Draft Day Two: Devils Acquire PK Subban

What. A. Day. After getting Jack Hughes with the first overall pick yesterday, the Devils kicked off the second day of the 2019 NHL Draft by making quite the splash. The club acquired defenseman PK Subban from the Nashville Predators in exchange for defenseman Steven Santini, defenseman Jeremy Davies, a second-round pick in this year’s Draft (34th overall) and their second-round pick in the 2020 Draft.

The deal made sense for both teams as Nashville was trying to shed some cap in order to sign free agent forward Matt Duchene and the Devils will take on Subban’s entire salary. New Jersey finally gets to use some of their much-vaunted cap space and add a huge piece to their team going forward.

Subban is 30 years old and is one of the NHL’s premier blueliners. He has appeared in the “last three NHL All-Star Games (captaining his squad in the last two) and has been named to the NHL First All-Star Team twice” according to Chris Wescott of the Devils’ official website.

Subban played from 2009-10 to 2015-16 with the Montreal Canadiens and then the last three seasons with the Preds. One thing that Subban brings to the Devils, besides a booming shot from the point and great offensive skill, is notoriety. He is one of the most popular players in the league and also appears in commercials, endorsing things such as Bridgestone tires. He is also a charitable player who has given back to the community in Montreal and Nashville. It is not a stretch to think that with the combination of Taylor Hall, Jack Hughes and PK Subban, the Devils should now appear on national broadcasts a little bit more than in the past. The Devils suddenly become more interesting to a national audience.

The Devils are getting a player who won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenseman in 2013 and competed in the 2014 Olympics – where he won a gold medal with Canada. The native of Toronto had nine goals and 22 assists last season for 31 total points. He played in an abbreviated 63 game season due to injury. Over his career, he has notched 98 goals and 310 assists for 408 points in 645 games according to Hockey-Reference.com. NewJerseyDevils.com’s Wescott mentioned that he has played in 96 playoff games. In those postseason games, he has 18 goals and 44 assists for 65 points. He helped lead Nashville to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final.

Welcome to New Jersey, PK Subban!

The Devils also made one other (low profile) trade today, acquiring John Hayden from the Blackhawks in exchange for John Quenneville.

Hayden was the Hawks’ third-round pick in 2013, out of Yale University. He appeared in 54 games for Chicago over the last four seasons, scoring three goals and two assists for five NHL points. He also logged 27 penalty minutes. This information all came via Chris Wescott of NewJerseyDevils.com.

As for the other eight picks the Devils had in this year’s Draft, those were well-spent. The team picked d-man Nikita Okhotyuk of the Ottawa 67’s (Ontario Hockey League) 61st overall in the second round. Wescott said that he had a pair of goals and 15 assists in 56 games for the 67’s last year. The native of Russia was the “NHL Central Scouting’s 55th-ranked North American Skater” and “captained Team Russia to a bronze medal at the 2018 Hlinka-Gretzky Cup.”

In the third round, the Devils had three picks. With the eighth pick, they took defenseman Danill Misyul from Yaroslavl 2 out of Russia. With the 18th pick in the round, they took Graeme Clarke of the Ottawa 67’s of the OHL. Clarke was born April 24, 2001 in Ottawa. He is a 6-foot, 174-pound right winger who plays “the game at a high level. Combines playmaking ability with a nose for the net” according to Future Considerations. McKeen’s Hockey said that he “is also a very gifted puck handler, blending skill with creativity.” He was ranked as the number 77 North American skater by TSN’s Bob McKenzie.

With the 20th pick in the third round, the Devils selected defenseman Michael Vukojevic of the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL. Born June 8, 2001, Vukojevic is a left-shooting d-man and is a “mobile shutdown defenseman who plays a physical brand of hockey” according to Hockeyprospect.com via EliteProspects. The reviews on him are that he is a good skater and “is accomplished at separating his man from the puck and can be punishing in front of his goalie” (McKeen’s Hockey). He was ranked number 76 amongst North American skaters by McKenzie.

Moving on to the fourth round, the Devils had two picks in that round including the third pick and the 25th pick. With the third pick, they took Tyce Thompson, a right wing from Providence College. He is the brother of Tage Thompson of the Buffalo Sabres and was born on July 12, 1999 in Oyster Bay, New York. He was ranked 83rd among North American skaters by the NHL Central Scouting Bureau. He put up eight goals and 17 assists for 25 points in 42 games for the Friars last season.

With the 25th pick in the fourth round, the Devils took Case McCarthy of the US National Development Team. McCarthy of Clarence, New York was born on January 9, 2001 and is a right-shooting defenseman. He was ranked 77th by the NHL Central Scouting among North American skaters. He is described as a physical player, who does not go out of position to chase the big hit. He also has an “excellent breakout pass to exit the zone” as per Future Considerations.

