Ray Shero recently came out and said he would be open to the idea of trading down in this years draft. This idea has previously been speculated, but to have it explicitly acknowledged by Shero definitely stirs things up. There are a lot of inherent upsides to trading down, one being the chance to reacquire a second or third round pick from another team. If the Devils were able to trade down from No. 17, who could they be targeting?
Here are some possibilities.
Mattias Samuelsson…He is as sturdy as they come. Samuelsson captained the US U18 team and led their defensive core. He isn’t going to wow you on the offensive end, but is a smart puck mover and very reliable defender. There is barely any flash to his game, but he is as safe as they come. He handles the puck similarly to Steve Santini in that he makes simple plays, but isn’t prone to turning the puck over. His size and strength both also project well to the NHL level. I don’t necessarily want the Devils to pick him because he doesn’t have a ton of upside but if they decide to pick him I can definitely see why.
Ryan Merkley: Merkley is the exact opposite of Sameulsson, and someone I am pushing for him at No. 17 He could very well be available in the late-first round and maybe early second. Merkley should be considered an outstanding offensive defenseman with tons of upside. In this draft class, only Rasmus Dahlin is better at creating scoring chances from the back end. Merkley has elite skating and agility as well as high-quality puck skills. He has high hockey IQ and elite vision on the ice. His shot isn’t booming, but is hard and accurate. If everything goes accordingly for him, I don’t think it’s inconceivable to project Merkley at becoming a quality top-pairing defenseman (but that is a very big if). Having said, it’s worth mentioning the Devils will need to utilize their due diligence when looking into his character issues and lack of defensive effort.
Ke’Andre Miller…Miller is a forward turned defenseman. That’s personally a little concerning, but he has shown the ability to excel at his new position. The USNDP product has so many raw tools that they often mask his defensive warts. He is a big-bodied defenseman with some killer wheels. Miller loves carrying the puck and has mastered executing the controlled zone exit. He gets the puck and uses his big frame to shield it from forecheckers, while his tremendous speed propels him up the ice. His skating and offensive creativity could lead him to being very offensively productive at higher levels. Miller isn’t polished but if the Devils are willing to put in the work, he could become a steal.
Rasmus Sandin…If you want Merkley but are hesitant because of his character and defensive flaws, Rasmus Sandin is a viable alternative. Sandin is a small offensive defenseman, but isn’t quite on Merkley’s level skill-wise. Offensively, Sandin can excel in a lot of the same areas as Merkley. He is a great skater with some quality playmaking ability. He has great vision and his skating allows for him to open up passing lanes. He is another puck mover (which is something the Devils definitely need) with dazzling offensive tools. Defensively he is serviceable and doesn’t have the same shortcomings as Merkley. Sandin would look great in the red and black, but could be more of a developmental project for the organization.