The New Jersey Devils used the 30th and final selection of Round 1 in the NHL Draft last night to select John Quenneville, a center from a family with a deep roots in hockey. His brother, Pete, was drafted last year by the Columbus Blue Jackets. His other brother, David, just made his debut for Medicine Hat. His 2nd cousin is Chicago Blackhawks Head Coach Joel Quenneville.
This pick was a surprise to me because earlier in the week, I had written about the Devils potentially drafting Brendan Lemieux the son of the former New Jersey star winger, Claude Lemieux. However, the organization has other younger players like him in the system, namely Stefan Matteau, so the decision was made to draft a young, high value prospect at center.
The center position is one area devoid of depth on a macro-level view of the Devils organization. Quenneville is a solid pick at that point in the Draft because he provides two-way play from center, he likes to mix it up defensively as much as he is adept at both scoring goals. He can also pass the puck well to create scoring opportunities from the pivot position, which is a critical skill at the NHL level. He demonstrated that through his 25 goals and 33 assists for the Brandon Wheat Kings of the Western Hockey League (WHL) and was a key factor in their playoff run.
We at Pucks & Pitchforks covered the WHL and the high level of competition it provides to prepare prospects for the NHL better than some of the other minor leagues in a series of articles prior to the Draft in 2013. That trend has certainly continued in 2014 with 4 of the top 10 players selected in the first round coming out of the WHL, and 9 players overall in the first round taken from this top notch Canadian feeder league.
2nd Round: Joshua Jacobs
The Devils used their 2nd round pick (41st overall) to select a defenseman, Joshua Jacobs, and taking nothing away from him but this was a curious pick to me by New Jersey. The most stocked position from an organizational standpoint is the defensive corps, including the drafting of a defenseman in the 2nd round of the 2013 Draft, and they select another defensive player here.
I looked at the other players taken immediately after Jacobs which the Devils could have used the pick to obtain, and I could understand that they passed on Russian junior league player Vladislav Kamenev because there is no assurance that he will come over to the US to play in the near future.
However, the Devils left highly touted center Ryan MacInnis on the board, now they may not have wanted to draft back-to-back players at the center position, but they also left Brett Pollock on the board, a left winger from the WHL. The left wing position is the thinnest position of depth organizationally for the Devils, so I do not know why they went in the direction they did.
What Jacobs does bring to the table is a defensively disciplined player with promising passing skills (he had 18 assists for Indiana in the USHL). He also had a very solid +36 rating and helped his team win the Clark Cup championship. He is 18 years old and grew up north of Detroit. He has committed to Michigan State University in the fall, so he will most likely spend some time in college honing his skills. This is a long range project type player for the Devils.
Stay with Pucks & Pitchforks for continued NHL Draft coverage throughout the day.
(Statistics and some background courtesy of NHL.com)