Devils 2008 draft review

By Jared Ramsden

The Devils moved down on a couple of occasions in the first round, and in the process accumulated an extra 2008 second-round pick, along with a 2009 third rounder. Their nine selections represented the most draft picks by the team since 2002 when they made 11 selections.

Surprisingly, the team did not draft a goaltender, despite the fact that with Jeff Frazee turning pro, the team now has zero goaltending prospects below the pro level of hockey. Of the Devils nine draft choices, there were three centers, three left wingers and three defensemen. All nine selections are left-handed shots. Seven of the Devils picks were Canadian, one was American and one was European.

Mattias Tedenby, LW — HV 71 (Sweden)
1st pick, 1st round, 24th overall

After GM Lou Lamoriello did some wheeling and dealing which enabled the club to pick up a few extra draft picks while moving down a few spots in round one, the Devils snagged a falling star when they selected small, but supremely skilled Swedish left winger Mattias Tedenby with the 24th overall pick in the first round of the NHL draft. Tedenby was arguably the best European prospect available after Nikita Filatov who went earlier in round one to Columbus.

The 5’10, 178 lb Tedenby was promoted to the Swedish Elite League mid-season after tearing it up with HV 71’s junior club, scoring 14 goals and 16 assists in only 25 games. In 23 games with HV 71’s senior club, Tedenby put up a respectable three goals and three assists. He also starred for Team Sweden at the World Under 18 Tournament, tying for the team lead in scoring with eight points.

Tedenby has a splendid array of offensive tools, but his most eye-catching trait is his electrifying speed. He can stop and start on a dime, and has an extra gear that makes it almost nearly impossible for defenders to catch him once he gets by them. When you combine that with his high drive, fearlessness going into the corners and on-ice intensity, you can see why he was so highly rated by most draft pundits.

He can handle the puck at top speed, and his great change of pace gear makes him slippery and tough to contain all over the ice. He also sees the ice very well and is just as adept at making a saucer pass to set up a teammate as he is to sniping a shot by the opposition’s netminder. Tedenby’s tenacity makes him a highly effective forechecker, which in turn causes defensemen to make turnover after turnover. While he’s not terrible defensively, that is one aspect of his game that he will need to work on as he develops.

The Devils had to be pleasantly surprised to see Tedenby fall into their laps in round one, even after moving down on two occasions. He gives the Devils a much needed dose of skill up front, something that was severely lacking in the organization coming into the draft weekend. Tedenby has often been compared in style to another smaller, but highly skilled player in Tampa Bay right winger Martin St. Louis. Should he develop as the team hopes, he should be patrolling the left side on a scoring line in New Jersey in the not too distant future.

Brandon Burlon, D — St. Michaels (OPJHL)
2nd pick, 2nd round, 52nd overall

New Jersey went to the Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey League to select well rounded St. Michaels Buzzers defenseman Brandon Burlon with their first of two second-round selections.

The Buzzers were one of the top teams in the OPJHL, and the 6’0, 190 lb Burlon was an alternate captain with the team. While is numbers might not show it, he played a considerable role in the success of the team. He recorded seven goals and 17 assists and 41 PIM’s in 32 games.

Burlon has a wide array of skills, but his most noteworthy attributes are his top-notch skating skills and mobility, which in turn make him an offensively dangerous blueliner. He is more than capable of leading the rush up the ice and has the shot and distribution skills to be an effective producer in power play situations. Burlon is more slanted to an offensive style of game, but doesn’t sacrifice offensive for defense. He is reliable in his own end, which can mostly be credited to his excellent hockey sense. While he may not play the most physical style of hockey, he is usually in the right place at the right time and is rarely caught out of position.

Going to play at the University of Michigan is only going to help Burlon as he continues to develop. He needs to get stronger and get involved more physically, but that should come with time. His style of play is perfectly suited to the more wide open style of play seen in the NHL since the lockout season. The Devils won’t be in any hurry to rush Burlon, who if he reaches his full potential, should develop into a solid mid-pairing defenseman who can contribute on the power play.

