Category Archives: NHL Draft Prospects
Don’t worry it’s not ’94 all over again, this Matteau is playing for the New Jersey Devils! Stefan Matteau, the Devils’ first pick in the 2012 NHL entry draft, has finally made his way up to the NHL. You might remember his father, former New York Ranger, Stéphane Matteau, for his double overtime goal against the Devils in game 7 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals. But, let’s focus on the young Matteau.
School is almost back in session as summer vacation draws to a close. This is no different for the National Hockey League.
Starting up is the return of the Research, Development and Orientation camp which will be used to test potential changes to the game. Changes that will be tested will include very subtle, almost unnoticed, changes, to the more, “Oh my gosh, did the barber use a weed-whacker on your hair?” changes.
If you ever wanted to know how today’s game would be played if they didn’t have the Brodeur Rule (that little trapezoid behind the net), this is exactly what they will be testing at the camp.
The NHL will have the two past Jack Adams Award (Coach of the Year) winners– Pittsburgh’s Dan Bylsma and Phoenix’s Dave Tippett — serving as mentors for the young prospects. Not only will the camp serve as a testing ground for potential rule changes, but the camp will also allow teams to take a look at possible 2012 prospects. In total, 36 prospects eligible for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft will be participating in the camp.
Now, I know you’re thinking to yourself, “What kind of rule changes could they possibly be testing?” Let me ease your mind.
1) Trapezoid Rule – The rule was introduced post-lockout as a way to increase scoring. The rule limits goaltenders from leaving the crease to go play a puck in the corners. As a Devils fan, I absolutely detest the rule. Martin Brodeur is noted as one of the greatest puck-handling goalies of all-time. He would always come out of the crease, play the puck in the corner, and lunge it down ice to a streaking player. However, with the trapezoid rule, Brodeur is restricted into staying in his little blue zone in front of the net. Many teams favor this rule because they have very, poor puck-handling goaltenders. The trapezoid limits player movement on the ice, which is not what the game is about. Players should be able to skate and play the puck wherever they want. I won’t even get into the fact that goalies can’t skate over the red-line.
2) No Icing While Shorthanded – While it seems like a good idea to allow shorthanded teams to just heave a puck down the ice since they’re down one or two players, it’s really not. Hockey is supposed to be a game of skill and action. Shooting a puck down ice to clear time off the penalty kill is BORING. What’s being tested at the RDO camp is that the team actually has to play defense. If teams want to be able to dump it into the opposing zone, they must take it past the red-line and dump, just like a regular shift. This will showcase a team’s strong/weak defense since they will actually have to gain possession of the puck and carry it out. Many are mixed on this rule as the NHL gave powerplay teams a sizeable advantage a couple of years ago, when they stated that at the start of a powerplay, the faceoff will be in the offensive zone.
3) Overtime Variations – Every day, I hear people complaining about the shooutout at the end of overtime, and how you would never see a baseball game end in a home run derby, or basketball end in a slam dunk contest. People complain that the shootout takes away that special edge from penalty shots. Hey, everyone’s entitled to their own opinion. I, personally, enjoy shootouts. Always have, always will. But let’s try this on for size, shall we. What if there’s a tie after regulation and teams play FOUR minutes of 4-on-4 hockey. No one scores, still tied. Instead of going to a shootout right away, it would be a THREE minute period of 3-on-3 hockey. I would LOVE to see 3-on-3 hockey. There wouldn’t be clusters of players on the ice, wide-open range to skate and set up plays. The league wants to see fast-paced action and high scoring, 3-on-3 is an awesome addition to OT. If no one scores after the 3-on-3, it would go to a shootout. Also, the league is testing out the possibility of switching ends at the end of regulation. For example, third period a team is shooting left to right, that team would shoot right to left in OT. The league is partial to increasing the time of overtime, that way there might be less shootouts to end the game.
Those are a few of the major changes that the league will be looking into. There are a couple minor things, such as: referees wearing wireless headsets to relay information to each other during a game, and the “bear hug rule.” The bear hug rule, introduced by Brian Burke, would allow players to wrap their arms around an opposing player to take him into the boards as opposed to violently throwing him into the boards, thus reducing injury.
Which rule changes would you like to see implemented into the game? Leave a comment with your favorite rule change, or add a suggestion of your own!
Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kevinlankey
What a roller coaster year this has been for us Devils fans. First with the terrible start to the season. Then an uplifting second half with high hopes to get back in the playoff race. Finding, that despite our team never giving up, those hopes are just slightly out of reach. And finally, winning the draft pick lottery, and rising in the ranks to the number 4 spot! For the first time in what seemed like an eternity, the hockey gods blessed us against the odds.
