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Potential Picks for the New Jersey Devils at 7th Overall in the 2020 NHL Draft

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The New Jersey Devils will get down to business early at the 2020 NHL Draft as they have the 7th overall selection. This year’s draft features an exciting group of prospects that could have their name called by the Devils at this spot. This post will take a look at the potential selections for the 7th overall pick.

2020 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game
Depending on how the draft shakes out, a highly skilled prospect such as C Cole Perfetti could be available to the New Jersey Devils at 7th overall. Perfetti was an absolute start for Saginaw in the OHL last season.
Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

The 2020 NHL Draft is now just a week away! We will find out soon enough who the New Jersey Devils will select at 7th overall after months of speculation. In today’s post, I want to take a look at the intriguing prospects who could be available to the Devils at this pick. Some of these players will see their names called just before the Devils pick, but a few of them will certainly be around for the Devils.

To help come up with the group of prospects that should be available at 7th overall, I’m going to utilize Colin Cudmore’s (@CudmoreColin) “Expected Pick Range” tool. This takes rankings from over 30 sources to form a consensus on the range a prospect is expected to be selected in. You can read about his methodology on Silver Seven, SBN’s Ottawa Senators blog. You can check out his compiled rankings on this Google Sheet, and use this data viz for another view.

I’m also going to reference prospect projection models from Hockey Prospecting and GT Analytics to further take a look at these players. In terms of prospect evaluation, a lot of my opinions have been formed via draft guides such as the Hockey Prospect Black Book or Elite Prospects Draft Guide. Now let’s see which player’s are potential options for the New Jersey Devils.

Potential Available Players

In the above tables, you will see the range the player is expected to go in, his name, position, 2019-20 team and league, and basic scoring or goaltending stats. For the skaters, the last 5 columns come from the projection models from Hockey Prospecting and GT Analytics to help provide some context for what a prospect’s potential could be and how likely they are to reach that potential. A quick explanation of these columns:

Star% (Hockey Prospecting): Probability of a player turning into an offensive star (0.70+ Pts/GP for forwards, 0.45+ Pts/GP for defensemen).

NHLer% (Hockey Prospecting): Probability of a player turning into a NHLer (200+ games).

Here is the Hockey Prospecting Player Comparison Tool.

sNHLer% (GT Analytics): Likelihood a player reaches 150 NHL games.

pNHLppg (GT Analytics): Projected points per game at the NHL level.

Prospect Score (GT Analytics): Accounts for the probability (sNHLer%) and projected production (pNHLppg) of a prospect in one metric. You can read all about their methodology for these metrics here and search their draft rankings here.

I should also note that when it comes to talking about goaltenders there are a few additional metrics I like to look at for more context. These are Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA), GSAA per 60 minutes (GSAA/60) and Goals Allowed % Minus (GA%-). You will also see Workload which is just the average number of shots a goaltender faced per game.

Goals Saved Above Average = Saves-(League Average SV%*Shots Against)

Goals Allowed Percentage Minus = 100*((1-player save %)/(1-league average save %))

For GSAA, you obviously want to have a positive value. For GA%- you want to be below 100 which is league average. For example a 92 GA%- would mean you were 8% better than league average while a 108 GA%- would mean you were 8% below league average.

The below sections will break these prospects down by position. I’ll then give my opinion on how I would rank them and then I want to hear your opinion on how you would rank these prospects.

Forwards

I should note that technically Lucas Raymond’s expected pick range is 3rd to 6th so he is likely out of the Devils range. I don’t expect him to be available to the Devils but there is certainly a chance so I have chosen to include him in this group. Now, onto what the projection models think about this group of players.

Hockey Prospecting is highest on Marco Rossi’s star potential at an insane 82% Star% which actually leads all 2020 draft prospects in their system. Cole Perfetti is the only other prospect in this group with a Star% over 50%, checking in at 58%. Alexander Holtz (32%), Anton Lundell (23%), and Lucas Raymond (8%) round things out. In terms of their chances of becoming regular NHLers, Rossi leads this group (and all 2020 prospects in the Hockey Prospecting model) with an 83% NHLer%. Cole Perfetti once again comes in 2nd with a 71% NHLer%. Alexander Holtz (65%), Anton Lundell (56%), and Lucas Raymond (51%) round things out.

