It is that time of the year again. Get your YouTube highlight reels out; it is draft time. This year, the New Jersey Devils are in a unique position of having very few picks in the opening rounds. They have their own first at 17th overall, and then don’t pick again until the fourth round (110). It would be silly to go through and just give one player for each pick because nobody truly knows who will available. So after No. 17, I’ll give you guys a range of players I think the Devils should target in later rounds.
Round One (17th)
Ke’Andre Miller (US, D): Don’t ask me why but this seems like a lock unless somebody else falls on Friday. Miller was a standout for the USDP U18 team. He is a forward turned defenseman and in a lot of areas that is a good thing. He is 6’4” and can skate at a high level. He excels at puck skills and transitioning the puck from defense to offense. Due to his size, Miller is very physical on defense, which is when Miller tends to exhibit some of his game’s forward-esque components. He struggles with coverages, skating backwards (at times), and doesn’t really have a feel for play in his own end. If he’s willing and able to learn however, the Devils would have a smooth skating puck mover with size on their blue line.
Ceiling: Top-pairing defenseman Floor: Seventh defenseman
Round Four (110th)
Semyon Der-Arguchinstev (RUS, C): In the later rounds, you are shooting for upside, and Der-Arguchinstev brings a lot of that trait. Offensively, he has a wealth of raw talent. His tools include good vision and puck skills, which allow him to create plays. Der-Arguchinstev’s greatest asset is his shot, which he can unleash from all over the ice. He is most effective on the powerplay, but he certainly knows how to put the puck in the net at all situations.
Ceiling: Third line scoring winger Floor: KHL depth forward
Nico Gross (SWI, D): The Devils have had success with Swiss players named Nico in the past. Gross was a standout on the Swiss U18 team, and had a fine year in Oshawa as he acclimated to the North American game. He is left-handed, and can handle the puck calmly. Gross is a talented skater and has good vision on the ice. There are definitely worse guys to take a shot on, but Gross has some decent promise.
Ceiling: Fifth defenseman Floor: AHL top-four
Round Five (141st-146th)
Justin Almeida (CAN, LW): Almeida is an overager, who put up huge numbers in the WHL with 98 points in 72 games. He had never gotten more than 15 before last season. Almeida is undersized, but has been coming into his own offensively. Highly skilled players are at a premium in the NHL, and the Devils should take a shot on Almeida, who could be a diamond in the rough.
Ceiling: Second line winger Floor: AHL All-Star
Adam Samuelsson (US, D): Like Miller, Samuelsson was a member of last year’s USDP U18 team. He is a behemoth at 6’5” 240 lbs, and an effective defensive defenseman. In terms of puck skills and dexterity, Samuelsson won’t turn heads, but he’s the kind of blue liner that will go into corners and win battles. He will get the puck from the other team this way or by facilitating turnovers. Despite his admirable defensive game, Samuelsson needs to work on his skating, and could be a 2-4 year project for any team.
Ceiling: Fourth defenseman Floor: AHL bottom pair
Round Rix (172nd)
Radim Salda (CZE, D): Salda is an offensive defenseman through and through. He is all about pushing the pace offensively, which often comes at the expense of his defensive game. Having said that, the Devils need blue liners who can skate and push the pace from the back end. Salda put up good numbers in the QMJHL with 41 points in 62 games. He just needs to work on his -37 rating.
Ceiling: Fifth defenseman power play specialist Floor: AHL top four
Jake Pivonka (US, C): Another USDP prospect, Pivonka was lost in the shuffle of skilled skaters playing in Plymouth last season. Pivonka has some of that classic American hard work in his game. He goes to the dirty areas for goals and has great (largely overlooked) speed. Pivonka is always moving around the net. He is a good guy to take a shot on late in the draft.
Ceiling: Third line center Floor: AHL Bottom-six
Round Seven (203rd)
It is impossible to say who will be available in the seventh round. Maybe one of the previously listed guys fell. Who knows?
One name to look out for is Austin Wong, who racked up 235 PIMs in the AJHL. Could be a fun guy to have in Jersey as a future fan favorite.