Sorry about the
late post here. Between a late night at work and some computer troubles, we are
getting things going a little bit later than I would have hoped.
today the Devils announced that they have tendered qualifying offers to five
players who are set to be restricted free agents: Mackenzie Blackwood, Jesper
Bratt, Joey Anderson, Nick Merkely and Colton White. The team has opted not to
tender an offer to John Hayden and Mirco Mueller.
Blackwood and forward Bratt are, of course, the big ones here. Blackwood
finished 2019-20 with a 22-14-8 record according to Amanda Stein who posted the
news on the “Inside the Devils Blog.” He also had a 2.77 goals against average
as well as a .915 save percentage while becoming the Devils starting goalie.
Stein also noted that he finished sixth in the Calder Trophy race as rookie of
the year as well as finishing second in voting as the goalie for the 2019-20
All Rookie Team.
Bratt set a
career high with 16 goals over his 60 games played last season according to Stein.
She also made mention of him ending 2019-20 “with his highest shooting
percentage, with a 15.8 percent success rate on 101 shots.” He also “has 37
goals, and 63 assists, to reach the 100-point mark” in just 185 NHL games.
mentions that Bratt finished “with the third-most points (25)” on the team
trailing only Kyle Palmieri with 26 and Nikita Gusev, who led the team with 30.
Now on to
the Draft. The Devils had three selections in the first round yesterday. They picked
seventh overall, 18th overall and 20th overall.
The seventh pick
was used to take Alexander Holtz. Holtz is an 18-year-old right wing out of Stockholm,
Sweden according to Devils writer Chris Westcott. He was the second-overall
ranked European skater by the NHL Central Scouting with them comparing him to
Filip Forsberg of the Nashville Predators.
Westcott reports, Holtz’s favorite NHL player is Alexander Ovechkin. Why? When Holtz
spoke to the media after being selected by New Jersey, he said: “He has good cellys.”
want to start thinking of some unique goal celebrations of his own. As he put
it himself to the media: “I’m a very offensive player. Of course, I’m a goal
scorer, a lot of [my game is] scoring.”
quoted NHL Director of European Scouting Goran Stubb as saying “I think as an
18-year-old, there are only two other 18-year-old players playing in the
Swedish League who have better stats than Holtz and those two guys are Markus
Naslund and Peter Forsberg so I think that says a lot about him as an offensive
player and a sniper.”
also told the story of how Holtz honed his shot. He said that the young Swede would
“shoot a ton of pucks at his parents’ house, listening to music and working on
his craft. When he wasn’t doing that, he was down the street.”
over from there. “We had an outdoor rink three minutes walking distance from my
home. We were there all the time when I was younger. And I think everything
started from there. The passion for hockey and the passion for shooting a puck.”
Holtz as “the perfect player to slide in next to one of the Devils two dynamic,
young centers Nico Hischier or Jack Hughes some day in the near future. He’s a
guy who will bury many goals over the course of his NHL career. His finish is
what play-making centers love to have on their wing. And Holtz will reap the benefits
of their skill.”
This is exactly
what the doctor ordered for the Devils, as they needed someone who could put home
what Nico and Hughes could create. We see it all the time with Nico staying strong
on the puck and creating space to make a play, but then no one was really
capable of finishing for him. Holtz should be able to do that.
To Holtz’s credit, he said “I’ve think [sic] when you have that kind of center that is mobile and can play the puck and see the ice very well, as a scoring winner [sic] that can make good chemistry. It’s really exciting. [They are] incredible prayers [sic]. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Westcott that “the Devils met with him roughly three times leading up to the
draft. You could see he felt right at home with them when first-year GM Tom Fitzgerald
said his name on the broadcast.”
Holtz said, “It
was incredible, I think everyone saw me and my family’s reaction on the screen.
We screamed at the house with my family and my friends. It’s incredible. I
think it’s a feeling you can’t describe.”
as Westcott mentions, “is three games into his 2020-21 season with Djurgardens of
the SHL and, you guessed it, he has a goal. Playing against men last year for
35 games prepared to do it again this season, except he’s taking on an even
larger role now.”
As Holtz put
it: “I think my 200-foot game will be so much better this season. I think my
overall game is good. A good 200-foot player, but my best assets are in the offensive
zone, of course. I’ve got a bigger role this year in Sweden on my team, playing
on the top line and the power play. So, you get more chances when you have more
ice time. I think you learn a lot from that.”
So, a sniper
who can play in most situations with an improving 200-foot game? Not a bad
proposition for the Devils as their first pick of three in the first round of
the 2020 NHL Draft.
With the 18th
selection overall, the Devils took center Dawson Mercer from the QMJHL. Devils writer
Catherine Bogart describes him as a player with “a playmaker mentality and
solid goal scoring.”
Mercer, is a
native of Newfoundland – Bogart mentioned that “he is the seventh player from
Newfoundland and Labrador to be a first round pick in the NHL, Alex Newhook was
the most recent in 2019.” He was also the first player from Newfoundland to
play for the Canadian team at the World Juniors since 2010 when he did so in
2020 and won a gold medal.
last season with the Drummondville Voltigeurs and the Chicoutimi Sagueneens of
the Quebec League. He had been acquired by Chicoutimi for their Memorial Cup
push. However, he would not get to raise that trophy as COVID-19 put an early
end to the CHL season and canceled the Memorial Cup.
In 42 QMJHL
games played last season, Mercer had 24 goals and 36 assists totaling 60 points
reports Bogart. She also mentioned his faceoff prowess, notching a 51.1-percent
success rate on draws.
that Mercer compares reasonably to Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins as an
NHL comparison. He was ranked tenth out of North American skaters by the NHL Central
Scouting Bureau. They listed him as a center, but he is also able to play on
the right wing.
quoted Brock Otten of McKeen’s Hockey as saying that “Mercer plays a lot bigger
than his 6’0 frame, excelling below the hash marks and around the crease. Equal
parts playmaker and goal scorer, he looks to have the makings of a strong
complementary piece on a scoring line.”
The third and
final selection for the Devils in round one was Russian defenseman Shakir Mukamadullin.
He is a 6-feet, 4-inch, 178-pound left-handed shot who was ranked 17th
on NHL Central Scouting.
plays for Ufa in the Kontinental Hockey League. Bogart mentioned that through
14 games of the 2020-21 season for Ufa, he currently has six points (a goal and
continued that Mukhamadullin played last season for Ufa as well, playing “the fifth
most games of any under-19 player. He played 27 games and had one assist.
Mukhamadullin also played one game in the Victory Hockey League for Toros
Nefekamsk and 13 games for Ufa’s Junior Team (MHL) during the 2019-20 season.
In the MHL, he finished third in U19 defenders with points per game with .77 points.”
Mukhammadullin has played for Russia at the 2019 World Junior A Challenge (scoring
“the game winning goal in double overtime” according to Bogart), the 2019 Under-18
World Championship – where he won a silver medal – and the 2019 Spengler Cup, where
he did not record any points. He also played in the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup (winning
gold there) and the 2018 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
that, although Mukhammadullin is a blue liner, he actually started his career
as a forward. She says that this explains his offensive contributions to his
teams. She likens him to Jay Bouwmeester as an NHL comparison. She also quoted
Stubb as saying Mukhammadullin is “a strong, two-way guy with a strong shot.
Has a good presence on the ice, and plays it simple with smart decisions.”
And that is
it for round one. The subsequent rounds are ongoing as we speak and we will
have more for you right here on who the Devils pick up in further rounds in
this unprecedented Draft.