Thursday, September 10, 2009

2009-10 Devils Training Camp Roster

30 - Martin Brodeur
31 - Jeff Frazee
35 - Yann Danis
40 - Mike McKenna
50 - Gerald Coleman
60 - Dave Caruso
70 - Jeff Lerg

2 - Jay Leach
5 - Colin White
6 - Andy Greene
7 - Paul Martin
24 - Bryce Salvador
27 - Mike Mottau
28 - Cory Murphy
29 - Johnny Oduya
32 - Matt Corrente
33 - Mark Fraser
34 - Rob Davison
36 - Olivier Magnan
37 - Tyler Eckford
38 - Alexander Urbom
39 - Matt Cohen
41 - Harry Young
42 - Eric Gelinas
43 - Matt Delahey
65 - Matt Taorima

Left Wings
9 - Zach Parise
12 - Brian Rolston
20 - Jay Pandolfo
22 - Pierre-Luc Leblond
52 - Alexander Vasyunov
54 - Myles Stoesz
56 - Brad Snetsinger
58 - Louis Robitaille
61 - Ashton Bernard
64 - Kory Nagy
66 - Jean-Sebastien Berube
67 - Eric Castonguay

8 - Dainius Zubrus
10 - Rod Pelley
19 - Travis Zajac
26 - Patrik Elias
45 - Ben Walter
47 - Tim Sestito
53 - Michael Swift
55 - Stephen Gionta
57 - Patrice Cormier
59 - Adam Henrique
68 - Brad Mills

Right Wings
14 - Brendan Shanahan
15 - Jamie Langenbrunner
17 - Ilkka Pikkarainen
18 - Niclas Bergfors
23 - David Clarkson
44 - Kevin Cormier
48 - Vladimir Zharkov
49 - Nathan Perkovich
51 - Patrick Davis
62 - Nick Palmieri
63 - Matt Halischuk

Sunday, August 2, 2009

NJ Devils: What To Do Next

To this point in the summer, the New Jersey Devils have laid out their plans and executed. The gameplan this summer is youth movement, and save for the Cory Murphy signing, that is exactly what's happened. The signing of Murphy gives the Devils 8 defensemen who could potentially play with the big club this season, and that's ignoring the fact that a strong training camp from Matt Corrente and/or Tyler Eckford can only increase that number. So working with the exact lineup of the Devils right now, here is what I would do in the GM's chair.

1. Re-Sign Brendan Shanahan to a 1-year contract.
I know there is a lot of interest in Shanahan, but as long as the price is not outrageous, the Devils need to do everything they can to bring Shanny back for one more season. He has been a solid addition to our group of forwards, provides solid veteran leadership, and would make a terrific role model for the young players who make the roster...he's also at the point in his career where all this will come at a reasonable price. I would set my limit at about $1.2 million, so if we can bring him back for one year at or below that price, I call this a no-brainer.

2. Can Rolston play center? If not, get one.
It was a short-lived experiment, but Rolston centering Elias and Gionta was a great line idea that was never given the proper time to pan out. Gionta is gone, but Nicklas Bergfors can slide into that right wing spot. Rolston has played center before, and has publicly called Jacques Lemaire the best coach he's ever had. The two have a great working relationship, and if the coaching staff can help Rolston take on a center role, we find ourselves with two quality scoring lines without having to spend any more money. Of course, Rolston has to be willing to take on this role...if he's not, the hole must be filled some other way. Nevertheless, the biggest hole on the Devils is at the center position right now. Which is semi-related to the next point...

3. Unload a defenseman or two...
I know that nobody is going to want Mike Mottau or Jay Leach, but they are clearly the weakest links on defense right now. Perhaps instead of praying to get someone of value in return, the Devils can further the draft movement by turning these spare parts into later round draft picks. I know many people don't see Mike Mottau as a spare part, but I do. He was reliable, but way too indicative of what the Devils defense has too much of: good enough, but not great defensemen. Maybe he can fetch a depth forward in return, but if not, I would trade both for draft picks. We're going to need those roster spots on defense to make room for the two or three defensive prospects that may be ready for primetime.

4. Let Jeff Frazee continue to develop.
The mere thought that Jeff Frazee could be backing up Martin Brodeur this season is ridiculous to me. He's had one good season, and will need at least one more before he should be considered for such a thing. With Yann Danis now in the fold, the Devils can and should give Frazee all the playing time he can handle in Lowell. Calling him up once in a while for a little trial-by-fire certainly won't hurt, but Frazee should spend most of the year gaining actual playing experience.

