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Reviewing the New Jersey Devils' 2019 draft class

June 23, 2019, 10:44 AM ET [48 Comments]
Todd Cordell
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Headlined by Jack Hughes, the New Jersey Devils selected 11(!) prospects at the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.

Let's go through them.

C – Jack Hughes – 1st overall

Hughes is an elite skater who possesses high-end top speed and the ability to reach it very quickly. He plays very fast with and without the puck. He is as creative and dynamic as anyone in this class. While he is more of a playmaker than a shooter, he will score his fair share of goals. Hughes is a big-time facilitator and capable of doing the heavy lifting not just in the offensive zone, but through the neutral zone. In the 13 games I tracked across various competitions, Hughes averaged nearly seven controlled entries per and rarely dumped the puck in (86 carry/pass-ins, six dump-ins). Hughes is going to make an impact right away.

D – Nikita Okhotyuk – 61st overall

Okhotyuk is a mixed bag. He is really mobile, he generally keeps good gaps, and he likes to throw his weight around. The potential is there for him to be solid defensively at the next level. The problem with Okhotyuk is his puck skills are fairly limited. He's not going to produce many points, and he's going to need a partner that can do the heavy lifting with the puck. I don't see a ton of upside here. I think the best case is he become a 5/6 defender who can play on the penalty kill.

While I don't necessarily like the pick in this slot, I do see why the Devils were attracted to him. Physical defenders who can actually skate aren't all that common, and Okhotyuk seems to have the character, work ethic, and selflessness the Devils like to see out of players.

He's the kind of guy who will sprawl to block a heavy Andrei Svechnikov shot while his team is trailing by eight goals. I say that because Okhotyuk did that during one of my viewings in the 2017-18 season.

D – Daniil Misyul – 70th overall

Misyul is a mobile 6'3' defender who will make a good first pass and help drive the puck up ice in transition. He's very poised with it and capable of making plays under pressure.

I don't think there is big-time point potential, but he'll get a lot of plays started and chip in here and there. Like Okhotyuk, he's also pretty assertive physically.

Misyul got into some KHL games down the stretch and played in the playoffs, which is very encouraging for a player of his age. I think there's a future NHLer here.

RW – Graeme Clarke – 80th overall

It's not an exaggeration to say Clarke has one of the best shots in this entire draft class. His ability to rip pucks makes him a scoring threat from anywhere in the offensive zone. He is pretty crafty as well.

Though his counting totals don't pop off the page, it's due to a lack of ice time on a powerhouse team. He was extremely efficient when on the ice.

Clarke actually averaged more even-strength points per 60 than the likes of Morgan Frost, Pavel Zacha, Jared McCann and Tyler Bertuzzi did during their draft years in the OHL. Three of them were 1st round picks, and all four have played or will play in the NHL. That's encouraging.

If Clarke can clean up his skating, he could be a player. I like the gamble at 80.

D – Michael Vukojevic – 82nd overall

It's clear the Devils had a type on Day 2 of the draft, and it was big, mobile defenders who are steady in their own zone and willing to play with some bite.

I reached out to Kitchener Rangers GM Mike McKenzie for the full scouting report on Vukojevic:

"He is a big, strong kid that moves well for his size. His greatest attribute is his ability to defend top players and be difficult to play against. He can be physical at times. Not a huge offensive numbers guy but chipped in for us. Likely projects to be more of a shut-down/two-way defender in pro hockey. Really good character kid."

RW – Tyce Thompson – 96th overall

Thompson is coming off a respectable 25-point campaign with Providence in what was his D+2 year (this was his last season of eligibility).

The 6'1' winger is a straight-line player who will go to the net, battle in the dirty areas of the ice, and chip in offensively once in a while. He is a Nathan Bastian-type, although probably with a lower ceiling.

This strikes me as a 'need' pick where the Devils feel they have enough skill and want to add some of those complimentary depth pieces. I don't like that way of drafting – I always want upside – so I'm not in love with this pick.

D – Case McCarthy – 118th overall

McCarthy was sharing ice time with the likes of Cam York (15th overall), Alex Vlasic (43rd overall), Dom Fensore (90th overall), Henry Thun (101st overall), and Marshall Warren (163rd overall) on a *loaded* USNDP squad so perhaps there wasn't as much opportunity for him to shine as he would have liked.

He still managed 25 points in 56 games while posting a remarkable Goals For% of 71.75%(!), which was a hair above team average.

McCarthy is mobile and not without skill so I'm interested to see what he can do at BU.

G – Cole Brady – 127th overall

Admittedly, I know next to nothing about Cole Brady. Prior to Saturday I had never read about him, let alone watched him play.

I'm going to defer to HockeyProspect's excellent draft guide, the Black Book, for much more detailed info than I'd be able to provide:

Brady has a calm presence in the crease and plays a solid technical game. You don’t see Brady badly out of position and scrambling. Not the most aggressive goaltender as far as challenging shooters in one on one situations and is a very much a stay at home goaltender that relies on his size to make saves. Brady struggled with his glove at times throughout the season, seemed to battle with some routine saves.

W – Arseni Gritsyuk – 129th overall

I really liked this pick on the surface. Gritsyuk's production in the MHL alone suggests he probably should have been taken higher. After watching some tape on Gritsyuk, I like him even more. He's skilled, shifty with the puck, and a really good playmaker. He knows how to find teammates in dangerous areas and he has good range with his passing. He can make cross-ice passes in stride and accurately whip the puck through multiple zones. There is a bit of edge to his game, too, which seems to be a theme with Devils picks on Day 2. I think Gritsyuk has potential to be a steal.

W – Patrick Moynihan – 158th overall

Moynihan has some talent but is more known for his smarts, work ethic, and leadership. The Devils are probably betting he'll put the work in to maximize his potential as a versatile role player. He strikes me as a Joey Anderson-type. I don't love the ceiling, but if the Devils feel there's a decent chance he can play at the next level it's not the worst pick at 158.

W – Nikola Pasic – 189th overall

This was one of my favorite non-Hughes picks. Pasic led his U20 team in goals and points per game. He was very productive. He also got into 15 games against men in the SHL which, again, is always nice to see out of such a young player.

Pasic has more raw ability than a lot of late round picks and he is very productive. He is exactly the kind of player you want to gamble on. I can't help but wonder if Matt Cane and Tyler Dellow had something to do with this pick.

Data via Prospect-Stats.com and Scouching's draft tracker.

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