New Jersey Devils 2002 Draft Review

By Jared Ramsden

For the first time since the team moved to New Jersey, the Devils had to work without a first round selection, and because of that, the Devils seemed to have their work cut out for them. Making things even more difficult was the fact that this year’s crop of players was considered to be below average. However, the Devils view this past weekends draft as a successful one. Once again, Lou Lamoriello and company went against the grain by making a couple of surprise picks and potentially finding a couple of gems in the bowels of hockey’s junior ranks. Hands down, the Devils organization has the best professional scouts scattered throughout the world when it comes to finding talent. Not only can they find talent for the future, but for the present as well. It was obvious that Lou and Head Scout David Conte were considering this long before he stepped off the plane in Toronto, and this is not the first year for this.

Like last year, Lou selected two older players, by draft standards, Krisjanis Redlihs of Lativa and Ilkka Pikkarainen of Finland, which could provide help in Albany this coming season. Drafting players with size was a necessity with top AHL affiliate Albany and the team’s prospects in general, lacking in that department. And Lou and David addressed that issue by selecting 11 players with an average size of 74 inches tall, or 6 foot two inches, and weighing 198 pounds. Recognizing the need for power forwards now and down the road, the Devils used their second and third picks on Barry Tallackson and Jason Ryznar. Selected at 53rd overall, Tallackson seems to be a steal for the Devils considering he was ranked in the top twenty for North American skaters, however his lack of consistency and enthusiasm might have discouraged some teams. One of the most obvious similarities from last year was the selection of Anton Kadeykin, the Devils first selection, #51st overall. Like Adrian Foster of last year, Kadeykin was unranked and overlooked by several talent scouts. It was Anton not making the Russian Junior team that allowed him to go unnoticed to all, but the Devils. He was the first of two second round picks for the Devils, where the organization traditionally has had much success. Over the past five years, the Devils have made 11 second round picks, including Christian Berglund, Paul Martin and Mike Commodore. Here is a complete list of the players New Jersey selected in this year’s NHL Draft.

Anton Kadeykin, pick #51, Defence, 6’2”, 180 lbs., Elektrostal, Russia

Once again, the Devils made everyone give a collective, “Who?’, when they made Anton Kadeykin their 1st selection in the second round. While he seems to be an unknown to many, he obviously caught the attention of Devils scouts. As mentioned earlier, Anton may have been passed over because he failed to make the Russian Junior team, and lacked the exposure of other Russians. He was also unranked by Central Scouting. But that is not say he is not talented. Kadeykin’s who is either 6-2, 180 or 6-3, 198, depending on where you look, is said to be a mobile, defensive minded defenceman. Anton likes to get involved physically, and with his size, he is quite imposing to others on the ice. It is also said that although Anton has not shown much offense at this stage in his career, he apparently has some untapped offensive potential. That is mainly due to the fact that Anton focuses more on the defensive aspects of the game. Anton was scoreless in 20 Upper League games with Elemash Elektrostal. With the likes of Alexander Suglobov and Andrei Posnov as examples, the Devils have continued a trend by picking an “uknown” Russian in Kadeykin. Once Kadeykin fills out his frame, he has the potential to be a solid #5 or 6 defenceman.

Barry Tallackson, pick #53, Right Wing, 6’4”, 196 lbs., University of Minnesota, NCAA

Sometimes, talent is found in the same old familiar places. Barry Tallackson joins fellow Golden Gophers, Paul Martin and Matt DeMarchi as draft picks of the New Jersey Devils. Selected 53rd overall, this big, strong and physical right-winger has much to offer, other than his size. He finished his first collegiate season on top as a member of the Frozen Four championship team. Ranked 17th among North American Prospects at the end of the season, Barry finished eighth in team scoring with 13 goals and 10 assists. Tallackson saw time on the special teams and contributed timely goals with two game winners and three power play tallies. This power forward addresses a major need within the Devils organization; size, strength and brute force. He is tough in the corners and difficult to clear when in front of the net. The winger is also a very unforgiving checker with an excellent wrist shot and good speed and mobility for a large skater. The only knock against him is his lack of consistency in his play. Before Barry joined the NCAA, he was a member of the U.S. National Top Develop Program and played in numerous International Junior and Under-18 competitions. In 63 games, he scored 23 goals and helped on 24. At the 2001 WJC, he scored 5 points in six games.

Jason Ryznar, pick #64, Left Wing, 6’3”, 205 lbs., University of Michigan, NCAA

Scott Gomez might be Alaska’s favorite hockey son, but Jason Ryznar might be their biggest. This power forward stands at six foot and three inches and tips the scales at 205 pounds, at only age 19. Jason just completed his first season with the Wolverines at University of Michigan where he scored fifteen points in 40 games. Ryznar was ranked 32nd by Central Scouting in their final rankings for North American skaters. During the past year, he helped Michigan to win the CCHA championship, make a final frozen four appearance and scored a goal and an assist in the Cold War game against Michigan State. Ryznar is very sturdy on his skates, physical in front of the net and works hard in the corners and along the boards. He knows how to use his size to create scoring chances and can handle and shot the puck very effectively. But what makes him most attractive to the Devils is his awareness of his defensive responsibilities and his strong work ethic. Before joining the Wolverines, he also graduated from the U.S. National Program and saw time in International tournaments.

