What Scenarios Can Benefit The New Jersey Devils?

With the New Jersey Devils and Tom Fitzgerald going into their first draft without Ray Shero, the beginning of the Fitzgerald and Dan MacKinnon era begins on Tuesday night. The one big gun still left over is Vice President of Amateur Scouting (former Devils DOA) being able to overlook Scott Harris’ first draft as a Director of Amateur Scouting in New Jersey. Harris is a blend of a scout and saw a brief stint with the team as Director of Analytics from 2017-2019. 

Harris and Fitzgerald, along with their staff, could do things in a variety of ways at seventh overall. Hypothetically, if all goes accordingly, the New Jersey Devils have needs that are best suited for players that can score like Jack Quinn, Alexander Holtz, or a dynamic centreman like Marco Rossi if Pavel Zacha ends up being traded. Yes, Cole Perfetti could fall, but I see the dynamic winger going to Detroit since the Red Wings are so high on him. Rodion Amirov is a very dynamic winger who has a lot of speed and intelligence and is a high danger scoring winger.

Jamie Drysdale is a right-handed defensemen that reminds me a lot of Cale Makar. He does so with his north to south game and can defend at a very high level, which he showed internationally for Team Canada. I can project him to be that puck moving guy that is selected around the 5-7 range.

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Call me nuts on this one, but the New Jersey Devils are pretty thin on goaltending outside of Blackwood, Senn, Schmid and Cole Brady. Plus, who knows where Senn and Schmid end up potential wise. The New Jersey Devils have been very fond of their Russian prospects, both home in North America and the MHL to the KHL. 

To me, since early 2019, I have been high on Yaroslav Askarov, who is now playing for SKA St. Petersburg. He is cool and calm and I really like his stick handling and his quick feet in net. 

Although most people shy on Russian goalies, I can’t see Askarov going lower than 13 as voted on by four of my fellow mock draft pickers. I do see the potential and the skill set of a really solid growth in net by Yaroslav moving up the ladder from the VHL St. Petersburg program.

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However, with Askarov’s contract up by 2022, I can see the Devils most certainly picking Alexander Holtz if they don’t acquire Patrik Laine (similar sniper type of winger) or they don’t trade for defensemen Mikhail Sergachev.

Joe’s seventh overall Pick:  Yaroslav Askarov, G

My scouting report on Askarov reads, “Very good self-awareness of reading the puck. He will challenge shooters from all angles. Askarov does a marvelous job sealing and covering each post. He will deflect pucks no matter if he’s down or up occasionally he is a bit further out of his crease allowing glove side goals. He will pass the puck to a teammate in the neutral zone. In shootouts he plays half way near the hash marks in the slot. He will swipe at the shooter and comes to move out taking angles away on a right-handed shooter.”

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My Pick at 18thMavrik Bourque, C

At 18th overall, I don’t see the likes of a Seth Jarvis or Brayden Point type winger and I’d expect Winnipeg to take him sooner in the draft because he’s such a dynamic skilled scoring winger. I realistically wrote that the Devils would get Mavrik Bourque from Shawinigan, a QMJHL centreman. My scouting report for Mavrik reads, “He is a very silky stickhandler, excellent skater, great shooter. Shoots in the slot and attacks the high-danger zone. He shoots a lot from the point.” But don’t be surprised if Jacob Perrault a similar play with a goal scoring dynamic.

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Other players I can see falling are Dawson Mercer, who is a goal scorer from the right wing, and Connor Zary, who can score as well and make plays. Jacob Perrault could end up taking that spot over Bourque, who is very creative in the offensive zone and is a sharp shooter.

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20th overall, I project Kaiden Guhle, a left-handed defensemen. “Guhle is great at getting open in the offensive zone and utilizes a quick snap shot in the low-danger scoring areas. He’s always involved in the play both offensively and defensively. He’s a smooth skater that can move the puck up the ice both north and south. Kaiden is the big physical hitter New Jersey Devils fans can easily salivate over his play.

