31 in 31 Series, July: New Jersey Devils
Ray Shero has been focusing on building through the draft and in the development and implementation of young players into the New Jersey lineup. The results on the ice cannot be questioned as the Devils made the playoffs out of nowhere in 2017-18. Despite this strategy, the Devils only had six draft picks last month, with no picks in the second or third round. The big catch on draft weekend was Ty Smith, another small puck moving defenseman, who fell to them with the 17th overall selection. There was talk that the Devils were possibly looking to trade back to acquire more picks, but that idea was put to rest when Smith was still available, who by many publications was a potential top 10 pick.
Here is what you need to know about New Jersey’s 2018 draft picks:
Ty Smith– D; 1st Round 17th Overall
The trend of the Devils drafting smaller puck moving defensemen continued with the selection of Ty Smith. The Devils felt very fortunate that he fell all the way to them and addressed one of their biggest areas of need in their prospect pipeline. He has tremendous skating ability and is a future power play quarterback. He put up 73 points in 69 games for Spokane of the WHL and was the captain of Canada’s U18 World Junior team this summer. Some predict he might be two years away from stepping into the NHL, but don’t be surprised to see this kid much sooner.
Xavier Bernard– D; 4th Round 110th Overall
Bernard is the rare exception to the Devils draft strategy for defenseman. Standing at 6-3, 205 pounds he is bigger than the usual suspects in the Devils pipeline. However, the similarity is in the skating ability and in the offensive upside. Bernard needs to improve his decision-making and simplify his game, but the Devils may have landed a good all-around defenseman here.
Akira Schmid– G; 5th Round 136th Overall
Tall and lanky at 6-4, 165 pounds and a project in net for the Devils. Goalies are always such a long way out and unpredictable that we will just have to wait and see on this selection.
Yegor Sharangovich– C; 5th Round 141st Overall
A player that had been passed over in the 2017 draft, the Devils took a flyer on a player that was quiet with Dinamo Minsk with only 12 points in 45 games. The Devils however may have taken a liking to Sharangovich during the WJC this past winter as he put up 5 points in 6 games for Belarus.
Mitchell Hoelscher– C; 6th Round 172nd Overall
A smallish center with a high compete level but a lot to work on in his game to be considered a big prospect in the Devils system.
Eetu Pakkila– LW; 7th Round 203rd Pick Overall
A late round pick with upside as can be expected by the Devils. Did well in the Finnish Junior League putting up 40 points in 48 games. You can’t ever count out their late round picks.
Development Camp Roster and Notes
Goaltenders (4): Mackenzie Blackwood (Thunder Bay, ON/Binghamton, AHL); Cam Johnson (Troy, MI/North Dakota, NCAA); Akira Schmid (Bern, SUI/Langnau U20, Elite Jr. A); Gilles Senn (Visp, SUI/HC Davos, NLA)
Defensemen (11): Michael Kim (Toronto, ON/Boston College, NCAA); Ty Smith (Lloydminster, SK/Spokane Chiefs, WHL); Reilly Walsh (North Falmouth, MA/Harvard, NCAA); Xavier Bernard (Mercier, QC/Drummondville, QMJHL); Tariq Hammond (Calgary, AB/Binghamton, AHL); Colton White (London, ON/Binghamton, AHL); Jeremy Groleau (St-Nicolas, QC/Chicoutimi, QMJHL); Colby Sissons (Edmonton, AB/Swift Current, WHL); Jocktain Chainey (Asbestos, QC/Halifax, QMJHL); Jeremy Davies (Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, QC/Northeastern, NCAA)
Forwards (18): Max Veronneau (Ottawa, ON/Princeton, NCAA); Michael McLeod (Mississauga, ON/Mississauga, OHL); Nathan Bastian (Kitchener, ON/Binghamton, AHL); Blake Speers (Sault Ste. Marie, ON/Binghamton, AHL); John Quenneville (Edmonton, AB/Binghamton, AHL); Joey Anderson (Roseville, MN/Minnesota-Duluth, NCAA); Brett Seney (London, ON/Merrimack, NCAA); Brandon Gignac (Repentigny, QC/Binghamton, AHL); Jesper Boqvist (Falun, SWE/Brynas IF, SHL); Yegor Sharangovich (Minsk, BLR/Dinamo Minsk, KHL); Mitchell Hoelscher (Waterloo, ON/Ottawa, OHL); Fabian Zetterlund (Karlstad, SWE/Farjestad BK, SHL); Eetu Pakkila (Oulu, FIN/Karpat, Liiga); Marian Studenic (Holik, SVK/Hamilton, OHL); John Edwardh (Calgary, AB/UMass-Lowell, NCAA); Aarne Talvitie (Espoo, FIN/Penn State, NCAA); Max Andreev (Moskva, RUS/Cornell, NCAA); Ryan Schmelzer (Buffalo, NY/Canisius, NCAA)
Development Camp Notes
Several players have made their presence known in the past week at the Devils Development Camp. Michael McLeod has continued to develop and focused on utilizing his teammates more in the past year and that was noticeable during the camp. He continues to be the top prospect in the system. Joey Anderson began his campaign to lock down one of the open roster spots with another good camp. His coachability, hockey IQ, and ability to play alongside highly skilled players has once again been evident in this his third and likely final development camp.
The Devils have also been impressed by the growth and development of 2017 second-round selection Jesper Boqvist during the past year and in this camp. John Quenneville has also shown the Devils staff a lot of progress as he battles for a job this season with the parent club. The real surprise of this camp has been Aarne Talvitie, a 2017 sixth round pick, who’s skating and pro ready body has him primed for his freshmen campaign at Penn State University after tearing the Finnish Jr. League apart. It will be interesting to follow his story this year and see if he emerges as another late round steal for the Devils.
Free Agency Moves and Their Impact on The Pipeline
Free agency was quiet for the Devils this year and most of the action involved players heading out rather than coming in, which should open spots for some of the prospects knocking on the door. Brian Gibbons left for the Anaheim Ducks, Patrick Maroon went home to St. Louis, John Moore took off for Boston, Jimmy Hayes went to the Penguins, and Michael Grabner left for the desert in Arizona. All of that subtraction, while coming into the Devils organization were seemingly just depth pieces. Eric Gryba a depth defenseman from Edmonton was brought in and prior to the NHL free agency period they signed a defensive defenseman, Yegor Yakovlev, from the KHL in Russia. All of these moves signal that more youth is on its way to New Jersey with several roster spots left vacant. The door is now wide open for McLeod, Anderson, Quenneville, and Steven Santini to stake their claim to spots on the NHL roster during training camp.
Main image courtesy of stmed.net