Devils Win Draft Lottery, Will Pick First in June

For the second time in two years, the New Jersey Devils will pick first overall in the NHL Draft. The Devils won the 2019 NHL Draft Lottery tonight in Toronto and will now have the rights to pick centerman Jack Hughes in Vancouver in June.

The Devils had an 11.5-percent chance of moving into the top position, a 33.9-percent chance of getting a top three pick and could drop no lower than the sixth pick.

The Rangers will pick second and the Chicago Blackhawks third – they were both teams that moved up in the Draft as well.

Hughes, who plays at John Hynes’ old stomping grounds of the USA Hockey National Team Development Program in the USHL according to Mike G. Morreale of NHL.com, is the number one rated player by NHL Central Scouting among North American skaters. The 17-year-old 5-feet, 10-inch, 170-pound center led the USA “NTDP with 86 points (23 goals, 63 assists) in 41 games” this season according to Morreale and “holds the NTDP records for assists (139) and points (202) in 101 games over two seasons.”

Morreale quoted Dan Marr, who is the director of NHL Central Scouting as saying: “Jack is an elite skater who plays the game at top speed both with and without the puck, he sees the ice tremendously well and finds open space to create scoring chances. He has a complete package of skills that suggest he will be a franchise NHL player and game-changer.”

Of course, the Devils could always use the pick on Kaapo Kakko of TPS of Liiga in his native Finland. Kakko was the number one rated International skater by NHL Central Scouting. He is 6-feet, 2-inches tall and weighs 194 pounds and “scored 22 goals in 45 games, a record for a first-time draft-eligible player in Liiga” according to Morreale. In addition, Morreale said that “Kakko’s 0.84 points per game ranks fourth on the single-season list of under-18 players in Liiga.”

According to Goran Stubb, NHL director of European Scouting, as told to Morreale: “Kakko has excellent offensive instincts, is dangerous around the net and also a good passer and playmaker. He could be NHL-ready as early as next season after playing two seasons (51 games) in the men’s league.”

We will get a chance to see Kakko play again, as he is going to play in the 2019 World Championship in May for Team Finland.

That being said, the Devils will likely use the pick for Hughes and the Rangers will use theirs on Kakko, which should add even more of an edge to the rivalry. This will be reminiscent of 2017 when the Flyers ended up with the second pick (taking Nolan Patrick) while the Devils got the first overall pick and Nico Hischier.

No matter what, though, rejoice Devils fans because tonight our rebuild just a major shot in the arm!

The 2019 NHL Draft takes place on June 21 and 22, 2019 from Rogers Arena in Vancouver.

Boyle Dealt to Predators

The Devils have sent Brian Boyle to the Nashville Predators in exchange for the Preds’ second pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.

The Devils put out a press release on the trade, mentioning that the forward “spent the past two seasons with New Jersey” as he signed as a free agent with the team in the summer prior to the 2017-18 season, coming over from the Maple Leafs.

According to the release, Boyle tallied 26 goals and 42 points for the Devils “in 116 games.” After being diagnosed with leukemia prior to the 2017-18 season and fighting back to compete that same season, Boyle was awarded the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for exemplifying “the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.” He also represented the Devils in the 2018 NHL All-Star Game in Tampa, replacing an injured Taylor Hall.

According to the press release, the Devils will now have eight selections in the 2019 Draft. They will have all of theirs from rounds four through seven, plus their first round pick, two seconds – theirs and now Nashville’s – as well as Anaheim’s third. Always a good thing to have a stockpile of draft picks.

Ray Shero was quoted as saying “(w)e want to thank Brian for his time here, as he was a big part of helping establish the culture we now have in place. His leadership, dedication and determination served as an inspiration to the entire organization, on and off the ice. We wish him, his wife, Lauren, son; Declan and daughter Isabella the best of luck in Nashville.”

While it is sad to see Boyle go, it is a trade that works for all parties. Nashville gets a proven leader both in the regular season and in the playoffs. Boyle has not missed the playoffs since 2009-10 and has made the playoffs every year since. He has been to two Stanley Cup Finals (2014 with the Rangers and 2015 with the Lightning) and is a proven leader and performer in that tough time of year. The Devils also get a draft pick and get room to get younger while Boyle himself is in a position to win the Stanley Cup for the first time in his career. He goes from a team that is far out of the playoff race to a team that is a legit contender in the West.

Good luck to Brian Boyle as he starts this new chapter in his career.

Kapla Accepts Qualifying Offer

Some Devils moves this Monday afternoon to report.

Firstly, Michael Kapla accepted his qualifying offer from the Devils yesterday. The defenseman will make $874,125 at the NHL level and $70,000 at the AHL level, as it is a two-way contract.

The 23-year-old had six goals and 15 assists (21 points) in 63 games for the Binghamton Devils last season, his first full pro season. He also had 22 penalty minutes according to the Devils’ press release on the matter.

The press release went on to say that he “initially signed March 28, 2017” with the organization after four years at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell (2013-17). He played five games for the New Jersey club “at the end of the 2016-17 season.”

Kapla, an Eau Claire, Wisconsin native, was captain of the UMass-Lowell team when they won their 2017 Hockey East championship, his senior season. He played 152 games for the River Hawks and had 17 goals and 75 assists totaling 92 points. He also had 100 PIMs to go with that. He was named to the Hockey East All-Rookie Team during his freshman season in 2014, the same year UMass-Lowell won a coference championship.

In other news, Adam Henrique, who was traded by the Devils to the Anaheim Ducks last November, has re-signed with the Ducks. He avoided going to unrestricted free agency in 2019 by signing a contract extension through the 2023-24 season. Financial terms were not disclosed according to NHL.com.

What does this have to do with the Devils? Well, when they traded Henrique and Joseph Blandisi along with a third round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft for Sami Vatanen, they also got a conditional draft choice. That choice (a third rounder in 2019) was contingent on Henrique re-signing with the Ducks. Now that he did, the Devils get that pick from Anaheim.

Good luck to both Kapla with the Devils and Henrique with the Ducks.