Moving on to round five, the Devils had two picks. With the third pick in that round, they took Cole Brady, a goalie from the Janesville Jets of the North American Hockey League. He is 6-feet, 5-inches, 165-pounds and catches left. He was ranked number nine by the NHL Central Scouting for North American goalies. The native of Pickering, Ontario was born February 12, 2001.

Two picks later, the Devils selected Arseny Gritsyuk, a right wing from Omsk-2 of Russia.

With a pick in the sixth round and one in the seventh, the Devils were on the clock two more times. In round sixth, with the third pick, they took Patrick Moynihan, a right wing from the US National Development Program. Moynihan will be playing next season at Providence College, but he Millis, Massachusetts native (born January 23, 2001) was ranked 73rd among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting. He is considered a good two-way forward, with McKeen’s Hockey saying that he “is a diligent and versatile forward, able to impact the game in both the offensive and defensive roles.” Future Considerations said that he “has a good shot and is able to release it quickly to fool opposing goaltenders.” With him committing to Providence, the Devils may or may not be able to sign him following his NCAA career (ala Will Butcher and Alex Kerfoot), but that is the gamble you take on a college player and why you take them in the later rounds generally.

The third pick in the seventh round rounded out the Devils’ 2019 Draft and they took Nikola Pasic, a right wing from Linkoping Jr. of Sweden. A native of Gislaved, Sweden, he was born on October 16, 2000 and was ranked 88th among European skaters by NHL Central Scouting. He is an offensive threat with Hockeyprospect.com saying that “Pasic is a dangler, where he uses his stickhandling to dazzle opponents and gets around them using fast hands and great balance.” McKeen’s Hockey said that he “has a quick release on his wrist shot and is dangerous when shooting while moving at top speed.” Future Considerations summed him up by saying that his “excellent vision and passing skills bode well for teammates and he is great at making plays happen.”

Overall, not a bad haul for the Devils this Draft (quite an understatement, I know). We will see where this takes us as we get closer to development camp and training camp through July, August and September. It is shaping up to be a great time for Devils fans. All I can say is enjoy the ride!

Devils Take Hughes First Overall

Twenty-nine years ago at the 1990 NHL Entry Draft in Vancouver, the Devils’ fortunes changed forever as they picked Martin Brodeur 20th overall. Tonight, New Jersey hopes their future will be changed once again as they made the first overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft from the same city. They chose Jack Hughes with that pick.

Hughes, a center who, according to Chris Wescott of NewJerseyDevils.com, was born in Orlando, Florida, was taken from the US National Development Program. He just turned 18 years-old during the World Championship and stands 5-feet, 10-inches tall, weighing in at 171 pounds. Of course vitals like that are useless since he will still grow into his frame and fill out as he gets physically stronger.

He was ranked as the top North American skater by the NHL Central Scouting Bureau at both the midterm and final rankings according to Wescott.

Wescott said that Hughes posted 34 goals and 78 assists (112 points) in an amazing 50 games for the USA U-18 team. He also mentioned that Hughes was on the American team at the World Junior Championship, captaining the US and scoring 20 points in seven games (nine goals/11 assists).

So what are the Devils getting with this pick? According to EliteProspects.com, he brings “(e)lite skating, hockey sense and skill.” He “has most attributes you look for in a star player. A very agile player with incredible speed. He is also equipped with fast hands and his puck handling along with his skating allows him to regularly beat (a) player one-on-one.”

NBCSN’s broadcast team, including Bob McKenzie and Pierre McGuire compared his upside to Steve Yzerman, Johnny Gaudreau and Patrick Kane.

This is lofty praise to be sure, but Hughes was bred for this. Both his mother Jim and his mother Ellen played college hockey. His father at Providence College and his mother at the University of New Hampshire. His older brother Quinn plays for the Vancouver Canucks and his younger brother Luke is a highly touted prospect of his own (eligible for the 2021 NHL Draft).

What Hughes brings to the Devils is speed, great skating ability, and playmaking. The NBCSN broadcast mentioned how he simply makes his linemates better. Hockeyprospect.com, via EliteProspects put it nicely with this quote about his skating: “His edge work, agility, elusiveness, acceleration and top-gear are elite.”

Summing up his playmaking skills, Future Considerations (also via EliteProspects) said: “His playmaking abilities are exceptional and he’s so poised with the puck, he always makes smart decisions.”

But all of that aside, Hughes seems to be all in. When interviewed by NBCSN following the pick, he seemed like he wanted to start right then. He said that he was “happy to be a Devil” and was chomping at the bit to get going.

Coincidentally, this Jack Hughes is not the first Jack Hughes to play for this franchise. The Colorado Rockies, according to Hockey-Reference.com, picked a Jack Hughes in the 9th round, 142nd overall in the 1977 NHL Amateur Draft. He played a total of 46 games (all for the Rockies) between 1980 and 1982, scoring two goals and five assists for seven points. Hopefully this Jack Hughes makes a bigger mark on the franchise.

