The New Jersey Devils were without a first round pick (traded to Atlanta in the Ilya Kovalchuk deal) and a fifth round pick (traded to Toronto for Martin Skoula), which left them with a paltry five draft picks for the 2010 draft, a franchise low for total number of picks in one draft.
For the first time since 2005, when they drafted Jeff Frazee in the second round, the Devils selected a goaltender, and for good measure, they drafted two of them. Of the remaining three choices, the Devils selected two defenseman and a winger. Two of the prospects were American, two were Canadian, and for the first time in franchise history, they drafted a Swiss-born player.
Despite not picking until the second round, the Devils managed to grab a player that most scouting services had pegged as a first round talent when they selected offensively gifted defenseman Jon Merrill from the U.S. National Development Team Program. In 22 games with the team, Merrill recorded one goal and eight assists.
The 18-year-old blueliner may have slipped out of the first round due to character concerns after an off-ice incident got him suspended by the team, but there is no denying the high-end skills Merrill possesses. He skates well for a man of his stature, and is not afraid to rush the puck up the ice to launch an offensive attack. He handles the puck well and makes solid, crisp, tape-to-tape passes. Merrill is also the owner of a hard and heavy point shot.
In order to become a more complete prospect, Merrill needs to work on his overall consistency, focus and to play with a little more fire and physicality. Most of these weaknesses occur in his own end, where he obviously needs to improve if he wants to have a future in the NHL. His strengths defensively are his hockey sense and positioning.
Merrill has the tools to become a solid, number three or four blueliner with the ability to contribute offensively, especially with the man advantage. He is off to the University of Michigan for the 2010-11 season, where he will join fellow Devil prospects Brandon Burlon and David Wohlberg. He will likely need at least two to three years there before being ready to turn pro.
The Devils went the wild-card route in the third round when they selected goaltender Scott Wedgewood from the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers. The 17-year-old Wedgewood has only suited up for 24 games in two seasons with the Whalers, 18 of which came this past season. Backing up workhorse Matt Hackett (MIN), he went 5-9 with a 3.26 goals against average, .909 save percentage and one shut-out.
However it was in the playoffs against the high-flying Windsor Spitfires where Wedgewood might have gained the most notoriety, and probably played a huge role in getting himself noticed by NHL scouts. Starting for the suspended Hackett in game four and facing elimination, Wedgewood was unable to win the game for the Whalers, but stood on his head, turning aside a remarkable 70 shots in a heart-breaking 3-2 overtime loss to the Spitfires.
Wedgewood is described as a technically sound, hybrid style goaltender with good puck-handling skills. Although he is not assured to be the number one goaltender in Plymouth, Hacket is turning pro, so Wedgewood will see more action than he’s seen in his previous two seasons of junior.
His situation has been favorably compared to current Blue Jackets goaltender Steve Mason when he was in junior; a talented back-up, who was just waiting for an opportunity to show his skills off as a starter. The Devils would be thrilled if he came even close to turning into the caliber of goaltender that Mason has become, and he will be given ample time to prove himself before taking the next step in his young hockey career.
Joe Faust , D – Bloomington-Jefferson (High-MN)
Drafted: 4th Round, 114th Overall
Height: 5’11 Weight: 190lbs
The Devils dipped into the hockey hotbed of Minnesota in the fourth round, selecting undersized, but offensively gifted defenseman Joe Faust from the Minnesota high school ranks. He recorded 13 goals and 27 assists in 25 games for Bloomington-Jefferson High.
The 18-year-old Faust clearly has a good skill-set as evidenced by the offensive numbers he put up in high-school. He sees the ice very well, is a good passer and has a hard shot. He is a well-built, stocky defenseman, who needs to work on his play in his own end.
He had originally committed to Princeton, but has since backed out of that agreement, citing a desire to play closer to his home state of Minnesota. He has the option to play in Des Monies of the USHL, but is currently weighing his other collegiate options. It will likely be a couple seasons before the Devils likely see what the really have in Faust, but it is already clear the offensive upside is there.
Not since 1997 had the Devils selected two goaltenders in one draft, but used their pick in the sixth round on Maxime Clermont of the QMJHL’s Gatineau Olympiques. Highly-touted going into his draft year, Clermont, struggled through some bouts of inconsistency, going 24-31-0 with a 2.81 goals against average and .897 save percentage to go along with four shut-outs. Not all the blame fell on his shoulders though as the team seemed to lack cohesion and had some coaching issues.
Clermont, 18, has a solid frame and possesses good overall athleticism. He shows a willingness to aggressively challenge opposing shooters and has a high compete level, often elevating his play at the most important times of a game. He also has good rebound control and does not get bothered by traffic.
He needs to work on exuding more confidence between the pipes as he often plays too deep in his crease. When he does lose sight of the puck, he tends to panic, which causes him to get out of position. Clermont’s puck-handling skills also need some work, something he can likely improve upon now that he can learn from one of the best in Martin Brodeur.
Gatineau has a shot to be one of the top teams in the QMJHL this year, and Clermont will be a big key to the team reaching their full potential. With only three goaltenders in the Devils system, the young goaltender will definitely be given a chance to advance, and could end up being quite a steal in the sixth round. He has the potential to develop into a starting netminder in the future.
With their fifth and final pick of the draft, the Devils took the franchise’s first ever Swiss-born player when they selected 20-year-old Mauro Jorg, who has played with HC Lugano of the Swiss Elite League for the last two years. Last season, he dressed for 44 games, scoring one goal and seven assists. He was also part of the Swiss entry at the World Junior Championships, scoring three goals and an assist, helping the team to a surprising fourth place finish at the tournament.
Jorg is quick on his skates and has good hands, but needs to learn to be more selfish and shoot, as he tends to fixate on being a playmaker when the puck is on his stick.
Already 20-years-old and having been playing in the top Swiss League against men for the past two years, Jorg might be physically ready to make the jump to North America this season. Once he does decide to turn pro, the Devils will have a much better idea of what type of player Jorg could develop into.