New Jersey Devils use NHL Draft to add "physicality" to the prospect pool

The New Jersey Devils clearly had one offseason goal: add physicality. They did it during the free agency period, but don't overlook what they did in the NHL Draft.
Kasper Pikkarainen after being drafted by the Devils
Kasper Pikkarainen after being drafted by the Devils / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

There's been a lot of hustle and bustle throughout the New Jersey Devils organization, mainly due to a busy free agency period. Obviously, Tom Fitzgerald is trying to gear this team toward the playoffs after an inconsistent performance this past season. However, the Devils also hosted their development camp recently. Some prospects had the chance to showcase their skill sets shortly after being drafted. The Devils selected seven players during the 2024 NHL Draft in Las Vegas.

Arguably, their most touted pick was Anton Silayev. He was selected 10th overall. Silayev stands 6'7'' but has tremendous skating ability. On the second day of the draft, the Devils used their third-round picks to select Kasper Pikkarainen (85th overall) and Herman Traff (91st overall). Their games still need to evolve, but it seems like they both made good first impressions during development camp. Pucks & Pitchforks had the chance to speak with the two prospects while in Las Vegas. When asked to describe their respective games, they both provided compelling answers.

"I'm a big winger who likes to hit and make plays with the puck in the offensive zone. "

Kasper Pikkarainen

"I'm a big forward, and I play physical with a lot of skills. Trying to take the puck to the net and also try to hit every time. So, I would say that I'm a power forward. "

Herman Traff

Silayev also described his play style as "physical." Over the past couple of weeks, the Devils have added players like Stefan Noesen, Brenden Dillon, and Paul Cotter to their roster. All three of them are not afraid to hit people and throw their weight around. Looks like Fitzgerald and his staff wanted to draft prospects who aren't afraid to do the same thing. EliteProspects 2024 NHL Draft Guide described Pikkarainen's game as "[A player who] brings fire and brimstone whenever he steps on the ice. He never fails to capitalize on a good opportunity to make contact, even laying big open-ice hits from time to time."

Traff's capabilities include, " [A player who] forechecks with pace and intensity. He hits and works to get the puck back." Similar to Silayev, it'll be a while before we see Pikkarainen and Traff suit up for the Devils. But their intensity and physicality are certainly things to be excited about. Interestingly, Pikkarainen's father, Ilkka, played for the Devils and appeared in 31 games during the 2009-10 season.