Devils 2002 draft evaluation

By Jared Ramsden

The New Jersey Devils had a somewhat tumultuous 2001-02 season, including a coaching change and quick exit in the first round of the playoffs. Though the Devils were without a first round draft pick for the 2002 Draft in Toronto, GM Lou Lamoriello found a way to collect some extra draft choices just like the 2001 draft and again ended up making 11 selections, including five combined choices in rounds two and three.

Of New Jersey’s 11 picks, only one of the players has established himself as an NHL regular, and one other player is currently ranked in the Devils Top 20 prospects rankings at Hockey’s Future. Six of these picks can be labeled as draft busts.

Thanks in large part to Cam Janssen’s 95 games, this draft class has played a total of 126 NHL games for an average of just below 11 NHL games per pick. While there are four players still considered prospects from this draft class, only two of those prospects can really be considered legitimate NHL prospects at this point. Much like the 2001 draft, the Devils appear to have struck out on the majority of their selections.

Anton Kadeykin, D – 2nd round, 51st overall (Elektrostal, Russia)
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

The Devils went a little off the board when they selected Anton Kadeykin, a Russian defender who was unranked by Central Scouting. Kadeykin was known as a fairly physical stay at home blueliner, who had yet to really reach his full potential. After the draft, Kadeykin was then selected in the CHL Import Draft by the Sarnia Sting of the OHL, where we would play during 2002-03 and 2003-04. While he showed some signs of developing into a solid prospect in his first season in Sarnia when he played 55 games and had a +11 rating, his second season did not go as smoothly and he struggled through an injury-plagued season. He then returned to his native Russia for the 2004-05 season, and unfortunately, a shoulder injury forced him to miss the whole season, setting his development back considerably. In 2005-06, Kadeykin was able to return from his injury, splitting the season between two different Russian teams.

Kadekyin seemed to get his development curve back on a bit of an upward swing in 2006-07, again splitting time between two teams in the Vysshaya Liga, scoring a combined three points in 23 games between the two clubs. Despite this positive development for Kadeykin, it appears more than likely that Kadeykin won’t be returning to North America anytime soon. Though he is still considered an NHL prospect by Hockey’s Future, the odds are much more in favor of Kadeykin becoming a bust than becoming a legitimate NHL player at this point in time.

Barry Tallackson, RW – 2nd round, 53rd overall (University of Minnesota, NCAA)
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played: 13

In taking Barry Tallackson with their second pick in the second round, the Devils were going more on potential than anything as Tallackson appeared to have all the tools needed to become an effective power forward at the NHL level. He had just yet to realize his full potential, but with potentially three more seasons left to play at the University of Minnesota, the Devils hoped that Tallackson would mature into his large frame and turn himself into a top-notch prospect. While he didn’t play poorly by any stretch, Tallckson teased the Devils with glimpses of potential before turning pro after his senior season with the Golden Gophers in 2004.

Tallackson had a great pro debut for the Devils farm team in Albany in 2005-06, scoring 14 goals and 23 assists in 60 games. His strong play earned him a 10-game recall to New Jersey, where he recorded his first NHL goal. After not showing much consistency in college, Tallackson looked to have turned the corner. However in 2006-07, Tallackson couldn’t build off that strong season, not ever really getting on track. The Devils game Tallackson another couple cups of coffee at the NHL during the year, but he just isn’t ready to make the jump full time. He still has so much untapped potential, but the Devils can only wait so long. This upcoming season could be a make it or break it year for Tallackson in the organization.

Jason Ryznar, LW – 3rd round, 64th overall (University of Michigan, NCAA)
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played: 8

The Devils took another big-bodied collegiate forward when they selected Michigan Wolverine forward Jason Ryznar with their first of three third-round draft selections. While not having the same offensive potential as Tallackson, Ryznar’s forte was playing physical and being responsible defensively. He played out his collegiate eligibility with Michigan, where he put up a career-best 23 points in his senior season, including six goals.

