The New Jersey Devils hold the sixth selection in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. It’s their highest draft position since picking Adam Larsson fourth in 2011. The last time the Devils were in the lottery, they swapped the ninth pick to the Vancouver Canucks for Cory Schneider. This year they have options but are any of them good solutions?
There are a few camps out there of differing opinion. Take the best player, regardless of position. Draft the best scorer available. Trade the pick for an established scorer. All have pros and cons, which I will sort out below.
Draft the best player:
The Hockey Writers’ Mock Draft has New Jersey selecting Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL) defenceman Ivan Provorov. Given the Devils depth at the position, they could take a defenceman if he’s the best on the board and then package their NHL ready blue liners. If you read Chris Lizza’s analysis and believe Provorov is NHL ready, as Larsson was in 2011, their top six wouldn’t miss a beat.
Conversely, this makes a green defensive unit, even greener. Plus, taking a defenceman still leaves them thin with prospective forwards.
Draft the best scorer:
Our Mock Draft has forwards Lawson Crouse, Mikko Rantanen and Timo Meier, available at sixth. The NHL.com NHL Draft Prospect Rankings has Mitchell Marner falling to sixth. The Devils desperately need a young franchise forward to build around. Only Adam Henrique and Jacob Josefson are under 30 on the active roster. Reid Boucher and Stefan Matteau represent the top NHL ready prospects. Granted, beyond Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, finding a lock franchise forward is a crap shoot.
If the Devils overhaul the roster, drafting a forward may not be imperative. When New Jersey drafted Larsson, their defence looked like it needed to get younger and faster, much like their forward situation now. The defence turned it around the following season but the next few years saw the departures of Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk and David Clarkson. So, could something similar happen in the opposite direction?
Trade for an established scorer:
Enter the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. Martin Brodeur was nearing the end and the Devils dealt for Schneider. Trading this pick straight up or in a larger package, could yield a similar result. Is that player Phil Kessel, Nail Yakupov, Evgeni Malkin, Ryan O’Reilly, Joe Pavelski or someone completely off the map? Perhaps. Toronto, Edmonton and Pittsburgh could all use help on the blue line.
On the flip side, are the Devils really one top shelf scorer away from returning to the postseason? This isn’t a roster which just lost Parise and could swing a deal for a player to pair up with Kovalchuk without missing a beat. The Devils don’t have any of those players and they’re long in the tooth at forward. If New Jersey could obtain one of the aforementioned players for the sixth pick straight up, coupled with packaging a young defenceman for another young forward, then you’re cooking.