Get ready New Jersey Devils’ fans. The day we have all been waiting for is just about here, the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. In our most recent episode of Devils Army Cast, we broke down the upcoming draft in great depth (see below). For those who are old-fashioned and appreciate text, this article will provide you with everything you need to know about the most important draft in Devils’ team history.
The 2020 NHL draft is being held virtually, much like the NFL was just months ago. Round one of the draft will be tomorrow, Tuesday, October 6th on NBCSN beginning at 7:00 p.m. ET. Rounds two through seven will follow on Wednesday, October 7th beginning at 11:30 a.m. ET on NHL Network.
The top three of the draft are as follows: the New York Rangers, Los Angeles Kings, and Ottawa Senators (via the San Jose Sharks). Remember the Rangers were the beneficiaries of Phase 2 of the NHL draft lottery.
Some of the top prospects you should expect to hear called early Tuesday: Alexis Lafrenière, Quinton Byfield, Tim Stützle, Marco Rossi, Jamie Drysdale, and Cole Perfetti. Some of the prospects that may be skyrocketing up the boards and taken surprisingly early: Jack Quinn, Jake Sanderson, Rodion Amirov, and Yaroslav Askarov. More on all these guys below.
New Jersey Devils’ Overview
It is not an understatement to say the New Jersey Devils are about to partake in the most important draft in the team’s history. The Devils are slated to have three picks on day one and six picks on day two. For each specific slot of these nine selections see the graphic below:
Examining the Devils’ system shows a need for elite, young forward prospects. Luckily for the red and black, this is exactly what this draft is projected to be full of in round one. Even more, coincidentally, is the fact the Devils have three first-round picks.
Now, it is a real possibility that New Jersey moves one of these picks via trade, but for now, the Devils are slated to select three times on Tuesday and six times on Wednesday.
The 2020 NHL draft class is littered with talent unlike we have seen in years. If you do not believe me just do a simple google search of “2020 NHL draft class strength,” and you will get a ton of articles by reputable sources proving my claim.
Furthermore, I dove into 30 projected first-round prospects and was not disappointed by the talent, as it seems to warrant all the hype it has been getting. You can view this top-30 list, with linked in-depth profiles below. Also, below, you can find a few prospects that I am extremely high on and some first-round prospects that I am not so high on.
Top-30 Prospect Rankings
Please note, each of these profiles were written at different times. And my opinions on these players may have changed very slightly.
1. Alexis Lafrenière (06/09/2020)
2. Tim Stützle (05/07/2020)
3. Quinton Byfield (05/08/2020)
4. Marco Rossi (04/30/2020)
5. Lucas Raymond (04/28/2020)
6. Cole Perfetti (05/06/2020)
7. Jamie Drysdale (05/01/2020)
8. Alexander Holtz (04/29/2020)
9. Yaroslav Askarov (05/05/2020)
10. Anton Lundell (05/11/2020)
11. Seth Jarvis (05/13/2020)
12. Jake Sanderson (05/04/2020)
13. Jack Quinn (05/09/2020)
14. Dawson Mercer (05/16/2020)
15. Rodion Amirov (05/12/2020)
16. Noah Gunler (05/19/2020)
17. Kaiden Guhle (05/31/2020)
18. Braden Schneider (06/29/2020)
19. Ryan O’Rourke (07/01/2020)
20. Jacob Perreault (05/26/2020)
21. Dylan Holloway (05/14/2020)
22. Connor Zary (05/15/2020)
23. Maverik Bourque (05/20/2020)
24. Lukas Reichel (05/18/2020)
25. Brendan Brisson (07/18/2020)
26. Hendrix Lapierre (05/21/2020)
27. John-Jason Peterka (05/28/2020)
28. William Wallinder (05/23/2020)
29. Jan Mysak (06/02/2020)
30. Roni Hirvonen (06/05/2020)
Favorite Prospects of Round 1
The first word that comes to mind when thinking about the name Marco Rossi is electric. The 120-point scorer lead the OHL in scoring last year and did so while playing a complete game. The five-foot-nine Austrian does not have any glaring weaknesses which is what makes him such a complete prospect.
Some may argue his size puts him at a disadvantage, but you know who else is five-foot-nine? Superstar forward Brad Marchand. Whoever drafts Rossi is going to get an elite talent. Hopefully, for Devils’ fans, it is the red and black.
Portland Winterhawks’ forward Seth Jarvis is one of the more underrated prospects of round one. For some reason, many are pegging him to go as high as 15th. He can easily be regarded as a top-10 prospect.
