Since the New Jersey Devils traded their ninth overall pick for Cory Schneider, their first selection in the 2013 NHL Draft came in the second round. The Devils had the 39th overall selection, but they traded it to Phoenix for the 42nd and 73rd overall selections. In other words, the Devils moved down three spots and picked up a third rounder they didn't initially have this year. The Devils finally did use a pick and selected Steve Santini from the United States National Team Deveopmental Program at 42nd overall.
Santini is a defenseman, so he doesn't fill an organizational need. He's not an offensive defenseman if only because he scored no goals at all in 2012-13 between USNTDP, USHL, and international play. Based on his profile at Elite Prospects, he is big at 6'2" and 207 pounds. It follows he can hit and, as evidence, Corey Pronman felt the same. Pronman had plenty of praise for Santini as he ranked 28th on his top 100 prospects at Hockey Prospectus:
Santini is a defenseman possessing several professional-level qualities. He is not a player who will wow you with a high level of skill, but he does have some impressive attributes. He is a good, if not a high-end skater, with good four-way bursts and nice technique on his pivots and footwork. His top speed helps him when joining the rush. Santini is strong for his age, and he displays physical qualities in muscling forwards off of the puck or delivering solid body checks. He defends very well, be it closing gaps, making stops with his body or stick, or positioning himself effectively. Santini's area of dispute lies in his offensive upside. He shows good abilities on the power play, but scouts have given me divided opinions on his puck moving, ranging anywhere from it being one of his best qualities to being just average. I tend to lean toward the latter, despite the occasional flashes of puck rushing Santini shows. One source praised his shot, although I am not as convinced that it is a strength. He is committed to attend Boston College in the fall.
This is all well and good. Absolutely nothing wrong with a mobile defender with a large frame that does well in his own end and throws good hits. However, this is clearly a Best Player Available selection. Should Santini continue to develop, then the Devils could have a solid blueliner on their hands. And that's a good thing. So is the fact that this could be a good value selection. A potential late first rounder falling down to 42nd overall is a good get, so to speak. I understand that. I'm just a little disappointed because the Devils have plenty of prospects that could turn out to be solid blueliners. There were forwards available with offensive upside that would have addressed the prospect pool's need. A need that I thought would grow since the Devils moved their first round pick for a proven goaltender. The Devils do now have a third round selection and can take a forward there, but I doubt whoever will be available at #73 will be as good as who was available at #42.
Nevertheless, I welcome Steve Santini to the organization. You can follow him at Boston College this fall, so go become familiar with BC Interruption to see how he does in his first year. He'll have the opportunities to grow and I hope he does just that as an Eagle and, possibly, as a Devil. Please share your opinion about the selection in the comments.
LATE NIGHT UPDATE: I was able to get downstairs after this post and catch the tail end of his interview session with the media. The audio's a bit low but it's what I could get from where I was able to get to with the recorder. Here's the end of that, which includes my tongue-in-cheek question about #BeADude, the Boston College Football motto that's been sweeping, well, BC. He didn't get it. In other words, this is audio evidence that I should stick to writing instead of asking questions:
While I'm adding things late at night, let's add some more. I forgot to check to see how he did at the World U-18 championships when I made this post, so let's correct that. He was named the best defenseman in the tournament by the Directors and best USA defenseman by the coaches according to the IIHF website for the tourney. It was a short tournament, but that's some serious praise given the amount of talent is involved in these tournaments. Understandably, Chris Peters was a fan of him. Over at United States of Hockey, he named Santini third on his list of top American prospects for the draft and noted that he was dominant at the World U-18s. While he is a defenseman, it's getting clearer to me at least that he's definitely one to keep an eye on for the future.