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What You Thought: You Liked a Lot of the New Jersey Devils’ Picks at the 2020 NHL Draft

The New Jersey Devils made eight picks in Tom Fitzgerald’s first draft as general manager earlier this week. Absent any activity on the first day of free agency, this post looks at the results of the flash polls of the reader’s reaction to each of those picks. Most of you mostly like who the Devils picked.

2020 NHL Draft - Round One
Tom Fitzgerald took to the podium to make the Devils’ picks in his first draft as GM. You all mostly liked who he and his staff picked.
Photo by Andrew Maclean/NHLI via Getty Images

The 2020 NHL Draft took longer than usual to happen and the actual event dragged on further than normal. However, it has been in the books for a few days. The summary (day one, day two) has been written. The general attention to the league has moved on to the opening of free agency. While that has started, I want to provide one last look at who the New Jersey Devils picked at the 2020 NHL Draft. A look at what you, the People Who Matter, thought as a group.

At the end of the post for each prospect picked, there was a poll. It was set up to be a “flash” poll to capture your collective reactions. Those polls have long been closed. Let us look at the results and highlight some comments from in reaction to the picks as a way to fully close the book on the 2020 NHL Draft at All About the Jersey. Then we can move on to another traditional prospect-related event on this blog that is held in the offseason. In general, you mostly liked who the Devils took. Here is how it all broke down:

The Poll Results for Each Selection

As a refresher, here is a list of who the Devils picked with the link going to their respective post. The Devils went into the two-day event with nine picks and ended up taking eight players. They are:

  • Alexander Holtz, 1st Round, 7th Overall
  • Dawson Mercer, 1st Round, 18th Overall
  • Shakir Mukhamadullin, 1st Round, 20th Overall
  • Nico Daws, 3rd Round, 84th Overall
  • Jaromir Pytlik, 4th Round, 99th Overall
  • Ethan Edwards, 4th Round, 120th Overall
  • Artem Shlaine, 5th Round, 130th Overall
  • Benjamin Baumgartner, 6th Round, 161st Overall

The Devils’ seventh round pick was traded to Arizona for their seventh round pick in 2021. That was the only trade GM Tom Fitzgerald made for New Jersey at the 2020 NHL Draft. All three first round picks were used. Thanks to Carolina succeeding in the Return to Play format with an active Sami Vatanen, they had a third rounder as well. For the most part, you were collectively positive about those picks. Note: All percentages were rounded up to the nearest whole percentage; a 0% does not mean no one voted for it but that a very small number did.

AAtJ Poll Results for the Devils Picks in Rounds 1-3 of the 2020 NHL Draft
AAtJ Poll Results for the Devils Picks in Rounds 1-3 of the 2020 NHL Draft
The People Who Matter

Most people were quite positive about the Holtz and Mercer picks. People liked those picks with a good percentage outright loving it. The same breakdown happened for the third round pick, the overage goaltender Daws. His poll had far fewer votes since it happened on the second day of the draft, but it is noticeable how the results broke down in a similar way to the Holtz and Mercer results. The Mukhamadullin pick was shocking live and fans, then and now did not know what to really make of it. While there has since been a lot of rationalizations and justifications of the puck, this pick was not all that positively received. It was not all that hated. I would say it leans towards liking it, but most were unsure or in the middle on it. On its own that is not a bad thing. At 20th overall, it seems auspicious.

AAtJ Poll Results for the Devils Picks in Rounds 4-6 of the 2020 NHL Draft
AAtJ Poll Results for the Devils Picks in Rounds 4-6 of the 2020 NHL Draft
The People Who Matter

Given the low voting amounts, you may want to take those later results with a grain of salt. But those who did participate in the polls for the fourth through sixth round picks were generally pleased with who was taken. I think it is fair to say that with prospects that are really unknown, the tendency is to not dislike the pick simply out of ignorance. I respect that. It is also why there is an “in the middle / unsure” option. That was mostly used for the Shlaine pick and a good amount of the Pytlik voters. But the voters were generally positive, going as far as to really like the Edwards pick and love the selection of the double-overage draftee Baumgartner.

Selected Comments from the People Who Matter, the All About the Jersey Community

I’m not going to pull comments from every single pick, but there are a few from a number of the posts that I want to highlight.

