Devils 2010 draft preview

By Jared Ramsden

Top 10 prospects

1. Mattias Tedenby, LW
2. Jacob Josefson, C
3. Matt Corrente, D
4. Alexander Urbom, D
5. Jeff Frazee, G
6. Brandon Burlon, D
7. Tyler Eckford, D
8. Nick Palmieri, RW
9. Matt Halischuk, RW
10. Vladimir Zharkov, RW

The Devils sacrificed their first-round draft choice (23rd overall) in the Ilya Kovalchuk trade with the Atlanta Thrashers back in February. Their first pick is at the 38th overall selection in the second round.

Team Needs

Finding a new coach to replace Jacques Lemaire is first on the agenda for Devils GM Lou Lamoreillo. Lemaire abruptly retired at the end of the season, leaving the team with a coaching vacancy for the third time in four years.

Many of the immediate team needs will likely depend on what the team decides to do with key unrestricted free agents Kovalchuk and Paul Martin. Should the team find a way to keep both players in the fold, the offseason would be considered a resounding success.

Regardless of what the team does with those two key players, the Devils need to address their center ice situation, which will be easier said than done. Travis Zajac fills one of those spots admirably, but Patrik Elias and Dainius Zubrus are much better suited to the wing, and veterans Rob Niedermayer and Dean McAmmond are both free agents and may not return. There are promising prospects in the wings in Jacob Josefson and Adam Henrique, but both might need a year of seasoning in the AHL before being ready for a full-time promotion.

If Martin returns, the need for a defenseman will not be as paramount, but there is no doubt the team will still be looking for another puck-moving blueliner who can contribute on the power play. Andy Greene came out of nowhere to produce career-best numbers last year, but after him and Martin, who missed the majority of the season with an arm injury, there is a major talent drop-off. Youngsters Tyler Eckford and Matt Taormina are potential in-house options for next year to fill that void, while rough and tumble Matt Corrente will also be given a long look to fill out the Devils blueline.

Organizational Strengths

There isn’t one area in the organization that really stands out, but the team has accumulated a fair amount of depth and diversity of talent throughout the forward and defense ranks, many of whom are close to making the jump to the NHL.

Swedish prospects Mattias Tedenby and Josefson, who both signed their first pro contracts this spring, and are being pegged as future top-six forwards.

Matt Halischuk, Nick Palmieri, Vladimir Zharkov and Henrique are second and third-line tweener type forwards who should all eventually become fixtures in New Jersey over the course of the next two seasons.

While the team lacks many potential stud blueliners in the system, they are still stocked with some talented players, some of whom are close to the NHL (Eckford, Taormina and Corrente) while others are a few years away still and need more time to physically mature and develop, but have tremendous upside (Alexander Urbom, Brandon Burlon and Eric Gelinas).

Organizational Weaknesses

After Tedenby and Josefson, there is a fairly substantial drop of in blue chip talent in the organization. The team is littered with potential quality checking and role-playing forwards and stay-at-home defenseman, but lack many potential star quality players. Picking in the bottom half of the first round, and sometimes not having a first-round pick at all has contributed to this, but that is the price a team pays for regular-season success.

Jeff Frazee as the only goaltending prospect in the organization. Granted, with Martin Brodeur still performing at a high level, this hasn’t been a huge concern, but with him advancing in age, having a few more in goaltenders in the system is something the team will likely address immediately.
Draft Tendencies

Like many other teams, the Devils often go with the simplistic approach of taking the best available player on their board. This is best observed in the fact that the team has not reached to draft a goaltender simply because the team lacks depth in that area. They will take a player whom they think is the most talented.

As for which leagues or countries the Devils seem to lean towards at the draft table, lately, they have had success drafting Swedes, especially in the earlier rounds. The CHL, in particular the OHL, has also been kind to the Devils, while the team usually always finds a way to draft at least one or two American-born players.

The Devils currently only have five choices in the 2010 NHL draft. They own the 38th, 84th, 114th, 174th, and 204th picks. The organization dealt their first round pick to the Thrashers in the Kovalchuk deal and also sent their fifth round pick (144th overall) to the Toronto Maple Leafs at the trade deadline for defenseman Martin Skoula.