A few years ago Ray Shero drafted Pavel Zacha, and the following draft he brought in new Director of Amateur Scouting, Paul Castron. Castron and Shero drafted two young men from The OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads: Michael McLeod and Nathan Bastian both referred to as “The Super Buddies.” The next draft, the centennial NHL Draft in Chicago this past June was a player all Devils fans were needing, in Nico Hischier. Yes, Ray and company ended up selecting the Swiss Center who was highly ranked by TSN’s Craig J. Button (@CraigJButton via Twitter).
I still remember by the end of summer last year, looking at the prospect rankings 1-30 and narrowing it down. Out of curiosity looking at Hischier, a kid that didn’t sound Canadian in the QMJHL, but being very familiar with the Halifax Mooseheads you knew he was for real. After having Nathan MacKinnon go first overall, and Drouin being picked third a few years back, it was Halifax’s turn to shine in the draft once again.
In the early months, I heard so much hype about “Nolan Patrick” and nothing against him, he has had quite the juniors career. But when I first heard about Nico putting up monster numbers in Halifax, it lead to me also watch his play style. The fact that he came from Switzerland and played on the NLA team coached by Guy Boucher, was also intriguing. At the time Nico’s shiftiness reminded me of a Swiss version of Pavel Datsyuk. Having the peripheral vision that I felt suited a Devils lineup. His stick handling, defense, scoring, and personality are things that remind me of Patrik Elias.
By the time the Devils went from their original spot, to landing the 1st overall pick is when I felt Nico made the most sense. After watching him light up Bob Motzko’s Team USA with 2 goals and stellar play. However, Team USA held on 3-2 and went onto beat Canada for the gold. But that game against Team USA is what put the ribbon on my sights for Nico. The prospects game also, when Nikita Popugaev backhanded a saucer pass to Nico on a breakaway goal was just the icing on my cake.
Nikita Popugaev however, is a player I think will be great, as long as he can become stronger on the puck, and skate smoother along with his speed. Which is probably why most teams let him go from mid-first to mid-round pick. Another player I really liked from the McLeod draft was Jesper Bratt, a late round pick from Sweden who is actually going to the London Knights this season to get himself ready before he skates up with New Jersey in the near future.
Aarne Talvitie, another good prospect, who is playing junior hockey in Finland, just committed to Penn State for the 2018-2019 season in NCAA Div1 hockey. Jesper Boqvist the Devils round 2 pick from Sweden, who actually has some really good speed, and I think he is someone who can also be part of the fast, attacking, and supportive cast for the New Jersey Devils. Whether it’s with Nico Hischier, Hall, Palmieri, Zacha or Johansson I personally think the future is rather bright.
On the asset side, Ray Shero used a few early draft picks to acquire Marcus Johansson, a great even strength player to help a team like the Devils increase their probabilities of scoring more this season. For me, I really love the Will Butcher signing. Right now he’s a great addition to a team that has been lacking defensive support. Ray has been doing a good job thus far, getting a great forward in Taylor Hall last summer, as well as trading for Mirco Mueller from the San Jose Sharks organization. During the expansion draft, the Devils lost Jon Merrill to Las Vegas. It was definitely a tough loss on the defensive side, but signing Butcher and having the defensive support the Devils have now helps.
However, with the additions and subtractions, I think we may be in for a decent spike in the standings. If the Devils can win 5-10 more games this season and end up somewhere in the Top 14, they’ll be good. The funny part is, if the 3 lottery balls end up in Shero’s favour again, they may get to draft Rasmus Dahlin.
This young team is heading on the right path to becoming a great team for a long time.
However, I do know for a fact that Paul Castron and his scouts will be scouting as if they are in the Top-3 pick again. Also, looking at those players like Bratt, Talvitie, Popugaev and Walsh in the pipeline will be proven big pickups in the Shero-Castron Era of New Jersey Devils hockey.
So for those of you wondering here is my link to my players info; http://www.eliteprospects.com/draftcenter.php?year=2018&layout=&ranking=Rank5