The final draft rankings are out, and the players the Devils are just about on the clock. It appears that the Devils are confident that they will get a player they like at number four, and therefore will not trade the pick. One other thing is certain, and that is Edmonton taking Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. They’ve had him up for dinner to wine and dine him, so RNH will be an Oiler. But who will fall to number four?
The final rankings look like this:
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
- Adam Larsson
- Jonathan Huberdeau
- Gabriel Landeskog
- Sean Couturier
- Dougie Hamilton
- Ryan Strome
- Ryan Murphy
- Mika Zibanejad
- Jonas Brodin
I’ve seen a lot of mock drafts over the past few days. Some have the Devils taking Huberdeau, while other have them taking Landeskog. One has them taking Couturier, and finally, one Devils blog somehow has them taking Couturier even though Larsson is available. I will examine that one for a second.
First, if Larsson is there at #4, the Devils are taking him. I don’t care how many more page views those guys get over us, they’re not passing on a potential cornerstone defenseman for a center. You know how people always say the Devils are in desperate need of centers? Right now, that’s a misconception. They’ve got Zajac, Josefson, Steckel, Clarkson, Pelley, and Henrique is on his way up. Josefson could be an elite playmaker, so passing up on a possible elite puck moving d-man, something the Devils have desperately lacked since Niedermayer and Rafalski left, is lunacy. However, I don’t think Larsson will be there.
Going over those that draft ahead of us, I see it working out like this. Edmonton takes Nugent-Hopkins. By the way, can it just be Hopkins? Does he have to hyphenate? I know girls hyphenate a lot when they get married so that they don’t lose identity or to get a perceived notion of equality because of a name. But I digress. So RNH goes #1.
At #2, I think Colorado will take Gabriel Landeskog. It kills me because I really think if they can’t get Larsson, which they probably can’t, I’d love to see them add some depth at right wing. The Devils are very thin at right wing, and could use a natural right winger like Landeskog. Also, Landeskog, along with Huberdeau, is probably the most NHL ready guy right now. It makes sense for Colorado because they could use an elite winger to play with Matt Duchene. Duchene and Paul Stastny allow Colorado to pass on a center. The in-season trade for former number one pick Erik Johnson means they can pass on Larsson and take Landeskog to replace Chris Stewart.
At #3, I think Florida will take Larsson. Look, Florida needs just about everything but goaltending. However, defense is actually in the system for them. Erik Gudbrandson is the top player in the system. They also boast Alexander Petrovic and Colby Robak. This is the ONLY reason that I can imagine them passing on Larsson and taking Couturier or Huberdeau. I just don’t think it’s going to happen. As good as Gudbrandson projects to be, Larsson seems to be better than just about any defensive prospect that’s come along in quite some time. As a fan of a team that believes in building from the back to the front, I think Florida will take Larsson. If they don’t, Huberdeau will be the guy, but again, I think it’s Larsson.
Realistically, that leaves the Devils to choose between, well, everyone else. It will most likely come down to Huberdeau and Couturier. I’ve seen a mock that has them taking Strome, but I think that’s ludicrous. If Huberdeau and Couturier are available, I think they’ll take Couturier. He still appears to be the most talented player in the draft. He was the only draft eligible kid on the Canadian WJC team. It’s a tough choice, but I’m still leaning, as I have been since the Devils moved up to #4, with Couturier. I don’t think they’ll pass up on his size. At 6’4″, it’s a trait you can’t teach. I think he’ll be there at #4, and I think the Devils will take him.
One thing is for sure, and it’s that no one knows for sure what Lou will do. Obviously that hinges on what teams 1-3 do. Hopkins won’t be available, but the Devils will choose between Landeskog, Larsson, Couturier, and Huberdeau. It’s a very exciting few days. This is the biggest draft day addition the Devils have had since Zach Parise in 2003. And even in 2003, there wasn’t much buzz because we had to trade up. No one thought Parise would be available. So it’s actually the most exciting pre-draft we’ve had since 1991 when we took Scott Niedermayer at #3 overall. The draft airs on Friday at 7ET on Versus.