5. Ignore everyone around you.
I just don't get people. For the past two years, hoardes of Devils fans have been calling for a youth movement. "The Devils are too old, they're too slow, it's time for change." Well change is now here, and yet all I see around blogs are an endless barrage of comments berating Lou for "not doing anything," "running the team into the ground," etc. Am I the only one who has put two and two together here? This IS the youth movement you've all been calling for, get over yourselves and stop whining! We're better for playing it safe with our finances anyway; worst-case scenario, the cap doesn't go down like we thought it would, we spend the money on talent; best-case scenario, the cap does go down like we thought it would, we're sitting pretty while teams like Philadelphia desperately try to get under the cap...we pick up a quality player or two.

Thoughts? Agree or disagree? I'd love to hear it.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Back to the Future IV: The French Connection

Ah, mid-July. The time of year when its very easy to get away from all things hockey related. Free agency has died down to a trickle, and most players and executives are on vacation. It’s the time of year when a mid-scrimmage fight at prospects camp becomes the top headline on a team’s website. Except of course, if you’re the New Jersey Devils, who still did not have a head coach to replace the grandest of all liars, Brent Sutter. And suddenly, the floodgates opened. Jacques Lemaire, back in the fold, bringing Mario Tremblay with him. MacLean accepting head coaching job in Lowell. Scott Stevens becoming an active tutor, Chris Terreri slowly but surely succeeding Jacques Caron as goaltending coach. Sure, no players were involved, but it was nonetheless a rather busy day by Devils standards. And while those of us here in Jersey (read: reality) love the signing, even if it comes with a tiny bit of skepticism, the hockey media is having a field day with it.

Okay, The Hockey News, we get it, it’s cool to hate Lemaire and it’s cool to hate the Devils. In fact I’m pretty sure you’re the ones who started that trend. You must be so proud. To be honest, THN, I don’t much care what you have to say. I’ve learned over the years that your writers are very much the hockey equivalents of Rush Limbaugh. You say things for shock value, not because you actually believe them. So fine, have your fun…preach like a darn prophet that 2010 will be 1995 all over again. Hey, if it means we win the Cup, you won’t find me complaining as we trap and clutch and grab our way to a parade down Mulberry Street.

But enough about those hacks. I’m here to talk about why Jacques Lemaire will be a great coach. Now, as usual, I’ve broken my argument down into easy-to-digest numbered points…nice and easy to read for all you THN writers out there. Keep practicing friends, you’ll get there.

1. Jacques works well with the young players.
Jacques Lemaire was terrific with a young Martin Brodeur, among other Devils youngsters, back in the mid 1990s, and considering the era of Devils history we are about to undergo this is the guy you want around. He knows how to get the most out of young talent, which means—oh dear god, Nicklas Bergfors might actually be played where he belongs and NOT on the fourth line? I must be dreaming.

2. Jacques can deal with Lou.
It takes a special breed to be able to play to the demands of master micromanager Lou Lamoriello and also manage to keep one’s sanity intact. Lemaire is such a coach. Not that Sutter wasn’t, but he quit on us and left, so…not really a relevant point anymore.

3. Jacques is probably just a placeholder.
John MacLean was just named the head coach of the Lowell Devils. Since I seem to see these things coming quite frequently, my early guess is that MacLean will get some head coaching experience in Lowell and be groomed to succeed Lemaire in a few years. It makes too much sense not to happen. Think about it…Bruce Boudreau and Dan Bylsma are now coaching a substantial crop of young players they had already coached in the AHL. With the new youth movement in full swing here in Jersey, MacLean may be about to meet the very same players he will be coaching in the NHL when his time comes. The players grow with the coach and vice versa, everybody wins.

Now this is not to say Lemaire hasn’t lost his touch, and might somehow believe that 1990s hockey can still succeed when we all know it really can’t. But early comments from both Lemaire and Lamoriello suggest the perfect scenario where success is almost guaranteed. Lemaire will come in and solidify the defensive side of our game, which clearly needs intensive rehab after last year’s playoffs. At the same time, he maintains the offense and the forechecking, and plays to the strengths of players like Parise and Elias, something he is also infamous for.

The players all want him, Lou wanted him, and most Devils fans wanted him. All he has to do is show up, leave the offense alone while solidifying the back end, and we can kill two birds with one stone; the one how Lemaire is bad for hockey, and the one that he won’t get his name on the Cup for the 12th time.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Free Agency Ain't Free

Though the 2009 NHL free agency period is just a day old, it’s already become clear what the Devils’ message is going forward.

