Draft: Devils Make Four More Picks

On day two of the 2021 NHL Draft, the Devils made four more picks.

They did not have a pick in the second round and made their first late-round selection in Round Three.

There they picked Samu Salminen out of Jokerit Jr. of the Finnish Junior league. Salminen is a 6-foot, 2-inch, 182-pound centerman.

The Devils’ website staff profile quoted Eetu Siltanen of Dobber Prospects as saying: “Center with good offensive skills and great hockey sense. He is growing into a good two-way center but needs to really improve his defensive game, even though his effort defensively is good. He also shoots the puck well and has the ability to give creative passes.”

The Devils’ staff also quoted Salminen himself in their profile on him. He said: “There’s good draft picks over the last few years. (There’s) good players and I’m proud to be one of those guys.”

In the fourth round (100th overall), the Devils chose Jakub Malek, a Czech goaltender from VHK Vsetin of Czech-2. He is a big goalie, 6-foot, 3-inches, but has not filled out completely yet at 159-pounds. He catches left.

In the fifth round (129th overall), New Jersey selected defenseman Topias Vilen from Pelicans in Finland. He is 6-foot, 1-inch, 194-pounds and shoots left. He was a teammate of Salminen’s according to Catherine Bogart of the Devils’ website and app. They played together with the Finnish Under-16 national team. Bogart also said that they played against each other in the U18 SM-sarja and the U20 SM-liiga between 2018 and 2020.

In the sixth round (164th overall), the Devils took defenseman Viktor Hurtig of Vasteras Jr. of the Swedish Junior league. He is 6-foot, 5-inches, 191-pounds and is a right-handed shot.

Finally, in the seventh round (203rd overall), the Devils chose right wing Zakhar Bardakov ftrom Vityaz Podolsk. He is a lefty shot, 6-foot, 2-inches tall and 198-pounds.

So, in total, the Devils took three defensemen, three forwards and a goalie in this year’s Draft. Not a bad haul and one that addressed some of what the organization needed.

In another news bit from today, the Devils’ app reports earlier today that the Devils and the Devils Youth Foundation donated $25,000 to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Essex, Hudson and Union Counties Friday night.

The check was presented during the team’s Draft party, and was – as the press release on it  noted – very apropos as the Devils were drafting Luke Hughes, Jack’s brother.

According to the release, “Devils Youth Foundation hosted BBBS executives and 16 members of the BBBS progame – Bigs & Littles (mentor and mentees) – for a VIP Psrty at the Draft Experience. The group met with Devils legends Martin Brodeur, Patrik Elias and Ken Daneyko and Head Coach Lindy Ruff who addressed the group on the importance of having mentors in the lives of youth and forming lasting, lifetime bonds with those who inspire and influence you.”

The press release said that the money donated “will directly support and sponsor Big Brothers Big Sisters remaining summer programming and back to school initiatives including: BBBS Back to School … BBBS summer programming – supporting park and recreational activities for the month of August ….”

Devils Youth Foundation Chair Allison Blitzer said: “Supporting the educational and recreational programs of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Essex, Hudson and Union Counties reflects the Devils Youth Foundation’s mission to empower youth in our community. On a great night for our organization where we are able to recognize the efforts of Big Brothers Big Sisters, we also have the fun opportunity to welcome a little brother to join his big brother in our Devils family. Congratulations to Luke, Jack and the entire Hughes family on a special night and thank you to Big Brothers Big Sisters for all the mentoring work they do.”

Draft: Devils Take Luke Hughes Fourth Overall

The Devils made their first selection in the 2021 NHL Draft at number four. With that pick, in what was probably one of the more obvious picks in the Draft, New Jersey took defenseman Luke Hughes. Hughes is the brother of Devils’ center Jack Hughes.

Hughes was taken from the US National Team Development Program, like his brother. He is committed to the University of Michigan (NCAA) for next season.

