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Taylor Hall left the New Jersey Devils’ organization this season and with it he took the team’s draft lottery luck.
Not only did the Devils fail to win a top-3 draft slot – an unknown team beneath them in the standings moved up to top spot and pushed them down one in the pecking order.
Barring a trade, which I don’t see happening (great options will still be available and the cost of moving up is almost certainly not worth it), the Devils will select 7th overall at the upcoming entry draft.
I will dive into more detail in the coming weeks and months – ideally with more tracking data to accompany my observations – but for now I’ll share three potential targets for the pick that I believe to be realistic.
C - Marco Rossi - Ottawa 67s
Rossi is not necessarily the exact archetype the Devils need as a team. They already have a couple of gifted, slick centers with a playmaking-first style of play. That doesn’t mean Rossi isn’t, or won’t be, the right pick at 7.
Every time I watch this kid play he impresses me. He is so smart, skilled, and advanced that he always finds new ways to make plays and navigate the situation he finds himself in.
His passing is remarkable. Not just in terms of the accuracy or touch, but the ability to see extremely small lanes or pass his teammates into space. Rossi always knows where to go with the puck.
Rossi also possesses a great set of hands which, coupled with his agility and ability to change angles on a dime, makes him very difficult to pin down or seal off.
He may be undersized but he reminds me a lot of Nico Hischier. His smarts, work ethic, and willingness to go into battles with bigger players more or less makes it irrelevant.
Every year I seem to have a guy I want the Devils to take when it’s not exactly clear cut (Nico Hischier and Mathew Barzal are a couple of recent examples). Rossi stood out as that target early and nothing I’ve seen as I’ve gotten deeper into the process has changed that.
W - Alexander Holtz - Djurgardens
Holtz definitely doesn’t possess the same kind of two-way ability as Rossi, however, he’s still worthy of consideration at 7th overall.
Holtz is an elite shooter. The puck comes off his stick in a hurry and there’s real zip to it. He has the talent to score from a distance with regularity. He’s also the type of player who would come in on a breakaway, or shootout attempt, and pick a corner before the opposing goaltender moved a muscle. His shot is that good and is most definitely his bread and butter.
He doesn’t get much credit for his playmaking but I happen to think it is underrated. In the games I’ve watched/tracked, I’ve seen him make quality passes – particularly in tight spaces along the wall – to get the puck to teammates and keep possessions alive. He may not be a point guard in the offensive zone. Holtz can make a play if opponents cheat to try and take away his shot, though. It’s not like all he can do is hammer pucks.
Holtz can skate but he isn’t a Rossi/Barzal type who will consistently carry the mail up ice and get his team set up in good positions. I would like to see more from him in transition. There’s room for improvement in the defensive zone as well.
While Holtz needs some work, he might be the best bet in the draft to score 30+ on a regular basis and putting his shot alongside Nico or Jack Hughes for the next decade is an attractive proposition.
D - Jamie Drysdale - Erie Otters
I have long assumed Drysdale would go in the top-6. The rise of Jake Sanderson, and abundance of quality forwards available, does open the door for him to slip to 7. He wouldn’t be my top choice – I would prefer Rossi and, quite honestly, probably Holtz as well – but he would deserve consideration.
Drysdale is a very smooth skater with strong edgework and a bottomless gas tank. There is real potential for him to develop into somebody who can handle 24 minutes a night. Whether he’ll play that due to on-ice ability, or out of necessity, remains to be seen but the potential is there.
He is not big and isn’t somebody who will overpower opponents in front of the net or in the corner. Drysdale defends with skating, positioning, and a good stick. He’s a modern defender who will keep tight gaps/force a dump in, win the race to retrieve it, and get play started with a good first pass the other way.
I don’t know that he has an elite offensive skillset, however, I am confident saying he’ll be able to play and contribute on a power play unit.
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