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 NHL.com.
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.