Day 2 in the Sunshine State. The Devils were at it early, dealing their first selection of the day. Besides that though, the Devils used the rest of their picks to draft prospects. It was a day that utilized to address the lack of forwards in the system while also strengthening the goaltending and defensive pools. The Shero-run Devils took an approach that was unseen in recent drafts, drafting forwards based on skill and speed rather than two way ability and energy.
Trading Down to 42
The Devils decided that at 36, they didn’t have a player they really thought they wanted so they decided to trade with the Ottawa Senators. The Devils sent the 36th overall pick to the Senators for their 42nd overall, and the Devil’s choice of Ottawa’s 4th round pick this year or their 3rd in the 2016 draft. The Devil’s eventually went with the latter. This helped cancel out one of the picks given in the Palmieri trade. This was a smart move by the Devil’s. If they were indecisive with 36, might as well grab an extra pick next year and move back a little.
Mackenzie Blackwood at 42
This pick was a head scratcher for most Devils fans. How could they draft a goalie with our glaring lack of forwards in the system? Why draft a goalie when they have Corey Schneider? This pick may not be the mistake most fans view it as. Coming into this draft, the 6’4″ goaltender was the #1 ranked North American goalie prospect. Other goalies to receive this honor were Carey Price, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Jonathan Bernier. Blackwood has been praised for superb athleticism, great poise, and at his size he seems to be a good bet to be a future NHLer. He also has had very good stats in juniors, registering a 3.09 GAA and a .906 SVS% while playing in 51 games for the Barrie Colts (also Joseph Blandisi’s junior team). When it comes to Corey Schneider, one has to remember, goalies are like fine wine. Developing a goaltender can take 4-5 years, then they can take the leap to the NHL level. Corey Schneider is 29 years old. In 5 years he will be 34 and for most goalies that can be considered the twilight of their prime. Corey will also be approaching the end of his current contract, which could create a perfect learning scenario down the road for Blackwood to learn from Schneider. Blackwood has the size and the skill to eventually be an elite goaltender in the NHL. Sure a forward would have helped a problem the team faces now, but in the future it would also be nice to have an elite goaltender in the system.
The Devils addressed the need of scoring and offense with the selection of Blake Speers of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Speers is praised for his offensive skills, showing speed and great playmaking ability. He played on a very good Greyhounds team and put up 67 points in 57 games. Speers also plays a position of need– right wing. He stands 5’11” and weighs 185 lbs. He is a little smaller and will certainly need to gain some more weight to be successful against larger NHL opponents. He seems to be willing to work on this; as he stated in an interview, he “gained 20 lbs since [his] rookie year in the Ontario Hockey League.” A very good playmaking right wing at 67th only shows the depth of this draft. Blake Speers was a very good selection by the Devils.
Colton White is a defensemen who, along with Blake Speers, plays for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. He is the only defensemen taken by the Devils in the draft. Described as more of a stay at home defensemen, he is praised for his extremely skilled skating. White also has some good passing ability. He exhibits great hockey intelligence and has an active stick in the defensive end. He was on a very deep Greyhounds team and lacked ice time, so next year when he is promoted, his full potential will be on display. As a 4th round pick, he could potentially be a steal. White seemingly has the capability to be a shutdown defensive defenseman who can contribute offensively. A very smart selection by the Devils who added to an already impressive pool of defensive prospects.
The Devils last pick at 157 was Brett Seney, a freshman from Merrimack College entering his second year of draft eligibility. Brett Seney is a speedster. His speed is real and is a deadly weapon. It helps him easily blow by defenders and also led to a very good freshman campaign. He had 26 points in 34 games, highlighted by a 23-game streak where he averaged a point per game. It was obvious Shero and Co. were looking for skilled skaters and were able to succeed in that with every skater selection. Brett Seney will most likely finish his time at Merrimack and gain some more experience before entering the Devil’s system. He also need to bulk up, only weighing 150 lbs and coming in at 5’9″. If Tyler Johnson has shown us anything, its that undersized wingers can excel in this league. If he can develop his skills besides skating he could end up being a very good speedy left wing in the future.
That wrapped up the Devils draft. Overall, a very successful one. They were able to address the lack of skilled forwards with Zacha, Speers, and Seney. They gained what could be a future elite goaltender in Mackenzie Blackwood. The defensive prospect pool was also strengthened by Colton White. As far as comparing this draft to previous ones, it appears to have been one of the better ones of the last 10 years. However only time will tell.