The New Jersey Devils had a need for improving the forward position in their prospect pool and they succeeded in it, taking six forwards of their nine picks. Here's a closer review of what the Devils did in this year's draft.
Michael McLeod, 12th overall
The Devils drafted Michael McLeod from the OHL's Mississauga Steelheads with their first round pick. He put up 21-40-61 stats line, finishing second in scoring in his team.
McLeod is a 6'2 center with exceptional skating for his size. He's a fluid skater with impressive speed and agility. He has a strong offensive skill set and the potential to become a very good second line center in the NHL. That's not only because of his skating, but he also plays the game the right way at both ends of the rink and competes hard away from the puck. McLeod can play physically, too.
Nathan Bastian, 41st overall
The Devils drafted McLeod's linemate Nathan Bastian in the second round. Bastian registered 19 goals and 40 assists for the Steelheads, more than doubling his point totals from the 2014-15 season.
He's a big 6'3 right wing with excellent strength and strong offensive instincts to go along with it. He's got great hockey sense, reading the play well with and without the puck. He skates well for his size, showing surprisingly quick acceleration and a smooth stride. He can put the puck to the net with quick wristers and heavy one-timers. Bastian projects as a top six NHL forward with his combination of strong skating, work ethic and offensive skills.
Joey Anderson, 73rd overall
The Devils took Joey Anderson with their first third round pick. He played alongside first rounders Kieffer Bellows and Clayton Keller for the USA National Development Program and scored 57 points in 64 games. Anderson also registered seven goals and two assists at the U18 World Junior Championship.
This pick might eventually turn out to be a steal for the Devils. Anderson is a very competitive right wing who plays with high intensity. He's strong on the puck, goes to the net and knows how to finish off his chances. His hands are quick and he makes smart passes to advance the play. Speed and skating overall need some work. He will play at the University of Minnesota-Duluth this season.
Brandon Gignac, 80th overall
Forward Brandon Gignac was among leading scorers for the Shawinigan Cataractes in the QMJHL with 61 points. Gignac is an intriguing pick in the third round as the 5'11 center is an excellent skater who can fly on the ice. His skating is his biggest asset, but he also puts a good effort defensively. He also has a good amount of skill. He's a smart player with a solid two-way game, something that bodes well for the future.
Mikhail Maltsev, 102nd overall
Mikhail Maltsev is a big and powerful left wing who played for the Russian U18 team in the MHL this past season. According to twitter handle @RUSProspects, Maltsev has a contract with KHL's SKA and he's planning to fullfill his current contract. Therefore it's possible that he won't play in North America for some years, but regardless he could be worth the wait. Maltsev is a solid two-way player who has some skill and plays a strong physical game. In the right circumstances, he could develop into a really strong player at the pro level, although he still has ways to go and needs to gain more experience.
Evan Cormier, 105th overall
After selecting only forwards with their first five picks, the Devils took Evan Cormier in the fourth round. Playing for the Saginaw Spirit in the OHL, the 6'3 goalie posted a .890 save percentage and a 3.72 goals against average in 58 games this past season.
The numbers certainly don't look great, but he saw plenty of shots over the course of the season, more than 30 in many games. Cormier has some good tools to build on. He has the ideal size and the ability to make some very impressive saves. However, he also has a tendency to allow too many soft goals, something he should get rid of in the future.
Yegor Rykov, 132nd overall
With their fifth round pick, the Devils selected Russian Yegor Rykov from SKA St. Petersburg. A defenseman who was passed over in his first year of eligibility, he played 10 games in the KHL this past season, scoring one assist. He also played in the VHL and MHL.
At the international level, Rykov had a good World Juniors tournament in Helsinki. I had the chance to see him live several times and he was impressive. He didn't particularly stand out in one aspect of the game, but overall he was very steady. He made good tape-to-tape passes, he was mobile, physically strong and smart in the defensive zone. Rykov has a contract with SKA in the KHL.
Jesper Bratt, 162nd overall
The Devils took a skilled winger in Swedish Jesper Bratt. The 5'10 forward scored eight goals and nine assists for Allsvenskan's AIK, playing at the second highest men's level in Sweden. He also played at the U18 World Championship in April and scored four points in seven games.
Bratt can really shoot the puck with high velocity, whether it be a one-timer or wrist shot. He shows quick bursts of speed and has impressive lateral agility. He's nowhere near from being a complete player, though, as his defensive game and toughness are currently lacking, so he's more of a longer-term pick by the Devils.
Jeremy Davies, 192nd overall
With their ninth and last pick in the draft, the Devils selected defenseman Jeremy Davies from the Bloomington Thunder. The 19-year-old blueliner finished first in the USHL in points among defensemen with 49 and second in goals with 13.
Davies is an offensively talented defenseman who was a key part of Bloomington's power play this past season. He can jump into offense and he possesses good vision and poise with the puck. Defensive game is a work in progress, however. Davies will attend the Northeastern University this fall and he will likely spend the next four seasons there.
The Devils hosted their development camp from July 12 to 16.
The invited players were goalie Matt Morris, defensemen Gavin Bayreuther, Zach Berzolla, Marc Biega, Scott Savage, Luke McInnis, Garret Cockerill and forwards Austin Cangelosi and Chris Shero.
In scrimmage, a big standout was Nathan Bastian who scored two goals and improved in the second half of the game. Also, Michael McLeod impressed in the first half, scoring one goal but got injured and left the game. However, Albany Devils coach Rick Kowalsky said that the reason he left was more precautionary.
Top prospect Pavel Zacha didn't attend the development camp due to hip pointer. The Devils will have to wait until training camp to see whether Zacha is ready for the NHL. Another name to watch for the training camp is right wing Nick Lappin, who had a strong finish to the season in the AHL.
Boston College forward J.D. Dudek scored this beautiful goal in scrimmage shootout.
Marco Bombino (@marco_bombino)