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Devils’ Leaving Draft Options Open

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#1 westcoastdevfan


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Posted 20 June 2011 - 10:27 AM

Posted Image2011 NHL Draft

Not much can be said that hasn’t already been said about the 2010-2011 New Jersey Devils season, except the most exciting thing that happened was they played bad enough to have a chance to win the draft lottery and move up to the No. 4 pick. The draft will take place on June 24th, in Minnesota and should the Devils hold onto their pick it will be the organizations highest pick since they took Scott Niedermayer third in 1991.

A decade plus of winning finally caught up with the Devils and this year it all came to a head as they missed the playoffs for the first time since 1996. While it may seem as though the Devils have many holes to plug, in reality they are one or two players away from moving back in the NHL’s upper echelon. There is at least 2 or 3 players in this years crop of talent that could benefit New Jersey immediately.

The Devils are set at wing, particularly on the left side. You start with Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise and then go to Patrik Elias, who still fits best at left wing, but played pretty well at center last season. It’s a safe bet that New Jersey will use their pick to draft either a play-making center to compliment Kovalchuk or a puck moving defenseman to help quarterback their lack luster power play and add some fire power from the blue-line. The good news is this draft may have a player that could help fill one of those holes.

Many “experts” believe Swedish defenseman Adam Larsson to be the top pick in the draft but if he’s not it’s possible he’ll fall right in the Devils lap. The 6′ 2″ 197 lb Larsson is rated as the No. 1 European skater by NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau, the No. 2 by International Scouting Services, No. 2 by The Hockey News and No. 2 by TSN. To say he is highly regarded is an understatement. The big strong defenseman is considered the best defensemen available in this year’s draft and the most NHL ready from this years solid crop of defenders which also includes Kitchener’s Ryan Murphy and Niagara’s Dougie Hamilton. Larsson would be an instant improvement to the Devils embattled defensive core.

At least more then one mock draft have Jersey’s team drafting offensively gifted defenseman Ryan Murphy. This would instantly plug that hole left vacant most recently by the departure of Paul Martin last off season. It has been suggested that Murphy has the most pure skill in the draft outside of projected first overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. That’s quite a compliment for a 5′ 10″ 176 lb defenseman. He has been described as having “elite skating ability and silky smooth elusiveness with an almost obscene level of creativity and hockey sense.” He is also said to possess an extremely accurate shot from the point, which has been a definite weakness for the Devils over the past couple of seasons. Don’t be surprised if Murphy is the guy pulling the red and black crested jersey with the number “11″ on it over his head.

Offensively, New Jersey struggled last season. If Jonathan Huberdeau falls to the No. 4 spot, look for the Devils to give him some heavy consideration. The 6′ 1″ 171lb C/LW just finished a 105 point (43g 62a) campaign for Saint John of the QMJHL. He is considered to be NHL ready and is described as a play-making center with great hands and vision on the ice. Despite playing most of this season as a left wing, Huberdeau is still regarded as a top prospect at center. If Huberdeau’s skill translates in the NHL from the center position, he could be the perfect compliment to Kovalchuk. The Devils are still searching for the right center to pair with their Russian star.

It’s still not certain whether New Jersey will even keep the No. 4 pick. It’s possible they may try to move up or even down. Right now the Devils do not have a second-round pick in this year’s draft. It’s possible they may use their first round pick to acquire an NHL Player from another team or grab more draft picks. It’s not far fetched for the Devils to swing a big draft day deal. In 2003, fresh off winning the organizations third Stanley Cup, the Devils had the 22nd pick in the first round. However, when the Devils saw a chance to grab skilled center Zach Parise they jumped on it. New Jersey completed a deal with the Edmonton Oilers and moved up five spots to draft the future super-star. Also in 1990, New Jersey was set to pick 11th, but traded it along with a second-round pick to the Calgary Flames for their 20th pick and 2 second-round picks. The Flames selected goaltender Trevor Kidd. Who did the Devils get? Just legendary goaltender, Martin Brodeur.

Draft day is an exciting day for teams, players and fans. The possibilities are endless. But I suspect that Devils director of scouting David Conte and GM Lou Lamoriello have most of those possibilities already figured out.

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