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Devils Could Raise Assets By Trade Back To Draft – Hockey Writers – New Jersey Devils

The New Jersey Devils are poised to make the 10th overall pick in Friday’s NHL Draft. After that they take a break and pick twice in the third round. The once highly respected Devils pool has fallen down the ranks mainly due to players graduating from the developmental stage and going to the NHL. The pool that once featured Luke Hughes, Simon Nemec, Alexander Holtz, Shakir Mukhamadullin, and Dawson Mercer is now thin at the top and could use some restocking to ensure the Devils will have reinforcements as they go through their contention window.

Related: New Jersey Devils’ 2024 NHL Free Agency Guide

There are many ways to build a championship team. The best teams use all building methods and find many ways to improve their roster. The Devils built by squeezing high draft picks, making smart free agent signings, and acquiring undervalued talent through trades. As they try to climb the ranks of the NHL elite, it will become more difficult as the margin for error decreases.

Writing is as much an art as a science. Each class has players featured as can’t-miss, no-miss, and recent picks that make the team a franchise. The best way to ensure that a team minimizes the former and does the latter is selective accumulation. The more opportunities a team has to get the pick right, the more likely it is to get to their pick. With that in mind, Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald should consider moving down the draft to accumulate more draft picks with good depth at the end of the first round.

Can the Devils Make it to the Top 10 Picks?

The decision to move away from a player in the top 10 draft is not an easy one. The quality of players available at number ten varies by draft, but in the 2024 NHL Draft, it appears that the top ten is where second-round prospects meet third-rounders. This is not the same as in 2022, when the Devils had the second pick and were guaranteed a potential franchise player. The 10th pick will come with the biggest risk.

Neither player is a good fit for New Jersey and will likely be available in that section of the draft. They have to accumulate picks and strengthen their prospect pool if they can’t find a player who can make an immediate impact on the team. Fortunately for the Devils, there are players in the lower half of the draft who project to fill the team’s long-term needs. Another stroke of luck for New Jersey is that there are five teams with multiple first-round picks, which should make it possible for teams to move up or down in the draft and have the money to do so.

Good Partners Are There

The San Jose Sharks, Montreal Canadiens, Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, and Chicago Blackhawks all have first-round picks before and after the Devils’ projected tenth pick. They also have recent trade history with three of those teams (Montreal, Calgary, and San Jose). All teams listed, except Montreal, also have picks in the first ten picks of the second round. The Sharks have two top-10 players, including the Devils’ second-round pick, traded as part of the deal to acquire Timo Meier.

Timo Meier, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/Hockey Writers)

Using PuckPedia’s Perri Pick Value Calculator to estimate the numerical value of draft picks, the Devils’ first-round pick has a value of 34.22. Without adding prospects or roster players, trading the Sharks’ 14th overall pick and the 42nd pick adds a value of 33.23. The Blackhawks’ 18th overall pick and 34th overall pick amount to 30.43. Either of these would make sense for both teams as it would allow the Sharks and Blackhawks to add two top-10 players to their rebuilds and allow New Jersey to regain a second-round pick without falling too far into the first round.

The Ducks have the 31st and 35th overall picks in the bottom of the first round and the top of the second, which could be combined with another future or part of a larger trade. With the Devils rumored to target Brett Pesce in free agency, the Ducks could be a landing spot for John Marino to replace Pesce. Ducks general manager Pat Verbeek has expressed his desire to find a top-four right fielder, and Marino would be a good fit. Perhaps a bigger package would include combining Marino with the 10th overall pick for a player like Frank Vatrano, along with the 31st and 35th picks.

Montreal traded their first second-round pick to the Winnipeg Jets, making them a less-than-likely trade partner unless they wanted to attach a big asset to the 26th overall pick. Calgary also has a later pick, but it’s hard to imagine the Devils and Flames getting the same spot right after the Jacob Markstrom trade. They would probably cross that bridge if they were partners willing to move in the first round.

Quality Prospects Abound in the Late First Round

Macklin Celebrini, Cayden Lindstrom, Sam Dickinson, and Artyom Levshunov will certainly not be available in the second half of the first round. He also won’t be available in the 10th pick. However, with the organization’s needs to fill, including power forward, depth in the middle, and a physical, stay-at-home defenseman, the Devils could get good value in the second half of the first round. With research from The Hockey Writers’ Complete Guide to the Draft, here are five players they can target to fill those needs in the backfield.

Cole Eiserman – Forward

Cole Eiserman is a polarizing player who is widely considered to have the best shot in the draft. He is headed to Boston University this fall after scoring 58 goals in 57 games this season and recording 127 goals in the United States National Team Development Program. Head coach Jay Pandolfo will work with him to expand his game and improve his defense and playmaking. If he can continue to develop in those areas, he could be the steal of the draft as his profile changes.

Michael Hage – Center

The Devils may already be at center for the foreseeable future with Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier. However, behind them, there is a lack of organizational depth, especially since Michael McLeod left the team in the middle of the season following criminal charges. Michael Hage has an inspiring story, fighting through shoulder surgery and the tragic loss of his father to score 75 points this season in the United States Hockey League (USHL). He has a strong two-way game and is known for driving plays and creating opportunities for his teammates. He also has pro size and hockey sense combined with a high level of competitiveness. Hage would be a great piece for New Jersey to add to their prospect pool should they fall to the second half of the first round.

Michael Hage Chicago Steel
Michael Hage, Chicago Steel (Photo Credit: Chicago Steel Hockey Team)

Stian Stolberg – Defender

Norwegian defenseman Stian Stolberg has been compared to New York Rangers captain Jacob Trouba for his size and physique. He is already playing in Norway’s top men’s league and will move to the Swedish professional league next season. He turned heads with his performance at the IIHF World Championship last month, leading Team Norway in halftime on the ice. After trading Nikita Okhotiuk and Kevin Bahl over the last two seasons, the Devils need a mobile, two-way, physical defender in their ranks, and Stolberg will fit that need.

Beckett Sennecke – Wing

The Devils are linked with Beckett Sennecke at pick 10, so there are no guarantees he’ll slide to 14 or lower, but he could. Sennecke fills a need for a right-handed, power forward who brings size and swagger and a powerful shot. He’ll need some time to fill out, but he has the frame to be successful and have his 200-foot game translate to the NHL.

Sacha Boisvert – Center

Sacha Boisvert projects as a two-way, middle-six center with a high hockey IQ and matchmaking ability. He slightly increased his offensive production, finishing the season with 68 points in 61 games for Muskegon in the USHL. He already has the size to be an elite player at the NHL level and is headed to the University of North Dakota next season to continue seasoning.

The NHL draft is all about maximizing power and asset management. With the 10th pick, the Devils are set to add a piece of franchise room. Fitzgerald should consider whether he should instead use that asset to increase the organization’s depth and fill more needs. There is enough value to be had in the second half of the first round that he would be wise to look for options to trade down and accumulate more assets.

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