What happens if picks at 18 and/or 20th overall are dealt? It’s been known that the Devils have been in rumours that they can use it to acquire players like Patrik Laine or Mikhail Sergachev. The other portion of this scenario is “will Tom Fitzgerald trade one of the picks to move up in the Top 15 or Top 10?” 

The keys to the New Jersey Devils picking their guys from 7, 18 and 20 all depend on Ottawa twice, Detroit and Anaheim. If Askarov does indeed go to Ottawa because of Melnyk being so high on him at fifth overall, Ottawa’s pick from that spot could determine the outlook of the entire first round. The Anaheim Ducks and their director of amateur scouting tend to lean on a lot of Swedish players and my hunch is that they could choose Alexander Holtz to play with Trevor Zegras a dynamic two-way centre.

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Sanderson sixth and Perfetti fourth both seem likely to go quick. Ottawa gets either Stützle or Byfield at third overall, depending on who L.A. selects at second overall. Jamie Drysdale, Marco Rossi, Lucas Raymond, Jack Quinn and Alexander Holtz split the seventh overall by 20% probability each. 

Drysdale, playing for Erie in the OHL, plays a lot against the Ottawa 67’s, who house a number of New Jersey prospects. Jamie is a well rounded two-way defensemen who can skate with the puck and is a very hockey smart player. Rossi plays centre for the Ottawa 67’s, and I’m very sure Bahl, Clarke and Okhotyuk to name a few, have a ton of intel on the Austrian forward. 

From what I heard in a virtual interview the Devils held on Zoom, Rossi, in German, spoke highly about the winning culture and what fellow countryman Tomas Vanek means to him. Plus, Marco looked very comfortable, speaking bilingually with the Devils media and others tuning in. Rossi is a highly intelligent player with a lot of composure, similar to his friend, Nico Hischier.

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The road map for Marco Rossi is very similar to Nico’s. I can see Rossi being a slightly better player than Nico because while he plays with an edge, he also has supreme stick handling skills. As well, his player and team player senses are very visible. 

If Fitzgerald selects him, the Devils have three stellar lines for 10-20 years of Hughes-Hischier-Rossi down the middle. Lucas Raymond has been one of the strongest young 18-year-old talents in this year’s Draft. A young 18-year-old playmaker, Raymond, from Goteborg, Sweden, is an SHL player who can easily be a Selke candidate.

His awareness allows him to turn takeaways into being odd man breakout passes. He may not have a shot like Alexander Holtz, however, on goalies, it’s very sneaky. Having a pair of snipers falling into your lap around seventh overall is an excellent problem to have.

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If I had to look at Holtz’s fabric, he’s the kind of winger I would love to pair with Hischier and Hughes, depending on his five-game performance level for stability reasons. Holtz is a finisher, similar to a Patrik Laine, and as a shooter, is similar to Filip Forsberg. Jack Quinn is a very solid skater who’s super shifty with lots of speed and very quick hands. He’s the kind of guy you want on your top two lines, creating electricity with both Hischier and Hughes.

If Kyle Palmieri isn’t signing an extension to stay in New Jersey or the Devils move one of picks 18 or 20, I can see the Devils going after Askarov in that range. If I’m Tom Fitzgerald willing to make a bold statement in the Draft I want to get that goalie that will push Mackenzie Blackwood in net after finishing up play in the KHL.

7) Askarov G, alternative picks to expect: Marco Rossi, Lucas Raymond, Alexander Holtz, Jack Quinn, Cole Perfetti and Jamie Drysdale.

18) Bourque C, alternative picks : Connor Zary, Anton Lundell

Yaroslav Askarov
Rodion Amirov
Anton Lundell
Mavrik Bourque
Kaiden Guhle
Noel Gunler

20 Guhle D, alternative picks:

Lukas Reichel
Jacob Perreault
Connor Zary
Braden Schneider
Dawson Mercer
John-Jason Peterka
William Wallinder
Helge Grans
Brendan Brisson
Justin Barron
Emil Andrae
Zion Nybeck
Hendrix Lapierre
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