New Jersey Devils’ Day One Draft Grades and Player Breakdowns

Introduction

The New Jersey Devils made all three of the team’s first-round picks despite possible rumors of the team moving at least one of their 18th or 20th overall picks. The Devils addressed the team’s forward need, specifically at the wing, with the team’s first two picks. The third pick the Devils went defense, and early indications are that was a bit of a reach. More on all the Devils’ selection from day one of the draft can be found below:

Alexander Holtz was the New Jersey Devils’ first pick of the night. (Photo via Bidlbyrån)

Seventh Overall: Alexander Holtz

Tom Fitzgerald did not have it easy when selecting with the Devils’ first pick of round one. He had a plethora of elite talent in Cole Perfetti – to the surprise of many — Marco Rossi, and Alexander Holtz to choose from. The Devils ultimately drafted need-based and went with the Swede Holtz.

The prospect profile I wrote on Holtz can be found here. Please note, this profile was written back in April, so my evaluation has changed slightly. Holtz was the number eight ranked prospect in my top-30

Alexander Holtz is an electric goal-scorer. His shot is the best in the draft, and he should translate as a 35-plus goal scorer at the NHL-level. Holtz’s issues lie in his defensive game. He will need a year or two to get that up to par, and in a place where it will not be a liability in this area at the next level. 

Holtz has already started his second season in the SHL (Sweden’s top professional league). Through three games he has one goal. I would expect a solid jump in production from last year where he scored a formidable 16 points in 35 games. 

Final Grade: B+

Overall, the Devils addressed a dire need of a goal-scoring wing to complement Jack Hughes or Nico Hischier down the road. As was mentioned, Holtz should have no issues developing into a solid, top-six wing with an elite ability on the power play, while scoring easily 30-plus goals a season. A great comparison for Holtz is Winnipeg Jets’ former second overall pick Patrik Laine.

However, I truly believe in the mindset of drafting best player available and in this circumstance I would have definitely preferred Marco Rossi. Also, an argument could have been had for Cole Perfetti. Nonetheless, Alexander Holtz will be a stellar player and was a solid pick.

Dawson Mercer was the New Jersey Devils’ second pick of the night. (Photo via Drummondville Voltigeurs)

18th Overall: Dawson Mercer

The Devils got extreme value with the team’s second first-round pick of the night. Dawson Mercer was my 14th ranked prospect in my top-30, and the team getting him at 18th is some solid value. The prospect profile, which is much more recent than the Holtz one above, can be found here.

Dawson Mercer is another wing, that has the versatility to play center. He is a 200-foot player, who will be able to serve on the Devils’ power play and penalty kill down the road. Offensively, Mercer has an above-average shot as he loves shooting the puck from all areas of the ice. Also, he possesses great vision which contributes to his playmaking abilities.

Mercer has already played two games for Chicoutimi of the QMJHL. In these two games he has two goals and an assist, as well as a plus-two rating. I fully expect Mercer’s production to explode this season. It is not out of the realm of possibility to see a 100-plus point season if he plays a full season.

Final Grade: A+

Overall, Mercer’s floor is a middle-six forward, and like mentioned, he will have the ability to serve on the power play and penalty kill. His ceiling is a solid top-six winger that brings both defense and a scoring touch. General manager Tom Fitzgerald absolutely nailed this pick. Overall, the Devils nailed the team’s first two selections.

Shakir Mukhamadullin has a lot of experience in the KHL already. (Photo via Dave Reginek / Getty Images Sport)

20th Overall: Shakir Mukhamadullin

This is where the night got interesting. The Devils surprised everyone and selected defenseman Shakir Mukhamadullin with the team’s last pick of the first round. Let’s get this out of the way, yes, this pick was a reach.

Whether the Devils were influenced by not having a second-round pick, Mukhamadullin was regarded by many as a second-round prospect. Worth mentioning, the New York Rangers leapfrogged the Devils via trade and selected Braden Schneider. Schneider is someone the Devils reportedly showed interest in and very well could have been the pick at 20 if not for the Rangers’ trade up.