Patrice Cormier, C — Rimouski (QMJHL)
3rd pick, 2nd round, 54th overall

With their second pick in the second round, which was acquired from the Washington Capitals back in the first round, the Devils took one of the draft’s wild cards when they selected Moncton, New Brunswick native and center Patrice Cormier from the QMJHL’s Rimouski Oceanic.

Injuries (burst appendix, concussion and a pair of shoulder problems) hampered Cormier throughout most of the season, which significantly affected his draft status as scouts were unable to get a good, consistent read on him. He was finally able to fully regain his stride and get his overall game back on track late in the season, which was punctuated with an impressive post-season, in which he led the Oceanic in scoring with four goals and nine points in nine games. In the regular season, he scored 18 goals and 23 assists, as well as 84 PIM’s in 51 games.

Cormier has a very intriguing package of skills. At 6’2, 201 lbs, he is well built to play a power-forward type of game, and he’s definitely not afraid to play that way. Cormier has good hockey sense and an above average shot. He forechecks aggressively, throwing his weight around and will power his way to the front of the net with the puck to create offense. He works hard at both ends of the rink and is a contributor on both the power play and penalty kill.

Cormier was highly touted coming in the QMJHL, and while he has yet to live up to those lofty expectations, his overall potential is through the roof. He has yet to use all of his potential, and should he remain healthy in 2008-09, he could be in line for a huge season for Rimouski, which will be playing host to the Memorial Cup this year. He has the ability to develop into a second line, scoring power forward, but more likely falls into the category of a two-way, third liner, capable of chipping in 20 goals, and 50 points a season.

Adam Henrique, C — Windsor (OHL)
4th pick, 3rd round, 82nd overall

After watching and then signing forward Brad Snetsinger earlier in the season, the Devils likely saw more than their fair share of OHL and Windsor Spitfire games this year, and probably played a part in the selection of Spitfire center Adam Henrique.

While his numbers didn’t really take a huge jump forward this year, that was more due to Henrique playing on a deep and talented Windsor team and didn’t get the type of offensive minutes that he likely would have received had he been on another team. He recorded 22 goals and 22 assists in 62 games, along with a +17 rating. His 44 total points matched his total from the 2006-07 season. He had a solid, though short lived playoff, contributing five points in five games.

The 5’11, 183 lb Henrique plays a style of game that will make him fit easily into the organization. He’s a sound two-way center who excels on face-offs and the penalty kill. Henrique has good offensive skills and instincts, but as noted earlier, he didn’t get a chance to showcase those skills very often this past year. His intensity wavers from time to time, but that is common for most players his age.

Henrique could explode offensively this season, maybe not to the extent that 2007 draftee Matt Halischuk did last year, but with a greater offensive role awaiting him, combined with his underrated offensive tools, he could see his numbers skyrocket. However, he likely won’t be a big-time scorer at the next level, and projects more as a third line, two-way center, who can chip in 10-15 goals a season.

Matt Delahey, D — Regina (WHL)
5th pick, 4th round, 112th overall

The Devils made one foray into the WHL on draft day, when they selected 6’1, 215 lb defenseman Matt Delahey from the Regina Pats in the fourth round of the draft.

In his second full season with Regina, Delahey scored three goals and 16 assists to go along with a respectable +7 rating and 68 PIM’s. It was a disappointing playoff for Delahey and the Pats though, as they were dispatched by the underdog Moose Jaw Warriors in the first round. Delahey, like many of his teammates, struggled as evidenced by his -9 rating in only six games.

Delahey is a well-rounded, meat and potatoes type of defenseman. He’s not flashy or spectacular, but he just gets the job done and gained more and more confidence as the season wore on. He gets caught out of position occasionally, but plays a relatively sound defensive game in his own end. Delahey skates well for a big guy, and is not afraid to play an aggressive, physical brand of hockey. His offensive skills are somewhat limited, but he showed gradual improvement in that area as the season progressed.

The Devils aren’t overly deep on the blueline, but should Delahey continue to show progress next season in his third year in the WHL, he will gradually make his ascension up the Devils prospect ladder and develop into a serviceable bottom pairing defenseman.