The first pick went for Alexander Holtz, who was selected ahead of Jack Quinn (8th), Marco Rossi (9th), and Cole Perfetti (10th). I include that context as it makes sense for some of the following comments from the Holtz selection post:

“How the draft board broke, I would have been happy with any of Holtz, Perfetti or Rossi. Holtz seems like a great pick because he fits positionally and it’s not like it was a reach where we took a RW and ignored BPA.” - alslammerz

“I like it. I would have loved Rossi — or loved Holtz if Rossi was off the board — but we could have done worse. Even if his shot selection is questionable…we need guys to shoot. There were many times where I was screaming at the TV for anyone to just fire up a shot instead of waiting for a perfect lane. That simply doesn’t always happen and sometimes just firing up a shot can lead to something positive. If you keep the puck on the stick you won’t score, but take some shots and things can happen. Plus, as many have stated, we could have definitely blown this pick by taking a real reach. This wasn’t a reach. It was our preference vs the organization’s preference. They won out because it’s their job to scout and draft. Let’s hope they made the right choice. I’m just glad we won’t be seeing Rossi too much. That would be a nightmare.” - do0msday

“It’s at the point where you have to think the Devils have their centres. They need scoring and Holtz could be a 40 goal scorer and he’s a RW to boot which has been so thin for so long. I’m stoked on this pick.” - HailFastCore

I personally loved the Mercer pick as I did not expect him to be available at 18th overall. Dawson was well-liked as a selection as indicated by these comments:

“I like Mercer’s quickness in terms of his first few steps.

We have players that can get up and down the ice in straight lines. Mercer’s got great IQ, great hands, and strength in a compact frame. Honestly, I see a lot of similarities to Rossi, though he’s not at that level. At 18 I think he was a great pick.” - dr(d)evil

“I like the pick. Not gonna complain on this one. I would have preferred a defenseman there but if we had taken Schneider, you can be pretty sure OHR would have taken Mercer at #19. Probably Mercer is the BPA #18 with the possible exception of Lapierre which would have been a complete bet.” - nimzowi

“Great pick given who was on the board.” - jtclockwork

As the Mukhamadullin pick was off the board, there were a lot of takes both defending and criticizing the selection. I was not a fan of it, myself, but some of you did come to like like it. Here are a select few of comments in reaction to that pick:

“I’m warming to the pick the more I read about Mukhamadullin – his KHL minutes and point totals are impressive, especially given his age. KHL minutes are at a premium for young players. If he reaches his full potential, one thing is sure, creases will be cleared” - Los Diablos

“What did the rangers trade to jump 3 spots? Because if it wasn’t much, the devils could have guaranteed schneider and mercer. This kid was an absolute reach.

It looks like shero never left, fitz is here to complete project “swedes in the front, 6’6 russians in the back!”” - kenlem2

“When you have 3 picks in the first, you get to swing big especially with the last and final pick @ 20. If there was ever a time to do that, it was with this pick. Seems the masses take this as a reach and I can understand that, but I will say that he’s freaking humongous and pretty mobile. Ans based on those highlights they showed at the Draft, which I’m assuming is his latest work from the KHL, he looks to have quite a bit of skill as well. Develop him properly and this might actually prove to be a shrewd pick.

Holtz Mercer and this kid is pretty a darn good haul IMO” - ItsTheDevils!

“the only reason i dont love the pick is we maybe could have traded down at got him, but late in the first who really knows. We had 3 firsts so I’d rather take a chance on someone with tools to be a top pair D, who is getting a lot of KHL time instead of Schneider who i dont see being more than a second pairing guy” - defendyourself15

“A sneaky pick. A bit of a risk? Sure. But this could work out great if he develops and actually plays in the NHL in a few years.” - KillerKlownFromOuterSpace

As the second day of the draft went unnecessarily long, there were plenty of opportunities for people to share their thoughts about the five players selected from the third through sixth rounds. Here are a few from the post about goaltender Nico Daws:

“I’m very happy to get Daws into the Devils organization, especially relative to his ranking and where the selection was made. It sounds like he made several adjustments to his work ethic and preparation, and he reaped the rewards of that this past season as a big reason why Guelph was so dominant.Regarding his game, I do see very good to elite lateral movement, helped by his positioning in net and excellent vision/reading hockey plays. I haven’t seen him need to make too many pure desperation saves. That is because he knows where the puck is, where it’s going, and how to move his body there in time for the shot. His hands also have above-average quickness, something I mentioned as lacking in Senn’s game and something he’ll need at the NHL.I saw a scouting report say he’s very aggressive at challenging shooters. I disagree with that. He has a tendency to back into the crease under pressure, though his lateral pushes and overall net sense hasn’t burned him there in the OHL. He also has a habit of sitting small in his butterfly stance. It’s not as big a problem given his 6’4” frame, but he could maximize his body better there.Neither of those qualms are too worrying. Lundqvist was known for playing deep in the crease. Daws can do the same just fine given his reaction time, but he’ll need to stand bigger in his butterfly stance for that to work effectively.There’s little doubt in my mind that Daws becomes the Devils’ best goaltender prospect in the system, and the best we’ve had since Blackwood.” - Veron

