31-in-31: New Jersey

by Chris Wassel on July 18, 2019

 

Welcome to our annual 31-in-31 Summer Series here at DobberProspects! Every day in July we will be bringing you a complete breakdown of a team’s draft, notes from their development camp, and insights into their off-season moves so far. Following this up, the August 31-in-31 Series will dive into every team’s prospect depth charts with fantasy insights and implications for the upcoming seasons. Check in often, because we plan on filling your hockey withdrawal needs all summer long!

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DRAFT RECAP

Two things will make the 2019 NHL Draft memorable for New Jersey. The first was drafting Jack Hughes as the number one pick. For those who doubt Hughes, just look back at the World Junior Championships and realize how dominant this player has been when given the proper ice time. Now, the second part was New Jersey trading a couple of draft picks and a seventh defenceman for P.K. Subban. New Jersey gained a top defender overnight for the cost of peanuts essentially. There were some nondescript picks, but New Jersey garnered some steals in the later portion of the draft that surprised a good amount of people. Those ends were great, but the middle was a little lean with some rough edges. 

 

*****

Round 1 – Jack Hughes – 1st overall, C

It’s not every day that a team wins the lottery twice in three years. However, for Taylor Hall and the New Jersey Devils, this happened. 2017 resulted in the drafting of Nico Hischier and now in 2019, Jack Hughes. Hughes is a generational talent, and some will say not so fast but in time, the potential is undoubtedly there. For some early projectors to suggest Hughes may end up in the range of 60-70 points this season, that is saying something. The rookie center immediately bolsters a power-play that vanished for long parts of the schedule in 2018-19. This is a player who can take games over by playing keep-away with the puck. He can go from zero to full speed in no time flat. Also, Hughes has the rare ability to make players around him better. The pivot may not have been the consensus number one pick, but he was close. Again, there is that ability which he can fulfill. Watching him in person a couple of times, talking to him, and watching how he handled professional level play was quite eye-opening. 

 

Round 2 – Nikolai Okhotyuk – 61st Overall, D

 

After the first two picks of the second round were traded away, New Jersey selected at the tail end of round two. The defenseman has almost filled out already and plays hockey at a rather punishing level. Okhotyuk may not have the offensive upside most had picked around him, but he does have an above average shot. Considering, he does everything else well.  He is a player to watch to see how his speed and agility develop in the AHL ultimately. Also, Okhotyuk knocks and clears players from his crease effectively. This is something most New Jersey defencemen forget how to do. Few players possess a mobility like the Russian. His development will heavily be monitored as it expects to be a few seasons before he sees the ice at the NHL level. 

 

 

Round 3 – Daniil Misyal – 70th Overall, D

 

New Jersey drafted another left-handed defenseman. Misyal is 6 foot 3 but has not quite filled out like Nikolai Okhotyuk. While some of his skills are raw, the Russian skates swiftly and carries more offensive upside than his Russian counterpart. He can score, he can create, and when needed can fight – possessing a right hand that can throw some haymakers. The defenseman has a few minor negatives. Those include puck battles in corners at times. However, as the year went on those questions seemed to diminish. Misyal has three more years on his KHL contract which should give the New Jersey Devils plenty of time to see what they have in the young blueliner.  

 

Round 3 – Graeme Clarke – 80th Overall, W

The Ottawa 67’s forward had first-round talent except for one significant flaw – his skating ability. Clarke has begun work on that, though this will be a long-term project. He possesses every other attribute one can ask. He has speed, can generate a good shot, sets up others well., and finds way to score goals that others cannot. He looks purposeful and confident with the puck and is never afraid to create scoring chances even on his own. He does not cross the line from confidence to arrogance often. Again, it is all about when and how his skating evolves in time. That will determine how good of a draft pick this becomes. 

 

Round 3 – Michael Vukojevic – 82nd Overall, D

Ray Shero wanted to stock up on defencemen and that is just what he did with this pick. Vukojevic has less offensive upside than Misyal but again has a lot of the attributes one wants in a bigger defenseman. Simply, he can become a big, bruising shutdown defenseman who also has enough speed to create a little bit in transition as well. At the worst, Vukojevic makes for a great AHL defenseman and a bottom pairing NHL defender. There is also a booming shot in his repertoire that does not appear often enough. He unleashed one several months ago and a scout quipped, “Oh wow I never saw that before from him!”. 

 

Round 4 – Tyce Thompson – 96th Overall, C

Potentially a gem in the making, Thompson was an over-ager who carried some considerable risk. He is a little thin at just over 150 pounds but do not let his small stature fool you.  He is the type of player that will be a long, long project at least. Will he crack an NHL roster? That may be questionable but a serviceable AHL pivot is quite possible. Providence College helped Thompson develop some skills that had previously gone. The possibility exists that Thompson could still gain 10-20 pounds or so which would help him NHL wise. 

