It is so hard to develop players to transition from the NHL Draft to the NHL. It varies so much by team needs, with usually the “best available” player mindset. Each team spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on scouts and other workers each year to find the best five to seven players in the draft.
The hardest-developed NHL player position is the goaltender. It is a blend of height, reflexes, rebound control, ergonomics, precise positioning, stamina, and calm composure that allows a goalie to shake off being rattled or handle in-game stresses.
The New Jersey Devils should look at getting a goalie like Michael Hrabal from the USHL or Carson Bjarnson of the WHL. They are both well-composed goalies that are highly ranked goalies across the board. If the Devils look to play it safe, they can look to Sweden’s U20 Melvin Strahl and Damian Clara. In Russia, you have Ruslan Khazheyev, who is a playoff-tested MHL goaltender who plays well for an average Traktor Chelyabinsk farm team who had 2 shutouts at age 18 per Eliteprospects.com.
Although the New Jersey Devils already have Akira Schmid, Nico Daws, Tyler Brennan, and Cole Brady (plus Vitek Vanecek as starting goalie), the Devils have to keep hitting on more goalies. You can never have enough goalies, and the position hasn’t been very stable since Martin Brodeur left for St. Louis. Schmid looks to be the future at the position, but it’s important Director of Amateur Scouting Paul Castron and his group under Tom Fitzgerald keep drafting the very best goalies to stabilize the team long term.
The New Jersey Devils are already set with their top two centers in Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes, but guys like Michael McLeod won’t always be around so it is important to look at players like Juraj Pekarcik from HK Nitra in Slovakia (same program as Simon Nemec) but at the U20 level showing he has potential for a late birthday to become a later bloomer with a very balanced high-level game.
Owen Beckner from the BCHL is a big power forward that ranges from 119-199th overall on Eliteprospects.com and is more of a playmaker and a bit of a goal scorer. He is committed to Colorado College in the NCAA in the 2024-25 season, so they wouldn’t have to hurry his development if the Devils were to draft him.
We all know the New Jersey Devils have many defensemen in the prospect ranks. On the contrary, despite having Simon Nemec, Kevin Bahl, and Luke Hughes as a few examples of defensemen that will be on this Devils roster, it’s important to keep adding more high-quality defensemen. Tom Fitzgerald and his scouts have been adding big physical, mobile defenders and offensive-minded players on the blueline.
That kind of construction helps the Devils get ready to bring in those that will pan out to become playoff ready and or parlay one or a few to bring in playoff-ready players. The San Jose Sharks knew the New Jersey Devils were loaded with Nikita Okhotiuk and Shakir Mukhamadullin as defensive assets that could fit into their timeline. That is what helped the Devils add a prime-grade elite-level winger in Timo Meier.
Look at some two-way players like Chase Cheslock, New Jersey-born players Rodwin Dionico, and Aram Minnetian, who all have the ability to play defense, be physical, and learn to be more responsible with and without the puck. These defensemen will theoretically improve their positioning and puck control in various situations as they develop.
Wingers are more of a short-term want than a need, and teams can acquire wingers at any time between drafting, trades, and free agency. Some names can fit the bill, especially with big power forwards like Ethan Miedema, who can be physical and create plays using their frames. Florian Xhekaj can be a nice late-round selection, another power forward who is a very hard worker and can absolutely insert himself physically. He is the brother of Arber Xhekaj of the Montreal Canadiens, so his game has a competitive edge.
Jesse Kiiskinen is a goal scorer from Finland who would be intriguing if the Devils chose him in the second round. The Devils can never have enough finishers on their wings and a player that is an elusive skater too. He may be developed behind players born in the first 2 quarters of the 2005 birth year, but his development won’t be too long, given his skills and his potential.