Kory Nagy, LW/C — Oshawa (OHL)
6th pick, 5th round, 142nd overall

New Jersey went a little off the board in the fifth round when they selected fiery Oshawa Generals left winger Kory Nagy, who wasn’t even rated by Central Scouting.

Nagy just completed his second full season of junior with the Generals, in which he scored five goals and 12 assists to go along with 47 PIM’s in 57 games. He saved his best for the post-season however, scoring six goals and three assists in 15 playoff games.

At only 5’11, 196 lbs, Nagy’s overall skill set won’t wow most casual observers, but he is strong defensively and his work ethic sets him apart from his peers. He gets the most out of what he has and his above average skating skill helps add to that.

Nagy’s future as a pro, should he reach that level, is that of an energetic, role-playing forward. He will have to work his tail off to succeed at the next level, but has the drive to do it.

David Wohlberg, C/LW — USNDTP (US U-18)
7th pick, 6th round, 142nd overall

When the Devils selected two-way center David Wohlberg from the US U-18 National Development Team Program, it marked the only time in the draft that the team selected an American-born player, something of a rarity for the Devils.

Wohlberg stands at a solid 6’0, 192 lbs and after finishing second on the U-17 in scoring in 2006-07, and leading the team with 147 PIM’s, he recorded 14 goals and 11 assists in 53 games for the U-18 team this past season.

Wohlberg’s fantastic two-way play makes him a prototypical Devils draft pick. He compliments that by playing an abrasive, in-your-face style of hockey. While his forte at first glance might appear to be that of a player who is adept at playing a shut-down, defensive style of game, upon closer inspection you see a very well-rounded player. He possesses a lot of overall offensive skill, and is able to put the puck on the net on a fairly regular basis.

Wohlberg is slated to play in the NCAA in his home state of Michigan for the Wolverines next season as a freshman after developing nicely the past two seasons with the US Development Team. He has the exact traits that the Devils look for in a player, and that no doubt should help him move steadily up the prospect ladder. He could be considered a poor man’s John Madden once he is fully developed.

Harry Young, D — Windsor (OHL)
8th pick, 7th round, 142nd overall

The Devils went back to the OHL to take their third defenseman of the draft when they selected tough as nails blueliner Harry Young from the Windsor Spitfires, joining teammate Adam Henrique who was selected by the Devils back in round three.

Standing at a sturdy 6’4, 204 lbs, Young made huge strides in his overall game in his third full OHL season, and second with the Spitfires. Not known for his offensive prowess, he suited up in all of Windsor’s 68 games, scoring two goals and adding 12 assists. His 155 PIM’s ranked him 12th in the league, and his +14 rating was a huge improvement from the -13 rating he posted in 2006-07.

What you see is what you get with Young. He is steady, stay at home defenseman who is not afraid to drop the gloves and stand up for his teammates. He’s not afraid to play physical, and really stood out on the Spitfires penalty-killing unit this year. While his puck skills leave much to be desired, that’s not Young’s game. He gives it 110% each and every game.

Young will return to Windsor next season, looking to get even stronger, and continuing to improve his skating. While he’s not likely to ever develop into a star at the next level, Young has the intangibles and a good enough work ethic that he could make it down the road as a depth defenseman.

John-Sebastien Berube, LW — Rouyn-Noranda (QMJHL)

9th pick, 7th round, 142nd overall

With their last selection of the draft, the Devils took another tough customer by dipping back into the QMJHL and selecting Rouyn-Noranda Huskies left winger John-Sebastien Berube.

The 6’3, 183 lb Berube racked up 118 PIM’s this year and was regarded as one of the best fighters available in the draft this year. In his second full season with the Huskies, he improved greatly on his totals from 2006-07, by scoring 12 goals and 12 assists in 64 games.

Berube plays a physical brand of hockey, and will become even more effective in that facet of his game once he fills out. He’s also shown ability to be more than just a fighter as evidenced by his 12 goals last season.

The Devils have shown a tendency in the past to draft tough guys from the CHL (Cam Janssen, Bill Kinkel, Pierre-Luc Leblond and Kyell Henegan), but only Janssen has panned out thus far. Berube will attempt to buck that trend.

Johan Nilsson, Kevin Forbes and Jason Menard contributed to this article.