The Draft: "What Could Have Been"

So there I was this morning enjoying my morning coffee, and reading some hockey news, eager to start watching games again, and as I've done on many occasions I started thumbing through past NJ Devils drafts. The last "good" first round draft pick that I saw the long-time GM and David Conte have was back in 2004 when they selected Travis Zajac. From there it was just a downward trajectory. I fully understand that players who are ranked in a draft class might not exactly be where they end up for their careers, but we were so bad for so long that I figured things COULD have been better. So I set some rules.

1. Every player picked was picked within five spots after the Devils with one exception: Brayden Point. The selection of renowned dishwasher Connor Chatham was such a bad one, and Point was in discussions to go higher that I let that one pick slide.

2. I did forfeit some picks because some draft positioning was admittedly god awful. There was nothing that could be done with them. I also kept some Devils players who had NHL careers to some extent.

3. The redraft starts with 2005, the year after Zajac was taken, and ends in 2015, the year that Conte finally packed his bags.

So here is who I ended up with in each draft:

2005 - Nick Bergfors F - TJ Oshie RW
2005 - Jeff Frazee G - Justin Abdelkader LW
2005 - Mark Fraser D - Ben Bishop G
2006 - Matthew Corrente D - Michael Neuvirth G
2006 - Alexander Vasyunov - Jamie McBain D
2006 - Krill Tulopov D - Brad Marchand LW
2007 - Mike Hoeffel - Wayne Simmonds RW
2007 - Matt Halischuk RW
2007 - FORFEIT
2008 - Mattias Tedenby F - John Carlson D
2008 - Bradon Burlon D - Travis Hamonic D
2008 - Patrice Cormier C - Marco Scandella D
2009 - Jacob Josefson F - Marcus Johansson LW
2009 - Eric Gelinas D - Dimitry Orlov D
2009 - FORFEIT
2010 - John Merrill D
2010 - Scott Wedgewood D
2010 - FORFEIT
2011 - Adam Larsson D - Mark Scheifele C
2011 - Blake Coleman RW
2011 - Reid Boucher F - Johnny Gaudreau LW
2012 - Stfan Matteau F - Tanner Pearson LW
2012 - Damon Severson D
2012 - Ben Johnson C - Josh Anderson RW
2013 - Steve Santini D - Tristan Jarry G
2013 - Ryan Kujawisnki F - Jake Guentzel LW
2013 - FORFEIT
2014 - Joel Quenneville F - Brendan Lemieux LW
2014 - Connor Chatham DW - Brayden Point C
2014 - FORFEIT
2015 - Pavel Zacha F - Ivan Provorov D
2015 - Mackenzie Blackwood G
2015 - Blake Speers F - Anthony Cirelli C

Phew. That was quite the exercise. There are some gems in here though, and some future Hall of Famers as well. We are, admittedly, goalie heavy here as well, but with this spread of years you have to think that you'd have two generations of goalies coming through the franchise.

So if you gave me this list of players alone, here's how I would structure the lines based on how they are playing in 2021-2022:

Marchand - Scheifele - Oshie
Gaudreau - Point - Guentzel
Coleman - Cirelli - Anderson
Lemieux - Johnsson - Simmonds

Provorov - Carlson
Orlov - Severson
Merrill - Hamonic


EXTRAS - Scandella, Pearson, Wedgewood

Everyone else is pretty much either retired or playing over seas. Now, the next question is could we even afford this roster as it stands? Let's take a look:

FORWARDS: $59,900,000
Gaudreau - $6,750,000
Point - $6,750,000
Marchand - $6,125,000
Scheifele - $6,125,000
Guentzel - $6,000,000
Oshie - $5,750,000
Anderson - $5,500,000
Coleman - $4,900,000
Cirelli - $4,800,000
Pearson - $3,250,000
Lemieux - $1,550,000
Johansson - $1,500,000
Simmonds - $900,000

DEFENSEMEN: $31,141,666
Carlson - $8,000,000
Provorov - $6,750,000
Orlov - $5,100,000
Severson - $4,166,666
Scandella - $3,275,000
Hamonic - $3,000,000
Merrill - $850,000

GOALIES: $7,125,000
Jarry - $3,500,000
Blackwood - $2,800,000
Wedgewood - $825,000

So this 22 man roster carries a price tag of $98,166,666 which would put us roughly $16 million over the salary cap so no, we most definitely could not afford this roster. That said, a few things need to be taken into consideration:

  • The Butterfly Effect - Every year's draft is going to effect the next one, so this grouping could obviously look very different. Also the draft going forward from 2015 could look very different as well.
  • Players can be traded, remain unsigned, and be replaced by younger guys. This is an older roster for the most part, obviously, since we are going back in the draft to 2005. Also if you put a roster like this together, in my opinion, you might be able to get some guys to take deals to play with other guys. Let's face it: Brad Marchand, like him or not, is worth more than his price tag here. He's getting a chance to play with two awesome linemates. I'm sure that the direction of the team dictated some sort of discount on his most recent contract. There are a few stinkers in here as well, namely Pearson, Hamonic, and Scandella which really stand out to me.
We are admittedly weak in the back here. It would have probably been noticeable as well after Brodeur would have handed over the reins to Ben Bishop instead of Cory Schneider (which would have probably changed that 2011 trade, by the way). Still, I think that there is enough firepower here to outpace a lot of teams.

One last thing, because I always enjoy doing this part of it: who would be my captains? For me, the choice of the "C" is an easy one: Mark Scheifele. He's a natual born leader. For the two "A's?" I'm pinning those on Johnny Gaudreau and John Carlson. Imagine having two "home grown" players as team leaders. That would be awesome.

Oh well, my hockey pallet has been wet for the day. If anyone actually reads this, I'm curious: what are your thoughts on this little experiment?

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