July 31-In-31: New Jersey Devils

Kevin Wickersham


The New Jersey Devils won the Entry Draft lottery despite the NHL’s fifth-worst record and just an 8.5% chance of landing the top spot. In all they selected 11 prospects – six forwards (four centers along with a left and right wing), four defensemen (three in the final round) and a goalie. General Manager Ray Shero and his scouting staff ultimately settled much debate by using the first overall pick to bring Swiss sniper Nico Hischier into the fold.

2017 Entry Draft Selections

Nico Hischier: 1st round, 1st overall

Hischier showed he’s an absolute offensive terror in his initial QMJHL campaign. The Swiss puck-wizard is lightning quick on skates and seems to out-think and out-maneuver opponents before they know what hit them. Elite hockey sense combined with an elusiveness that’s tops in his class, he’s very gritty for a breakneck tilt scorer, willing to fight for pucks, lead the penalty kill, check hard and move larger opponents aside. Very accurate shooter with deadly hands that can deke defensemen and goalies out of their skates. An NHL star soon.

Jesper Boqvist: 2nd round, 36th overall

Boqvist’s a cerebral and versatile, raw 18-year-old forward who continues to develop alongside adults in the Swedish Hockey League. His stealthy, shifty skating and puck skills compliment a knack for scoring, particularly flashy goals in the clutch. His first-step quickness and agility are especially dangerous on the rush, as he’s tough to contain both in open ice and heavy traffic situations. It’s difficult to disrupt Boqvist’s balance on skates, and he boasts two-way hustle that should translate favorably both on the man advantage and penalty kill at the next levels. He’s money around the net. A fearless competitor, Boqvist has the right moxie to grow physically and skill-wise into a valued Devils’ pivot.

Fabian Zetterlund: 3rd round, 63rd overall

Zetterlund has a lethal shot and uses it, firing 143 SOG in 40 games this past campaign in Sweden’s SuperElit league. Add to that an almost point-per-game regular schedule rate, and three goals and two assists in seven U-18 World tourney contests with 28 shots and you have one of the best scoring 2017 draft-eligible forwards. The Devils may have stolen one here, as the 17-year-old has plenty of time to perfect his extra-heavy shot and quick release while traveling the NHL path. Protects the puck well and has impressive lower-body strength for his age and developing build. Will look to increase speed and boost defensive prowess.

Reilly Walsh: 3rd round, 81st overall

An offense-oriented defenseman, Walsh excels at moving the puck quickly up the ice and rifling dead-on wrist shots. His presence and relentless play elevates game pace, particularly in transition when dishing crisp and accurate passes to teammates in full stride. This, combined with his somewhat slight frame contradicts the prototypical blueliner mold as Walsh functions almost as a dangerous third wing at times. A beast on the power play. Can hold his own on defense but should focus on development in the NCAA. Diligent and competitive, he’l