Shane Wright was on the board after the Montreal Canadiens took the Slovak winger Juraj Slafkovsky first overall. He was the guy everyone had first overall for years and years. Now, he’s falling all the way to pick number four because the Devils went Nemec and the Arizona Coyotes went with the high upside guy in Logan Cooley.
The Devils went with the defenseman as Wright could have given the Devils the best young center depth in the league and possibly in league history. We’d have to go back, but when has there ever been three centers who could have been the first-overall picks in their draft all on the same team? The Devils had a unique opportunity here, and two of those centers are already locked in long term with very satisfying contracts. Wright would get a chance to grow slowly without a ton of expectations.
This isn’t necessarily a bad pick per se. The Devils didn’t take Cutter Gauthier or Marco Kasper. They took one of the premiere defensemen who happens to be at a position the Devils desperately need. The Devils have Dougie Hamilton and Damon Severson on the right side of the defense, but in the prospect pool it’s Reilly Walsh and that’s really it. He’s also not exactly a guaranteed NHL starter.
The Devils took the player they wanted. We have to imagine Juraj Slafkovsky was the player they fell in love with, but the Montreal Canadiens fell in love, too. The Devils went defense, and at the end of the day they could be right. They didn’t take Wright, who we considered the best player in this draft, but this draft is strange. Picks 1-5 could all easily become the best player in the draft class and nobody would be that surprised.
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For now, we will root like hell for Simon Nemec. We hope he becomes the next Bobby Orr. We hope he pairs with Luke Hughes for the next 15 years and they become this generation’s Scott Niedermeyer and Scott Stevens.