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Post-Lottery Dive: What Should the Devils Do?

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With the draft lottery taking place last night, and now having more clarity on where the Devils will be drafting, let’s take a deeper dive into who will be available and who I want the team to take with their first pick in the first round.

2019 NHL Draft - Round 2-7
Pretend a different GM is sitting there.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

As of around 8:20 last night, the New Jersey Devils and all of us fans gained some clarity about the 2020 NHL Draft, whenever that takes place. We now know where the team will be drafting. In short: trading away Taylor Hall was NOT worth it. Whether you believe in his draft lottery mojo or not, the Devils never did this poorly in the lottery while he was on the team, and the team won the lottery twice while he was there. Now, the team is picking in a worse position than they would have if there was no lottery. While the Devils would have picked 6th without any lottery at all, they are now picking 7th. Ugh. #BringHallBack

In all seriousness, however, the good news is that the top of this draft class is absolutely loaded, so in reality, dropping one spot is not as major as it might have otherwise been. If you followed All About the Jersey while we were writing up the 2020 draft prospect profiles, you know this as well. We profiled everyone who will be taken in the top 10 and beyond, and in my opinion, the top 9 is stacked, with those coming right after in a close tier right behind. The Devils will have the opportunity to draft one of those players. The bad news, however, is that they can still easily mess this up, but the odds are lower this year than in most others given the high level of talent that will be available.

They also potentially have the opportunity to draft a 2nd one of those top 9 players if things fall right in this upcoming playoff extravaganza. For this post, however, we will strictly look at who could be available at pick #7, with links to the AATJ profiles and other draft rankings, as well as my opinion on who I would prefer at that position. We will absolutely dive into the other first round picks the Devils could potentially have this year (from Arizona and from Tampa via Vancouver) when those exact drafting positions become known. However, given that Taylor Hall is now on Arizona, don’t be surprised if they get knocked of the tournament right away, win the draft lottery, and then the Devils have to wait until 2021 for that first rounder.

First off, here is a link to the profiles we wrote here at AATJ so far, so if you want to take a look at someone I do not bring up here, you can absolutely do that.

To get a solid idea of who might be available and who others think is going at pick #7, let’s look at some draft rankings at this point to see who is projected to go 7th overall:

-Future Considerations: Jamie Drysdale

-ISS: Marco Rossi

-Elite Prospects: Cole Perfetti

-McKeen’s: Alexander Holtz

-The Draft Analyst: Rodion Amirov

-TSN Bob McKenzie: Marco Rossi

-TSN Craig Button: Yaroslav Askarov

-Dobber Prospects: Jamie Drysdale

-The Hockey Writers - Bell: Anton Lundell

-The Hockey Writers - Fisher: Cole Perfetti

-Draft Site: Marco Rossi

So, you see a couple of names repeated there, but it is actually a fairly wide list of players who are projected to go 7th overall. Just in 11 rankings right there, you have 7 different names. That is about as far from a consensus as it gets.

However, there are 3 names that do get repeated: Marco Rossi is up there 3 times, and Cole Perfetti and Jamie Drysdale are both up there twice. In my opinion, any one of these three would be solid choices. In Rossi, you are getting a top notch center prospect, someone who produced 120 points in 56 games in the OHL this past season. Yes, that’s right. 120 points in 56 games. Over 2 points per game in his draft eligible season. And there is a quality chance he is not going in the top 5 of the draft. Yes, this draft class is that deep. I don’t see how anyone could be upset with him if that’s who the Devils get, and I was happy to see that his name was up there multiple times.

While Rossi was the scoring leader in the OHL this past season, number 2 on that list was Cole Perfetti, another strong option for the Devils at 7. Where Rossi was at 120 points this season, Perfetti only managed a measly 111. Oh, and it took him 5 more games to reach 111. Not quite 2 points per game like Rossi. But hey, I think I will take 1.8 points per game, no problem. To me, the Devils could not go wrong with either option at 7. It is more likely that Perfetti is available, but Rossi being there at 7 is at least a coin toss, and if he is, I want Rossi first. But I do see this as a win-win between the two.

Jamie Drysdale is different in that he is the defenseman of the trio, but he was also an OHL prospect, so the three do have that in common. Despite playing the blue line, Drysdale nearly managed a point per game for Erie, with 47 in 49 games. He is arguably the top defensive prospect in this year’s draft. Some others might like Jake Sanderson better, but the majority would likely take Drysdale. And considering that the Devils need both forwards and defenders, and lots of both, I don’t think the answer comes down to position. The team needs to take the best player available, and if they want Drysdale at 7, they should take him, and like with Rossi and Perfetti, I would be happy.

