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Low Reward Picks: A History of Devils Fourth & Fifth Round Draft Selections

The New Jersey Devils traded a fifth round pick to get Andrei Loktionov and a conditional fourth/fifth round pick to get Matt D'Agostini. The past history of past fourth and fifth round picks by the Devils shows they haven't been very successful picks and therefore aren't worth much.

Andrei Loktionov won't shoot at 27.8% forever but he's already more valuable than the majority of past Devils fifth round picks.
Andrei Loktionov won't shoot at 27.8% forever but he's already more valuable than the majority of past Devils fifth round picks.

Yesterday, the New Jersey Devils traded a 2015 conditional draft pick that could end up as a fourth or a fifth round pick to the St. Louis Blues to acquire Matt D`Agostini. Earlier this season, the Devils sent a a 2013 fifth round pick to Los Angeles for Andrei Loktionov. In the posts I made for both deals, I liked both at the time because the Devils gave up very little for a NHL player. So far Loktionov certainly looks like one and D'Agostini will be given the chance to make his case to be a New Jersey Devil.

Today, I want to focus on the other end: the picks given up. While a great player can come from anywhere in the NHL Draft, the Devils haven't had much success in the fourth or fifth round. Given their draft history in each round, it's really fair to say that those picks really aren't worth that much. In fact, one could argue Loktionov has already outperformed past Devils fifth round draft picks and D'Agostini doesn't have to do much to do the same.

Let's look at the fourth rounders first. Since 1984, the Devils have had 30 fourth round picks. They didn't have any in 1982 or 1983. Only ten of them have ever played even one NHL game. Eight of those ten have played over 100 games in the NHL. Three of those eight have played over 200 games in the NHL (and quite possible four in the future). Thanks to Hockey-Reference and HockeyDB, here are those eight players with the very basic of stats:

Year Pick # Player Pos. NHL GP NJ GP NHL G NHL A NHL Pts NJ G NJ A NJ Pts
1984 74 Paul Ysebaert LW 532 21 149 187 336 5 9 14
1986 66 Anders Carlsson F 104 104 7 26 33 7 26 33
1987 65 Brian Sullivan RW 2 2 0 1 1 0 1 1
1995 79 Alyn McCauley C 488 0 69 97 166 0 0 0
1996 91 Josef Boumedienne D 47 1 4 12 16 1 0 1
1998 96 Mikko Jokela D 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
1998 105 Pierre Dagenais LW 142 25 35 23 58 6 5 11
2002 117 Cam Janssen W 312 147 3 8 11 1 1 2
2005 99 Patrick Davis LW 9 9 1 0 1 1 0 1
2007 117 Matt Halischuk RW 143 21 21 27 48 1 2 3

The most successful fourth round draft pick in Devils history was their first as the New Jersey Devils: Paul Ysebaert. He didn't stick in the Meadowlands for long as he was traded to Detroit. He enjoyed a good career. After him, well, it gets dire. Alyn McCauley had a good career elsewhere as he was a part of that Doug Gilmour trade in 1997. Matt Halischuk is on the path of a good career as well as a defensive forward for Nashville; he was sent there in 2010 in the Jason Arnott trade. Pierre Dagenais was thought to be a scorer and got quite a few looks; but he couldn't provide it at the next level along with his skating (he was so slow) and his defense (he didn't). Out of 30, I'd say the Devils really hit on three guys so far - and all were traded away. Out of the 1,780 games played by all Devils fourth rounders, only 330 were with the Devils.

Surprising to me, but it appears the most successful fourth round pick for the Devils is a toss up between Anders Carlsson and Cam Janssen. Carlsson, well, didn't produce much and lasted only three seasons. Janssen has been around the league for some time and has provided nothing but fists and PIM. Carlsson still leads all fourth round picks in points for New Jersey. Loktionov has already out-scored Janssen's 147 games with New Jersey with five goals and three assists. He could very well out-produce his career point totals in this season. D'Agostini can remain shooting at 5% at evens and might get more goals than Janssen's Devils tenure.

Is there any future hope for Devils fourth rounders? Currently in the system is defenseman Seth Helgeson (2009), defenseman Joe Faust (2010), forward Ben Thomson (2012), and Sarnia's big scorer Reid Boucher (2011). Among the four, I would have to think his big breakout season in juniors will give him some attention in the short term. If he measures up, he could have a future. He wouldn't have to do much with the Devils to be among the better fourth round picks. Just getting in the league would be a feat. Production from the collective group of fourth rounders has been sparse with an average of 11 career goals and 9.63 career assists across all thirty picks. The average does improve within the ten that did make it: 28.9 career goals and 38.1 assists. If Boucher makes it and plays for a couple of seasons, then it's not unthinkable to get to that level over his career. That's still a pretty big if.

As for the new arrivals? D'Agostini (career goals: 45, career assists: 46) has surpassed both marks within his career already. Loktionov (career goals: 12, career assists: 10) is on that path already in his young career.