GT Analytics also thinks Marco Rossi has the highest chance to become a regular NHLer, with a sNHLer% of 82.2%. Though they differ from Hockey Prospecting after that, giving Alexander Holtz (76.2%) and Anton Lundell (76.0%) a higher chance than Cole Perfetti (73.9%). Lucas Raymond finishes the group with a 73.6% chance according to their model. In terms of potential scoring rate at the NHL level, Rossi has the highest pNHLppg at 0.637. Cole Perfetti (0.531) and Anton Lundell (0.504) are the others above 0.50. Alexander Holtz (0.460) and Lucas Raymond (0.379) round out this group. Overall, GT Analytics ranks these prospects in order of Rossi, Perfetti, Lundell, Holtz, and Raymond in terms of their Prospect Score.

RW/LW Lucas Raymond - Frolunda HC (SHL) - 5’10”, 183 lbs. - Shoots: Right - AATJ Profile

As noted above, Lucas Raymond is the highest rated forward in this group according to scouts but isn’t as highly rated in the projection models. A reason for that is that is the very limited role, less than 10 minutes per game, that he played in the SHL this past season. He dominated the U20 junior level in Sweden when he was able to play a lot and showcase his skills. Raymond is considered one of the best two-way wingers in this year’s draft due to his elite skills, as well as very good hockey sense, compete level, and skating abilities. He’s a player that excels with and without the puck and should help drive play at the NHL level. Elite Prospects mentioned in their Draft Guide that he had the 4th “Best Floor” and was the 2nd “Best Transition Forward” in this year’s draft class. Raymond is a winger that facilitates plays and makes his teammates better when he’s on the ice.

Mike profiled Raymond in the link above, describing him as a “gamebreaking winger”. In that profile he references Raymond’s Elite Prospects page and here is some of what they had to say about him:

A very well-rounded and highly skilled winger. Raymond is blessed with exceptional hockey sense. Furthermore, he has terrific hands, great speed and fine work ethic. A nightmare to play against with his forechecking and puck-stealing ability. He also plays a strong two-way game and is a capable penalty killer. Offensively, he has a strong wrist shot and excellent vision.

If there is one criticism I have seen around on Raymond it is that despite having “pro ready skill” he doesn’t have “pro level strength”. Dobber Prospects mentions that in this post on Raymond’s game. Raymond certainly seems like a player that would have to spend a season or two developing at the SHL level before coming over to North America as his body has to catch up to his skills. I should also mention that Brock Otten has New Jersey taking Raymond in his mock draft.

C Marco Rossi - Ottawa (OHL) - 5’9”, 185 lbs. - Shoots: Left - AATJ Profile

Marco Rossi was a dominant force in junior hockey last season after putting together an incredible season of 39 goals and 81 assists for 120 points in 56 regular season games. He played on an incredible Ottawa 67’s team and was a huge reason for that team’s dominance of the OHL. The projection models love his odds of making it as an impact player and he’s also thought of highly by the scouting community. Elite Prospects considers him to have the 2nd “Best Motor” in this year’s class. Hockey Prospect graded out his hockey sense, compete level, and skills as excellent. Skating and his small frame are drawbacks to his game according to Hockey Prospect so it’s possible he has to shift from center to the wing at the professional level, but there’s no denying that he’s one of the most highly skilled prospects in this year’s class. He has the potential to be a special talent at the NHL level.