Like Tallackson, Ryznar had a great pro debut for Albany in 2005-06, suiting up in 59 games, where he scored seven goals and 18 assists. His steady and consistent play in the AHL earned him a brief eight-game NHL trail run in the second half of the season where his minutes were limited but he showed that he did not look completely look out of place. Hoping to build off the previous season and maybe even earn a spot in New Jersey with a strong training camp, Ryznar’s showing in 2006-07 with Lowell was not what the Devils had hoped, as he only managed 10 points in 55 games. While the Devils don’t ever expect him to become a big scorer, his play was not at the same level as it was before. Ryznar still has a future in the organization as a checking line winger, however he needs to bounce back with a better showing this year to keep him in the Devils long-term plans.

Marek Chvatal, D – 3rd round, 84th overall (Trinec, Czech Republic)
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

The Devils went to the Czech Republic with their second pick in the third round taking mobile, two-way defenseman Marek Chvatal. He then was selected in the CHL Import Draft by the OHL’s Sarnia Sting, where he would be joining fellow Devil dratee Anton Kadeykin. The two had very similar storylines to their two seasons playing hockey in North America. Chvatal showed good upside in year one in the CHL scoring four goals and 19 assists in 65 games to go along with a +9 rating. Year two in Sarnia wasn’t awful, but was not as great as 2002-03. After not getting signed by the Devils, Chvatal returned home to his native Czech Republic for the 2004-05 season, and that is where he has remained since, bouncing between different teams and different leagues throughout the past three years. Chvatal can safely be classified as an NHL bust.

Ahren Nittel, LW – 3rd round, 85th overall (Windsor, OHL)
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

The Devils finished up the first day of the draft in Toronto by selecting another power forward in the making in Ahren Nittel out of Windsor of the OHL. He returned to the OHL in 2003-04 where he split time between Windsor and Oshawa scoring 20 goals in 42 games. Nittel turned pro in 2004-05 and had a great season in the AHL with Albany despite battling nagging injuries throughout the year. He scored 25 goals and 11 assists in only 50 games and it looked as though the Devils had a good prospect on their hands. However, in 2005-06, Nittel again battled through injuries, playing only 45 games, scoring 14 times. The Devils did not offer Nittel a contract at the end of that season, and as a result, Nittel left North America to try to forge out a career in Europe. He spent 2005-06 in Switzerland and 2006-07 in Germany and will likely continue to toil in obscurity in Europe unless he gets an offer to return to North America which seems highly unlikely at this point. Nittel looked like he had a lot of potential as a goal scorer, but couldn’t stay healthy in his brief tenure in the Devils organization.

Cam Janssen, RW – 4th round, 117th overall (Windsor, OHL)
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games Played: 95

With their first pick on the second day of the draft, the Devils selected tough guy Cam Janssen out of Windsor from the OHL. The physical, smash-mouth winger was not ranked by Central Scouting but his 268 PIM’s in 64 games obviously caught the Devils eye. Janseen went on to play the next two years in the OHL where he continued to show his pugilistic skills by racking up just under 500 PIM’s. Janssen turned pro for the 2004-05 season and it did not take himself very long to establish himself as one of the top fighters in the AHL. He played 70 games for the River Rats, and racked up a whopping 337 PIM’s.

Janssen began 2005-06 in the AHL again with Albany, but by the end of the season, he had earned himself a spot in New Jersey as the Devils enforcer. He suited up in 47 games, racking up 91 PIM’s and brought the Devils an endless amount of energy and physical play. He even played in nine playoff games that year. Due to salary cap issues, Janssen had to spend a brief time in the AHL in 2006-07 in Lowell, but played the majority of the season in the NHL with the Devils where he played 48 games and put up 114 PIM’s. He even recorded his first professional goal and point, a memorable moment for himself and his teammates. Janssen knows his role, and plays it well and while enforcers are a dying breed in the NHL, he has established himself as an NHL’er. 

