The New Jersey Devils had themselves quite the weekend. They started by selecting Jack Hughes with the first overall pick, then followed it up by acquiring P.K. Subban in a blockbuster trade before Day 2 of the Entry Draft began. Things didn’t quiet down after that as general manager Ray Shero and his staff made 10 selections in rounds 2-7 to stock their pipeline. Here’s a review of all their picks from the 2019 draft class.
Jack Hughes, Center, First Overall
It came as no shock that the Devils made Hughes the first overall selection. He’s been touted as the top prospect in this class for a couple of years, and with good reason. He broke the USNTDP’s all-time record for total points (228) as well as Alex Ovechkin’s scoring record at the IIHF U-18 World Championships.
Hughes is the best prospect the Devils have had since Zach Parise in 2003, and it’s possible he’s the best they’ve ever had. His playmaking and vision are elite, while his skating is unmatched by anyone in this class. He’ll make his teammates better, and he adds a dynamic scoring threat other than Taylor Hall to their roster. He’s the type of player that changes the look of a franchise, and he’ll be able to make an immediate impact in the NHL.
Nikita Okhotyuk, Defenseman, 61st overall
This was an interesting pick by the Devils. Okhotyuk’s rankings were as high as 58th by TSN’s Bob McKenzie and as low as 193rd by Future Considerations. He’s a big defenseman, at 6-foot-1, 194 pounds and has good mobility for someone his size. There isn’t a lot of offense to his game as he had 17 points in 56 games with the Ottawa 67’s. But the Devils do need some physicality on their back end, so the pick makes sense.
Daniil Misyul, Defenseman, 70th overall
The Devils got value with Misyul as he was the 42nd ranked skater by hockeyprospect.com and the 50th by Bob McKenzie. He has good size, at 6-foot-3, 176 pounds, but he’s more mobile and has more offensive upside than Okhotyuk. He even managed to get a KHL call-up to close out the season and fared very well.
Misyul has more overall potential than Okhotyuk. I doubt he makes his way to North America any time soon. But getting playing time for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl in the KHL will be beneficial for his development. He could be a solid third-pair defenseman down the road.
Graeme Clarke, Right Wing, 80th overall
Clarke was the Devils’ first choice at forward after Hughes. He finished 2018-19 with only 23 goals and 34 points but played on one of the best teams in the OHL in the Ottawa 67’s. Clarke has a blistering shot, which is one of the best in this year’s class.
“As one may have guessed, Clarke’s best weapon is his shot. It’s arguably top 10 in the entire draft class. Clarke can pick corners from distance with a combination of power and release speed few can match in major junior,” said Mitch Brown of The Athletic (from ‘Brown: Five CHL sleeper prospects for the 2019 NHL Draft’ – The Athletic – 6/19/2019).
Clarke needs at least another year in the OHL, followed by some seasoning in the AHL. If he reaches his full potential, he could be a middle-six forward with some scoring punch.
Michael Vukojevic, Defenseman, 82nd overall
Vukojevic is 6-foot-3, 212 pounds, so the Devils were obviously looking to add size to their blue line. He played for the Kitchener Rangers in the OHL and finished with 29 points in 56 games. He was the 88th ranked skater by The Athletic and 76th by Bob McKenzie, so his draft slot is reasonable. He’s still a long way from NHL action, but he could be an effective bottom-pair defenseman with puck-moving ability.
Tyce Thompson, Right Wing, 96th overall
Thompson is the brother of Buffalo Sabres prospect, Tage Thompson. The 19-year-old freshman attends Providence College (NCAA), where he finished with 25 points in 42 games. He was ranked 233rd by Future Considerations and 212th by McKeen’s Hockey, so the Devils reached for him at this spot. He’ll likely need four years at Providence before turning pro, which would be the best thing for him. I don’t think there’s a ton of upside here, but time will tell.