 

Round 4 – Case McCarthy – 118th Overall, D

The stacked nature of the USNTDP probably drove down McCarthy’s draft position. However, there is zero doubt what he is. McCarthy values himself as an offensive defenseman who can be quite responsible in his own end. He can hit you hard with his shot or his ability to check players. Fundamentally, he is a bit more ahead defensively than offensively. However, potential exists for growth at both ends of the ice. McCarthy has great size and hands which should serve him well as he rises up the professional levels. 

 

Round 5 – Cole Brady – 127th Overall, G

 

Brady is a streaky goaltender who would be on a very long development path. There are some nuggets of potential but mostly this was Ray Shero taking a shot on a goaltender who is good positionally and can be spectacular at times. He is athletic but needs to work on lateral movement desperately much like MacKenzie Blackwood. Now, no one is saying he could turn into another Blackwood. However, there is enough room for attainable improvement. The possibility exists – albeit very slight. 

 

Round 5 – Arseni Gritsyuk – 129th Overall, LW

Another Russian player that Ray Shero found was Gritsyuk. This diamond in the rough is a spitfire to play against and has above average hands and shot. He is going to drive opponents bonkers and often. The winger may be small and shifty, but he can get into scoring areas, take his shot, and get out just as quickly. There is something to be said about skills like that. High-energy and persistent effort are calling cards in his game. 

 

Round 6 – Patrick Moynihan – 158th Overall, C

With this pick, Moynihan was almost destined to go to New Jersey. The Providence College commit will play with Tyce Thompson. Moynihan has a unique versatility and does many of the little things well – including blocking shots and creating chances from anywhere. His touch around the net got him noticed in USNTDP circles and then among draft prognosticators. 

 

Round 7 – Nikola Pasic – 189th Overall, W

Something did not quite add up here as Pasic was expected to go somewhere late in the second round or third round. However, he kept falling and falling. In the end, Ray Shero took a shot here. Youth hockey levels can create uncertainty in assessing talent, but Pasic has an excellent motor and can create. If a player can boost his linemates with chances made, then maybe he has a shot. Pasic has that look of “I’ll show you”. His ability to drive to the net and isolate defenders 1-on-1 is encouraging. 

 

*****

DEVELOPMENT CAMP

The New Jersey Devils held their development camp at their practice facility from July 10th to July 13th. The main attractions were forwards Jack Hughes, Jesper Boqvist, and Michael McLeod, defensemen Ty Smith and netminders Akira Schmid and Gilles Senn

 

Camp Roster

Goaltenders

  • Cole Brady – 2019 fifth round draft pick, Janesville Jets — NAHL
  • Evan Cormier – 2016 fourth round draft pick, Binghamton Devils 
  • Akira Schmid – 2018 fifth round draft pick, Omaha Lancers — USHL
  • Gilles Senn – 2017 fifth round draft pick, Binghamton Devils 

 

 

Defencemen

 

  • Xavier Bernard – 2018 fourth round pick, Charlottetown (QMJHL)
  • Ty Smith – 2018 first round pick, New Jersey Devils (NHL)
  • Reilly Walsh – 2017 third round pick, Harvard (NCAA)
  • Jeremy Groleau – Undrafted, Binghamton Devils
  • Matthew Hellickson – 2017 seventh round draft pick, Notre Dame (NCAA)
  • Case McCarthy – 2019 fourth round draft pick, USNTDP
  • Nikita Okhotyuk – 2019 second round draft pick, KHL
  • Colby Sissons – Undrafted, Binghamton Senators
  • Michael Vukojevic – 2019 third round draft pick, Kitchener (OHL)
  • Colton White – 2015 fourth round draft pick, Binghamton Senators

 

Forwards

 

