COMMENTARY | The 2013 NHL draft takes place this Sunday, June 30 in New Jersey. This draft is very big for the New Jersey Devils for three reasons: the draft will be held in front of the home crowd, the team has a top ten pick and the Devils will not have a first round pick next year. New Jersey has to forfeit their first round pick in 2014 since the NHL felt that the team deliberately tried to circumvent the cap with the first contract given to Ilya Kovalchuk.That all makes this year's first round pick even more special.
The New Jersey Devils hold the #9 pick in this year's first round. They also have three other picks: #39, #100 and #160. The Devils are loaded with prospects on the blue line. Defensemen Eric Gelinas and Alexander Urbom are both NHL ready while prospects Jon Merrill and Damon Severson, among others, are making their way up and could be in the NHL sooner rather than later. On the other end, however, the team lacks high quality forward prospects. Add in the fact that the Devils finished near the bottom of the NHL in goals scored last season and it is pretty clear that New Jersey must draft a forward with the #9 overall pick.
There are two forwards that could be available at New Jersey's pick: center Elias Lindholm and center Hunter Shinkaruk. Lindholm plays a two-way game which the Devils have always coveted. On the other hand, Shinkaruk is more of an explosive offensive player which New Jersey could certainly use. The Devils would be happy with either one in the end but there is also a chance that neither player is there by the time the #9 selection rolls around. If the top forwards are gone by #9, general manager Lou Lamoriello should trade down and get more draft picks in return. As mentioned earlier, the Devils will not have a first round pick in the 2014 NHL draft. Could Lamoriello possibly swing a trade for another team's first round pick?
The Devils could also excite the home fans and move up for a forward. For example, Valeri Nichushkin is a big forward out of Russia who New Jersey might target. He may not last past the Carolina Hurricanes at #5, though. In the end, I think it is unlikely that New Jersey trades up in this year's draft. The better talent is undoubtedly at the top of the draft but the asking price to trade up even a few spots will probably be too much.
New Jersey can also get a very good player in the second round with the #39 overall pick. I think it would be wise to grab a forward again at that spot. The Devils can then just draft best player available the rest of the way.
Franchises build their teams through drafting well so the draft is always important. This year's draft holds a little more significance for the New Jersey Devils, though, since they are drafting in the top ten in front of their home fans. They have to send their fans home happy.
Michael Pellegrini has followed the New Jersey Devils since the mid to late 1990s when they had players like Doug Gilmour and Dave Andreychuk in the later stages of their career.
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