As of writing this the New Jersey Devils are currently battling for a wild card spot. The recent success has more fans focused towards the playoffs than the draft, which is seven months away. It will be there whether New Jersey makes the playoffs or not and even with a playoff run, the Devils will still be in the process of replenishing their forward prospect pool. After a solid draft last year the Devils will look to continue their success. The next wave of superstars, are hidden in this crop of 17 to 18-year old kids. This article will be looking at some consensus top 10 prospects that the Devils
would be very lucky to attain.
Scottsdale, Arizona is the origin of the unanimous first overall pick. Matthews stands 6’2″ and weighs in at 194 lbs, giving him an NHL-ready build. A gifted center, Matthews has great hockey sense which allows him to create opportune plays for his teammates. He possesses above average passing skills and is a smooth skater. Matthews is also gaining pro experience this year playing for Zurich in the NLA. Matthews currently leads his team with 10 goals. You can’t say it isn’t eye opening for a young kid to enter a professional league and dominate like that in his first year. Usually when looking at prospects, I have come to find draft eligibles playing in professional leagues will have less gaudy numbers than ones playing in the CHL
and USHL. Auston is clearly an exemption to this trend and that can only attest to his talent. Sure the NLA isn’t NHL-caliber but it is impressive nonetheless.
Now when it comes to the Devils chances of getting Auston Matthews, they are fairly slim. Yet, with the new lottery set up, you never know who is going to get their nam called to get the first pick (even though it will probably be Edmonton).
Stats as of 11/12
GP: 14 G: 10 A: 6
The only player who can seemingly challenge Matthews for the first pick is the Finnish Jesse Puljujarvi. A dynamic forward coming out of the SM-liiga, Puljujarvi is a playmaking right wing with elite skating skills. Like Matthews, Puljujarvi’s great vision and hockey senses allow him to find the open man, create plays, and scoring opportunities. Puljujarvi isn’t just an
outstanding playmaker but a lethal offensive weapon. With great hands and the ability to find open space, he is always a threat to score a goal. Standing 6’3″ and weighing 196 lbs the young Finn has been compared to the great Teemu Selanne. Puljujarvi has the ability to use his size to his advantage as he is a hard woking on the boards. He also uses his size to gain access to dirty areas and to create space for himself.Puljujarvi has played professional hockey as a part of SM-liiga since he was 16. Puljujarvi is not an exception to the rule however as his stats are to be taken with a grain of salt due to playing against older and more experienced opponents. Before the season, Puljujarvi was my favoriteprospect and I would still love him to be in a Devils uniform come June.
The Devils chances are fairly decent at landing Puljujarvi in next years draft. He is not a consensus number 2 overall pick so he could go anywhere from the 2-4 range. If the Devils ever revert back to what was predicted of them at the start of the season, Puljujarvi could be available when Bettman calls their name. Especially with the Devil’s need for right wingers, Puljujarvi would be a perfect pick.
GP: 19 G: 5 A: 4
St. Louis native Mathew Tkachuk is the son of former NHL star Keith Tkachuk. The 6’1″ left wing is known for his abilities as a scorer. A fast skater with smooth hands, Tkachuk’s main weapon is his wicked wrist shot. He has the ability to snap off a quick wrister, which makes him a constant threat on the ice. The highlights I’ve seen of his goals reminds me of watching Devil’s draft pick Pavel Zacha last year. No matter how far out he is he can fire pucks into the net. Mathew is now a member of the London Knights in the OHL. Originally he was committed to Notre Dame University but backed out of his commitment to play juniors. In the OHL he is close to the league lead in scoring. A prospect with an extremely high offensive ceiling, Tkachuk would look very good in the red and black.
GP: 16 G: 7 A: 23
These are the top 3 forwards coming into the 2016 season. For a team starved of players with offensive upside, the Devil’s could use any of these prospects. The chances are pretty low for the Devils to nab any of these guys. These 3 seem to be in the top 5 for sure and 3 of the top 5 picks will be dictated by the lottery. So nothing is guaranteed. Any team really has a chance to get any of these fine young future stars. So if the Devils every come crashing back to earth, the draft lottery is always there to provide what could be a nice silver lining to the season.