In other news, the Devils will be opening the season at home on Friday, October 4 against the Winnipeg Jets. The full schedule is to come later next week.

Devils to Air Special Draft Preview on Official Site

One of the perks for the tri-state area teams of the NHL Network airing out of Secaucus, New Jersey is about to be on display this coming Monday at noon.

NewJerseyDevils.com will be airing a special Draft preview show from the NHL Network studios. The show will air at 12 noon EST on YouTube, Facebook Premiere, IGTV and Twitter (“via the club’s official social media accounts” as per the article put out by the Devils). The press release also said that the show will be available on the Devils’ official website at noon as well.

The four-part show will be hosted by NewJerseyDevils.com’s Chris Wescott and Amanda Stein and will also feature former Devils goalie and current NHL Network analyst Kevin Weekes. The three will talk about the Draft as it specifically relates to the Devils, as this is a Devils-exclusive show.

According to the press release the team put out, the hosts will discuss Kaapo Kakko, Jack Hughes and the Devils’ nine other selections in the 2019 Draft. There will be interviews with “draft analysts, as well as Devils Executive Vice President, General Manager/Alternate Governor Ray Shero.”

The press release also promises “behind-the-scenes content from the Draft Lottery, Scouting Meetings, and the Combine” during the breaks.

One interesting note is that the press release mentions “a special announcement teasing an exciting piece of coverage coming soon” at the end of the show.

This last part intrigues me. As much as I love the special Devils-specific Draft coverage that we are getting, you can only rehash what has been said so many times. What could the new content be? Could it possibly be something on the Devils’ site similar to what MSG does for the Rangers, a weekly coach’s show like the former AV Squad? Could it be something giving us more access to the players and management? Or could it be something altogether different? The Devils have been great at creating content for the fans where traditional media has failed us. We will definitely find out what this is on Monday when the special airs.

That part aside, I am certainly looking forward to this. Getting more and more insight into just who the Devils may pick and how it will benefit the team overall is always great. This special should not disappoint.

NHL Tonight: Scouting Combine Special

I know it’s been a long time since my last post, but now with the playoffs winding down and the Draft upcoming, we should be back on track.

Tonight the NHL Network presented a special edition of NHL Tonight. It was called the Scouting Combine Special and featured interviews with and analysis of some of the prospects who took part in the NHL Scouting Combine at Harborcenter in Buffalo.

The first person interviewed was the player expected to go first overall in the Draft, to the Devils, Jack Hughes.

NHL Network host Alex Tanguay – who did the interview – opened by asking how he was feeling now that the moment is finally coming (being picked in the Draft). He asked him who has the best hockey IQ in his family, his dad, mom or brothers (all of whom played or play hockey). He said his brother Quinn of the Vancouver Canucks sees the ice and processes the game better that he can.

He was asked if he liked to score a goal or assist on one better. He said that while scoring is great, he loves setting players up. He said that having Cole Caufield on his line to finish plays is like “getting a free point.”

Tanguay asked him who he compares his game to the most. Hughes said that he did not want to sound cocky, but he feels his ceiling is a player like Mat Barzal of the Islanders or the Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane.

When asked about his competitiveness, Hughes said that “he has not met many kids more competitive than (him).” He was then asked the million dollar question about whether or not he thinks he is strong enough or big enough to make an impact in the NHL. He said that there is a difference between “gym strong” and “hockey strong.” Hughes feels that he might not be the kind of guy who can “throw around a lot of weight in the gym” but does have the strength to stay on his skates and be strong in the corners and along the boards and in traffic. He said he uses his hockey IQ and brain to play the game in a strong way.

He then talked about being a 17 and 18-year-old playing against men at the World Championship and how it was a learning experience for him.

He broke down a play that Tanguay showed him that he made at the at the 2019 World Junior Championship last December. It showed his thought process and just how quickly he thinks the game of hockey. He even mentioned that it is hard to communicate on the ice because the game is moving so fast so players need to know where to be and what to do.

Tanguay finished up the interview asking if Hughes can play right away in the NHL. Jack said “I’m not oblivious to (the NHL) being the hardest league in the world (to play in).” He said that he wants to be “driving the bus, not a passenger” on the team that drafts him. He wants to win and be a part of the reason the team is winning.

Basically, he said that he wants to be a star in the NHL right away and is driven to be such. He said he wanted to “get out of the gates fast” and wants to be an impact player.

Tanguay did a good interview (as short as it was) with Hughes. The one thing I take way from the interview is that Hughes already has an idea of the culture that Ray Shero and John Hynes are trying to create. His verbiage about “not being a passenger and driving the bus” is exactly the type of player that the Devils are looking for.

We only got the interview from Hughes as far as top two picks go, but it was a really good interview nonetheless.

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.