How Quality Drafting Since 2016 Has New Jersey Devils In Position of Strength

In 2016, Ray Shero had full control of the New Jersey Devils scouting and drafting process. How have the Devils built from the ground up since then?
Dallas Stars v New Jersey Devils
Dallas Stars v New Jersey Devils / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages
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The New Jersey Devils went through a pretty long rebuild after Ray Shero took over for Lou Lamoriello in 2015. They needed to rebuild the NHL, but more importantly, they had to rebuild the prospect pool. So, as we look at all of the NHL Draft classes from 2016 until now, how did these prospects turn into quality players in New Jersey?

2016 Draft Class

Michael McLeod was one of two Mississauga Steelheads drafted by Ray Shero. The other was Nate Bastian who later helped the New Jersey Devils propel the Devils past the first round against the New York Rangers in the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs. McLeod is currently going through legal proceedings in Canada and may never play for the Devils again (his contract ends after this season).

Bastian has proven to be a player who can hit and block shots, but not as key offensively as McLeod. He has been very consistent in his bottom-six points production, and being a big body, opponents have a hard time defending and are on pace to break 16 points in a season the way he is playing. He was a bit of a reach in his draft class.

Mikhail Maltsev was part of the trade for now-former Devils defenseman Ryan Graves. Maltsev had good potential to help fill out the third line for the Devils, but with an expansion draft, he was later moved to Colorado.

Jesper Bratt was just named an All Star! He was drafted out of a tier in Sweden called the Allsvenskan, just below the SHL, Sweden's top league. AIK was the parent club that had Bratt there under their AIK20 team, where he had 16 assists and 22 points in 46 games. He was more of a playmaker then, but scouts knew his potential upside was more than that. Under Lindy Ruff, he has tapped into the Swede's goal-scoring side, having him paired with Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes. The past three years, his potential has been fully tapped, and he's just oozing more points and goals. This was one of the best draft picks by then GM Ray Shero.

2017 Draft Class

Captain Nico Hischier is the last man standing from this class, and he has been a true centerman who does play a 200-foot game. His determination this season may have been down a bit with the recent performances. He has played in two playoffs with this club and now that Patrice Bergeron is no longer in the league, the Swiss centerman has the potential to win the Selke Trophy. 314 points in 417 games played is a big achievement where the centerman has really shown to be a very reliable center and veteran in the Devils lineup.

Fabian Zetterlund was part of the Timo Meier trade, and Reilly Walsh was traded for Shane Bowers this offseason. Both were third-round picks that year.

2018 Draft Class

Ty Smith was an important draftee in the first round. The Devils got John Marino a few seasons later for Smith and a third-round pick. Akira Schmid did pan out and played well in the 2023 NHL playoffs for the New Jersey Devils. He is currently marinating in Utica with the Comets of the AHL. Yegor Sharangovich did do just well enough to earn him a short-term spot on the Devils and has done a great job scoring in Calgary. He helped give the New Jersey Devils a veteran goal scorer in Tyler Toffoli that has been beneficial in the 2023-24 campaign. Everyone else just busted and didn't make it to the NHL.