NHL Draft: Devils' biggest needs, top prospects
New Jersey is one of, if not the team to watch in the coming seasons. They have a unique mix of talented players already at the NHL level, and still in the system. The Devils struck it rich in the NHL Draft Lottery, allowing them to jump up to the third overall pick. This guarantees New Jersey another bluechip prospect, one who will be NHL ready immediately (although with the young organizational depth of the Devils, they have the luxury of allowing that player to mature slowly). New Jersey has a wealth of prospects, and will add another elite player selecting third-overall in the NHL Draft.
Alexander Holtz, F - Leading up to the NHL Draft last year, there were two Swedish players nicknamed the “Terror Twins” for their dominance in international competition. One of those players was Detroit Red Wings rookie star Lucas Raymond, the other was Alexander Holtz. In 52 games in the American Hockey League this season, Holtz piled up 51 points. At only 20, Holtz is a young prospect with a big future. He’ll join New Jersey’s already budding forward corps and will look good on the wing of a line centred by Jack Hughes or Nico Hischier for years to come.
Luke Hughes, D - Whether history describes Luke Hughes as the brother of Jack and Quinn, or whether the two older brothers become defined by their younger family member is yet to be determined, but the potential for Luke Hughes is sky-high. The 6’2 blueliner was an absolute force for the University of Michigan this season, being named the Big 10 Rookie of the Year. Whether he leaves school to join the Devils is to be determined, but he is capable of making the jump, and an impact, immediately.
Shakir Mukhamadullin, D - Suiting up alongside Luke Hughes on New Jersey’s future blueline will be Shakir Mukhamadullin. Standing 6’4, the 2020 20th-overall selection acquitted himself well among older competition in the KHL this year. He signed his entry-level contract prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but how international relations play out could determine if Mukhamadullin arrives in North America next year, or remains in Russia. All signs point to an arrival in New Jersey, and Mukhamadullin challenging immediately for a roster spot.
Top Needs At The Draft
With Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier down the middle, the Devils have no need for another elite center. If the initial rankings of Shane Wright followed by Logan Cooley stand correct at the draft, that would leave Juraj Slafkovský as the next available, and truly, he could be the best fit for the organization. Lining Slafkovský alongside one talented center, and Holtz beside the other, or potentially teaming them onto one top line, would give nightmares to opposing defenders for a decade. If Cooley was available, it would be interesting to see if the Devils go with the best available, or jump to Simon Nemac or David Jiricek to fill the blueline with another future top-four player.
Ready To Step In
When you combine the above prospects with a group of NHL ready players pounding down the door, things are about to get exciting in New Jersey. Fabian Zetterlund had a breakout AHL campaign with the Utica Comets and scored 8 points in 14 games with the Devils. He’ll be joined in training camp by Nolan Foote and Kevin Bahl as likely additions to Jersey’s roster. Bahl is an intriguing 6’6 defender who got 17 games in New Jersey this year. Although it came with growing pains, Nico Daws showed promise in 25 games of forced action. Both of New Jersey’s netminders are under contract this season, but Jonathan Bernier could be tempting trade bait for a team looking for a veteran backup, allowing Daws to step in.
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