Revisiting the 2019 New Jersey Devils’ Draft Class, Part One

Introduction

Today we are starting a new series where I examine the Devils’ past draft picks and how they are progressing. We will try to gauge these players’ futures and determine how they will impact the Devils’ down the road.

The below article will contain five of the Devils’ 11 draft selections during the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. The rest of this lengthy draft class can be found in part two which will release shortly after this piece.

Jack Hughes, the No. 1 pick in the N.H.L. draft in June, has one point in his first seven games with the Devils.
Jack Hughes was the first overall pick in the 2019 NHL draft (Photo via Mary Altaffer/Associated Press).

Jack Hughes

Position: C

Pick: first round, first overall

NHL rights: New Jersey Devils, rookie contract (two years remaining, $925,000 cap hit)

Age: 19, (May 14, 2001)

Quote

From his coach (via Sportsnet): “Obviously (the point production) wasn’t there this year but that doesn’t mean he didn’t progress,” Nasreddine said. “It doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the potential to become a star. It’s just going to be a process and we just have to be patient, starting with himself, but eventually, he will get there. When is that gonna be? Is that going to be if we come back in July if we ever come back? Is it going to be next year? I don’t have the answer but at some point, he’s going to be an impactful player in the NHL.”

Evaluation

Where to begin with Jack Hughes? Coming out of juniors, he was a lock to be a top-two pick in the draft. He had a mind-boggling 112 points in 50 games, some even said he was a generational player. Needless to say, he did not live up to the hype in 2019-20, but this is not his fault.

He only notched 21 points in 61 games on a sloppy Devils’ team. He was clearly not NHL-ready, but that is okay. Not many 18 year-olds are NHL-ready and that combined with a lack of consistent coaching may have messed him up.

He still has a ton of room to improve and could end up being the star we predicted. What he really needs is a good coach and veterans to show him the way. He has top-line talent will hopefully be part of the Devils’ core for years to come. If you want a more in-depth analysis of Hughes last season, take a look at this great article by our own James Villani.

Graeme Clarke

Graeme Clarke was drafted by the Devils in the third round of the 2019 draft (Photo via Terry Wilson / OHL Images)

Overview

Position: RW

Pick: third round, 80th overall

NHL rights: New Jersey Devils, unsigned

Age: 19, born (April 24, 2001)

Quote

From his coach (via The Athletic): “People were always asking ‘Can he do something else’ and this year he was proving it,” Tourigny told The Athletic. “He was way better defensively, his commitment was great without the puck, he was trying to get better, he was starting to PK … For all of those reasons, it’s too bad that he had to go through the surgery. But at the same time, his mindset changed and the pressure of the draft is behind him and now he’s trying to be better. He’s a really driven kid and he’s a really focused kid.”

Evaluation

Graeme Clarke is coming off a challenging 2019-20 season with the Ottawa 67s. He only played 16 games due to a nasty shoulder injury and the arrival of COVID. That being said, he got off to a red hot start scoring seven goals in nine games. He may have missed out on a potential breakout year but still has promise.

It is realistic to assume that Clarke could be a nice middle-six forward. He has a great shot and could be a key piece on the Devils in a few years. Overall, Clarke is a pretty solid pick with second or third-line capability thus far.

Case McCarthy

Position: Defense

Pick: fourth round, 118th overall

NHL rights: New Jersey Devils, unsigned

Age: 19, (January 9, 2001)

Evaluation

Here we have a two-way defender out of Boston University. McCarthy is a real physical and gritty player who can also quarterback a play, though defense is where he shines. I don’t think the Devils have had this kind of player in years. He has great puck-moving ability with smooth passes and relatively good hands. He does, however, need to heavily improve his skating, especially his speed. McCarthy can’t burn you on the rush or even lead an offensive push. Hopefully, a few years of playing in college will develop his skating. Right now though, McCarthy is an in-your-face physical defenseman who can jump in on offense once in a while. I could see him as a bottom to middle-pairing NHL defenseman, at least until he improves his skating.

Cole Brady

Kenai River Brown Bears forward Andy Walker is stopped by Janesville (Wisconsin) Jets goalie Cole Brady on Friday, March 8, 2019, at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Cole Brady is a promising goaltender in the Devils’ system (Photo via Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion).

Overview

Position: Goalie

Pick: fifth round, 127th overall

NHL Rights: New Jersey Devils, unsigned

Age: 19, (February 12, 2001)

Quote

From his coach (via NJ.com): “Cole is a special talent. He’s a big and very cerebral goaltender. [Brady has] developed a very high competitive level over three years of junior hockey and is ready to come to ASU and really add to our goaltending group. [Brady is] a great teammate and loves to win. He’s been committed to us for a long time and we’re thrilled he’s finally coming to Tempe.”

Evaluation

So far, things have been going as planned for Cole Brady. He is committed to play for Arizona State University in 2020-21 after posting a .903 save percentage and a 2.79 goals against average in the USHL.

With 11 picks in the 2019 draft, selecting a goalie in the later rounds is a wise decision. Goaltenders can, after all, break out in an instant. Brady is also a big guy at six-foot-five which is a bonus.

As of now, he does not have too much NHL potential, but could become a serviceable backup. Goaltenders do take a long time to develop, however, so nothing is certain about Brady. Overall, he is promising but could really go in any direction.

Arseni Gritsyuk

Overview

Position: LW

Pick: fifth round, 129th overall

NHL rights: New Jersey Devils, unsigned

Age: 19, (March 15, 2001)

Evaluation

At only 157 pounds, Arseni Gritsyuk is by no means a physical force. What he brings to the table is pure playmaking and goal-scoring abilities. He has the ability to break loose and get in front of the net and beat the goalie.

Gritsyuk will play in the KHL and MHL this season where we will start to get a picture of what this guy to shape up to be. He adds instant offense to any forward corps and could do well in the increasingly fast-paced NHL.

It’s hard to tell how well Gritsyuk will do because he is largely untested, but that means he has a higher ceiling. Nonetheless, he will definitely be on general manager Tom Fitzgerald’s radar in the future.

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