The Devils made some moves on the second day of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, which included a trade for a player and eight more picks.
The day began with the Devils trading a third round pick (which became Connor Hall, 77th overall) to Pittsburgh for forward Beau Bennett. Bennett is a 24-year-old 6-foot 2-inch, 195-pound native of Gardena, California who played 33 regular season games for the Penguins last season. He posted six goals and six assists (12 points) and had 10 penalty minutes. He played one playoff game for the Pens this year. He has spent the last three seasons since leaving the Penticton Vees of the British Columbia Hockey League (where he spent one year) and the University of Denver (where he spent two) between Pittsburgh and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. He was the Pens’ first choice (20th overall) in the 2010 Draft. He has 129 NHL regular season games and 21 Stanley Cup Playoff games in his career.
The Devils then got down to the business of the rest of their draft picks. They took Nathan Bastian in the second round (41st overall). He was a teammate of Michael McLeod on the OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads last season and, according to Central Scouting’s Matt Ryan: “is a big, strong forward who possesses good hands and a scoring touch. He has good hockey sense and underrated passing ability. He has taken on a leadership role within his team and provides them with size and skill up front.” The right wing is 18-years-old and a 6-foot 4-inch, 205-pound native of Kitchener, Ontario.
In the third round, with the pick obtained from Ottawa yesterday, New Jersey selected Brandon Gignac, a center from the QMJHL’s Shawinigan Cataractes. The 5-foot 10-inch, 173-pound native of Repentigny, Quebec had 24 goals and 37 assists for 61 points in 67 games last season for Shawinigan. Add to that 41 penalty minutes. He is 18-years-old and had a final rank by the Central Scouting Bureau of 98, meaning he was chosen 18 spots above where he was ranked.
The Devils went the European route in the fourth round, choosing Russian left winger Mikhail Maltsev 102nd overall. Maltsev, 18-years-old and a native of St. Petersburg played the last two years with the SKA St. Petersburg Under-17 team and the Russian Under-18 team. In 2015-16, the 6-foot 3-inch, 198-pound winger had 11 goals and 12 assists for 23 points in 29 games played for the Russian Under-18 team. He had 20 penalty minutes to go with that. He was ranked 37th amongst all European skaters, but it is always a risk to draft a Russian player due to the fact that they might decide to stay and play in the KHL.
For their second pick in the fourth round, 105th overall, the Devils took a goaltender, Evan Cormier of the Saginaw Spirit of the OHL. The 6-foot 3-inch, 202-pound goalie, who catches with his left hand is 18-years-old and a native of Bowmanville, Ontario. Last season for Saginaw, he played in 58 games and had a 3.72 goals against average and a .890 save percentage to go along with one shutout in 3,246 minutes. He played some time of his OHL career with the North Bay Battalion, but did not see much action there. Choosing a goalie is kind of a strange choice, as the Devils are already packed at that position, but they may see something in this kid that they like.
In the fifth round, 132nd overall, the Devils went back to Russia to choose 18-year-old defenseman Yegor Rykov. The 6-foot 2-inch, 205-pound native of Vidnoe, Russia spent the bulk of last season with SKA St. Petersburg 2 of the Russian junior league, playing 20 games for them and scoring 3 goals and 7 assists for 10 points. He also had 10 penalty minutes. Again, like goaltending, the Devils are loaded at the blueline, so this is a matter of seeing the best player available at that point in the Draft (he was ranked 36th amongst European skaters) and taking him. Again, the KHL signing possibility always plays a role with the Russian players.
For the seventh round, 162nd overall, the Devils chose Jesper Bratt of AIK of the Sweden-2 league. Bratt is a winger who can play either side, shoots left and is 18-years-old. He is 5-foot 10-inches and weighs 171-pounds. He is a native of Stockholm, Sweden and, in 48 games for AIK last season, had 8 goals and 9 assists for 17 points and 6 penalty minutes.
Finally, in for their seventh round pick, 192nd overall, the Devils took defenseman Jeremy Davies of the Bloomington Thunder of the USHL. The 19-year-old blueliner from Montreal is 5-foot 10-inches and weighs 180-pounds. He put up some good numbers for Bloomington, in 60 games; he had 13 goals and 36 assists for 49 points and 48 penalty minutes.
A nice mix for the Devils and time will tell exactly where the future of these players lies, be it in the NHL in New Jersey, elsewhere or outside the NHL. The Devils addressed some needs and also stocked up in places where they already have a bit of a logjam within the system.
Congratulations to each of the players drafted by the New Jersey Devils over the last two days!