John had the profile linked above on the “Austrian Ace”. In that profile he noted that Rossi’s production was not boosted from secondary assists or the PP. John pointed out that Rossi put up 58 primary points at even strength with 31 of those being goals. Those were some of the best primary point totals in the entire CHL. In that profile, he links to a few scouting reports that have glowing reviews of Rossi’s game. Ben Kerr of Last Word on Hockey had this to say about Rossi:

Rossi has excellent hands. He creates space by combining his quick fakes and with his quick cuts and changes in speed. Rossi is talented as both a playmaker and a shooter. He has a quick wrist shot with an excellent release as well as the passing skills to set up his linemates and make them better. His ability to extend plays through his work down low really lets him take advantage of these playmaking abilities. He gives his teammates additional time to get open for a tape-to-tape pass.

There’s also this from Cam Robinson in Brock Otten’s Midseason Media/Scout Poll:

“I don’t care what anyone says about his size, he plays bigger, stronger and harder than many 6’3 guys. The vision and playmaking ability are serious. The stride is quick and powerful. He’s tight away from the puck and plays all over the ice. I could see him in the NHL next fall.” - Cam Robinson

Rossi seems like a player that could go outside of the top 5 in this year’s class, yet reach the NHL fairly quickly and have one of the best careers of this year’s class. I hope he’s around when the Devils pick at 7th overall.

C Cole Perfetti - Saginaw (OHL) - 5’10”, 185 lbs. - Shoots: Left - AATJ Profile

Cole Perfetti is another OHL product that is ranked high by both scouts and the projection models. He was a dominant force for Saginaw this past season with 37 goals and 74 assists for 111 points in 61 games. Elite Prospects considers him to have the 3rd “Best Shot” in this class. Hockey Prospect considers his hockey sense and skills elite but would like to see him improve his compete level and skating.

Gerard profiled Perfetti in the link above noting that he is a “sharpshooting forward that would fill a need”. In that profile he references Sam Cosentino of Sportsnet’s post from February that notes Perfetti has “creativity and offensive zone awareness complement elite goal-scoring acumen.” It also references this post from Mike Morreale of NHL.com who says Perfetti is “a skilled left-hander with high hockey IQ, compete and a great shot.”

Brock Otten of OHL Prospects ranked Perfetti has the 3rd best OHL player in this year’s class, one spot behind Drysale and one spot ahead of Rossi. He also notes that he thinks Perfetti is a winger at the NHL level due to his skating concerns but that his hockey IQ will make him an elite offensive player. Here is some of what he had to say:

His hands are elite. His IQ is elite. He’s not big (5’10), but he is elusive. His four way mobility and agility are quite good and when you combine this with his vision and creativity, you get a player who is difficult to separate from the puck when he works the half wall area. Much has been made about his lack of explosiveness and top speed. However, he thinks the game so well and I think that truly does make up for it. Once inside the offensive zone, lateral quickness and agility are more important than pure speed and Perfetti has that. These skating concerns remind me of the way people picked apart Mitch Marner’s stride in his draft year.

RW Alexander Holtz - Djurgardens IF (SHL) - 6’0”, 183 lbs. - Shoots: Right - AATJ Profile

Alexander Holtz is a high end prospect due to his elite shot that saw him put up 9 goals in 35 SHL games and 7 goals in 3 junior games in his draft year. Hockey Prospect described him as a “cerebral sniper” with one scout in even mentioning that he has the best shot in the the draft class. Elite Prospect’s scouts voted him to have the 1st “Best Shot” in this year’s draft. Beyond that elite shot, Hockey Prospect likes his overall puck skills as excellent and is very complimentary of his very good hockey sense and compete level. His skating is good but could be better which is something to watch in his development. It’s worth pointing out that Holtz was a regular player at both even strength and on the PP for Djurgardens last season and was one of the top U18 players in the league.

Alex profiled the “sniper with a high hockey IQ” which is linked above. He points out that Jokke Nevalainen of Dobber Prospects wrote that Hotlz is “still the best goal-scorer among this group” and “he has an elite level shot and he’s excellent at making himself available for a shooting opportunity.” That profile also links to this draft profile on Holtz from Puck Prose which notes that Holtz “plays with an incredible hockey IQ. His positional awareness in both the offensive and defensive ends is most definitely noticeable” and “reads the play at an elite level, as he has next-level anticipation.”

