New Jersey Devils Draft Recap

I think I’ve made it clear once before on this blog that I’m actually an NJ Devils fan, though I try to be as impartial as possible when I’m judging things. That said, I’m gonna go through the Devils’ 2019 draft and explain a bit about each pick.

1st Round:

1st Overall: Jack Hughes (Center, USNTDP)
The words “generational talent” have gotten tossed around a little too much in recent years for my taste, but Jack gets some comparisons to Connor McDavid. That’s a lot to put on somebody but Jack is a dangerous player and a game changer. I completely agree with Ken Daneyko’s assessment about Jack’s play in the IIHF World Championship game against Russia. Jack Hughes is a player who can step on the ice with the world’s best and take over a game. He might not do that a whole heck of a lot in his first year, but by his 2nd, 3rd and 4th year, it will be a nightly occurrence. Luckily he will be playing in tandem with one of the budding young 2-way centers in the game in Nico Hischier.

2nd Round:

61st Overall: Nikita Okhotyuk (Defender, Ottawa 67s: OHL)
Nikita Okhotyuk was a defender that I had on my board way back in February. Back then I said about him, “He’s got good size at 6’1, 194 pounds and he’s very mobile on his skates.  When you watch him shoot, you get the feeling that there’s untapped offensive potential waiting to be unearthed in him, but on the surface he’s a smart, reliable, 2 way defender who can be counted on to make the smart play.” That all still holds true. Where I really became sold on him was at the CHL Top Prospects game. He was a HUGE problem for a lot of the top forwards in the draft to get around. He broke up passes and delivered some absolutely punishing hits. He then scored himself a really nice possession based goal. He doesn’t have a rush up the ice skill set, but he’s a very good puck cycling defender at the point of attack and he makes smart decisions. He was ranked really low by a lot of scouts because they have a hard-on for defenders with offensive upside, and for some reason they don’t seem to value how well guys think the game, or how well they function within a pro-style, cycling offensive system. In my mind Okhotyuk projects well for having a lengthy NHL career as a reliable defensive defender.

3rd Round:

70th Overall: Danil Misyul (Defender, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl: KHL)
Devils fans have been craving defense and in this draft their GM definitely restocked his defensive prospect pool. Danil Misyul is a Belorussian skater who split time between the KHL and MHL. He was used in all situations with his MHL squad throughout the season and played HUGE minutes for them. The stats on him do not really tell his whole story. He’s a phenomenal skater and an excellent puck carrier. He’s got a good first outlet pass, but he can also be counted on to carry the puck up ice through the neutral zone. But he’s also highly regarded for his ability to clear sightlines for his goaltender. He’s an option on the power play and penalty kill. He’s also a big rangey kid at 6’3, 176 pounds. I would expect that frame to fill out a bit. The kid was very highly regarded by almost all the scouts who reviewed him. Really solid addition to the Devils prospect pool. It’s really hard to project where he would end up, but I could see this kid blossoming into a real top pairing NHL defender some day. At the least he’ll be a capable 2nd or 3rd pairing guy.

80th Overall: Graeme Clarke (RW, Ottawa 67s: OHL)
I have been the captain of the Graeme Clarke hype train for a while. He’s a right-handed, 6’0 174 pound right wing that plays for Ottawa of the OHL. The first thing that you should know about Graeme is that he played Midget hockey in 2016-2017 with the Toronto Marlboros Minor Midget AAA program. He scored an utterly absurd amount of goals because the center he played with was this kid named Jack Hughes. His OHL stats do not appear to be anything special, but you would have to watch the team play to understand why. Ottawa was a top team in the OHL and they had some older players in top 6 roles who are NHL bound. I expect to see Clarke’s usage and point totals expand as his usage grows next season. What makes him a sound pick for the Devils is that he has the finish and goal scoring that the team often feels like it’s lacking. He also already plays the type of hard working, battle type hockey that John Hynes wants to see from his troops. Clarke is a guy who can be counted on to get to the net and finish off a play with a scoring chance, and then battle to get the puck back and create another. His motor and battle readiness are not limited to the offensive zone either. Clarke is just as likely to cycle back in coverage and try to dislodge a puck in his own zone as he is in the offensive zone. I really feel like the shoulder injury he suffered in November combined with his usage in more of a depth role hurt his draft stock, but as we look back on this pick 3-5 years from now he’ll be an absolute steal. In my mind Clarke projects as a top 6 goal scoring wing. He really is everything you expect from a Ray Shero 3rd round special.

82nd Overall: Michael Vukojevic ( Defender, Kitchener Rangers: OHL)
Mikey V is another hulking defensive defender for the modern NHL. His specialty is separating a man from the puck. He’s also a brute in front of his own net. Vukojevic checks in at 6’3 212 pounds and he’s a June 2001 birthday, so he just turned 18 right before the draft. He could still grow. His imposing physicality caused OHL kids to give him a bit of a wider berth and also caused them to think twice as they would rush in against him. He’s definitely a player, that if he does make it to the NHL, Devils fans will love him. He’s very much in the same vein of a Colin White or Ken Daneyko as an effective defensive defender who can punish the opposition physically. Don’t let that comparison fool you though. Mike V also has good wheels, decent hockey IQ and good hands in his own zone to boot. He’s a top pairing guy in the OHL; I think projecting that for him in the NHL might be a disservice to him. He’s likely a middle pairing guy, but he definitely could surprise me.