Every year since the lockout, the trend has been the same. Have an outstanding regular season, clinch a playoff spot, possibly win the division, then proceed to play like garbage in the playoffs, leading to a first or second round exit. It’s a brick wall that Lou Lamoriello is tired of running into.

What is currently transpiring in the Devils Legion is not unlike two previous offseasons in the Devils’ history, those of 1998 and 2002. The Devils are usually a fairly stagnant team with minimal roster turnover every season, but once in a while when Lamoriello gets really sick of losing, he shuffles the deck. Time for a legal flashback, set your wayback machine to 1998.

During the season, after trading original Devil John MacLean, the Devils pulled off a deal that would prove historic: Bill Guerin and Valeri Zelepukin went to Edmonton for Bryan Muir and one Jason Arnott. At the time, Arnott had loads of potential but had not yet blossomed. Though he had been somewhat of a bust during his tenure with Edmonton, the right situation brought out the best in Arnott, who would go on to score the Cup-clinching goal in 2000. The next summer, the Devils signed the best player in the world not already in the NHL, Brian Rafalski, an undrafted enigma from Michigan playing in Finland. At the same time, fans saw the entrance of a new rookie class including Colin White and John Madden. Looking back, it’s hard to imagine winning in 2000 without the contributions of these four.

Fast forward to 2002. Though it was only one year removed from coming ever so close to defending their title, the ever popular A-line was becoming too dependent on one another for Lou’s liking. That, combined with their poor playoff performance signaled another major shakeup. Arnott was at the centerpiece of another major trade, this time heading to Dallas along with Randy McKay for Jamie Langenbrunner and Joe Nieuwendyk. Nieuwendyk’s impact would be immediately felt, while Langenbrunner was solid but truly saved his best for the 2003 playoffs. Completing the transition was the acquisition of Jeff Friesen and Oleg Tverdovsky from Anaheim for Petr Sykora and Mike Commodore, a trade with Columbus to land Grant Marshall, the debut of rookie Brian Gionta and later on rookie Mike Rupp stepping in when Nieuwendyk went down.

Now, here in 2009, Lou has deemed it time for another makeover. Gone are the same players who ushered in the last “new era,” with Gionta off to Montreal, Madden to Chicago, and Rupp to Pittsburgh. Scott Clemmensen, who made the 2008-09 season worth playing, is now in Florida. And to be honest, I truly don’t understand the instant backlash from Devils fans.

I’m not attempting to say that this is the beginning of the road to Stanley Cup number four. I am saying that this is necessary, and we will be better for it. It’s not a knock on the play of any of the recently departed, and it’s not a reflection personally on any of them. It’s just the simple truth that if you continue to leave things as they are, you’re going to continue to hit brick walls. Maybe you don’t even make the playoffs next season.

The holes left are not expected to be filled by veterans, save for the potential re-signing of Brendan Shanahan. Rather, like White and Madden in 2000, like Gionta and Rupp in 2003, it’s time for the next wave of kids to hit the lineup. Remember these names, because you may very well see them in your program lineup at some point next year:

Matt Halischuk: Spent some time with the team last year, good solid young forward.
Alexander Vasyunov: Pure sniper, loads of skill.
Nicklas Bergfors: May finally have the chance to be used in his proper role.
Matt Corrente: Big solid defenseman with a mean streak.
Tyler Eckford: Quality puck-moving defenseman.
Rod Pelley: Mini-Madden may get his chance now.
Pierre-Luc Leblond: Instant fan favorite, sparkplug.
Jeff Frazee: Quietly training to become Brodeur’s successor, could potentially be the backup next year after an All-Star season in the AHL.

Of the above, maybe only two will make the 2009-10 roster. But with this promising group of prospects waiting in the wings, now is the time to get younger. We were an old and slow team last year, and everyone who predicted that the Hurricanes would skate circles around us proved to be right. Will it mean one or two down years? Maybe. But we will be much better for it in the long-run for a few reasons:

1. Everyone else. Look at the rebuilding teams in our conference sure to get better by the season: Montreal, Florida, the Islanders, etc. They only take 8 teams per year folks, and if someone is coming in, someone must come out. And with teams like Washington and Pittsburgh ready to maintain their levels of success, the Devils need to keep up. Sitting idle and pretending like everything was fine last year would have been a foolish route to take, and would surely see the Devils miss the playoffs for the first time since 1996. It’s one thing to miss the playoffs during a period of transition; it’s wholly another when you’ve got what you feel is a Cup-contending roster.

