including another Russian in the fifth round (Yegor Rykov) and to finish out our draft Canadian Jeremy Davies with our seventh rounder.
It’s near impossible to come to any final conclusions on draft day but the addition of Bennett seems to signal that there’s no other immediate help coming at RW, it looks like our Opening Night roster will read Palmieri, Smith-Pelly and Bennett down the right side in our top nine. Not trading Damon Severson along with not drafting a defenseman before the fifth round might indicate we aren’t in for much of a change on the blueline this year. Nor did I expect any big moves there with the expansion draft coming and prospects closer to the NHL than anyone they’d draft this year or realistically trade for. With free agent discussions already under way it’ll be interesting to see whether there’ll be any big moves or whether Shero and company will continue the slow rebuild.