The Devils had more success with the fifth round picks in their history. Out of 29 total fifth round selections, eleven have played at least one game in the NHL. Here's the list of those eleven players:

Year Pick # Player Pos. NHL GP NJ GP NHL G NHL A NHL Pts NJ G NJ A NJ Pts
1983 85 Chris Terreri G 406 302
1984 86 Jon Morris C 103 86 16 33 49 16 30 47
1987 86 Kevin Dean D 331 198 7 48 55 4 29 33
1990 95 Dean Malkoc D 116 0 1 3 4 0 0 0
1995 122 Chris Mason G 313 0
1997 131 Jiri Bicek LW 62 62 6 7 13 6 7 13
1998 143 Ryan Flinn LW 31 0 1 0 1 0 0 0
2000 135 Mike Danton C 87 19 9 5 14 2 0 2
2001 163 Andreas Salomonsson LW 71 39 5 9 14 4 5 9
2005 155 Mark Fayne D 159 159 8 28 36 8 28 36
2006 148 Olivier Magnan D 18 18 0 0 0 0 0 0

Of those eleven, six of them have played at least 100 NHL games; three of them have appeared in over 200. Out of the combined 1,697 games by all fifth round picks, 880 were for New Jersey so the Devils have benefited more from their successes. Two of those eleven picks that got to the NHL level were goaltenders Chris Terreri and Chris Mason (who's still in the league). Both were starters for a couple of seasons (Terreri from 1990 to 1993, Mason for St. Louis from 2007-2010) but were mostly #2 guys for a while. Given that I'm intending to show how Loktionov and D'Agostini, who are both forwards, compare to past picks, I can't really compare them to goalies. I will say that they were successful picks in that both had long careers, even though Mason never suited up for New Jersey.

Let's start with the successful skaters. Jon Morris has the most points for the Devils among fifth round picks. He got a little productive in 1990-91 but he didn't stick in the lineup and eventually was put on waivers in 1993. Defenseman Kevin Dean was largely a depth player for the Devils and just chipped in some points here and there before Atlanta snagged him in the 1999 expansion draft. Dean piled up several assists per season, enough to make him the all-time leading NHL scorer among Devils fifth round picks. Defenseman Dean Malkoc never made it in New Jersey, got traded in a minor deal in 1995, and then signed with Vancouver and got a few games before moving about two other teams. The most recent 100+ game player among fifth round picks is current defenseman Mark Fayne. He broke in during the maligned John MacLean era, proved himself to be a good defenseman since then, and confusingly remains a scratch in recent games. Like most defensive defenseman, Fayne doesn't bring a lot of points but he's on the way of being the best Devils fifth round pick who wasn't a goalie. How you value Terreri and Mason's career would determine whether you think Fayne's the best ever fifth round pick.

The sub-100 game crew features a few notable names as they were call ups that I can recall seeing within the last fifteen years. Jiri Bicek was an extra forward for seemingly forever but could never crack the lineup for a full-time basis. Andreas Salomonsson was a touted "best player not in the NHL" guy who turned out to showcase why he wasn't in the NHL earlier in his career. He never panned out. Mike Danton was, well, Mike Danton. Ryan Flinn was a penalty machine who got limited minutes for LA for his 31 games. Olivier Magnan, a.k.a. Olivier Magnan-Grenier, was a part of the platoon on defense under John MacLean. He didn't do well.

The current fifth rounders in the system doesn't include a junior scoring machine like Boucher. Wingers Derek Rodwell (2009) and Blake Pietila (2011) are still in college. Pietila did represent for the U.S. at the WJC so he may have a future but it's likely as a defensive forward. 2012 picks Graham Black and Alexander Kerfoot remain at the junior level, with Kerfoot going to college next year so they're a long ways off. So Mark Fayne can still feel confident as being the most recent successful Devils fifth round pick for a few more years. He may still be the best.

Since most of the successful fifth round picks were defensemen with two goalies, it won't take a lot of production from Loktionov and D'Agostini to out do the career NHL average of all of those picks. Out of the whole group of 29, the career goals and assist averages are 1.69 goals and 4.93 assists. Loktionov has already beaten the goal mark and has more points. D'Agostini might do that in his short time in New Jersey this season with a little luck. The career averages are higher if we take out the guys who never made it and the two goalies who did. The NHL career goals average becomes 5.8 and the assists average jumps to 14.7. Loktionov only needs one goal to beat that average this season just for New Jersey; his career totals are better in goals and short five assists. D'Agostini's career totals are ahead of those averages already. It'll take more time from Loktionov and D'Agostini get ahead of both to do it as New Jersey; that's not a guarantee given that it would require being re-signed, but it's possible if they do.

The long and short of it is that the Devils have historically not found NHL players with their fourth or fifth round draft picks. Between the two rounds, only eight have really "made it" and that includes the terrible hockey player that is Cam Janssen and the (safe, in my opinion) assumption that current NHLers Mark Fayne and Matt Halischuk will stick around. Among the skaters that did, they didn't do much for New Jersey or even in the NHL in terms of production. Only Ysebaert and McCauley earned over 100 points in their respective NHL careers. All of this confirms to me that a fourth or a fifth round pick isn't worth that much. It's entirely possible that the Devils could find a good player that deep in the draft and it's happened a few times; but that has been the exception in the Devils' draft history, not the rule.

Therefore, we should treat a fourth or a fifth round pick as a low reward pick. They just aren't worth that much. If it only takes a fourth or a fifth round pick to get a NHL player who can help the team now or in the near future, then it's a deal worth making. Based on the team's draft hisotry, Lou made the right call once already and it could be two very soon. Loktionov has already proven to be more valuable than the majority of past Devils fifth round picks. If D'Agostini's luck changes for the better and shoots a bit more, he can get the few points needed to stand out ahead of most of the team's past fourth and fifth round picks. Both will need more than just the rest of this season to really pull themselves ahead of all but a few players, but they have done or will do more than the nothing contributed a majority of those draft selections.