4th Round

96th Overall: Tyce Thompson (Center, Providence College: NCAA)
This is the one pick that I was really caught off guard by. He certainly didn’t have a bad freshman campaign at Providence. Where Tyce Thompson shines is that he might have one of the world’s worst cases of “little brother syndrome.” He’s been chasing older brother Tage his entire life. Where Tage Thompson is blessed with a 6’5 frame and natural hands, Tyce did not hit a growth spurt until he was beyond his initial draft year. Even at that he’s capped off at 6’0 or 6’1 depending on where you check. What the Devils likely see in Tyce Thompson is a player who never takes a shift off and is a relentless hard worker that has pushed himself to earn everything he has ever gotten on the ice. Having those kinds of blue-collar, hard workers around a young team can sometimes be infectious and that’s something every team wants. He doesn’t project much above a middle of the pack NHL forward for me, but neither did Blake Coleman at one point in time.

118th Overall: Case McCarthy (Defender, USNTDP)
Case McCarthy is a hard hitting defender with good size and good hockey IQ when it comes to nailing people. A lot of times when you see young kids who like to light people up, they venture out of position to do it. They’ll get their big hit, but at a sacrifice of on-ice positioning. McCarthy does not fall victim to that. The 6’1, 198 pound, right-handed, defender has been excellent for the US National Team throughout his time there. He also possesses an excellent, hard, accurate shot. McCarthy was buried on a stacked US National team and ended up playing third pairing minutes. There is some belief out there that, had the team not been as stacked McCarthy would have seen more minutes and thus, been given more opportunity to shine. Where McCarthy really does shine though is in his on-ice decision making. He understands who he’s on the ice with and did his best to put the puck on the sticks of his ultra-skilled teammates (many of whom went in the first round). It will be interesting to see how he develops at Boston University over the coming years, but the Devils may have found themselves a real gem here. I think his floor is third pairing NHL defender, his ceiling is hard to really gauge. Ask me next year.

5th Round

127th Overall: Cole Brady (Goaltender, Janesville Jets: NAHL)
Who from the what and where? The Janesville Jets play in the North American Hockey League in Janesville, Wisconsin. Cole Brady had a decent year there and was actually ranked 9th among North American goaltenders by central scouting. The Canadian kid from Pickering Ontario has all the tangible things you are looking for in a goalie prospect taken in the later rounds. He has size at 6’5. He has an NCAA commitment to Arizona State University, which doesn’t sound amazing until you take into account that they have grown used to scouting and maintaining excellent goaltending. The NCAA atheletic department that helped hone Joey Daccord is going to be working with this kid and I’d say that’s a pretty good sign. Goalies are IMPOSSIBLE to project with any degree of accuracy, I honestly don’t even try. You just have to watch them grow and see how things shake out.

129th overall: Arseni Gritsyuk (LW/RW, Omskie Yastreby: MHL)
Gritsyuk plays in the Russian Junior MHL league. Grtisyuk may end up being a complete steal at 129th. He has excellent feet and hands and his 5’10 frame does not inhibit him at all. He is cagey with the puck and very difficult to play against. His stickhandling shiftiness allows him to evade defenders and shake off body checks while driving the net. He is a little raw because of how the MHL game is played. He tries to do a little too much on his own, but that could be because of a general lack of quality linemates. Most of the time when he’s on the ice for his team, he’s the best player out there and he’s the best option to make a play. His goal per game ratio was the best on his MHL team, and his point per game ratio was the best for an 18 year old player. When he does opt to pass the puck, his passing accuracy and decision making is exceptional. His combination of passing, stick handling and maneuverability make him a real play driver when the cycle gets going. When he does NOT have the puck, he wants it back and shows great drive in trying to do it. He’s not afraid to go in for hits on much bigger players and he uses his stick skills to embarrass players. My biggest worry with him is that I feel like the MHL is not going to forward his development enough. I would like to see him taken by a CHL team in the import draft and I’d like to see him in North America next season. If he can adapt his skillset to the NHL game, we could be talking about a future offensive dynamo top 6 winger.

6th Round

158th Overall: Patrick Moynihan (C/W: USNTDP)
Moynihan is another player who was almost buried on the US National Team. Moynihan is just all around a good hockey player. He plays more of a power game, but he’s a 200 foot player who’s good at both ends of the ice. There were times this year where he was on the wing of Jack Hughes and was very effective. Pretty much every scouting service had him in the top 100 and I had my hopes that the Devils would take him in the 2nd round. The fact that he was still there for this pick is stunning to say the least. He’s the type of player who has great speed on his skates and uses it in all aspects of the game. He can shoot the puck well, but he also plays with almost no regard for his own safety. He’ll challenge anyone, regardless of size and he’s in 5th gear from the moment he steps on the ice to moment he steps off. He’s the kind of player that coaches rely on in tight situations. Another potential draft steal for NJ. Proved he could play with Hughes at one point this season, wouldn’t be shocked to see him do it again in a Devils uniform someday. Has a longer development track though and will get the chance to see big minutes for Providence in the NCAA.

7th Round

189th Overall: Nikola Pasic (C/W: Linkoping HC J20, SuperElite)
I have no idea how this kid was still there at 189th. None. He’s an extremely similar player to Gritsyuk in that he’s a stickhandling machine with a good motor. Pasic is also cagey without the puck. He likes to pick pockets in transition and he’s particularly note worthy for how he plays in the defensive zone. He’s great at creating breakaways for himself with smart pokechecks and shot blocks. The 5’10 forward is like a predator, constantly looking for an opportunity to pounce. I think he projects more as a mid-range forward than Gritsyuk does, I don’t really know if his shot is accurate enough for it to translate into the type of scoring that you’d like to see from a top 6 forward, but the talent is certainly there.

Conclusion?
Devils absolutely hit this one out of the park. This might be Ray Shero’s best draft as a General Manager.  Check out some of the links below for more info on some of these players from other content generators.

Scouching Report on Arseni Gritsyuk
2019 CHL Top Prospects game Highlights
2019 CHL Top Prospects game (Complete Game)
Nikola Pašić 2018 IIHF U18 Highlights

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