Marek Chvatal, pick #84, Defence, 6’1”, 183 lbs., Trinec, Czech. Republic

The Devils, who have not drafted a Czech for quite sometime, nabbed an offensive minded defenceman in Marek Chvatal with the 84th pick in the 3rd round. Marek, who was ranked 66th among Europeans by Central Scouting, is a great offensive talent from the blueline. He is an above average skater with good overall sense for the game. Marek sees the ice well and is able to make solid passes out of his own zone, though his decision-making is sometimes questioned. He saw a lot of PP time with his Czech team, Trinec, and contributed 8 goals and 21 points in 28 games. On the defensive side, Marek plays a contain or positional type of game.

Ahren Nittel, pick #85, Left Wing, 6’2”, 214 lbs., Windsor, OHL

With the 85th pick, the Devils decided to go to the OHL and select physically imposing winger Ahren Nittel. The 52nd ranked North American can do a little bit of everything. He is strong on the puck and along the boards. He has good skating ability for a man his size and has shown that he has above average hands in front of the net. Allthough he has yet to put up big offensive numbers, Ahren has the potential to develop into a scoring power forward, and that seemed to catch the eyes of the Devils brass, who were looking to add size to the team, especially upfront. Ahren posted 19 goals and 30 points for Windsor in 52 games, along with 100 PIM’s

Cam Janssen, pick #117, 6’0”, 212 lbs., Right Wing/Center, Windsor, OHL

Unranked and obviously overlooked by Central Scouting Bureau, this tough and powerful forward found himself on several G.M. draft day lists, but was selected by the Devils early on the second day. During his first year in the OHL, he led the league with 268 penalty minutes in 64 games while scoring 5 goals and 17 assists. He may not be the best puck handler or fastest skater on the ice, but his hard work, strong heart and very enthusiastic competitive nature makes him an excellent pick and an asset in any organization. Ask Mike Kelly, GM of the Windsor Spitfires about his young player and he will say, “There’s been a lot of interest in Cam Janssen.” It’s the competitiveness he brings and we feel he’s got a lot more skill.” Janssen was named Spitfires Rookie of the Month in November of 2001. He played for the St. Louis Bantams before joining the OHL and scored 41 goals during the 1999-2000 season.

Krisjanis Redlihs, pick #154, 6’2”, 187 lbs., Defence, Liepaja, Latvia

Another surprise pick by the Devils scouting staff, Redlihs may be signed right away to play in Albany because of his age, 21. Not too much is known about Redlihs, but judging by his numbers, he seems like the stay at home type. He did play at this year’s World Championships with Latvia, posting an assist in 6 games and posted 10 assists in 49 games for his league team Liepaja.

Eric Johansson, pick #187, 6’0”, 190 lbs., Center, Tri-Cities, WHL

Originally drafted by Minnesota in 2000, Eric Johansson re-entered this years draft and was chosen in the 6th round by the Devils. Eric posted outstanding totals, with 103 points with Tri-City of the WHL. He was tied for 2nd in assists with 59 and tied for 6th in goals with 44 in his final WHL season. Eric obviously is quite an offensive talent. He is a great puck handler with good vision and has above average instincts in the offensive zone. He is not very physical though, and his although he makes an effort on defense, that is not his strength. His skating is said to be average at best. The Devils will likely put Eric in Albany and it will be interesting to see if he can carry his numbers from the junior ranks to the pro’s.

Ilkka Pikkarainen, pick #218, 6’2”, 189 lbs., Right Wing, IFK, Finland

With the Devils having success in drafting Finnish born players recently, it seemed as though they were going to go through this draft without selecting one, until they selected late blooming winger, Ilkka Pikkarainen from Finland, #218th overall. Like Redlihs, the 21-year-old Pikkarainen may come over to North America this season, and possibly see time with the Devils, depending on which FA’s decide to leave. Ilkka is a high- energy guy, who is an above average skater. He plays an agitating, in your face style. Surprisingly for a Euro, he is not afraid to drop the gloves. He enjoys the physical aspect of the game, and gives it his all every shift. However his offensive upside is limited, but that is not what he was drafted for. A very intriguing pick, who if signed, could see 4th line duty with the Devils.

Dan Glover, pick #250, 6’2”, 175 lbs., Defence, Camrose, AJHL

The Devils made Glover, the 250th overall pick in the 8th round. Not much is known about Dan, but he will be playing with Camrose again next season, and is slated to play at Cornell University beginning in 2003-04

Bill Kinkel, pick #281, 6’5” 229 lbs., Left Wing, Kitchener, OHL

This native of Buffalo, New York only managed one goal and 2 assists in his first season in the OHL. As one of the youngest players on the team, Bill was not brought in to produce 30 goals a season, especially at his size. Standing at almost six and a half feet tall and weighing nearly 230 pounds, Lou and the Devils only have one thing in mind when considering keeping this kid in the organization. His presence alone could change things for the better in Albany, where the average size is well below league standards.

Profiles of Barry Tallackson, Jason Rynzar, Cam Janssen and Bill Kinkel done by Devils HF Writer Andrew Clark