Krisjanis Redlihs, D – 5th round, 154th overall (Liepaja, Latvia)
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0
 
Twenty-one-year-old Latvian blueliner Krisjanis Redlihs was selected by the Devils in the fifth round of the draft, and was signed right away to go and play pro in the AHL. Redlihs was just your average stay at home defenseman, but his strong performance at the World Championship for Latvia must have caught the eyes of some of the Devils scouts. Redlihs spent four pedestrian seasons from 2003 through to 2006 in the AHL with Albany, but never really developed as the Devils had hoped. Redlihs split the 2006-07 season between Switzerland and Russia, and while it is not known where Redlihs will play in 2007, he likely won’t be coming back to North America any time soon.

Eric Johansson, C – 6th round, 187th overall (Tri-City, WHL)
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Eric Johansson re-entered the draft after failing to come to terms on a contract with the Minnesota Wild. The undersized, but offensively-talented center had just wrapped up his WHL career in style, scoring 103 points for the Tri-City Americans. Johansson turned pro after the draft and reported to Albany were the Devils hoped he would develop into a high scoring centerman. He spent two full seasons in the AHL with the River Rats, where he failed to make much of an impact. He started 2004-05 in AHL before the Devils sent him to the ECHL because the Devils likely wanted to give some of their younger prospects more ice time. It was clear then that Johansson didn’t really fit into the Devils future plans and after that season he signed with Mora of the Swedish Elite League where he has played the last two seasons.

Ilkka Pikkarainen, RW – 7th round, 218th overall (HIFK Helsinki, Finland)
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

In Ilkka Pikkarainen, the Devils hoped the 21-year-old Finnish sparkplug would bring that same enthusiasm to their organization that he brought to his HIFK club team back in Finland. He, like fellow draftee Krisjanis Redlihs, signed quickly and came to North America to play pro in the AHL. Pikkarainen spent three years with Albany, showing some skill to go along with an edge, as evidenced by his 300 plus penalty minutes from 2003 through 2006. However, Pikkarainen never quite did enough to earn himself a shot in New Jersey with the Devils, and he returned home to Finland to again play for HIFK in 2006-07. As it stands now, he is likely to remain there.

Dan Glover, D
– 8th round, 250th overall (Camrose, AJHL)
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

The Devils selected defenseman Dan Glover out of Camrose of the Alberta Junior Hockey League with their pick in the eighth round of the draft. Glover was bound for Cornell in the NCAA, and that is where he has spent the past four seasons developing. The stay-at-home defender had trouble staying in the line-up on a regular basis during his first three years with the Big Red, and in his all important senior year, Glover missed half the season with a shoulder injury, only getting into 16 games. The Devils once were lacking greatly in defensemen in the organization, however the Devils have restocked that area with draft picks and free agents, and Glover appears to be near the bottom of the depth chart. He has yet to sign a contract with the Devils and it remains to be seen if he will be a part of the organization for the 2007-08 season.
 
Bill Kinkel, LW – 9th round, 281st overall (Kitchener, OHL)
Status: NHL Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

With their final selection of the 2002 draft, the Devils went back to the OHL to select another tough guy in 6’5, 230 lb left winger Bill Kinkel. Kinkel played four full seasons in the OHL with the Kingston Frontenacs, and he set career highs in all major statistical categories in his final year there, including 174 PIM’s. The Devils never made Kinkel a contract offer and he became a free agent and he has spent the past three seasons bouncing around both the AHL and ECHL where he is likely to remain a career minor leaguer. He was on a Carolina Hurricanes contract last season.

Summary

Unfortunately for the Devils, after five years, the results of the 2002 draft appear eerily similar to the results of the 2001 draft. Only enforcer Janssen has established himself as an NHL player, and forwards Tallackson and Ryznar, both of whom took steps backwards in terms of their development this past season, look to be the only prospects with a chance to become NHL players in the future.

Copyright 2007 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.