2. The salary cap. Both GMs and insiders alike are predicting the salary cap to go down after next season, possibly from 57 down to 50 million. While high spending teams like Philadelphia will be forced to unload players, the Devils will be sitting pretty on a few entry level deals. They may even have the cap room to pick up a quality player that another team can’t hold on to.

3. The next few summers. In the summer of 2010, priority #1 will be Paul Martin. In the summer of 2011, Zach Parise. In 2012, Martin Brodeur. We have too many contracts of core players to worry about in the future, and I’m sure any fan of the Devils would rather see our money spent on Zach Parise instead of Gionta or Madden. I know I would.

Look, I understand that Devils fans have become accustomed to rejecting change because it happens so infrequently, and I’m not going to deny that I get that way as well. But Lou is beginning to look progressive, and we as fans must adapt with him. Being stagnant was terrific in a non-cap world, but that world is gone. It’s time we joined everybody else here in the present. You can’t keep everyone, nor should you want to. The amount of backlash is understandable, but is also ill-advised. I wanted to point that out, and anyone who is upset with the Devils right now will be eating their words in a few years.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Reviewing the Devils Draft

I have to start by saying that the 2009 Draft was the first one where I actually did some research beyond the top five prospects. I went full on, putting together a list of the players that I liked in the order I liked them, as if I was prepared to walk out to the draft table myself. The reason for this, aside from the fact that its summer and I find myself with quite a bit more free time, is that the Devils have always been known as a draft monster, an integral piece of the consistent high level of play from the mid 1990s forward.

But for some reason, whether or not it was the depth of the draft classes or just some poor selections—after all, this is an inexact science—the Devils went through a rough patch from 1999 to 2002 where the two most successful draft picks they made were Mike Rupp (2000) and Cam Janssen (2002). A few wasted first round picks—Ari Ahonen (1999) and Adrian Foster (2001)—never did crack the NHL, and the results really hurt the cupboard. This four year gap was enough to cause the Devils to look elsewhere to build around their core players, namely free agency. This is not the way the Devils have ever worked, and so beginning with Zach Parise in the all-time great 2003 draft class, the draft renaissance has begun.

Now, while every GM and fan wishes that every pick they make in a draft would develop into an NHL-caliber player, the reality is you’re probably not going to get more than two out of each draft class unless you really get lucky. For example, Parise & Petr Vrana in 2003, Mattias Tedenby & Patrice Cormier in 2008, etc. So that has become my standard now; if a draft class has at least two players who have the potential to make the NHL one day, I consider it an early success. (Of course time will tell whether or not it was really a success, but I’m talking initial impressions here.)

So with all that out of the way, let’s turn our attention to the 2009 draft. While waiting for the Devils to pick at 23rd, I noticed an interesting trend emerging. Minnesota picked Minnesota native Nick Leddy, Montreal picked Montreal native Louis Leblanc…pretty soon I was starting to wonder if Montvale, NJ native Kyle Palmieri would be headed our way. Even though he was ranked 6th on my list, Rundblad had already gone to Columbus, Leblanc to Montreal, so I was confident it would either be Palmieri or Landon Ferraro, my highest ranked remaining player. This is not to say that I didn’t like our actual selection, Swedish forward Jacob Josefson. He didn’t have the greatest World Juniors tournament in the world, but Dan Labraaten, the Devils’ head European scout, had been following him for quite some time, and had seen enough to know the potential this kid has.

But it was more than just the selection of Josefson…it was where the Devils selected him. Originally slated to pick 23rd, the Devils traded up to get Calgary’s 20th pick, throwing in the lower of our two 3rd rounders for Calgary’s troubles. (Things that make you go hmmmm…..) I suppose we’ll never know whether Calgary agreeing to this trade was more a product of knowing that their guy Tim Erixon would not be taken before 23rd, or if it was a small agreed upon consolation for swiping away Brent Sutter two weeks after he resigned.

I’m getting off track here. Despite actually doing my research this time, one thing I’ve learned is that the Devils will always do what you don’t expect them to, so while I really liked the kind of player Landon Ferraro or Kyle Palmieri could turn out to be, the Devils chose Josefson. I happen to love the pick, I just didn’t see it coming. A 6’0" forward is a nice change from the constant stream of Gionta-sized players who are typically appealing to New Jersey.

