Devils to Pick Second in Draft; Comets Win Playoff Opener

The future of the Devils was in the spotlight tonight.

The organization not only moved up in the NHL Draft Lottery, shuffling ahead of, essentially, three teams to move from the fifth best odds of winning the Lottery (with an 8.5-percent chance of winning the first overall pick) to the second overall spot.

The Devils leapfrog teams like the Coyotes, Flyers and Kraken to move into the second spot while the Montreal Canadiens, who finished last in the league and, thus, had the best odds of winning. They did and will pick first overall in their own building.

As Catherine Bogart, staff writer for the Devils, pointed out, the “last time New Jersey had the 2nd overall pick was in 1987 when the Devils picked Brendan Shanahan.” Prior to that, the team took Kirk Muller at number two in 1984.

She also mentioned (in a separate article) that this “is the fourth time the Devils will have a pick in the top-five since the 2017 NHL Draft where New Jersey selected its now Captain, Nico Hischier. The Devils picked Jack Hughes first-overall in 2019, and Hughes’ younger brother, Luke, fourth-overall last year.”

General Manager Tom Fitzgerald now has his work cut out for him along with (Chief Amateur Scout) Mark Dennehy and (Vice President of Amateur Scouting) Paul Castron, who will work to make sure the Devils make the right choice for the team at that pick.

Fitzgerald feels that with another well-placed pick in the Draft, the Devils should be able to add to their already young and developing pool of talent.

However, there is still room for the team to “weaponize” this pick, as the Devils still have not taken the idea of trading it off of the table according to Mike Morreale of

I will delve more into Morreale’s article on if the Devils and Fitzgerald will decide to make that deal, as well as taking a look at some of the prospects that the Devils might choose with the pick, should they keep it, later in the week here on the blog.

In the meantime, a quick report about the Utica Comets and their victory in game one of their AHL North Division Semifinal series with the Rochester Americans.

The Comets won 6-3 on the strength of a strong second period comeback and two goals from AJ Greer.

Rochester jumped out to a 2-0 first period lead at the Adirondack Bank Center in Utica when Arttu Ruotsalainen scored 2:21 into the game and JJ Peterka scored on the power play at 6:03 gone by.

The Comets roared back to tie things early in the second when Tyce Thompson scored 4:31 into the period off assists from Nolan Foote and Reilly Walsh.

Just a second under a minute later, at 5:30 gone by, Robbie Russo tied the game from Nikita Okhotiuk and Foote.

Ruotsalainen scored again at 11:37 to put the Americans back in front before Ryan Schmelzer tied the game on the power play at the 15:53 mark of the second. Greer and Walsh had the assists.

Peterka had been called for slashing at 15:33 to set up the man advantage for Utica.

The second period saw both teams rack up penalty minutes – although only Peterka’s penalty resulted in a power play. The rest were all matching minors (or double minors in the case of Sean Malone and Russo’s roughing penalties at the 20 minute mark of the period).

This tied the game at three and set up a third period that saw the Comets score three straight to win the game.

Joe Gambardella scored the game-winner from Fabian Zetterlund 9:29 into the third period.

Greer then added the next two, his first at 14:04 (with Aarne Talvitie getting the lone helper) and his second at 16:30 (unassisted) to ice the game.

Greer, with three points, was named the game’s first star while Gambardella was the second star with the game winning goal. Walsh was the third star with two assists.

Goaltender Nico Daws made 19 saves on 22 shots for the Comets while former Devil Aaron Dell stopped 34 of 40 shots for the Amerks.

Game two of the best-of-five series will be played on Saturday, May 14 in Utica.

Mukhamadullin Joins Comets as Utica Prepares for AHL Playoff Run

Amanda Stein reported yesterday that the Utica Comets will have an addition to their roster when they kick off their quest for the Calder Cup tonight against the Rochester Americans.

Twenty-year-old defenseman Shakir Mukhamadullin was assigned to the Comets from Yulaev Ufa of the Kontinental Hockey League and is expected to make his North American debut with Utica in their North Division Semifinal Calder Cup Playoff series.