Alex also references Holtz’s Elite Prospects page which has this to say about the winger:

His shot is as good as it gets, and it makes him a threat to score from anywhere in the offensive zone. Holtz is a pure sniper as currently constructed, and he has the potential to be a first-line finisher with triggerman utility on the power play. He’s a special, special talent, and if he can refine that talent, then there’s no telling where it might take him.

C Anton Lundell - HIFK (Liiga) - 6’1”, 187 lbs. - Shoots: Left - AATJ Profile

Anton Lundell is a center scouts love due to his two-way game and great defensive play. Elite Prospects considers him to have the 5th “Best Floor” in this draft class. Hockey Prospect considers his hockey sense to be excellent. His compete and skills rank just below that and then there is his skating which they feel still needs some work.

Mike profiled Lundell which is linked above. In that profile he noted that Lundell is a “potentially elite all-around center.” In that profile, he links to Steve Kournianos of The Draft Analyst who had this post on Lundell. Here’s some of what he had to say:

Lundell has the makings of an excellent top-six center at the NHL level. He is constantly involved in the play in one form or another and he uses his size, strength, reach, and sound positioning to overwhelm the toughest of Finnish league veterans. Although he isn’t physically intimidating or a punishing hitter, Lundell definitely plays a North-South game predicted on tenacity on the puck and making plays in traffic. It’s always good to see a defensively-responsible center like Lundell attack the middle of the ice with controlled aggression and make snap decisions to exploit gaps in coverage. Thus, opposing defenders seem to afford him far too much room at their line, and Lundell is more than willing to advance into space and whistle a wrister on net.

Will Scouch of Scouching had this to say about Lundell:

Lundell is a rock solid NZ play facilitator. Extremely refined and responsible in his own end, underrated offensively, and great at applying pressure away from the puck. There’s are reasons he was among the leaders in Liiga shot attempt differentials. While Lundell might not be a player I saddle with expectations of a decade as my #1 centre, a highly responsible middle six centre who could reasonably play any minutes imaginable and drive good results is fine by me.

Lundell may not have the high offensive potential of some of these other forwards, but does seem to have a rock solid defensive game and project to be a NHL regular for years to come. I have seen him fall all the way out of the top 10 and towards the Devils 2nd pick at 18th overall in some mock drafts, such as Brock Otten’s. That would certainly be an interesting scenario.

Defensemen

Most outlets seem to view Jamie Drysdale and Jake Sanderson as the top two defensemen in this year’s draft. I think it would also be fair to say that most outlets have Drysdale going off the board before any other defender. From a projection standpoint, both Hockey Prospecting and GT Analytics seem to favor Drysdale. Hockey Prospecting has Drysdale’s Star% at 16% compared to Sanderson’s 9%. Hockey Prospecting also likes his chances of making the NHL as a regular more, with Drysdale’s NHLer% being 64% compared to Sanderson’s 42%. GT Analytics has Drysdale’s chances of being a regular NHLer, his sNHLer% at 72.2% compared to Sanderon’s 61.6%. GT Analytics also projects Drysdale to put up 0.351 Pts/GP at the NHL level compared to Sanderson’s .309 Pts/GP projection. From a number’s perspective, it seems that Drysdale is a clear cut above Sanderson.

RD Jamie Drysdale - Erie (OHL) - 5’11”, 170 lbs. - Shoots: Right - AATJ Profile

Almost all of scouting publications and outlets view Drysdale as the top defensemen in this year’s draft. I should note that Hockey Prospect, who I trust a lot, has him 3rd after Jake Sanderson and Braden Schneider though. Regardless, I fully expect Drysdale to be the first defensemen to hear his name called at the draft. It’s a small possibility, but a possibility nevertheless, that he slips to 7th overall and the Devils take a shot on him.