He is a left-handed shot, a good skater according to Sam Kasan of the Devils and was ranked fourth amongst North American skaters according to the NHL Central Scouting Bureau.

Hughes was born in Canton, Michigan, and is one of the younger prospects in this year’s Draft (born on September 9, 2003 – he will not turn 18 for about a month and a half).

Thehockeywriters.com’s Peter Baracchini said: “If you are a fan of either [Vancouver’s] Quinn or Jack Hughes, then you’re definitely going to be a fan of Luke, the youngest brother of the Hughes family to make their mark at the NHL Draft. Hughes’ draft season had a rocky start, as there was some question marks with his decision-making. Since then, he’s continued to drastically improve his overall play and catch the eye of scouts as he’s now one of the top defenders in this draft. Among defensemen in their draft year, Hughes is among the top at his position in even strength primary points per game (EV P1/GP) with 0.38 according to Pick 224.”

Part of the “rocky start” to his season was an Achilles Tendon injury that sidelined him. Baracchini continued: “Like his brothers, Hughes’ strength les in his skating, mobility and high-end offensive awareness. He has a very smooth stride with great speed, as he’s always a threat when rushing the play. He has no problem starting with the puck behind his net and quickly moves it up with a snap of a finger. When he reaches top speed, it’s very difficult to try and slow him down him [sic] from entering the offensive zone as he blows by the opposition with ease. He has great edges and knows when to pick the right lanes in order to get into open areas on the ice.”

His NHL potential, according to Baracchiini is, much like Luke “a good chance to be a top pairing, puck moving defenseman. His puck-moving abilities and shooter mentality makes him a number one power play quarterback. He joins a growing list of younger defenders that will take the league by storm.”

On the subject of Hughes’ skating skill, Eliteprospects.com said that “Hughes starts with the perfect skating posture, settling comfortably into his stride as he darts around the ice. His skating habits are pretty stellar too. Hughes collects the puck in-stride, skates through his passes, and weaponizes movement to draw opposing defenders to his orbit, creating space for his teammates. He’s always looking to create advantages with the puck on his stick.”

The 6-foot, 2-inch, 176-pound Hughes is the biggest of the three Hughes brothers giving him some range. He is also mobile, as the above quote illustrates.

Another thing that just cannot be discounted is that Jack and Luke will be playing together. The joy evident in Jack as the pick was announced by Devils General Manager Tom Fitzgerald was real. As the two brothers embraced, you could tell that Jack was excited at the prospect of getting to play with his sibling in the same organization.

In an article on NHL.com, Luke was touted as possibly being “the best” of the three Hughes brothers. Time will tell on that. For now, at least the Hughes parents only need to worry about two NHL teams, instead of three.

With the 29th pick, there was some speculation as to whether the Devils would make a trade or not. The Devils kept the pick and chose Chase Stillman.

Stillman, son of former NHLer Cory Stillman and thus, a native of St. Louis, is a 6-foot, 1-inch, 185-pound right winger from the Sudbury Wolves of the Ontario Hockey League, played last season in Denmark with Esbjerg U20.

In 58 games with the Wolves in 2019-20 (the OHL did not play last season due to the ongoing pandemic), Stillman notched 13 goals and 21 assists for 34 total points according to Eliteprospects.com. He only played eight games for Esbjerg, but accumulated nine goals and seven assists for 16 points.

Elite Prospects says “[c]all it motor or energy or engagement or drive – Stillman has it. He is willing to go above and beyond, willing to play whatever role needed to the maximum of his ability to give his team the win. He knows when to go after to try and retrieve it, and will head to the best areas of the ice to get a scoring chance off.”

Mitch Brown of Eprinkside.com said: “[h]is shooting and passing skills appear NHL calibre in flashes, just waiting to be unlocked by better details.”

So the Devils bring two players into the fold, one a defenseman with ties to the team already and another a right wing who brings some upside. Both look to make an impact on the NHL Devils going forward into the future.

We will see you tomorrow for rounds two through seven.