Stein did say that he will practice with the Comets in the meantime, but at the moment, “game play is yet to be determined.”

Stein referenced Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald saying in his end-of-season press conference “that Mukhamadullin had [received] his visa, and would join the Comets as they prepare for their Calder Cup run.”

Fitzgerald wants the 6-foot, 4-inch blue liner to get familiar with the North American-style of hockey before fully throwing him into a game situation.

The Devils GM was quoted by Stein as saying: “He’ll go down to Utica, he’ll watch. Will he get in some games, depending on the series. We just want to make sure that we put him in a situation that he’s comfortable with, that he’s comfortable with that he’s growing, but with language barrier, North American type of hockey, it should be a [sic] great seeing him on the ice with our prospects.”

Mukhamadullin signed his three-year Entry Level Contract back on December 21, 2021 as Stein mentioned in her article.

The Comets get things started in the 2022 Calder Cup Playoffs in the North Division Semifinals against the Amerks as they play game one in Utica tonight. I will have some coverage of that here on the blog along with the NHL Draft Lottery, which is being shown on ESPN and ESPN+ tonight.

In other news reported yesterday regarding a springtime tournament, Catherine Bogart is reporting that Devils defenseman Ryan Graves has been added to Canada’s roster for the 2022 World Hockey Championship.

He will join fellow Devils d-man Damon Severson as well as Devils forward Dawson Mercer on the Canada roster for the tournament.

Bogart mentioned that this will be Graves’ first time representing Canada at the World Championship.

Overall, Graves will be the eighth Devil to participate in this year’s Worlds, as in addition to the three on Canada’s roster, Nico Hischier and Jonas Siegenthaler will also play for Switzerland while goaltender Jon Gillies will suit up for the United States and Tomas Tatar will appear for Slovakia.

In addition, Devils defensive prospect Luke Hughes will also play for Team USA.

The 2022 IIHF World Hockey Championship will begin on Friday, May 13 in Finland. Again, I will attempt to keep up with results here as best as I can.

Also, speaking of Devils defensemen, PK Subban has been working as a studio analyst for ESPN’s Stanley Cup Playoff coverage. He appeared on the intermission reports of the Rangers loss to the Penguins last night along with anchor John Buccigross and fellow analyst/former NHL defeneman Chris Chelios. He joins Bryce Salvador, who has been an ice-level reporter and analyst for TNT and TBS – working the Panthers overtime win over the Capitals yesterday and Erika Wachter, who has been reporting for the Flames-Stars series for Turner as well.

And finally, as we round out the news being reported on the Devils app, Sam Kasan recently talked about the newest addition of the “Speak of the Devils” podcast – the team’s in-house produced podcast.

This week’s guest is Greg Wyshynski, the hockey analyst and reporter for ESPN. Wyshynski grew up in Matawan, New Jersey and as a Devils fan.

He spoke on the podcast about how he became a fan of the Devils – his father was an Islanders fan when young Greg was just starting his hockey fandom – which coincided with the Devils’ unlikely playoff run in 1988 that concluded only with a seven-game loss to the Boston Bruins in the Wales Conference Finals.

He also related the story about how he and his father ended up at the Meadowlands Arena for game four of the 1995 Stanley Cup Final against the Detroit Red Wings and got to witness the Devils complete the sweep of the powerhouse Wings and hoist the Cup for the first time.

In addition to all of that, he goes over how he brought his fandom to his journalism once he broke into the sports writing business, something that was simply not done at the time.

Kasan listed some other topics that came up on the podcast episode including, looking at the 2021-22 Devils season, why Wyshynski feels optimistic for the Devils’ future, how he feels Hischier is underrated, Dougie Hamilton’s first season with the Devils, what the Devils will need for 2022-23, his overall Devils fandom and his favorite players over the years, how he became a journalist, the “emergence of blogging” and his current career at ESPN.

I would certainly recommend giving it a listen as Wyshynski is always entertaining and is someone does tend to wear his fandom (both of the Devils and of hockey in general) on his sleeve.