2015 Draft Good to Devils

After drafting Pavel Zacha in the first round in Sunrise, Florida at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, most Devils fans were happy. But General Manager Ray Shero was not done there. Of course there would be six more rounds to go and the Devils still had five or six more picks left. By the end of the second day, the Devils would have three more Draft picks and another new addition via a trade.

In the second round, 42nd overall, the team took goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood of the Ontario Hockey League’s Barrie Colts. The six-foot four-inch 215 pound native of Thunder Bay, Ontario is eighteen years-old and “takes a calm and relaxed approach and has excellent positional play. He has a butterfly style with great low net coverage and controlled lateral movements” according to Al Jensen of the NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau. He went 33-14-2 last season for Barrie with a 3.09 goals against average and a .906 save percentage. He also posted two shutouts. He compares his game best to a Pekka Rinne or a Mike Smith, although his favorite NHL goalie is Carey Price.

In the third round, New Jersey took center Blake Speers 67th overall. Speers is a five-foot eleven-inch, 180 pound eighteen year-old who played last season for his hometown Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL. In 2014-15, he had 24 goals and 43 assists for a total of 67 points which included a 13 points in the first seven games of the season, in which he scored 4 goals and 9 assists. Speers’ favorite NHL team is the Blackhawks, according to his Draft profile and his favorite NHL player is Patrick Kane.

In Round four, the Devils also went to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds for their 97th pick overall: Colton White. The 6 foot, 180 pound eighteen year-old London, Ontario native is a left-handed shooting defenseman. According to the Devils’ website, White was the latest defenseman drafted by the Devils since they took Alexander Mikhailishin at 155th overall in 2004. White had 6 goals and 16 assists for 22 points last OHL season in 67 games. He was also a plus-38 for the team.

For their final pick (6th round, 157th overall), the Devils went to the NCAA college ranks when they took Merrimack left wing Brett Seney. At five-foot, nine-inches and 155 pounds, the nineteen year-old London, Ontario native is the smallest player taken by the Devils in this year’s Draft. According to the Devils website, Seney is the first player the Devils have ever drafted from Merrimack College. The left-handed shot had 11 goals and 15 assists for 26 points last season to go with 55 penalty minutes in 34 games. Seney, who was named Hockey East Rookie of the Week for the week ending January 19, led Merrimack in points and assists. He also led the Warriors with a plus-3 rating. He just completed his freshman year at the North Andover, Massachusetts-based school.

In between all of that, the Devils sent one of their second round picks (they had an extra second rounder thanks to the Jaromir Jagr trade with Florida last year) and a third round pick in the 2016 Draft to the Anaheim Ducks for Montvale, New Jersey native Kyle Palmieri.

According to Dan Rosen of NHL.com, the team was looking for “a young forward with NHL experience who could fit into the up-tempo style that coach John Hynes wants to play” and Palmieri fit the bill exactly. He is 24 years-old and had 29 points in 57 games for Anaheim last season.

The concern in Anaheim, as Ducks GM Bob Murray told Rosen, was that Palmieri would have to be given a bigger contract after 2015-16. The Ducks have Ryan Kesler coming up as an unrestricted free agent next year and Rickard Rakell, Jiri Sekac, Sami Vatanen, Simon Despres, Hampus Lindholm, Josh Manson, Frederik Andersen and John Gibson all as restricted free agents. Palmieri would also be a restricted free agent.

He played most of last season with different linemates up and down the lineup, including time with Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Kesler according to Rosen. But Devils GM Ray Shero feels that that shows he can play with different players in different situations. It also helps that he played for new Devils coach John Hynes with the United States National Team Development Program between 2007 and 2009.

But the main draw for Shero was Palmieri’s age and that “he plays with speed and can really shoot a puck.” The Devils also feel his contract situation is the perfect fit for the team right now. His current contract carries a salary cap hit of $1.47 million, as Rosen quoted from war-on-ice.com.