Jarvis tallied 98 points in only 58 games in a defensive-minded WHL league. This point total was second-most in the WHL, and represents a higher point per game output than the likes of Leon Draisaitl, Evander Kane, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in their draft-eligible seasons.
Like Rossi, Jarvis has no real glaring weaknesses. Some may argue his “top speed” can be better, or that he can add more muscle. But none of these concerns will hinder him greatly as a prospect. He is going to be a steal for any team that gets him outside the top-12.
Surprisingly, Dawson Mercer is even more underrated than Seth Jarvis. The 18-year old right-wing had 42 points in only 26 games before being traded for an unreal package that included six draft picks. After this trade, Mercer did struggle and had some issues with non-lingering injuries. Because of this, Mercer is being vastly underrated.
Mercer’s offensive instincts are terrific. Judging by his stick handling, shot, and playmaking, Mercer is going to be an offensive force in any team’s top-six for years to come. Mercer has also shown he can hold his own defensively, and has an elite ability on the penalty kill.
Due to Mercer’s post-trade struggle, he is most likely going to fall, maybe even outside the top-15. However, make no mistake about it, Mercer is a top-13 prospect in this draft. And teams who want to draft best-player-available or draft for value certainly should look Mercer’s way.
The draft’s third-best defenseman is the six-foot-two Kaiden Guhle. Guhle played in the CHL’s toughest defensive league, the WHL, which has helped his game mature rapidly. He has one of the higher floors of any projected round one prospect. But, what makes Guhle such a intriguing prospect is that his ceiling is pretty high as well.
Guhle grades out as a defensive-defenseman who can play a lot of minutes and serve in any team’s top-four. He’ll be the guy that you can rely on to send out on the ice in the closing minutes of the game. Think someone like Colton Parayko.
If his ceiling is reached and that offensive upside is tapped, someone is going to get a great defenseman in the middle part of round one. However, don’t be caught off guard if you see his name called sooner than that.
Ryan O’Rourke is another defenseman higher on my board than most. He is an all-around defenseman that does not have much he has to work on in his game. For an 18-year old, he has an extremely mature game that should translate to, at the very worse, a top-six, two-way presence at the next level.
If O’Rourke works on his offensive game a bit and becomes a slightly better skater, he can reach his ceiling. And if he does this, there is no reason he can’t serve as a top-four presence in any teams’ defensive group. All-in-all, he has the potential to be a top-four defenseman in this draft. Some team is going to get extreme value by selecting him, but don’t be surprised if it is not until the back part of round one.
Brendan Brisson is on the smaller side, at five-foot-ten, but he is going to be a solid prospect. He’s an elite skater, a solid playmaker, and someone who thinks the game through at a high level. It is baffling to me that some do not regard Brisson as a first-round talent. The American centerman is an exciting prospect.
Brisson’s floor should be a top-nine forward, that can easily become a fringe-second line center. Plus, he’ll only get better when he heads off to a stellar program at the University of Michigan. In turn, whoever selects Brisson will get a great value pick, especially if he slips into round two.
Least Favorite Prospects of Round 1
It is absurd how quickly Jake Sanderson has flown up people’s boards. There are rumors he may not only be the first defenseman taken off the board, but also a top-five selection. That being said, Sanderson is being overvalued even more so than Quinton Byfield, because of his size, young age for this class, and rawness.
Make no mistake about it -Sanderson is a solid prospect. His defensive abilities are solid, and he has great strength at his young age. But, like mentioned, he is too raw and needs to work on his offensive game. For this reason, Sanderson should not be regarded as a top-10 pick. Still, according to several rumors, he seems like a safe bet to go in the first seven picks.
Dylan Holloway played at the University of Wisconsin last year and his performance was underwhelming. With only 17 points in 35 games, he saw his team – which entered the year with high expectations – finish 7-15-2-2.
His game needs work in several different areas, not a lot of work but he does need to polish his game overall. His shot selection is usually from areas of low-danger, production throughout his junior career has been subpar, and he can become to over-reliant on his stickhandling abilities which leads to turnovers. Hopefully, the Devils pass on Holloway come Tuesday night.
Connor Zary is another forward I am not nearly as high on as other people. He had a great season last year, tallying the fifth-most points in the WHL. However, when breaking down his game he doesn’t necessarily do anything great, and needs to improve in a few different areas.
His skating, playmaking ability, and aggression all need work. Furthermore, his point total last season was a bit deceiving. He was over-reliant on power play points, and was a beneficiary of the best offensive team in the WHL. He’s also a bit on the older side of draft-eligible prospects, which surprises me given that he has a few areas that need work.