  • Joey Anderson – 2016 third round draft pick, Binghamton Devils
  • Nathan Bastian – 2016 second round draft pick, Binghamton Devils
  • Jesper Boqvist – 2017 second round draft pick, New Jersey Devils
  • Nicholas Canade – Invite from Mississauga (OHL)
  • Graeme Clarke – 2019 third round draft pick, Ottawa 67’s (OHL)
  • Brandon Gignac – 2016 third round draft pick, Binghamton Devils 
  • Mitchell Hoelscher – 2018 sixth round draft pick, Ottawa 67’s (OHL)
  • Jack Hughes – Number one overall draft pick, USNTDP
  • Mikhail Maltsev – 2016 fourth round draft pick, Binghamton Devils
  • Michael McLeod – 2016 first round draft pick, Binghamton Devils
  • Patrick Moynihan – 2019 sixth round draft pick, Providence College
  • Eetu Pakkila – 2018 seventh round draft pick, Ilves (LLIGA)
  • Nikita Popugaev – 2017 fourth round draft pick, Binghamton Devils
  • Nikola Pasic – 2019 seventh round draft pick, BIK Karlstoga (Allsvenskan)
  • Brett Seney – 2015 fifth round draft pick, New Jersey Devils
  • Yegor Sharangovich – 2018 fifth round draft pick, Binghamton Devils
  • Blake Speers – 2015 third round draft pick, Binghamton Devils
  • Marian Studenic – 2017 fifth round draft pick, Binghamton Devils
  • Aarne Talvitie – 2017 sixth round draft pick, Penn State 
  • Tyce Thompson – 2019 fourth round draft pick, Providence College
  • Danny Weight – Invite, Doug Weight’s son. 
  • Tyler Young – Invite
  • Fabian Zetterlund – 2017 third round draft pick, Binghamton Devils 

 

 

 

Standouts:

 

Jack Hughes: The forward showed how he scored so many goals as he peppered the net with shots. He had one highlight-reel goal and that was all it took. His vision, skill, and ability were head and shoulders above anyone else in this camp.  

“There’s a reason he’s better than everybody else,” Joey Anderson said. “Because he does things that no one else can.”

It is true that few players see the ice quite like Jack Hughes. There were so many little plays and people will point out to the highlight goal but it is what he brings up the ice on the rush that should scare NHL defenders. Watching the entire 3-on-3 shift by shift from Hughes was a lesson in what to watch for – even if it took several times to understand the logic. 

Jesper Boqvist: He was fun to watch and is further along than most thought. His slick skating was on display throughout the development camp and the feeling was he could easily slip onto the second line in New Jersey this season. The skill was evident from the first practice right through the last shifts of the scrimmage. Boqvist will be given many opportunities to make the New Jersey Devils out of training camp. His vision set up so many scoring chances that he ranks as the Devils’ second-best forward prospect currently. 

 

 

Ty Smith: An illustration of poise, smooth skating and puck moving ability was a delight to see from the WHL’s best defenseman from Spokane. It was obvious that New Jersey made the right move in sending him back to the WHL. Smith came into development camp a different, more polished player. Immediately in practices one could see the difference. In the scrimmages, he dominated chances and created so much off the rush that New Jersey fans were on the edge of their seats for many of his shifts. There is little question on if he will make the roster – only where he will be slotted in. I asked Smith what the biggest thing he learned from last year. “Experience in the WHL Playoffs was simply immeasurable. I learned how to play in pressure packed situations repeatedly”. 

 

 

 

*****

OFF-SEASON MOVES

 

Incoming:

P.K. Subban, D – Acquired in trade from Nashville Predators

Wayne Simmonds, RW – Signed as Free Agent One-year contract

Connor Carrick, D – Re-signed Two-year contract

Brandon Baddock, LW – Re-signed One-year contract

Josh Jacobs, D – Re-signed One-year contract

Jack Hughes, C – Signed three-year entry-level contract 

Dakota Mermis, D – Signed as Free Agent Minors contract – Binghamton

Matt Tennyson, D – Signed as Free Agent Minors contract – Binghamton

Chris Conner, F – Signed as Free Agent Minors contract – Binghamton

Ryan Schmelzer, RW – Signed as Free Agent Minors contract — Binghamton

Ben Street, LW – Signed as Free Agent One-year contract

Jesper Boqvist, C – Signed three-year entry-level contract

Mikhail Maltsev, LW – Signed three-year entry-level contract

Fabian Zetterlund, LW – Signed three-year entry level contract 

Gilles Senn, G – Signed two-year entry level contract 

John Hayden, LW – Traded to NJ for John Quenneville

Outgoing (Notables):

Kenny AgostinoLW – Signed to a two-year, one-way deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs

Jeremy Davies, D – Traded to Nashville Predators 

John Quenneville, C – Traded to Chicago from New Jersey

Cam Johnson, G – Became Unrestricted Free Agent Not tendered a qualifying offer

Drew Stafford, RW – Became Unrestricted Free Agent

Nick Lappin, RW – Became Unrestricted Free Agent 

Ryan Murphy, D – Became an Unrestricted Free Agent. Not tendered a qualifying offer

Adam Helewka, F – Released then signed in KHL

Stefan Noesen, RW – Became Unrestricted Free Agent Not tendered a qualifying offer