The picks the Devils made in the Draft helped the team plug some holes in their future. The Palmieri deal only made things better for the Devils at the 2015 Draft. As Shero reiterates a few times in the Rosen article, Palmieri is a young, speedy forward who can shoot the puck and who has a decent contract. Overall, he should be a great fit for the Devils for next year and, should things work out, for a few years to come.

Devils Draft Zacha in First Round

The Devils looked to address some issues scoring-wise with their first round selection in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft held at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida last night (June 26). With the sixth overall pick, they took Pavel Zacha of the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League.

As expected, Connor McDavid of the OHL’s Erie Otters went first overall to the Oilers while the Sabres chose Jack Eichel of Boston University second. From there, many thought, the real draft would begin, since picks one and two were such locks.

The Coyotes took Dylan Strome (a teammate of McDavid’s with the Otters and brother of New York Islander Ryan Strome) third, Toronto took Mitch Marner of the OHL’s London Knights fourth and the Hurricanes took defenseman Noah Hanifin of Boston College fifth before the Devils were on the clock.

NHL Central Scouting actually had Zacha ranked eighth overall, while Marner was ranked sixth. But with the Leafs’ needs and their connection to management at London, they decided to take him at fourth. The Devils would address their own issues at center by taking the next highest ranked centerman. This was just a testament to how deep the Draft was at center, considering there were two players at that position touted as “generational talents” in McDavid and Eichel. The fact that the Devils could get a good center a few picks in showed that the talent at this position runs deep in this draft class.

So what does the Devils first sixth overall pick since John MacLean in 1983 bring to the table? According to NHL.com’s official profile page, the 6 foot, 3 inch 210 pound left-handed shooting center “exhibits good puck control, a strong work ethic and a great shot.” He “is relentless on the puck and creates scoring chances for teammates with his strength and smart decisions.” This profile is bound to remind some of fellow Czech Jaromir Jagr, especially the being “relentless on the puck” and creating “scoring chances for teammates” part. Also his work ethic, as Jagr’s work ethic was/is legendary across the NHL, something which has allowed him to play well into his forties with no end in sight. Nobody wants to put the burden of him being the “next Jaromir Jagr” on the kid; those were just some observations that stuck out from reading the Central Scouting report on him.

Another scouting report on him states that “he’s got high-end skill and is an excellent competitor; he plays an excellent two-way game. He’s physical and solid on his skates and can separate guys from the puck.” All of this is good news for a Devils front end that sorely needs youth and some of the skill that it brings with it. Hopefully, should he stick with the big club this season, someone like Patrik Elias could make a good mentor for him. Other than that, allowing him to get some seasoning by going back to Sarnia for another year and then, possibly Albany, will probably be the way the Devils will handle it. They do not want to rush things with their prospects and will allow them time to mature and develop, which is something critical in getting the most out of your first round picks. Other than players like McDavid and Eichel, very few prospects are ready to jump into an NHL lineup right away. Think someone like Stefan Matteau here: a player that, while possessing a great skillset, does need time to adjust to playing in the NHL.

The eighteen year-old native of Brno, Czech Republic, who represented the Czech Republic at the 2015 World Junior Championship had 16 goals and 18 assists for 34 points in 37 games for Sarnia last season. Since coming to play in North America, he has “picked up the English language quickly by watching and reciting subtitled versions of his favorite movies, including Dumb and Dumber.” His profile on NHL.com listed his favorite NHL team as the Chicago Blackhawks, his favorite NHL player as Alex Ovechkin, his favorite video game as NHL 15, his favorite actor as Will Smith, favorite musician as Drake and favorite website as NHL.com. He also enjoys basketball and his favorite non-hockey athlete is LeBron James.

According to the Devils official website, this was the 11th time the team has picked in the top ten in team history. In those picks, there have been some hits and misses. For every Scott Niedermayer or Brendan Shanahan, there has been a Rocky Trottier, Neil Brady or Lance Ward. Hopefully, Pavel Zacha can be a long term member of the Devils who produces well and gives nets dividends for the team.

Welcome to New Jersey, Pavel Zacha.