The 2014 NHL Draft has now been completed in Philadelphia, and the next several hours as well as the next several days, the sports media landscape will dedicate their hockey coverage to grading and evaluating this draft pool. The New Jersey Devils selected 6 players in this draft, which will be compared and evaluated by expert columnists. The decisions made by all 30 respective NHL franchises as far as how they addressed their needs through the draft will also be scrutinized.
I decided that the Devils picks could be given an overall grade and I also decided to focus on the draft selections of their rival teams in the Metropolitan Division.
I know it is very early to assign a grade to this draft, and it will truly take years to evaluate these players and the impact they will have on the NHL level. In the other sports, such as the NBA and the NFL, the rule of thumb is 3 years being the earliest point to evaluate a player or a draft class.
However, in hockey and baseball, the players taken are much younger and some decide to delay entry into the minor leagues of the pro ranks to play in college in both of these sports. It can take up to 6 years to evaluate an NHL draft class and that is in the early stages, depending on who defers to attend college, and the long path these players take to develop properly to the NHL level.
New Jersey chose to use their draft selections to obtain 4 offensive players and 2 defensive players. This strategy largely reflects the overall organizational need for more offensive prospects to be injected into their system at this point. When looking at the defensive players, one of the two selected, Joshua Jacobs, will attend college at Michigan State University so he will not contribute right away in the Devils system.
Devils Draft Grade: B+
New Jersey obtained a top notch offensive prospect in John Quenneville with their first round pick (30th overall) he has a great hockey pedigree with his family roots in hockey, as I covered in my earlier post today. The team needed a prospect to develop at the center position, especially a two-way player, to fill the pipeline at that vital spot, and they obtained that type of player last night.
I was not high on the selection of Joshua Jacobs in Round 2 because the Devils already have a glut of defensive players in their system, and they have a pretty pressing issue with a lack of goal scoring where I felt they could have taken another offensive prospect here instead. Then I factor in Jacobs attending college and that could delay his contribution to the team even further, I really do not like this pick.
The selection of Connor Chatham by New Jersey in the 3rd Round (71st overall) was where a breathed a sigh of relief out loud at my computer. This was a very smart pick: a big, physical, right winger who benched the 2nd most reps in the Draft combine of the whole class. He played in a very strong league (OHL) and had 31 points in 54 games. The best part about this pick is the high value (which will become a common thread for the Devils in this draft) he was ranked 46th and the Devils got him at 71. He fills an organizational need for an aggressive two-way wing player.
By comparison, the San Jose Sharks drafted Alex Shoenborn with the next pick and he has very limited experience, and then the draft shifted to the next several picks going to defenseman in Round 3. So the Devils selection of Chatham there was a great pickup.
The Devils did not have a 4th round pick so they chose again in the 5th round taking Ryan Rehill with the 131st pick overall. This was another high value pick since he was ranked at 76th overall and projected to be a 3rd rounder, and the Devils got him in Round 5. Rehill has several strong attributes: he is tough with a high number of penalty minutes, he played in an excellent feeder league (WHL) and his 20 points was second on his team for defensemen in scoring. This is a solid pick who should contribute to the Devils down the road.
In the 6th round, New Jersey made their final two selections of this draft and they took offensive players with both picks. They obtained center Joey Dudek with the 152nd pick and gain good value as he was ranked at 109 prior to the draft. He is committed to Boston College, so he will be a balanced and complete player when he is done with his time at that excellent program. This is a longer term yield player for the Devils, but I think he will be worth the wait.
The last player selected by the Devils was Brandon Baddock with the 161st pick. He is a left winger and yet another player from the WHL where he has gained valuable experience over the past 3 seasons there. The team should gain positive impact from him in the future. He fills a void in depth too at left wing which is why I liked this pick.
The Devils stocked some more prospects into an already crowded defensive corps, and it remains to be seen what they will do as an organization to fix some of the log jam at that position from the high levels of the minors to the NHL club. It also remains to be seen how committed Peter DeBoer is to playing the younger defensemen next season.
New Jersey also addressed some needs offensively at positions they needed to build depth within, which is what the Draft can be used for, and in a very cost effective way because you will get these prospects on entry-level contracts. I also liked that they drafted high value players who had slipped down the draft board for any number of reasons, most likely because the teams picking ahead of them had other needs.
I will continue in a separate article which will be forthcoming on the Metropolitan Division and their grades of this draft as our coverage continues on Pucks & Pitchforks.
It is early, but on the first impression, I am a happy fan today after this draft, and I am excited to see what these future Devils will contribute as they start their journey to living out their dreams of playing in the NHL.
(Background and stats courtesy of NHL.com)