In fact, from the rankings listed above, I would be happy with most of those names, not just Rossi, Perfetti, or Drysdale. The only two I would not be happy with are Rodion Amirov and Yaroslav Askarov. The latter is simply because he is a goaltender, and the Devills cannot take a goalie with this pick. Plain and simple. As for Amirov, I did the profile for him and I think he is a very good prospect. I would be fine with the Devils taking him in the teens if they get a pick in that area from Arizona or Tampa. If the Devils get, say, pick 14 from one of them? I am all about Amirov. But at 7, I think it is too soon, and I know other players will be available that I would prefer, players that I think are better prospects than Amirov. Amirov could end up being a stud, but I definitely want someone else here.

That brings me to the name I personally am rooting for the most: Alexander Holtz. I profiled Holtz myself, so perhaps this is a bias in that sense. But here is my reasoning: at 7, I am counting out Alexis Lafreniere, Quinton Byfield, Tim Stutzle, and Lucas Raymond. I know not everyone believes Raymond to be a top 4 pick, but I see no way he makes it to 7. If he does, the Devils better take him, period, as that is huge value at that pick. Every other player I believe has at least some chance to make it to 7. Now, that being said, I do not believe there to be an overly strong chance Holtz makes it to 7, but to fall only a couple of picks is definitely reasonable, especially given the wealth of talent available in the top 10 this year. And some rankings I listed had Holtz going after 7, which confused me. I personally would take Holtz at 5 after those other four I just mentioned. Holtz is, in my opinion, the exact type of player the Devils need: sniper, excellent shot, amazing vision, goal scorer, and he comes with a high motor, a desire to play the game the right way, and an excellent hockey IQ. The Devils need someone to light the lamps regularly. Only Kyle Palmieri pushes 30 goals a year now on this team. Holtz would do that almost immediately, and hopefully for a very long time. So besides for a small miracle in one of those other four dropping (maybe not so small actually), I want Holtz at 7.

But also, don’t get me wrong. I would be happy with several different players there. As I mentioned, I would also be thrilled with all three of the players projected by multiple people to go at 7. Rossi, Perfetti, or Drysdale could cement the new core of this team with Nico Hischier, Jack Hughes, and hopefully Mackenzie Blackwood for a long time to come. And as I mentioned above, I think the top 9 in this draft class is solid, but we’ve only discussed 8 names so far. 9 is the last name in the list of rankings above I haven’t yet brought up: Anton Lundell. Lundell is the top Finn in this draft, and could be a top Finn in the league for years if he continues to develop. I personally think he is the 9th player in the top 9, but I like his game a lot, and if the Devils see him as the best play at 7, I would not hate it, even if I personally would have gone in a different direction.

Beyond him, however, I would start to question the selection. I know some think Jake Sanderson is the top d-man in this draft class, not Drysdale, so I guess there is an outside shot the Devils take him. But I hope they let him fall, and I think they could get him with one of their other first rounders if everything went right. To take him over the likes of Holtz, Rossi and Perfetti, to me, is not the move to make, and if it were up to me, I am taking Drysdale over Sanderson.

Any other name, to me, is not in the same tier as those mentioned above. It does not mean they are bad players or prospects; like I said with Amirov, he could be really good, I just want someone else at 7. If you notice, on most rankings, you will find the top 9 I mentioned at least somewhere close to the top selections. Some might fall a couple of picks, but they are almost all ranked in the top 10 or top 12 every time. Beyond them, the rankings become erratic. You might find Dylan Holloway at 10-12 in one ranking, and at 20-22 in another. The same could be said about Jack Quinn, or Dawson Mercer, or a bunch of other prospects. Some of them could hit and become quality NHLers, many of them even could, but there is more risk there, and there are just other, better prospects to take at 7.

So to me, at pick 7, you are looking at one of either Alexander Holtz, Marco Rossi, Jamie Drysdale, or Cole Perfetti. The other four ranked higher are almost certainly not going to be around, but there is a guarantee that one of these players will be available, and if it were up to me, I am ranking them in that specific order. Give me Holtz first. If he is gone? Give me Rossi, then Drysdale, then Perfetti. Given the pick is #7, I don’t think you need to think about Lundell, but I mention him as I do think he is worthy of being in the same conversation. Anyone after that? A topic for another article when we find out the other pick(s) the Devils will have in the first round.

So there you have it, a breakdown of what the landscape will look like at pick #7. That all being said, who are you hoping the Devils take at that position? Is it one of the players I mentioned, or am I off-base and you have someone else in mind? If it is one of the players I mentioned, do you agree with my order preference? Would you also take Holtz over Rossi, Drysdale and Perfetti, or do you want one of those players instead? Who do you think is most likely to end up in the red and black when it is all said and done? Please leave your comments below, and thanks for reading!