As I'm sure most you remember, we won the Stanley Cup on June 9, but we didn't end up with any Mike McBain or Deron Quint; no, we got one of the best NCAA forwards out there - a freshman Hobey Baker finalist, a guy whose only knock is his size (but if you look at his size - 5'11, you're left scratching your head) here's what was being said before the draft:
9. Zach Parise --C--North Dakota
All he seems to lack is size, but with his heart, it might not matter. Extremely gifted offensive player who can create and finish. Thrives in the open ice but will also get involved along the boards. Very strong on special teams and has very good hockey sense. - Prospect Advisor
Parise was ranked 9th because this is an unusally deep draft year, if he had been a year older, he likely would have been the 4th best prospect, behind only Rick Nash, Jay Bouwmeester, and Kari Lehtonnen. Make no mistake, Parise is a "can't miss" prospect, of course, can't miss prospects miss all the time, Alexandre Daigle for example, but Parise is in the class of prospects that's about as sure a thing as you can get. So how did the Devils get him?
1. We had the right to switch picks with The Saint Louis Blues because of the Scott Stevens tampering case, So instead of having the #30 pick, we actually switched and got the #22 pick. Still, that was not even close to Parise. Lou and Conte went to the draft with their eyes on guys like Anthony Stuart, in fact he didn't even have a tag for Parise.
2. This draft, as I already mentioned was deep, but it was weighted in forwards. If you wanted a quality defenseman, you had to get him early. That led to several defensemen getting picked earlier than they should have, and bumped the quality forwards down. (Also, Marc Andre Fleury was the only star quality goalie in the draft, so he went rigtht away too
3. In a draft class with so many forwards, there are lots of big forwards with skill available. The only forward under 6'2 drafted in the top 9 was explosive forward Nikolai Zherdev.
In a draft class with a lot of big forwards, Zach Parise fell way too far. Remember, he's 5'11, not exactly Brian Gionta here. And he's still growing.
4. There were 4 big name forwards that fell: Steve Bernier, Zach Parise, Danny Fritsche, and Patrik O'Sullivan. San Jose struck first, trading 3 of their picks (#25, a 2nd rounder, and a 4th rounder) to move up 9 slots to #16 and nab Steve Bernier, a forward with excellent size and potential who like Parise, should've been taken much earlier. The jig was up, and Lou moved decisively. Since he only had to move up 5 slots as opposed to 9, Edmunton stood a good chance of getting the player that they wanted anyway, so the move only cost Lou the 68th pick in the draft.
The mind boggling conspiricy of events was complete, and New Jersey had one its most signifigant 1st round draft picks since Petr Sykora fell to #18 was picked up way back in 1995; another highly skilled forward picked up after winning the Stanley Cup.