On Friday night the New Jersey Devils will look to the NHL Draft to add a player who will make a mark on the club in the (hopefully) very near future, and help erase memories of this past season’s debacle. The Devils missed the playoffs in 2010-2011, marking the first time the club has not been a playoff participant since 1996.
Based on where the Devils finished in the overall NHL standings, they were given the eighth pick in the draft. However, the Devils were the winners of the NHL Draft Lottery andwere able to move up to fourth in the draft order. Having a selection in the top five picks of the draft is not something the Devils are accustomed to, but there will be no shortage of talent to make sure this isn’t a yearly occurrence for a team that is used to being a perennial Stanley Cup contender.
Here’s the short list of players who may be available to the Devils with the fourth selection:
Adam Larsson, Defenseman, Skelleftea (SWE)
Larsson has the size of a defenseman (6-3, 200), but he has the skill and mobility of a forward. The Devils have been need of a puck-moving defenseman ever since Scott Niedermayer left the team. Larsson would also be an immediate asset on the power play, which is an area where the Devils are lacking after having the 28th ranked power play last year. Although he is only 18-years-old, Larsson has been playing with the big boys in the Swedish Elite League and has held his own. He would look good on the Devils blue line for years to come.
Jonathan Huberdeau, Center, Saint John (QMJHL)
If Larsson is not there when the Devils pick, the Memorial Cup MVP could be a nice fit for the Devils. Huberdeau’sstock has really been on the rise since his spectacular run through the Memorial Cup playoffs. He finished third in the QMJHL with a total of 105 points (43 goals, 62 assists) in 67 games. The Devils would benefit from having a play-making center who in future years could be centering a line with Ilya Kovalchuk on one wing, and Zach Parise on the other.
Gabriel Landeskog, Left Wing, Kitchener (OHL)
Landeskog might be the most NHL-ready of all the top prospects. The young Swede boasts good size (6-0, 207) and he plays hard at both ends of the ice, which is something that has always been stressed by the Devils. Landeskog had 36 goals and 30 assists in 53 games for Kitchener. He is also the first European player in the history of the Kitchener Rangers to be named captain, which speaks volumes about his leadership ability. If the Devils select Landeskog, they will be getting a player who could turn into the eventual leader of the team in the future.
Sleeper: Mika Zibanejad, Center, Djurgarden (SWE)
Zibanejad is a name that has been rising up the draft boards over the past few weeks. He is widely regarded as a power forward, as his 6-2, 191-pound frame would suggest, but he also has soft hands and skates well. Scouts have been particularly enamored with his heavy shot. As an 18-year-old playing in the Swedish Elite League amongst men, Zibanejad has shown that he can have an impact even at his young age. Zibanejad is not afraid to bang bodies and do the dirty work along the boards to win puck battles. He might be a reach with the fourth selection, but GM Lou Lamoriello has been a pretty good judge of talent over the years.
If I were in Lamoriello’s shoes on Friday night, and Adam Larsson was still available at the fourth selection, he would be my pick. If Larsson is gone, I would target Huberdeau or Landeskog, in that order. Zibanejad has a lot of potential, but I’m not sure I would be able to pull the trigger on him with the fourth pick.
The Devils don’t have the luxury of a high pick in the draft very often, so here’s hoping they make this one count.
About the Author
Written by Matt Pellicane
I am currently pursuing a master's degree in Journalism from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut. I graduated from Quinnipiac in May 2010 with a bachelor's degree in print journalism. While at Quinnipiac, I covered various sporting events on campus for the online newspaper The Quad News. I was born and raised in Bridgewater, New Jersey and have been an avid sports fan all of my life. I am a fan of the New Jersey Devils, New York Giants, New York Yankees, and the Boston Celtics.