Now that the dust has settled, we can finally sit back and reflect on what ultimately turned out to be an eventful two days for the New Jersey Devils at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. They didn’t land any star-caliber talent that got moved like Milan Lucic or Ryan O’reilly, but general manager Ray Shero put the organization’s future (especially up front) in a much better position than they previously were.
The Sixth Overall Pick…The Devils used the sixth selection in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft to select Sarnia Sting center Pavel Zacha. Despite a season that was constrained by injuries and suspensions, the 6’3, 212lbs Czech native posted formidable numbers. In 37 games, Zacha registered 16 goals and 34 points. He played five games apiece for his native Czech Republic for the U-18 and U-20 teams at the World Junior Championships, where he posted a combined six goals and seven points on the international stage. In five playoff games for Sarnia, Zacha had two goals and three points.
Aside from his well-rounded skillset that features a balanced array of speed, stickhandling, and a nasty shot, Zacha plays with a noticeable degree of intensity (that might be subject to some taming) and physicality, as evidenced from the two suspensions the centerman incurred; as well as accumulating 56 penalty minutes in the OHL regular season, and ten in five playoff games.
Zacha automatically becomes the organization’s best prospect. Having just completed his first season playing in North America, the Devils would be wise to let him develop at an according pace before he makes the jump to the AHL or straight to the big team. He’ll most likely be back in Sarnia at the start of next season, where he’ll be expected to build on his encouraging inaugural season. With a year of experience under his belt, it’ll be interesting to see how Zacha performs if he’s able to get a complete season in next year.
You can read more about the Devils’ selection of Pavel Zacha here.
The Palmieri trade…The trade was completed right before the conclusion of Friday night’s festivities. In exchange for the Devils’ 41st pick (previously acquired in the Jagr trade), and a 2016 third round pick, the Anaheim Ducks sent right wing Kyle Palmieri the other way. Born in New York, Palmieri grew up in Montvale, New Jersey. It was a comparatively small transaction to the other names that were swapped over the past two days, but it couldn’t have addressed New Jersey’s needs any better.
Palmieri stands at 5’11, weighing in at 196lbs. He spent four years in the US National Development Program and played one year at the University of Notre Dame. The former 2009 first round pick undeniably possesses a wealth of potential skill, but had trouble establishing himself as a perennial top-six forward (and understandably so) on an offensively saturated Anaheim Ducks team. He played 198 games in Anaheim over parts of five seasons, registering 43 goals, 89 points, and 90 penalty minutes. In 33 career playoff games that were played over parts of four seasons, Palmieri tallied seven goals, twelve points, and 22 penalty minutes.
With a considerable absence of right wings entering the offseason (the only right wing signed is Jordin Tootoo), Palmieri fits the mold of the speedy, aggressive type of players that general manager Ray Shero aspires for next year’s Devils team to consist of. Palmieri is only 24-years old and has one year remaining on his deal, which will pay him $1.6 million. He will be a restricted free agent next summer, and has been given a paramount opportunity to justify his contractual value by being traded to the Devils.
In his official rookie campaign during the lockout-shortened 2012-2013 NHL season, Palmieri scored ten goals in 42 games played, which would have only equated to 11 goals in the full 48 games of that season (but was on pace for 24 goals in the standard 82-game schedule). Palmieri registered these numbers averaging only 12:19 of ice time and 16 shifts a game. The following season, he had 14 goals in 71 games played, putting him on pace for 16 in a full season. Palmieri achieved these numbers averaging just 11:56 of ice time and 16.7 shifts a game. This recent season, he had 14 goals in 57 games played, putting him on pace for 20 goals. He averaged 14:05 of ice time and 18.3 shifts a game.
The potential for Palmieri is evident based the numbers he’s posted over the past three seasons. Granted he played on an elite Anaheim Ducks team over the past few years, he’ll be in a situation with the Devils where he’s going to have more in-game responsibilities, compared to his role on Anaheim where he was essentially more of a complimentary asset to their forward corps.
You can read more on the Palmieri trade here.
Our second part of our draft review will look at the players the Devils selected in round 2-6.