Examples of where Mukhamadullin was ranked are below:

  • 22nd by ISS Hockey
  • 31st by TSN’s Craig Button
  • 42nd by TSN’s Bob McKenzie
  • 44th by Future Considerations
  • 72nd by McKeen’s Hockey
  • 17th by NHL Central Scouting (European Skaters)

Now, although it may be too late as many seemed irked, do not mark this off as a bad pick just yet. Mukhamadullin should be regarded as a solid prospect. 

Who is Shakir Mukhammadullin?

The first aspect of the Russian that jumps of the page is his six-foot-four, 179-pound size at only 18-years old. The left-handed shot has also already played in 41 KHL games. Of these 41 games, 14 of which have been played this season and he has tallied a very respectful six points (one goal, five assists). Mukhamadullin also had a solid point output in the MHL as he tallied 10 points in 13 games at that level last year.

His KHL experience is what excites many as playing hard minutes in arguably the second-most competitive professional league in the world at ages 17 and 18 is impressive. For his size, he skates pretty well and also uses this size to his advantage around his own team’s net and along the boards as he does not shy away from physical play. Also, his reach helps him constantly create breakups as opponents try to gain his team’s zone.

Offensively he has potential. He needs to get better with his decision-making, as he is prone to turning the puck over and being a tad erratic at times. Also, he has a cannon of a shot, but he needs to learn how to get it through and on net better. If these aspects are worked on, this can tap into that potential to be a possible solid top-four defenseman. Especially given he has the stick-skills and skating needed to be effective in this area. Also, to mention again, six points in 14 KHL games is great output and one of the reasons his offensive upside seems to be solid.

Projection

Mukhamadullin projects as a possible two-way defenseman at the next level. Believe it or not, some see first-pairing potential. I disagree with these claims after my research into him. But, nonetheless, it’s good to see.

Ultimately it all depends on how his offensive game develops and if he is able to limit the erratic behavior in his game. In the end, it seems a bottom-pairing, with middle-pairing upside is a better projection. 

The most common comparison I have seen for the Russian is Avalanche defenseman Nikita Zadorov. This projection is fine, but it seems Mukhamadullin may have a bit more desired in terms of offense when it is all said and done.

An estimated time of arrival, at the earliest, will not be until after the 2021-22 season, as this is when his KHL contract expires. By that time, he will have parts of three seasons played in the KHL. This all before age 20 which is impressive. 

Final Grade: C

So, Devils’ fans, take a deep breath. Shakir Mukhamadullin is going to be a fine prospect for a team that desperately needs to get bigger on the back end. It is not the end of the world.

However, the issue I have with this pick is the other defenseman that were available. Ryan O’Rourke is a prospect I am extremely higher on, others I would have preferred in this spot are William Wallinder and Justin Barron.

Let’s end on a good note. Just think about how in a few years opponents of the Devils’ will need to deal with two New Jersey defenseman with a combined height of nearly 13-feet. This in Kevin Bahl (six-foot-six) and Mukhamadullin who is six-foot-four.

Final Assessment of Day One – Grade B+

General Manager Tom Fitzgerald hit his first two picks of the night out of the park. Although passing on an elite talent in Marco Rossi stung a tad, Alexander Holtz fits the team’s need and is an elite prospect in his own right. Dawson Mercer was a pick of great value, and it was very surprising he was still avaliable at 18.

Pick number three of the night was a bit of a head-scratcher. And the sole reason the Devils did not get an A-grade from round one. Shakir Mukhamadullin was a reach, but further investigation shows a sizable future top-four defenseman. Hopefully, that is just what he becomes.

What’s Next?

The 2020 NHL Draft resumes Wednesday at 11:30 AM ET on NHL Network. There are a ton of great prospects left including six players in my top-30 rankings. Unfortunately for General Manager Tom Fitzgerald, he will have to wait a bit before the team is back on the clock, as the team does not own a second-round pick. However, they will be picking six more times.

These picks are as follows: 84th overall (3rd round), 99th overall (4th round), 120th overall (4th round), 130th round (5th round), 161st overall (sixth round), and 192nd overall (7th round).

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