Thursday, June 25, 2009

In Lou We Trust shares Devils draft prospective

The Red Wings receive a lot of credit for coming up with great draft picks despite consistently picking in the lower depths of the first round, but the Devils have historically found their fair share of gems. Will the trend of bringing in the Zach Parise-type bargains continue?

To find out, we asked John at In Lou We Trust to share his thoughts on New Jersey's upcoming draft. John's been a steady contributor for quite some time, so make sure to follow his blogging efforts.

Even when the team isn't being betrayed by various siblings.

1. What direction do you expect New Jersey to go in with this year's draft? What's your preference?

I expect and prefer the New Jersey Devils to continue to do what they have been doing - select the best player available regardless of where they are from. That said, they still have their preferences. While the Devils are willing to select a goaltender with their first round pick (Jean-Francois Damphousse, 1997; Ari Ahonen, 1999), considering the Devils haven't drafted a goaltender since Jeff Frazee in 2005, I wouldn't hold my breath for one - definitely not in the first round. They may draft one in the later rounds.

Based on draft history since 1994, I expect to see at least one defender drafted and given that the Devils loaded up on centers in 2008, I expect to see more wingers taken. As far as the source of picks, while the conventional wisdom says that the Devils prefer college players, they've selected more players from major junior than anywhere else since 1994. Of course, if the best player available in each round are all centers or defensemen or goalies from the USHL or SEL or wherever, then the Devils will take them regardless. It is a cliche, but the Devils truly practice it.

2. Looking back, discuss some of the highest and lowest draft moments in Devils history. What are some of the "steals" and groan-inducing moments that New Jersey fans will never forget?

The highest draft moments tend to come in hindsight - trading down to select Martin Brodeur in 1990; but two stick out in memory as being particularly bold.

The first involved a deal with Toronto that eventually got the Devils the third overall pick in 1991. New Jersey knocked that one out of the park, eschewing Aaron Ward, Scott Lachance, Alex Stojanov, Peter Forsberg (OK, he would have been an alright pick!), and Richard Matvichuk by selecting Scott Niedermayer. Yeah, that was a good pick.

The second is more recent, taking place in 2003. The Devils won their third Stanley Cup that year, but as part of the compensation from St. Louis in a player tampering case, the Devils were able to swap first round picks to move up 22nd overall, if I recall correctly. The Devils noticed that Zach Parise was falling - even past his father's team, the Islanders, at #15 (Robert Nilsson) and San Jose at #16 (Steve Bernier). They contacted Edmonton and offered to swap first rounders, with the Oilers getting New Jersey's second round pick to make it work. The Oilers bit and the Devils were able to snag the supremely talented Parise after winning the Stanley Cup!

The lowest draft moments in Devils history? Admittedly, I'm only familiar with the more recent drafts - Devils fans from 1982 and onward I'm sure have a few stories about that. Anyway, you can attribute some of this to hindsight (Lance Ward in 1996); but the selections of J-F Damphousse and then Ahonen 2 years later both made me groan at the time. The decision to select Adrian Foster with 2001's first round pick was also a head-scratcher; I should have known when the draft was delayed because the league had to confirm that he was actually a player! Likewise, the Devils going off the board with their first pick - in the second round, mind you - to pick Anton Kadeykin induced some sighs. I'm not even sure where Kadeykin actually is these days, come to think of it.

Soapbox time: take this opportunity to discuss the Devils and/or NHL in general.

As far as a soapbox is concerned, I would like everyone just to check out In Lou We Trust for consistent thoughts about the Devils and I would like to, once again, congratulate Lou Lamoriello on his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame while still serving as GM, President, and CEO. Lou truly is the best around.

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