The New Jersey Devils are in the unique position of having three first-round picks (as it stands) at the 2020 Draft. That should be to their advantage, as there’s plenty of high-end talent in this year’s first-round, particularly in the top 15. And that’s what made taking part in THW’s mock draft so much fun.
The Devils have needs at almost every position. But my approach here was pretty simple: I went with the best player available in the first round and focused on finding value in the later rounds. So without further ado, let’s dive into the Devils’ 2020 THW Mock Draft selections.
Lucas Raymond — 6th Overall, RW/LW, Frolunda HC (SHL)
It was a surprise to see Raymond available in this spot, so it was difficult choosing between him and Marco Rossi. Ultimately, I chose Raymond, who I have as the third-best prospect in this class. He’s an aggressive forechecker who causes havoc for opponents in their own end. He’s one of the best playmakers in this class and is incredibly elusive in the offensive zone. He’s also a stout defender for someone his age. His shot needs improvement, but that should come as he adds muscle to his 5-foot-10, 165-pound frame.
As for his fit with the Devils, they need to put wingers around Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier. They have some prospects, like Jesper Boqvist and Nolan Foote — who they acquired in a trade — who have top-six potential. But no one comes close to what Raymond offers. He could be a top-line winger who plays in all situations and carries a line in the NHL.
Anton Lundell — 10th Overall, Center, HIFK (Liiga)
The Devils don’t need another center with Hischier and Hughes, but it’d be hard to pass on Lundell with a second top-10 pick. There’s nothing flashy about his game, but he does everything well. He has a good shot, is a good passer, and is an incredibly gifted defensive forward. His upside isn’t tremendous, but he could be a high-end, second-line center who plays in all situations. He’s also the type of player you throw over the boards in the final minutes of a game to seal a victory.
I’m sure some fans would have loved to seen Jake Sanderson picked here. He’s a high-end defensive prospect, but he doesn’t have the offensive upside worth using a top 10 pick on, at least for me. Plus, this class also has a solid group of defensemen worth betting on in the later rounds.
Seth Jarvis — 17th Overall, RW, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
Jarvis had a breakout campaign in the WHL, finishing with 98 points in 58 games. He has excellent speed and a near flawless stride, making him one of the best skaters in this class. He has a ton of offensive upside, and he can do it in about every way. He’s an elite playmaker, has a strong shot, and is a pretty good stickhandler too. The only issue is he needs to add weight to his 5-foot-10, 172-pound frame, but that’s not a cause for concern.
It was tempting to go with a defenseman with this pick after selecting Lundell and Raymond in the top 10. But it’d be hard to argue there’s a better player available at this spot than Jarvis. Adding him and Raymond gives the Devils two wingers to play alongside Hughes and Hischier for a long time, making for an ideal first round.
Jan Bednar — 99th Overall, Goaltender, HC Karlovy Vary (Czech)
There’s been plenty of talk around the Devils and whether they should draft Askarov with a top 10 pick. He went to the Chicago Blackhawks with the ninth overall selection in our mock. But even if he were available for the Devils, there’s not a lot of value in using that high of a pick on a goaltender. It’s the most volatile position in the league, and it could be two, three, even five years before he makes an NHL impact.
With that said, it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t come away with a goaltender at some point. With Nico Daws and Samuel Hlavaj off the board, Bednar made a lot of sense at this point in our mock. He played in 10 games as a 16-year-old(!) in the top Czech league in 2018-19 and posted a .917 SV%. He took a step back this season, with a .884 SV% in 13 games, and also had a .873 SV% in 24 games in the Czech2 — the Czech’s second division of hockey.
But even though he regressed, Bednar is still only 17 years old. And he doesn’t 18 until Aug. 26, making him one of the youngest prospects in this class. He’s 6-foot-4, 190 pounds, so he has the frame of a modern NHL goalie. It’s just a matter of him maturing and refining his game as he gets older. If he reaches his full potential, he could be the 1B to Mackenzie Blackwood, who seems to be the long-term future in net for the Devils.
Wyatt Kaiser — 124th Overall, Defenseman, Andover HS (MN)
Kaiser was the first of three consecutive defensemen I selected in our mock. He had 34 points in 25 games playing prep hockey in Minnesota for Andover High School. He’s committed to the University of Minnesota-Duluth, one of the NCAA’s top programs, so he’s going to the right place to continue his development.
