2020 NHL Draft

Breaking down the best options for the Devils at No. 7

Alex Merkin  |  10/5/2020  |  

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Photo: AP

The New Jersey Devils once again are entering an essential offseason, albeit one filled with uncertainty. Although there are several foundational players already in place, the struggles on offense that have plagued the franchise for over a decade has made the 2020 draft a critical event for several reasons. As the Devils continue to transition from a playoff team in 2018 into the current rebuild, they do have the benefit of a pair of young centers in Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes — the first overall picks in 2017 and 2019, respectively. Additionally, the trades of forwards Taylor Hall and Blake Coleman during the 2019-20 campaign have left the Devils with a skeleton crew up front who find difficulty in providing consistent offense; specifically on the depth lines. The good news is that New Jersey was able to recoup additional first-round picks from the aforementioned deals, and the Devils join the Ottawa Senators are the only team with three selections in the top 31 — picks 7, 18, and 20. With three top-20 selections, New Jersey has the opportunity to not only build around core players like Hughes and Hischier, but also come away the 2020 draft’s most impressive haul. Of these picks, however, the most important is at seventh overall, so it goes without saying that the Devils need to choose wisely, regardless of whether they draft for need or star potential. For now, let’s dive into six of the draft’s premier prospects and how they may or may not help the Devils in both the short and long term.

1. Cole Perfetti
Wing/Center | Sagina, OHL | 5’11, 177 | 1/1/02 | Shoots Left | 61gp-37g-74a-111pts | Rank: 4th

Perfetti is a dynamic offensive player with an explosive shot. He thinks the game extremely well and is considered to have one of the  highest hockey IQ’s among draft eligibles. Perfetti passes the puck very well and uses his plus-plus shot to finish from multiple locations in the offensive zone. Granted, there are minor concerns about his top speed and first step, although his elite hockey sense seems to help him overcome any shortcomings in speed. I think so. Perfetti plays a similar game to Tampa star Brayden Point, who was a high-volume point producer in his draft year of 2014 but slipped to the third round. Perfetti’s diverse skills set and versatility at the forward position make him the type of player who can be a star in the NHL, but improvements in quickness and explosiveness must be made nonetheless.

His fit with the Devils:

High-IQ players tend to perform better when surrounded by other cerebral skaters, especially at forward. Teaming up Perfetti with either Hughes or Hischier has the potential to create a significant matchup problem for opponents, specifically in the cycle game and close-contact play in the offensive zone. If selected, moving Perfetti to the wing and playing him with one of those two centers makes the most sense since either Hischier or Hughes process plays quickly themselves while tapping into Perfetti’s world-class shooting habits. On the surface, Perfetti is exactly the kind of dual threat the Devils need — a finisher who can compliment the passing and creativity of either Hughes or Hischier.

For a more detailed scouting report and video highlights, click here.

2. Jamie Drysdale
Right-handed defenseman | Erie, OHL | 5’11, 175 | 4/8/02 | Shoots Right | 49gp-9g-38a-47pts | Rank: 8th

Drysdale is considered by multiple clubs to be best defenseman in this class; thus making him the best option among blueliners for the Devils at seventh overall.  Although some would argue that U.S.-born rearguard Jake Sanderson is not only the better defense prospect but also one who will potentially be picked in the top five, there are valid reasons to favor Drysdale’s advantages over his peers in both creativity and scoring potential. Not only does he have the puck skills and wheels that are common traits among the NHL’s top defensemen, but his play in his own end is both calculated and effective. Drysdale is a premier power-play quarterback who makes a crisp first pass and can skate exceptionally well. In the offensive zone, he gets shots through with regularity and hits the net from far distances, but he also makes good reads when deciding whether or not to jump into the play. Although he is not the biggest defender and can get out muscled along the walls, Drysdale operates a quick stick and uses his footwork to keep pace while hounding opposing puck carriers. There’s no reason to believe he’ll ever be a liability in his own end, thus improving the likelihood that he does become that franchise defenseman so many teams are in desperate need of.

Fit with the Devils:

The Devils have been searching for a true No. 1 defenseman for the better part of two decades. They already have a puck rusher in 2018 first-round pick Ty Smith, who should challenge for a top-four role in 2020-21 . The Devils’ pipeline also has several physical rearguards in Kevin Bahl, Michael Vukojevic, and Nikita Okhotyuk, but Drysdale would fill a huge organizational need as a right-shot playmaker and his wizardry should help make New Jersey’s power play a consistent threat.

For a more detailed scouting report and video highlights, click here.