Whatever deities we pleased, apparently were still smiling upon us on June 24th. There was no doubt that the Devils Army was hoping we would snatch up Adam Larsson. The fans packed Lafayette Street along side the Prudential Center to celebrate draft day and those fans who were working checked their phones feverishly for updates. The crowd went through a similar roller coaster of emotions when the teams finally started making their picks – moments of silence followed by cheering and sighs of relief when Adam Larsson was not selected. Our turn finally came, and lo and behold the best puck moving defenseman in the draft was still up for grabs! Everyone exploded with excitement, we got Larsson!
I couldn’t have been more excited that Adam Larsson would be joining us in New Jersey! Reported to be one of the top skaters in the European leagues, and coming in at a solid 6′ 3″ and 220 lbs, he is physically ready and able to join the pros. With his puck moving and smart decision making skills, he has the potential to fill what many feel is a much needed vacancy in our defensive line-up.
I am looking forward to this season getting underway so I can check out his playing style! If he’s anything like our other Swedish players (especially our little fire cracker, Tedenby), I have a feeling I’m going to like what I see!
What was YOUR reaction to our draft day excitement?
Three of the Devils’ last four first round picks have been forwards from Sweden. So if Director of Scouting David Conte calls Stockholm native Gabriel Landeskog to the stage on June 24, one may be tempted to expect more of the same. However, Landeskog is a much different player than his countrymen, and actually fits the profile of a typical Canadian or American player.
Landeskog began his hockey career with Djurgårdens IF, the same club where current Devils prospects Jacob Josefson and Alexander Urbom got their starts. But after just two seasons, he left Sweden for the Ontario Hockey League and has played for the Kitchener Rangers ever since. As a result, the 6’0, 201 lb right-winger will go into this year’s draft as a North American player, and is second to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, not Adam Larsson, in Central Scouting’s final rankings.
The Devils are already very well stocked up front, but Landeskog has some unique qualities to his game that may allow him to climb up the depth chart fairly quickly. He is a skilled offensive player, but loves to play an aggressive and physical game. In 53 regular season contests with Kitchener, he scored 36 goals and 30 assists for 66 points while racking up 61 penalty minutes and three fighting majors in the process.
Landeskog had a strong showing in the playoffs as well. Although the Rangers were unable to get past the first round, he recorded six goals and four assists in a series that went to seven games. He was also selected to Sweden’s World Junior team this past winter, and was named an alternate captain, but played only one game due to a high-ankle sprain. He did, however, tally a goal and an assist in that game.
In the intangibles department, Landeskog has it all. He is a natural leader who can spark his team with his strong work ethic and intensity. He is also very well spoken, without a hint of an accent, and makes his presence known on the bench and in the locker room. Often compared to former Kitchener Ranger and current Philadelphia Flyers’ captain Mike Richards, he was handed the “C” as a 17-year-old, and could find himself wearing a letter early on in his professional career.
By all aspects, Landeskog is the most NHL-ready prospect in this year’s draft. He already possesses the build, maturity, and talent to play in the NHL. If he does land in New Jersey, it’s certainly possible that he’ll be on the Devils’ opening night roster. He may start out on the third or fourth line, but he could compliment scoring wingers such as Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise on the top two lines in the future.
It’s that time of year. The 2011 NHL Entry Draft is just around the corner and with the New Jersey Devils having 4th pick, it’s going to be a pretty exciting one to watch! Every year the Prudential Center hosts an NHL Draft party for the fans to come in and watch the picks live. There are games and activities for the little kids and a chance for the big kids to get their hands on some hockey equipment. Think Fan Fest, but better! You should also keep an eye out for a few Devils Alumni.
The first round of the draft starts at 7PM at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. Our party starts at 5PM and will be held outside on Mulberry Street as well as inside the Amerihealth Pavilion at the Prudential Center on the night of the draft, Friday, June 24th. Head over to NewJerseyDevils.com to get your free tickets (check over on the right hand side).
See you on draft day!
Sean Couturier’s stock has taken a large hit over the course of the 2010-11 season. Once in the running to go first overall on draft day, he finished sixth among North American skaters in Central Scouting’s final rankings, dropping four spots from the midterm rankings in January. A fall that significant can be alarming, but Couturier is still a premier prospect and likely remains coveted by many of the teams selecting early in the first round.
What makes Couturier such an intriguing prospect from New Jersey’s perspective is that he has “prototypical Devil” written all over him. Standing at 6’4, 197 lbs, he’s an intelligent two-way center who is responsible in all three zones, possesses an excellent work ethic, and is good at the faceoff dot. His size and solid all around game have earned him comparisons to former Devil Jason Arnott and Pittsburgh Penguins center Jordan Staal.
