After capturing their third Stanley Cup in the last nine years, the Devils will look to add some future NHL’ers to the fold at the 2003 NHL Draft, being held this weekend in Nashville. This year’s crop of draft eligible players is one of the most deep and talented in recent memory. Every position seems to have a plethora of players that have a chance to make an impact at the NHL level. The Devils this year will pick last in every round as a result of winning the Stanley Cup, with the exception of the first round. The St. Louis Blues were forced to swap first round picks with the Devils this year as a final punishment for the Scott Stevens tampering case from the mid 90’s. So instead of picking 30th in the first round, the Devils will pick 22nd. One other thing to look for is a mid to low second round compensatory pick to be awarded to New Jersey for losing forward Bobby Holik to the New York Rangers this past summer.
For the Devils scouting staff led by David Conte, it really doesn’t matter where the Devils select. Conte and his staff are renowned for their ability to find top-notch talent and ‘diamond in the rough’ type players, and can seem to find them in any round. The prospect cupboard for the Devils isn’t empty, but it is not as full as it once was either. With three picks likely to be made in the first two rounds, the Devils should be able to add some more gifted prospects to the organization.
With the abundance of talent that will be available this year, it is hard to say who might and might not be available by the time the Devils are scheduled to make their first round pick. But here are a few players who may be around when the Devils make their first selection at no. 22.
Of course this is a profoundly talented draft class. When the Devils turn comes to pick in the first round, they will have a lot to choose from. If you look at some of the forwards who might be around come the no. 22 slot, guys like the hulking Anthony Stewart, the lanky and skilled Jeff Carter, and the ultra competitive Danny Fritsche and Mike Richards all of whom play in the OHL could be available. There will likely be plenty of other forwards to pick from such as Eric Fehr, Steve Bernier, Jeff Tambellini, Vojtech Polak and Russian giant Evgeny Tunik. If the Devils decided to go defense in the first round, the likes of Mark Stuart, Brent Seabrook, Richard Stehlik, Shawn Belle and Kevin Klein would likely be there for the picking.
It would make the most sense for Conte and co. to go with a forward early, but the Devils always seem to have a trick up their sleeve come draft day. This year could be just as unpredictable with plenty of surprises.