There is a lot to like about Drydale’s game as CJ noted in the profile linked above as he fits the mold of elite, new age defensemen in today’s NHL due to his speed, creativity, and ability to defend. That profile references Bill Placzek of Draftsite who had plenty of positive things to say about Drysdale’s skating, noting that his “lateral cross-overs are up there with the NHL elite” and that “he makes lightning fast cuts on the attack and is even more intimidating using his speed defending.” The profile also references Steve Kourianos of The Draft Analyst who noted that “Drysdale plays very close to his line and maintains a tight gap in 1-on-1 situations” and that “he is used in all situations, and his ice time increases in late/close scenarios. Clearly the best defenseman available for the draft and a prospect with big time point-producing potential.”

Brock Otten of OHL Prospects recently released his mock draft for the 1st round of the draft. He has Drysdale going 6th overall to Anaheim, notably a spot after Jake Sanderson to Ottawa at 5th overall. Otten ranked Drysdale 2nd among OHL players for this year’s draft back in May and closed his report on Drydale with this:

Bottom line is that Drysdale projects as the type of defender who can play in any situation at the NHL level, and eat up a ton of minutes. I could easily see him winning a Norris or two. And even if his offensive skill set (or defensive abilities) don’t translate at an elite level, I think his floor is still that of a quality second pairing puck mover. Did I also mention that he’s a coveted right shot defender?

The Elite Prospects Draft Guide had Drysdale appear twice in their superlatives, ranking him 2nd for “Best Straight Line Skater” and 2nd for “Best Offensive Defenseman” among this draft class. Hockey Prospect noted that his skating, hockey sense, and skills are all positive attributes to his game. Though they feel his compete level, specifically when playing in league and not international hockey, could be better.

LD Jake Sanderson - USNTDP (USHL) - 6’1”, 185 lbs. - Shoots: Left - AATJ Profile

Jake Sanderson is often considered to be the 2nd best defenseman available in this year’s draft but I’ve seen him ranked and mocked as the top defenseman in some cases. As John noted in the profile linked above, Sanderson is a solid defenseman that can skate, defend, and support the attack. He’s a player that has a well rounded game with few flaws. I suppose it’s not surprise then that Elite Prospects ranked him as the 3rd “Best Straight Line Skater”, 2nd in “Best Floor”, and 3rd in “Best Offensive Defenseman” in their Draft Guide. Hockey Prospect in their Black Book also saw a similar view, grading his skating as elite and his hockey sense and compete level as excellent.

John’s post links to this profile of Sanderson by Steve Kournianos of The Draft Analyst in February. In that profile, Kournianos praises Sanderson’s ability to break the puck out of his zone, his physical play, excellent skating, and elite hockey sense. I think it’s worth re-sharing what John highlighted from Kournianos’ profile in regards to Sanderson’s defending:

Sanderson is as good as it gets when it comes to defending below the circles. Not only does he maintain optimal slot spacing between opponents who are spread out, but his rapid processing time in conjunction with a quick and powerful first step allows him to break up bang-bang attempts from the corner or behind the net with regularity.

Brock Otten of OHL Prospects mocked Sanderson to the Senators at 5th overall, noting that he felt pretty strongly about the selection. He mentioned that Sanderson “is so suffocating in the defensive end because of his skating ability and intensity level. I do think that his offensive game progresses enough for him to become a top 3 defender on the team too.”

Goaltender

G Yaroslav Askarov - SKA/SKA-Neva (KHL/VHL) - 6’3”, 176 lbs. - Catches: Right - AATJ Draft Profile

Askarov is considered by many to be one of the best goaltending prospects in more than a decade. The reasons? He has the frame, skills, and track record at both the domestic and international levels that have made him a highly touted prospect for the past few seasons. In 2018-19, his age 16 season, he put up a strong .921 SV% in 31 games at Russia’s top junior level, the MHL. That same season he starred for Russia’s U17 and U18 teams, winning a Hlinka Memorial Bronze Medal, U17 WHC Gold Medal, and U18 WJC Silver Medal. He was named to the U17 WHC and U18 WJC All-Star Teams, had the lowest GAA (1.40) and best SV% (.948) at the U17 WHC and was named Best Goaltender at the U18 WJC.