“A Goldilocks Pick. Askarov at 7th? Too soon.No goalie pick at all? Too late.Nico Daws at 84th Overall? Juuuust Right.” - EliasStillRocks

“I like it. I like it a lot. Curious where they’ll play him next year. He could play in the AHL, but it is a valid point that he didn’t get into too many games in juniors.” - Chris Calabrese

Regarding Jaromir Pytlik in the fourth round, here are a couple of choice comments:

“As I said in the live thread, Wheeler had Pytlik on his top ten players to avoid list, but that’s when he was supposed to go towards the end of the 2nd round. Wheeler’s final ranking for him was #79, so it’s a good value pick where they got him. There are a few other players I’d have preferred like Carter Savoie (the next pick), Zion Nybeck (later 4th) and William Velleneuve, but it’s a perfectly justifiable selection. The knock on him seems to be that he stagnated the second half of last season and being one of the older players of his class that’s a concern. Also, his struggle on draws makes a lot of scouts think he will have to move to wing. That’s not a problem for the Devils, but it’s another reason why his value might have dropped a touch. Overall, it’s a good fourth rounder. He’s got the “tools” as they say and has the PK game down to help him fill a bottom six role at the next level. Hope he puts it together.” - jtclockwork

“Can ways be converted to a wing. Good size. Seems like a good pick” - OfManNotMachine

There were not a lot of reactions to the Edwards or Shlaine picks. However, they were received positively. To that end, here are comments from both of those that were positive:

“All the details on him make me think of a young Andy Greene. I’m down with that!” - HailFastCore on Edwards

“I’m not great at reading these charts, but in round 4, I’ll definitely take a guy with a minor chance of becoming a Roman Josi.” - Ethmal1 on Edwards

“They say he’s aggressive and pushes the pace from the back line I love it!” - Carterdogg on Edwards

“I Actually Like This Pick. Kid tore up Shattuck St Mary’s and was committed to BU. That’s a pretty nice little feather in your cap. When your taking 5th rounders, you want to take shots on guys who could pop. The college angle does worry me a little…..but this could be a steal.” - LetMeSeeDaGrom on Shlaine

The poll results for Baumgartner were led by “I Love It!” votes. The comments reflected that appreciation of the sixth-round selection:

“I like this pick. You never know when you’re picking late in the draft, but he seems to be very well regarded and let’s hope this is another hit in the 6th like we got with Bratt.” - KRadzin

Who needs that other Austrian born player ‘Rossi’ when we can get the guy with a better hockey name!. Love this pick in all seriousness, great value and future depth player.” - LeedsFamilyDoctor

“So excited we got a great value picking a 5’9” left-shooting Austrian center 154 picks after the spot we thought we were going to get one.

Death, taxes, and the Devils using 6th and 7th round picks to get undersized scoring forwards from Europe. His production in the Swiss pros has been good, it’ll be interesting if the Devils try to bring him over to play in Binghamton as soon as next year.” - dr(d)evil

“I love the pick. My personal favorite overager was snagged the pick after but this was an excellent pick.” - jtclockwork

I thank everyone who commented on any of the eight posts and everyone who voted in the polls. To reiterate, most of you liked what the Devils did at the 2020 NHL Draft. Time will tell whether the first draft under Tom Fitzgerald as GM will turn out to be good for the Devils we hope. But the initial reactions were favorable. Perhaps better picks could have been made, but there was no outright hatred any of the eight selections. There was no mass discontent with either of the picks. Again, the Mukhamadullin pick was the closest to it but most people were unsure or in the middle between liking or disliking it. That is not the same as disapproval. I think part of the generally positive reaction is due to the fact that we are fans and we do hope for the best for these 17 to 20 year old hockey players. We do not want to write anyone off, even if we preferred someone else to be picked in a particular spot. Still, I do have to put some faith in the wisdom of the crowd: The People Who Matter liked most of these picks and, by extension, the 2020 Devils’ draft class.

I understand that with the free agency period already started that it seems a bit out of place to go back to the draft one more time. However, the Devils have not actually done anything yet on the first day of free agency. And we are about to embark on the annual offseason prospect tradition on this site in the very near future. It turned out to be an opportune this time to take one look back at the draft and see what you thought of the 2020 NHL Draft.

Thank you, again, to everyone who voted in the polls, left a comment, or even just read or shared the site over the past few days.