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?

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2019 Draft Class

Jack Hughes has been nothing short of phenomenal at the center position. He has lived up to his early potential with 252 points in 276 games played. He is on pace to have a superstar career and potentially a Hockey Hall of Fame career at the pace he is when he is a healthy forward. He has been one of the best American forwards in his draft class and arguably one of the best forwards in this half-decade span. The Florida-born player has the true mantra that the movie line from Hook goes: "You have to fly. You have to fight. You have to crow."

This pretty much sums up the Jack Hughes play style where he's fast on his skates, sharp on his edges, wins puck battles along the boards, and more in the neutral zone. When he gets the puck on his stick and he scores a goal or records an assist, he can crow his way with that style of swagger. Everyone else in his draft class is still developing and can't be further despite Daniil Misyul being called up and shuttled down, Graeme Clarke in Utica, Michael Vukojevic still in Utica, and a few others taking their time before making the big jump to the NHL.

2020 Draft Class

The Tom Fitzgerald drafting finally began creating something good in 2020. Nico Daws has shown that he is very capable of being a stud in the net and has the potential to take over eventually. Dawson Mercer and Alexander Holtz have shown to be very good long-term forwards on the wing, but also helping this Devils team grow their offense and eventually grow into their careers. Shakir Mukhamadullin was dealt away in the Timo Meier deal a season ago, and he made his debut for the Sharks last month. The rest of the 2020 class is starting to sort out a bit but isn't at a full conclusion.

2021 Draft Class

Jack Hughes' brother, Luke Hughes, is in the early stages of his NHL career with the New Jersey Devils. He has handled himself well despite his giveaway-to-takeaway ratio. The youngest Hughes brother is a very determined player who is cerebral in the offensive zone and is steadily growing into his defensive game on the fly. Everyone else in the 2021 batch is still in the process of development.

2022 Draft Class

Just like the 2021 class, this is an ongoing 2022 class that is still developing. However, Slovak defender Simon Nemec has become a true offensive defenseman. He has been nothing short of that offensive prowess, and like his teammate Luke Hughes, he too has to improve his positioning more and play better with his defense. Nemec is slowly playing a similar game to Dougie Hamilton on the top-two lines. Nemec, at the pace he is going per game, can possibly overtake Erik Cernak for the best active scoring Slovak defenseman under Quantum Hockey, where Cernak is currently 7th overall. Nemec is 17th all-time amongst Slovak point-scoring defensemen with 13 points and is 2nd all-time in Points/60 with 1.44 below Lubomir Visnovsky for 1st overall. At this point in time, it is a wait-and-see approach with how Tom Fitzgerald's 3rd draft class pans out and how he may use them as collateral in potential trades.