In 2019-20, his age 17 season, he managed to put up league average numbers despite playing against men in the VHL, Russia’s second tier. He was the only goaltender under 18 years old to see regular action in that league (the other U18 goaltender played in just one game). The fact he was able to play at a league average level through 18 games there is noteworthy itself. On November 27, 2019, Askarov became the second youngest goaltender to play in the KHL when he made 23 saves on 25 shots in a victory over HC Sochi. Askarov also excelled once again at the international level last year winning a Hlinka Gretzky Cup Gold Medal and U20 WJC Silver Medal. Currently, to start the 2020-21 season, he has a .974 SV% in 3 KHL games and a .900 SV% in 2 VHL games.

Scouts rave about Askarov’s potential with Steve Kournianos of The Draft Analyst calling the Russian netminder, “the most heralded goaltending prospect since Carey Price some 15 years ago” in his list of the Top 10 Russian Prospects for the 2020 Draft. He also praised Askarov’s technical game, noting that he can remain upright or drop down into a butterfly. David Ciss of The Puck Authority, in this profile, noted that Askarov “excels at tracking the puck and anticipating passes” and that “his lateral movement helps him get into a position to make saves.” These opinions are similar to what I read in the Hockey Prospect Black Book. Though I should note that they, along with other publications, have noted Askarov needs to work on his glove hand. Regardless, many outlets think he’s going to get drafted in either the top 10 or top 15.

My Preferences

If I had to rank these 8 prospects, I would go C Marco Rossi, C Cole Perfetti, RW Alexander Holtz, RD Jamie Drysdale, C Anton Lundell, RW/LW Lucas Raymond, LD Jake Sanderson, and G Yaroslav Askarov.

I am huge fan of Rossi and if he somehow is available at 7th then I hope the Devils select him. He has high end offensive skill and can also contribute defensively on the PK. Similarly, I’m also high on the other OHL forward in this group in Perfetti. Like Rossi, he is a high end offensive talent with a strong junior track record to back it up. Either of these players can be potential top line players for your team for years. Sure either or both of these players may have to shift to the wing, but I think you take them for their high end potential and worry about the position later.

Next, I have Holtz ranked 3rd and Drysdale 4th. With Holtz, I am comfortable banking on his elite shot making him a force at the next level. Imagine if he realizes his potential next to Nico Hischier or Jack Hughes? I believe Drysdale is the best defenseman in this year’s draft and could slot in nicely for years on the right side of a top pairing eventually.

I put Lundell 5th on my ranking because I believe in his defensive game down the middle and I am impressed how he has performed against men in Liiga, Finland’s top league. I know reading about a prospect’s “floor” can make one roll their eyes a bit, but I think Lundell could be a safer option than most prospects to at least become a long term contributor to whatever team selects him. Perhaps he realizes some of that untapped offensive potential too.

I have Raymond 6th among this group which certainly could be debated. He produced well considering the very limited role he had on a deep Frolunda team in Sweden’s top league, the SHL. I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up making me look silly by having one of the best careers out of this group. It’s just at this moment in time I prefer some of the other options and what they showed in their draft years.

Finally, I have Sanderson 7th and Askarov 8th. I like these prospects a lot but I hope the Devils don’t take either at 7th overall. Sanderson doesn’t have enough offensive potential for me to take this early over one of the forwards that should be available or a Drysdale should the Canadian defender fall to 7th. I’m a believer in Askarov’s potential and ability to realize that potential to turn into a long term NHL #1. However, I think the Devils need to focus on the highly skilled forwards with the 7th overall pick. I don’t expect Askarov to fall out of the top 15 but if he did then maybe the Devils could try to see if he slips to them at 20th overall. I’m still not advocating that, but it would be a lot more palatable to take him there than use a top 10 pick on goaltender when there are so many great forward prospects available.

Your Take

How would you rank these prospects? Which prospects would you want the Devils to draft and are there any prospects in this group you would prefer to avoid? What do you want the Devils to do with the 7th overall pick? What do you expect the Devils to do with the 7th overall pick? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!