Case McCarthy, Defenseman, 118th overall
This is the point of the draft when the Devils started to grab some value. McCarthy was part of the USNTDP and performed well, like many of their prospects, finishing with 29 points in 62 games for the U.S. U-18 National Team.
He plays a physical game at 6-foot-1, 194 pounds, and he can move the puck effectively. He was the 88th ranked skater by McKeen’s Hockey and as the 77th North American skater by NHL Central Scouting. He’s committed to Boston University (NCAA) for the upcoming season, where he’ll continue to round out his game.
Cole Brady, Goalie, 127th Overall
The Devils picked off the board with Brady. He was ranked as the ninth best goalie by Central Scouting and didn’t appear in any other scouting services. He played with the Janesville Jets in the NAHL (USA) and finished with a .912 save percentage in 43 games. He’s 6-foot-5, 174 pounds, so he’ll need to bulk up to play in the NHL. He’s committed to Arizona State University (NCAA), so it’ll be interesting to see how he performs there.
Arseni Gritsyuk, Left Wing, 129th overall
Gritsyuk is a small forward (5-foot-10, 168 pounds) who can score a bit. He played for Omskie Yasterby in the MHL (Russia’s Junior League) and finished with 21 points and 77 shots on goal in 30 games. He also saw time with Russia’s U-18 National Team, where he had five points in seven games.
He was the 57th ranked skater by hockeyprospect.com, 48th by McKeen’s Hockey, and the 49th ranked European skater by Central Scouting. The fact that the Devils were able to nab him with the 129th selection is pretty decent. He’ll need some more time in the MHL — and hopefully the KHL at some point — but there’s potential for Gritsyuk to be a scoring winger in the NHL.
Patrick Moynihan, Center, 158th overall
Moynihan was the 72nd ranked skater by McKeen’s Hockey and the 95th by hockeyprospect.com. The 5-foot-11, 183-pound center had a solid season with the USNTDP, finishing with 46 points in 64 games with the U.S. U-18 National Team as well as 22 points in 28 games with the USNTDP Juniors in the USHL.
Related: New Jersey Devils Draft Recap
Moynihan is committed to Providence College, where he’ll be teammates with Tyce Thompson. His ceiling isn’t that high, but he has a solid two-way game similar to Joey Anderson, one of the team’s top prospects. How he performs at Providence will be interesting to watch over the next couple of seasons as he does have NHL potential.
Nikola Pasic, Center/Left Wing, 189th overall
Pasic is my favorite pick of the Devils after Hughes, which is not something you say about most seventh rounders. He was the 53rd ranked skater by McKeen’s Hockey, 52nd by Elite Prospects, and 77th by Future Considerations. He played for Linkoping’s U-20 team and had 36 points in 33 games, eventually earning some time in the SHL, where he played in 15 games with their senior club.
I don’t think the organization could’ve made a better pick at this slot. He’s 5-foot-10, 181 pounds, and the Devils have had success with undersized, late round picks from Sweden before (Jesper Bratt, of course). That’s not to say Pasic will be the next Bratt, but there’s potential for him to develop into an NHLer.
Final Grade for Devils’ Draft Class: B
When Hughes is the top prize in your class, you’re automatically a winner. But some of their middle-round selections were questionable, especially on defense. Okhotyuk and Vukojevic don’t have a ton of upside, and I would’ve preferred to see them nab someone like Anttoni Honka, a more offensive-minded defenseman, with one of those picks. Misyul is a nice choice for his draft slot and probably has the best chance at playing in the pros among the defensemen.
The Devils did very well for themselves up front from the fifth round on. They may have reached on Thompson, but Gritsyuk, Pasic, and Moynihan were all drafted below their rankings according to most scouting services. That gives the team great value and makes up for some of their earlier picks. Hughes is the focal point of the group, so it won’t matter much if he’s the only standout given his potential. But if someone like Gritsyuk or Pasic pans out, it can’t hurt the team’s odds of sustaining long-term success.