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Five potential 1st round draft targets for the New Jersey Devils

June 5, 2018, 12:28 PM ET [44 Comments]
Todd Cordell
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With the 2018 NHL entry draft less than three weeks away, I figured now would be a good time to zero in on some prospects the New Jersey Devils could target in the 1st round.

It's entirely possible the Devils move down a few slots to accumulate more assets so I'm going to look at options at both 17 and in the 20s.

Candidates at 17

W Grigori Denisenko (Loko Yaroslav – MHL)

The more tape I watch on Denisenko, the more I fall in love with his game. To me, the 5'11' winger is a top-10 talent. He has good vision with the puck and can deliver crisp passes on the tape all over the ice. He's very effective playing the half-wall on the power play as he has everything in front of him and can dissect opposing defenses. While playmaking is his bread and butter, he's also a capable scorer. He is an accurate shooter and has a heavy one-timer that makes him a threat from a distance. He is not an elite skater but he does possess good top speed and can burn defenders if they challenge and get too close to him. I am in love with his puck skills and think he has top line potential.

He's tied for 15th in Bob McKenzie's draft rankings​ so he is expected to go right around where the Devils pick.

C Rasmus Kupari (Karpat – Liiga)

Kupari is another high upside player. The 6'2' center is an elite skater. Not just for his size, but for anyone. His acceleration is explosive and his top speed rivals the top skaters in this class. He's not just a burner, though. He has high-end puck skills. He has the hands to make plays in tight spaces or dance around defenders to find himself more open ice. Kupari also has an NHL shot and is a threat from pretty much anywhere in the offensive zone. His defensive game needs work and he has some Miles Wood in him in that he darts all over the ice and sometimes would benefit from slowing things down.

Kupari did not rank inside McKenzie's top-16 draft rankings. It's realistic to think he could be available at 17.

D Bode Wilde (USNDTP)

There is a lot to like about Wilde. At 6'2' and almost 200 pounds, he already possesses NHL size. He's physical. He's an excellent skater who can rush the puck up ice if space is given to him. He's a good puck mover. The knock on him is decision making. He always wants to make something out of nothing and sometimes that causes problems. Still, his mix of size, speed, and skill makes him a very attractive option at No. 17 – especially given the lack of quality defense prospects in the system and the team's love of American players.

Like Kupari, Wilde did not rank inside McKenzie's top-16. It's realistic to think he could be available at 17.

Candidates if the Devils move down

D Rasmus Sandin (Soo Greyhounds – OHL)

The only OHLers I have ranked higher are Andrei Svechnikov and Evan Bouchard. Suffice to say, I'm a really big fan of Sandin's game.

At 5'11', he's a little undersized but strong positioning and gap control help him make up for that. He's good at tying up sticks around the net and he has some bite to him. Think Sami Vatanen.

He doesn't posses high-end speed or explosive strides – again, like Vatanen – but he gets around the ice well. Sandin is a very good puck mover who seemingly always makes the right decision, be it in the defensive zone or quarterbacking a power play.

Sandin's statistical profile is very impressive as he averaged more 5v5 ePoints/60 than the likes of Aaron Ekblad, Vince Dunn, Dougie Hamilton, Olli Maatta and Mikhail Sergachev, among others, did during their draft years.

I think he can be a solid top-4 guy who contributes on the power play *and* penalty kill.

W Serron Noel (Oshawa Generals – OHL)

Noel is a bit of a project but the upside is high. He's a 6'5' winger who skates very well and can score goals. I hear that's a valuable skill. Among all draft eligible CHL players, Noel ranked 4th in 5v5 eGoals/60. Two of three ahead of him – Andrei Svechnikov and Filip Zadina – are expected to be top-3 picks.

He is a north-south player who doesn't have much creativity in his game but there aren't many guys who possess a similar mix of goal scoring ability, skating, and size. You could do much worse late in the 1st round.

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