Kaiser is not the biggest defenseman in this class, at 5-foot-11, 170 pounds. And like most defensemen his size, he’ll need to be mobile and an effective passer to become an NHL regular. He’s NHL Central Scouting’s 37th-ranked North American skater, as well as Corey Pronman’s 85th-ranked skater. So the Devils would be getting some value selecting him this late. He’s also one of the younger prospects in this draft, as he doesn’t turn 18 until July 31.
Jack Thompson — 130th Overall, Defenseman, Sudbury Wolves (OHL)
Thompson has spent the last two years playing for the Sudbury Wolves in the OHL. He had 16 points in 52 games in 2018-19 during his draft-minus-one season. He managed to double his production this season, as he finished with 32 points (13 goals, 19 assists) in 63 games. He’s 6-foot-1, 172 pounds, so he has room to add to his frame before turning pro.
Given Thompson finished with 13 goals, he seems to have some untapped offensive potential. He’s Central Scouting’s 60th-ranked North American skater, THW’s 143rd-ranked skater, and McKeen’s Hockey’s 126th-ranked skater. He could be a bottom-pair, offensive defenseman who gets power play time if he makes the NHL.
Jacob Truscott — 161st overall, Defenseman, USNTDP Juniors (USHL)
Truscott is a left-handed defenseman who checks in at 6-foot, 172 pounds. He played for the USNTDP Juniors in the USHL in 2019-20, totaling 11 points in 19 games. He also played in 47 games for the U.S. National Team at the U-18 level and finished with 21 points. He’s committed to the University of Michigan, where he’ll be a freshman for the 2020-21 season.
There’s a lot to like about Truscott’s game and what he’d bring to the Devils. “Highly skilled, puck-moving defenseman. Very good skater with a smooth, effortless stride. Retrieves the puck well and has end to end rushing abilities. Does a very good job of keeping his feet moving and his head up in order to make plays. Sees the ice well and makes good outlets.” – Michael Caples of MIHockey.
The Devils would be getting great value grabbing Truscott this late in the draft. He’s the 68th-ranked prospect by McKeen’s Hockey, as well as the 89th-ranked prospect by Elite Prospects. It’s highly unlikely he’s available this late at the actual draft, but he’d be a no-brainer selection for the Devils.
Pavel Gogolev — 192nd overall, LW, Guelph Storm (OHL)
Gogolev might be one of the most underrated players in this class, even though he’s an overager. He finished the season with 45 goals and 96 points in 63 games, one of the best scoring rates in the OHL. He’s not the greatest skater in the world, but he has a top-notch shot. It’s accurate, deceptive, and he has a quick release. He’s also one of the better stickhandlers among his peers.
Like Truscott, it’d be a surprise to see Gogolev available this late in the draft. He’s the 101st-ranked skater by McKeen’s Hockey and is ranked 45th in Pronman’s top 122 prospects over at The Athletic (From ‘Pronman’s 2020 NHL Draft Board: Top 122 prospects,’ The Athletic – 5/27/2020). He doesn’t project as a high-end scorer in the NHL. But his shot alone gives him the potential to be an offensive threat in a middle-six role.
Devils Should Come Away With Top Farm System
Not having second or third-round picks may hurt a bit, but the Devils can make up for it with their three first-rounders. The strength of this class is at forward, specifically on the wing. And emphasizing their need for game-breaking wingers to put alongside Hughes and Hischier should be the priority in the first round.
The Devils need to come away with a goalie at some point too. With that said, I don’t see the value in using a high pick on Askarov because of the volatility that comes with drafting goaltenders. There are some quality goaltending prospects in the mid-rounds of this class, like Bednar, Hlavaj, Daws, and Joel Blomqvist. So as long as they come away with one of them, they should feel comfortable about the position moving forward.
As for their defensive needs, that can be taken care of with their later picks, where they should be able to find some value. It wouldn’t be the worst outcome if they used one of their first-round picks on a defenseman, but that shouldn’t be their central approach. Because if they draft on the strength of this class, they should come away with the NHL’s best farm system.