There are at least four other centers expected to go in the top-10 this June, but Couturier is unique in that he is particularly conscientious in his own end for an 18-year-old. The Bathurst, New Brunswick native was the lone draft eligible player to suit up for the silver medal-winning Canadian team at the World Juniors this past winter. He only managed to score two goals and an assist in seven games, but was a plus-six and played fairly well in a mostly third-line checking role.
Although his sound defensive play is one of the more impressive aspects of his game, Couturier can certainly bring it in the offensive zone as well. He isn’t the best skater, but gets by with his soft hands. He’s great at distributing the puck, has a good shot, and puts himself in good positions to score goals. He also protects the puck well using his large frame, but will likely need to pack on a few more pounds to be effective in the NHL.
In 58 regular season contests with the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League this year, Couturier posted 36 goals and 60 assists for 96 points – matching his point production from last season, albeit in 10 fewer games. He also added six goals and five assists in 10 playoff games.
The lack of a significant bump in his numbers may have played a role in Couturier’s tumble down the rankings. After an incredible 2009-10 campaign, all eyes were on the young pivot and expectations were set very high – possibly too high. However, his production this season was still impressive, especially given his lackluster supporting cast. Though he may not be ready for the pros just yet, Couturier still projects as a top-two center. If the Devils do take him at fourth overall, it could ultimately prove to be a very shrewd selection.
In the fall, Adam Larsson was a consensus top-two pick in this year’s draft. However, a lot has changed over the course of the season. With the emergence of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Gabriel Landeskog, and Jonathan Huberdeau, the field has become much more crowded. Even with the draft less than two months away, there’s really no telling how the first five selections will play out. That said, if the Swedish blueliner does slip past Edmonton, Colorado, and Florida, one would have to assume that the Devils will be waiting for him at number four with open arms.
Ranked first among European skaters by Central Scouting, Larsson is the ultimate defensive package. At 6’3, 220 lbs, he is already physically built for the pros and possesses all of the tools to be a dynamic two-way defenseman in the NHL.
Larsson’s most impressive asset is his skating ability. The 18-year-old is exceptionally mobile for a player his size. His quick wheels allow him to jump in on the offensive attack and get back defensively when play heads the other way. He also sees the ice very well, has good offensive instincts, makes an excellent first pass, and has a booming shot from the point.
On the defensive side of the puck, Larsson plays like a seasoned veteran. He’s very calm and composed in his own zone, makes smart decisions, and has sound positioning and defensive awareness. Although he isn’t overly physical, he uses his large frame rather effectively and doesn’t shy away from delivering the occasional hit.
In the 2010-11 season, Larsson posted one goal, eight assists and a plus-12 rating in 37 regular season games with his hometown team, Skellefteå AIK of the Swedish Elite League. He also represented Sweden at the 2011 World Junior Hockey Championship, scoring a goal and three assists in six games.
Though his numbers aren’t spectacular, they certainly don’t do him much justice. Larsson is an elite defensive prospect the likes of which the Devils have not had since they selected Scott Niedermayer third overall in 1991. He still has a long way to go to reach his full potential, but under the tutelage of hall of famers Scott Stevens and Larry Robinson, he could develop into the number-one defenseman the Devils have been longing for since the lockout.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – the number one ranked North American skater by Central Scouting – is expected to be long gone when the Devils step up to the podium to make the fourth overall selection on June 24. However, stranger things have happened on draft day, so we are previewing him nonetheless.
At 6’0, 164 lbs, Nugent-Hopkins isn’t the bulkiest forward in this year’s draft, but he makes up for that with speed, skill, and style. Praised for his Gretzky-like vision, ability to maneuver the puck in the tightest of spaces, and tendency to make the players around him better, he has all the makings of a first-line playmaking center.
The 18-year-old Burnaby, British Columbia native didn’t start off the season atop the prospect rankings, but surged up after a breakout 2010-11 campaign with the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League. In 69 regular season games, he scored 31 goals and recorded a league-leading 75 assists for a team-high 106 points. He also posted four goals and seven assists in nine playoff contests.
Although he is best known for his offensive prowess, Nugent-Hopkins has also displayed a strong commitment to playing well on the other side of the puck. Using his quickness and active stick, he excels at dispossessing the puck from opponents and forcing turnovers – skills he may find particularly useful in New Jersey.
The Devils’ depth at the center position looks to have improved significantly with the promising play of prospects Jacob Josefson and Adam Henrique last season. Still, a player of Nugent-Hopkins’ caliber would be a welcomed addition to the organization. If he does fall to the Devils, he may not make the jump to the NHL right away, but it wouldn’t be long before Devils fans see him playing alongside the likes of Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise, and Patrik Elias at The Rock.