Zary’s combination of needed improvement, older age for the class, and relatively low ceiling should make the Devils pass on him come Tuesday night. So, it’ll be interesting to see where he comes off the board, as scouts are all over the place in his evaluation.
“Willy Walls” as some folks like to call him is a very exciting prospect. The six-foot-four Swede just turned 18-years old a couple months ago. He has an insane skating ability and has the most offensive potential of any defenseman in this draft. However, Wallinder has an extremely low floor.
William Wallinder is your textbook “boom-or-bust” prospect. As I mentioned he has an extremely low floor, and this is due to his game being extremely raw and him having several areas of his game he needs to work on. A guy like this is a hard prospect to get a grasp on, but ultimately this early in the draft the risk is just too high for me.
New Jersey Devils First Round Targets
The Devils are in a great spot at the seventh slot. They should have at least two extremely elite talents fall into their lap. Recent rumors around the draft suggest that the following will be off the board when the Devils select: Alexis Lafrenière, Tim Stützle, Quinton Byfield, Cole Perfetti, Jake Sanderson, and Lucas Raymond.
Of these prospects, Lucas Raymond and Cole Perfetti are the only ones worth getting a bit upset about. Sanderson being gone would be doing the Devils a favor. The following should be the Devils’ targets in this spot given this recent rumor:
My love for Marco Rossi is well documented. For his full profile click here, but you can also refer to the section I wrote on him above.
Jamie Drysdale was largely regarded as the best defenseman in this draft class, and still should be. With the recent rise of Jake Sanderson, some are changing their opinions, but I am not.
Currently, I have Drysdale ranked as the seventh-best prospect this draft, so the Devils taking him here would be great and some would see great value with that pick as he was regarded by many as a top-five pick just weeks ago.
Many Devils’ fans love Alexander Holtz for his goal-scoring ability, which the Devils desperately need. However, Holtz is still a decent bit away from being an NHL-ready prospect, as his defensive game needs work. Nonetheless, if the draft goes chalk ahead of the Devils’ pick, Holtz and his goal-scoring would be perfect for the Devils at seven.
My final rankings for Devils’ targets at the seventh overall pick are as follows: Marco Rossi, Lucas Raymond, Cole Perfetti, Jamie Drysdale, and Alexander Holtz.
If the Devils stay at picks 18 and 20 there will still be a ton of great talent on the board. After pick 10, it gets dicey in terms of consensus on who will be taken, so figuring out who will still be on the board at 18 and 20 is difficult. Below you can find both ideal and very possible prospects for these selections.
Like Marco Rossi, my love for Seth Jarvis is plentiful. If he gets past the 13th area of round one, he may have a shot at dropping down to 18. And who knows, maybe Tom Fitzgerald makes a move and trades up for him.
Regardless, you can find more information on Seth Jarvis here as well as, in the section written above.
Jack Quinn is a guy that barely missed my cut for my most favorite prospects in round one. He scored 52 goals for the 67’s last year, only eight other players have tallied 52 or more goals in the OHL since 2010. Quinn’s weaknesses all come in the form of what I like to call “what-ifs.” People worry about his high shooting percentage, his September birthday, and the fact he played on a stacked 67’s team. Each of these aspects about Rossi do not worry me all that much.
It is extremely unlikely Quinn falls all the way down to 18, but we have seen crazier things happen. Like I mentioned above, maybe the Devils make a move and trade up to select Quinn. The team has reportedly interviewed him twice in the pre-draft process, and we all know how much the team loves 67’s prospects.
Rodion Amirov has gotten off to a quick start in the KHL – Russia’s top professional league. The 19-year old has five points in only 9 games which is great production for a kid his age. Overall, Amirov fits the Devils’ need at wing, as an extremely smart, two-way player.
He will certainly develop into a top-six forward, that will play in all circumstances. At 18, Amirov would be a pick of great value, but rumors did pin the Devils as a team that was high on him, so maybe Fitzgerald even tries to trade up for the Russian.
Dawson Mercer is a prospect I wrote about above in my favorite prospects of round one. You can see a full profile on Mercer here.
Forward Jacob Perrault has found himself rising up people’s boards in recent weeks. He is an 18-year old who projects out as a right-wing at the next level. Perrault has an elite goal-scoring ability, that some say rival the likes of Alexander Holtz and Jack Quinn. He is also a solid playmaker, as he racked up a ton of primary assists for Sarnia last season.
