The 2023 NHL Draft is right around the corner, and for the New Jersey Devils, there is a much different feeling heading into it. After finishing lackluster seasons for the past ten years, Devils fans had excitement and hope when looking at prospects in the draft that would make their team better. The organization was lucky enough to receive two first-overall picks who ended up being the most important pieces on the team, captain Nico Hischier and alternate captain Jack Hughes.
Now, after a successful season that the entire fanbase and organization were desperate for, the draft will have a new meaning this year. The ability to draft well will always be a major advantage for any NHL team, but some teams look for immediate help in the lineup. The Devils have been one of those teams in recent years, but now they will look to draft for pieces that will likely be used down the road. Building your organization through the draft has proved successful for teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Colorado Avalanche. Therefore, it will always be a vital event for every organization, no matter the current state of the team.
2023 Draft Expectations
The Devils have draft picks for each round except the first. The 2023 Draft has been discussed as one of the deepest drafts in recent years. The possibility of finding a player who can help the roster in years to come is high. However, do not expect any of the players selected to be staples on the team for at least two seasons. Scouting teams and upper management will have a taller task ahead of them in comparison to the Devils’ recent drafts. Since 2018, they have had a top-seven selection in the first round. The last time that they did not have a first-round pick was in 2013.
In recent years, the Devils took highly-touted players such as Nico Hischier, Jack Hughes, Alexander Holtz, Luke Hughes, and Simon Nemec. They have even had success with players falling to them like Dawson Mercer. The first round of the NHL Draft is the most scouted and often produces the best players. However, there are multitudes of examples where a player past the first round becomes an important part of the team. In recent years, players of note in the NHL that the Devils have selected past the first round are Yegor Sharangovich, Jesper Boqvist, Fabian Zetterlund, Damon Severson, and sixth-round gem, Jesper Bratt. Despite the lack of a first-round pick, there is always potential to find the next hidden gem in later rounds.
Drafting for Needs vs Best Player Available
Throughout the NHL, there is a debate about whether teams should draft for their specific needs or if they should always select the best player available (BPA). For the Devils, the 2023 Draft should be a mix of both. In terms of needs, they have exceptional depth at center and on defense. Drafting wingers and goaltenders for the pipeline would potentially fill needs in upcoming years. The Devils’ first selection, barring any trades, will be the 58th overall selection in Round 2. Followed by 80th overall in Round 3, 122nd overall in Round 4, 154th overall in Round 5, 186th overall in Round 6, and 218th overall in Round 7.
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Potential wingers that the Devils could select with their first selection are Roman Kantserov and Nico Myatovic. Kantserov is a Russian forward that could fall in the draft due to his 5-foot-9 stature. However, he is known for his puck handling, quick movements, and smart decisions on the ice. On the other hand, Myatovic is a 6-foot-3 winger who has improved his game every year and is known for his two-way play. Both wingers could be selections at the 58th spot for the Devils and would fulfill a need in upcoming seasons.
In a 2023 NHL Mock Draft by Bill Placzek, he has the Devils selecting center Timur Mukhanov in Round 2, goaltender Samuel Urban in Round 4, winger Micheal DeAngelo in Round 5, defender Larry Keenan in Round 6, and Benjamin Rautiainen in Round 7. The selections are based on BPA and draft rankings. Furthermore, there is always the possibility of the Devils trading picks for players or swapping positions in the draft with other teams.
Devils’ Pipeline Through the Draft
Organizations look for their next franchise players in the NHL Draft. Therefore, scouting is a key factor in a team’s draft success. Every team has had hits and misses. Currently, the Devils have a healthy amount of prospects in their pipeline that they have drafted. They drafted their two franchise centers in Hischier and Hughes and have now been trying to fulfill needs by drafting winger Holtz and goalies Nico Daws and Tyler Brennan. Furthermore, they have an impressive defensive pipeline that has been built through the draft. Luke Hughes, Simon Nemec, Casey Seamus, and Topias Vilen are highly touted prospects that were selected in the Entry Draft. Hughes is now expected to be a regular for New Jersey in 2023-24 and many are hoping Nemec and Seamus make the team sooner rather than later.
Every draft is a chance to add to the impressive pipeline that the Devils already have. Maintaining success on the ice and in the draft is vital in creating the widest window possible for a team’s success. Without a first-round pick, they will look for options to fulfill depth roles and remain successful for the foreseeable future.