3. Marco Rossi
Center | Ottawa, OHL | 5’9, 183 | 9/23/01 | Shoots Left | 56gp-39g-81a-120pts | Rank: 5th

Rossi torched the OHL this season en route to the scoring crown, so at a minimum you don’t have to question his puck skills or playmaking. Rossi can do it all — he is a 200-foot player; engages in board battles; and he is extremely strong on his skates while refusing to back down against bigger players. Considering his dual-threat capabilities in addition to his  defensive-zone acumen, Rossi can be considered one of the draft’s most complete players. The lone drawback is his size (5-foot-9), and several teams may be less inclined to draft a smaller forward with such a high pick.

His fit with the Devils:

Rossi plays a cerebral style similar to Hischier, and even his own coach has compared the two. Although the Devils appear to be set at the center position, there’s always the chance he pushes both Hischier and Hughes and even slots next to one of them as a wing. Regardless, there a significant level of risk in drafting a second undersized center in as many years, so Rossi’s touch around the net and accurate shot may have already persuaded several organizations to line him up on the flank.

For a more detailed scouting report and video highlights, click here.

4. Yaroslav Askarov
Goalie | SKA, KHL | 6’3, 176 | 6/16/02 | Catches Right | 12-3-3, 2.45 GAA, .920 Save % | Rank: 15th

What a difference a half a season makes, right? It wasn’t too long ago when the idea of drafting a goalie — any goalie — in the top 10 was considered foolish, especially after a media-driven narrative that questioned Yaroslav Askarov’s ability to make stops with his glove began circulating after a subpar two-game performance at the under-20 world junior championship. Fast forward to today,  and Askarov is most certainly a possibility for the Devils at seventh overall; much to the chagrin of several Devils fans who are married tot he idea that Mackenzie Blackwood is already an established No. 1 netminder. Askarov, however, is the best goaltending prospect since Carey Price, who went fifth overall in 2005. His size is ideal for an NHL goaltender, and his lateral quickness and rapid thinking are what really separate him from not just this year’s goalie crop, but practically any netminder eligible since 2005. In short, all Askarov does is win, and every time he has won, he has been the best player on the team.

His fit with the Devils:

What makes Askarov such an intriguing pick for New Jersey (beyond his potential) is that the Devils’ organizational goaltending depth after Blackwood is nonexistent. Akira Schmid, Cole Brady, and Gilles Senn at this point have yet to present a legitimate challenge to Blackwood, and it’s fair to say that all appear to be AHL goalies at best. Even if the Devils sign a veteran backup, there are no assuring contingencies in place in the event Blackwood is injured or falters. If drafted, Askarov automatically becomes the primary  contingency.

For a more detailed scouting report and video highlights, click here.

5. Alexander Holtz
Right Wing | Djugardens, SHL | 6’0, 191 | 1/23/02 | Shoots Right | 35gp-9g-7a-16pts | Rank: 6th

Holtz is best pure goal scorer in the draft. He always gets to the dangerous areas of the ice, and you can bet if he gets the puck in one of those areas, he will make the most athletic of goalies look stiff and bewildered. Holtz is a pretty good playmaker as well, but his overall hockey sense is far more prominent when he’s inside the offensive zone in search of a opening to bring his world-class shit to bear. Holtz’s wrist shot is unmatched in this class, as his release is lightning quick and his shot is both powerful and accurate. The question is whether or not he is a one-trick pony, although that one trick can have a devastating effect on opponents.

His fit with the Devils:

The Devils need wingers, but more importantly they need scoring wingers. No top-tier winger does it better than Holtz.

For a more detailed scouting report and video highlights, click here.

6. Lucas Raymond
Left Wing | Frolunda, SHL | 5’11, 170 | 3/18/02 | Shoots Right | 33gp-4g-6a-10pts | Rank: 9th

Raymond is one of the most explosive offensive catalysts in the entire draft. Raymond is as dynamic as it gets with the puck on his stick, although those moments in his fledgling SHL career against adult competition were few and far between. Even if moments of out-of-your seat playmaking were not as prevalent against tougher competition as they were in the J20 Superelit, Raymond’s ability to outskate an entire five-man unit allows him to deke his way to the net while making sound decisions in the process.  The problem with a player like this is his play away the puck — Raymond at times can be caught drifting in the neutral zone. His play in the defensive zone also leaves a lot to be desired. What teams are likely betting on is Raymond’s enormous offensive upside. Will he become a player similar to Mitch Marner and put up huge offensive numbers? Or will he be closer to a Jonathan Drouin type who never graduates from the dependable category? Only time will tell, Raymond’s point-producing potential is too high to ignore completely.

His fit with the Devils:

The Devils are scarce on talented wingers. It’s no stretch to say that Raymond could eventually come into the lineup rather quickly and be the most talented winger on the roster.

For a more detailed scouting report and video highlights, click here.

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Joe Appleton
Joe Appleton
11 months ago

Really well written. Now I wish they went with Perfetti over Holts, but I am happy with Holtz

5 4 votes
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