His defense is a work in progress although, and this is a case with a lot of OHL players as this league overall has a pretty week defensive structure. Coaching should fix this area and if it does Perreault will be an extremely effective offensive power at the next level. Being a right-wing and a goal-scorer is something that exactly fits the Devils’ needs.
Recent rumors have Guhle as a defenseman the Devils are targeting, and I can see why. You can refer to the blurb I wrote on Guhle above or the more in-depth profile here.
Braden Schneider is one of the safest pick in the first round. Yet, he probably has the lowest ceiling of any first-round prospect. He is another prospect the Devils are rumored to be targeting, and could be the choice at 20 if Guhle is gone.
With Schneider, you are getting a defensive-defenseman who is already borderline NHL-ready. At the NHL-level he will not be more than a top-six, borderline top-four penalty killing, shot-blocker. But at this part of the draft, what more can you ask for?
There are going to be a ton of great options at picks 18 and 20. My final rankings of prospects for pick 18: Seth Jarvis, Jack Quinn, Rodion Amirov, and Dawson Mercer. Other options at this selection: Jacob Perrault, Noel Gunler, Kaiden Guhle, and Braden Schneider.
My final rankings for pick 20: Jacob Perrault, Kaiden Guhle, and Braden Schneider. Other options at this selection: Ryan O’Rourke, Maverik Bourque, Lukas Reichel, and Lucas Cormier.
Beware of the Trade?
On draft day anything is possible. And something teams may do is make a trade. Now, it seems as if general manager Tom Fitzgerald is set to pick at seventh overall, and that is great to hear. However, if can he move one of his two later first-round picks, it may just be worth it.
The Devils are no stranger in making deals for current, established NHLers. With the flat salary cap making several teams sweat, the Devils can certainly cut a deal with one of these teams and take on a solid player. Teams with cap issues that have some great players to move if need be include the Tampa Bay Lightning, St. Louis Blues, and Toronto Maple Leafs.
Another route the Devils can take via trade is acquiring more draft capital. As you can see above, the Devils do not have any second-round picks and do not own the team’s third-round pick. This draft is extremely strong in round two and acquiring picks in this area will not only give the Devils a chance to select one of these players. But, also give them more capital to make a trade for an already established player.
Best Case/Worse Case Scenarios
Best Case Scenarios
With three first-round picks, the New Jersey Devils have a lot of options. The best-case scenario for these three picks is three forwards. As was mentioned above, the forwards in round one of this draft are terrific. When examining the Devils’ system, the need for elite forward talent is much higher than the need for defensive talent. Keep in mind the Devils just drafted six defensemen in the past two drafts. All of which were drafted in the fourth round or earlier.
Specific players that would be a best-case scenario are Marco Rossi or Lucas Raymond at seven, Seth Jarvis or Jack Quinn at 18, and Rodion Amirov or Dawson Mercer at 20. Now, this is probably extremely unrealistic, but I did say a best-case scenario.
Another scenario that would be best-case is if the Devils were able to fill the team’s top-six left-wing hole or the top-four left-handed defenseman role via a trade of the team’s draft capital.
Worst Case Scenario
The New Jersey Devils would have to try really hard to mess this draft up. But there is always a chance and here is how it could be done.
Selecting either Yaroslav Askarov or Jake Sanderson at seventh overall. Selecting a goalie in the first round would be a terrible mistake. Also, selecting Sanderson would qualify as a reach and something the Devils need to avoid with the plethora of forward talent at the top of the board. Now, I would be fine with the Devils selecting Jamie Drysdale and that is because Drysdale would be a solid value pick at seven.
Another worst-case scenario is if New Jersey reaches at pick seven. Say the team selects a Jack Quinn – who they have reportedly interviewed twice – Jake Sanderson, or Rodion Amirov.
Lastly, another worst-case scenario would be if the Devils select more than one defenseman in round one. With all the forward talent at the top of the board, two defensemen would be a tragic mistake.
It is a very exciting time for New Jersey Devils’ fans. General manager Tom Fitzgerald has nine picks at his disposal, three of which in the first round. If done correctly, by the end of Tuesday night the Devils may very well have the best prospect system in the NHL.
Make sure to stay tuned to our social media channels both Tuesday and Wednesday. We will be covering the draft, supplying our followers with every pick in round one (including my draft profiles for each player), any trades that are made, and continued coverage into rounds 2-7 the following day. Additionally, expect a mock draft from myself to follow this article.
So, sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride over this next week!