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On the Devils' need for another top-6 forward and avoiding Pouliot

May 8, 2019, 12:59 PM ET [78 Comments]
Todd Cordell
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1) Even after winning the 1st overall pick, and the right to select Jack Hughes atop the draft, the New Jersey Devils still need another top-6 forward.

Taylor Hall, Nico Hischier and Kyle Palmieri are all well established as such. The same can probably be said of Jesper Bratt, a 20-year-old who has averaged nearly 45 points per 82 games thus far. And Hughes, obviously, is going to step right in and contribute. That's five.

As it stands, I think the best way to deploy that group would be to stick Hall, Hischier, and Bratt together – their numbers are really strong – and put Palmieri on Hughes' right side to a) give him an established scorer capable of burying the chances he creates and; b) balance the lineup.

That still leaves a big need for a top-6 left winger – preferably one who can capably play both sides of the puck (even if they add a scoring right wing, shifting Bratt back to left and putting him with Hughes would make the it a weak defensive line).

Realistically speaking, Blake Coleman is not a top-6 forward and you want him playing on the shutdown line with Travis Zajac.

Miles Wood is not someone I'd want on the line of a player like Hughes either. I like the speed, and I like the edge, but I think Wood would mitigate a lot of Hughes' offense. What I mean by that is Wood creates by bulldozing his way to the net every chance he gets. Whenever he gets the puck, that's all he is looking to do. Sometimes it works, obviously, but if Hughes dishes Wood the puck entering the offensive zone, he is not getting it back. That's not ideal – you want a player with Hughes' talent facilitating in the zone, not essentially being taken out of the play as soon as he passes the puck.

Maybe Jesper Boqvist is ready to play in the NHL, but I doubt he's ready for top-6 minutes and, even if he is, a line with a 20-year-old Boqvist, 18-year-old Hughes, and Palmieri is almost certainly going to get caved in defensively.

If the asking price is as low as it seems for Jason Zucker – word is he was almost dealt for 31-year-old Michael Frolik, and perhaps a sweetener, at the deadline – I think he would be a dream fit because of his goal scoring, two-way prowess, and versatility playing either wing.

As far as free agency goes, Gustav Nyquist sticks out as a reasonable fit (I recently went more in-depth about that).

Whatever path the Devils decide to take, it's probably fair to say they need one more established top-6 option if they're going to take as big of a step forward as everyone hopes next season.

2) The Vancouver Canucks have elected not to qualify defenseman Derrick Pouliot, which means the 25-year-old will be free to sign anywhere come July.

I've seen people suggest he could end up with the Devils because Ray Shero drafted Pouliot in Pittsburgh, and the defense needs improvement.

I don't see that happening. At least it shouldn't. Simply put, Pouliot is not very good. He's been worth *negative* goals above replacement three years running, according to Evolving-Hockey.com.

Pouliot is supposed to be an offensive defenseman yet he's averaged fewer points/60 at 5v5 than the likes of Stephen Johns, Christian Folin, and Robert Bortuzzo over the last two seasons.

His on-ice impact in terms of helping control shots and chances is OK but nothing to write home about, especially considering he plays extremely sheltered minutes. Essentially, he is an extremely poor man's version of Will Butcher.

New Jersey's defense isn't even good and they still have numerous left-handed defenders (Andy Greene, Will Butcher, Mirco Mueller, Ty Smith) who deserve to be higher on the depth chart.

I get the attraction of taking chances on former 1st round picks but the guy was drafted seven years ago. He is older than Damon Severson and Mirco Mueller. I think the ship has sailed.

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