June 24, 2016 will be one of the most important nights in the currently young tenure of Ray Shero as General Manager of the New Jersey Devils. That is the night of the first round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. The Devils will be picking eleventh overall and this pick pretty much needs to be a good one. Not necessarily someone who has to be great in 2016-17 but someone who will be an important part of the team in the near future of the organization. Someone who will be a key part of to turn the current re-building effort into a constructed success. The work won't end on that night. On June 25, 2016, the Devils will have eight picks in the next six rounds to further bolster their prospect pool and hopefully find more NHL-caliber talent to eventually strength the roster. Needless to say, those two days will be among the most important ones for the Devils' offseason.
Those two days are over seven weeks away. It seems like a long ways away. Something that can be put on the mental backburner. Indeed it can if you are a fan. If you are Ray Shero, director of amateur scouting Paul Castron, and/or a scout in the organization, then this definitely an active project. The work is (hopefully) being put in now by the organization to make them successful days. Therefore, this is a very early preview of the 2016 NHL Draft for the Devils.
The Basic Information
The Dates: June 24, 2016 - First Round; June 25, 2016 - Second through Seventh Rounds
The Location: Buffalo, New York
- First round - 11th Overall
- Second round - 41st Overall
- Third round - 72nd Overall (due to 2015 trade with Ottawa; Devils didn't use Ottawa's fourth rounder that year, so they will get their third this year - Wikipedia is wrong on that being a fourth); 76th Overall(due to 2015 trade from Detroit by condition of Detroit not making Conference Finals or Stanley Cup Finals in 2015)
- Fourth round - 101st Overall; 104th Overall (due to 2016 trade with Boston that gave them Lee Stempniak)
- Fifth round - 131st Overall
- Sixth round - 161st Overall
- Seventh round - 191st Overall
Apologies if this is not correct, but this is how it stands based on available information. There's one more potential pick: Toronto owes the Devils a third rounder as part of compensation for hiring The Greatest GM in Devils History, Lou Lamoriello. I don't know if it has to be this season or not. We'll see. If it is, then add a 61st Overall to the Devils.
As the prospects to be drafted will be 17 or 18 years old, the idea is to pick players with the future in mind. That future is often unknown as player and talent needs can shift very quickly. I think this why the "Best Player Available" concept is a popular one. A defenseman in the second round may not fit the team's current needs, but by the time that player is ready for professional hockey and/or the NHL, the Devils may need him. Or potentially move him to get someone who will fit a need then. Or move someone else to use that player. This provides more options. To that extent, I understand and agree with the idea in theory.
That being said, it does not take a lot of analysis to identify the issues with the Devils. It's offense. Offensive talent is limited both at the NHL level and at the prospect level. As such, the team has continued to finish at or near the bottom in terms of goals scored, shots taken, and shooting attempts made. Here's a current breakdown by position of the team's prospects, defined as players still on the entry level contracts - Damon Severson excepted because he's a lock for NJ - or have their rights owned by the team:
Forwards: Pavel Zacha, John Quenneville, Reid Boucher, Joseph Blandisi, Nick Lappin, Miles Wood, Blake Pietila, Blake Coleman, Alex Kerfoot, Blake Speers, Graham Black, Ryan Kujawinski, Ben Johnson, Joey Dudek, Ben Thomson, Brett Seney, Brandon Baddock, and Connor Chatham
Defensemen: Steve Santini, Joshua Jacobs, Reece Scarlett, Raman Hrabarenka, Colton White, Vojtech Mozik, Ryan Rehill
Goalies: Mackenzie Blackwood, Ken Appleby
Among that group, there's not a lot of offensive upside. There's Zacha, Quenneville, Boucher, Blandisi, and that's pretty much it. I have hopes that others can make the New Jersey roster at some point. I'm sure Lappin, Wood, and Pietila will get a look in camp and Coleman performing well in Albany after missing most of last season with a shoulder injury could help his cause. My point is that if New Jersey is looking for a top six forward among this group - or a right winger - then they pretty much have to put most of their hope into Zacha and Quenneville that they'll turn out to be those players. Zacha was impressive in his NHL debut, but that was also the last game of a lost season against an opponent that had every reason to lose that game. If that was not enough, then look at the defensemen. I'm confident Santini has a future in this league and I'd like to think Jacobs will have one too; but none of these prospective blueliners are really offensive defensemen. While the team may find a decent number of decent NHL players in their current pool of prospects, the answers to their current offensive questions are few. And even if Zacha and Quenneville provide them, then there's even slimmer pickings behind them.
Therefore, the need for the Devils in this draft is to find offensive prospects at either position. They don't have many. Continuing to have so few means they'll be forced to either find those players in trades or spend quite a lot of money every July 1 to get them in free agency. My hope is that their idea of the "Best Player Available" concept can give an edge to a player with notable offensive skills from passing to shooting to stickhandling. Otherwise, Shero and Castron will only continue the path that led to the Devils to where they are with their prospects and ultimately their NHL roster.
And if there's a positional need, then it's this: Right wing, right wing, right wing, I'll even take a center who can convert to right wing.
Well, the NHL Draft isn't tomorrow or this week. Here's what we have planned here at All About the Jersey.
First, there will be a much more timely draft preview on the week of the NHL Draft. It'll have all the broadcasting information that you need to know and information from what we will do starting tomorrow.
Second, tomorrow will begin our annual re-focus of the site on the 2016 NHL Draft prospects. Between Brian and I, we have 40 prospects and a schedule to put up profiles on each from Monday through Saturday for the next seven weeks - actual days of the draft excepted. By the end, we - the writers of the profiles and you, the readers - should have a better idea of who the Devils could draft and whether we would want that or not. Based on past years of doing this, we'll be focusing a bit more on the upper half of the draft rather than guessing who the Devils could have in, say, the seventh round. But we will provide what we can find out on who could have their named called in late June. In any case, all of the profiles will be rounded up into a group and there will be a hub on the front page of the site so you can see them all in one location.
Should any significant Devils news hits, then we'll have posts on that too.
Third, we'll do a round up of mock drafts and rankings also closer to the NHL Draft date. It'll be fun to see where our profiled prospects end up in them and to see if they fall around where we think they would be in May.
Please share what you think about this year's draft in the comments in the meantime. Until then, thank you for reading and we hope that you continue to do so for the next two months.