Second round pick Eric Gelinas is a 6’4" defenseman described as a young Chris Pronger. Should he pan out as expected, that right there are your two high potential picks. Rounds 3-7 saw the Devils take three more defensemen and two left wings, all above 6’0". There’s no question that size is a priority on the Devils of the future. There appear to be no late round gems a la Cormier, but we may have the huge linemate who can cash in on the rebound from a Cormier shot.

It is worth noting that once again, no goaltenders were selected. Jeff Frazee (2005) remains the last one, and though he is developing well, he’s going to need some backup. Lou Lamoriello, to his credit, said that the goalie they had been targeting was gone, so I can only assume they liked Koskinen as much as I did, though he got snatched up 31st overall. It’s nice to know they recognize the need there, but sooner or later we’re going to actually draft a goalie in the first round to avoid this happening again. I know they don’t want to take a goalie just to have one, they really want him to be “the one,” but with plenty of depth at forward and defense recently drafted, now is the time to seriously consider taking a goaltender with a first round pick. Drafting on a “best player available” basis for a long time is a great thing, except when you have a serious lack of depth at a certain position. Even if its one quality goaltender and then back to the same old philosophy, Jeff Frazee cannot hold down the farm on his own. Free agency is a fine temporary solution, but with the salary cap in jeopardy for the forseeable future, the more entry level contracts on your books, the better off you’ll be.

That was a lot to say about one problem, I know, and aside from that the 2009 draft was a successful one for the Devils. I’ll give it a B+ for two quality prospects.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

An Open Letter to the Future Coach of the New Jersey Devils

An open letter to the future coach of the New Jersey Devils

Dear Future Coach,

First of all, welcome! You have just signed on for a job that requires seemingly no good reason to be fired. In fact, no Devils coach has lasted more than three years since Jacques Lemaire stepped down in 1998. Incidentally, if you happen to be Jacques Lemaire, welcome back—and please know that if you try to implement the trap again, I will be calling for your head on a platter shortly.

Now, one thing you’ll need to learn rather quickly is that in many ways you are more a figurehead than anything else; Lou Lamoriello will coach the team vicariously through you. In fact, the only thing stopping the Devils’ President/CEO/General Manager/Head Ticket Salesman/Janitor/Popcorn Vendor/Backup Goaltender/Usher/Zamboni Driver from doing your job anyway is that it just seems like so much more work!

But there’s no going back now, you’re the guy! (Unless you miss your “family,” and by “family” you mean your brother who happens to be the GM of another team.) So before you begin your tenure behind the Devils bench, allow me to offer a few suggestions to help you make the most of your stay:

1. The system. Is down.
See, here at the New Jersey Devils, we feel like Brent was this guy we were seeing for a few years, and even though he had a lot of potential, he was afraid of commitment. But as far as what he did with the way the Devils play, we couldn’t have asked for more. It doesn’t matter what you think about defense winning championships, look at who we have on defense now compared to 2003…we don’t have the horses required to play defense-first anymore. Besides, look at what we accomplished under our shiny new forechecking system. One of the highlights of this past season was beating the two best teams in the league—Boston and San Jose—on back-to-back nights. We have arguably the best group of forwards that we’ve had in years, and if we don’t continue playing to our strengths, you’ll quickly find yourself the new head coach of the unemployment line.

2. Who’s Line Is It Anyway?
Congratulations, as the new head coach of the Devils, you’ve inherited the biggest waste of $3.5 million a year in NHL history. Any coach worth his salt can see Dainius Zubrus as a third liner at best. Zubrus may have been a second liner in Sutter’s bizarro universe where Brian Rolston is a fourth liner, but here on Earth you and I both know Rolston belongs with Elias. Otherwise, don’t be shocked when he doesn’t put up the numbers you expect of him.

3. The Kids Are Alright
We’ve got some great young prospects here, and a few of them might be ready to hit the NHL for good. Should you find yourself with Nicklas Bergfors on your lineup card, the appropriate thing to do is either put him on the top two lines, or scratch him. Bergfors is an offensive player whose role is to produce on a team’s top two lines. The last guy who had your job decided to play him on the fourth line, for around three minutes a night, and then scratched him because he “wasn’t producing.” How could he be expected to do anything when he barely played, and had to rely on linemates like Mike Rupp and Bobby Holik to help him get on the scoresheet? … Exactly.

Well, that about wraps it up. I hope that this helps you become adjusted to what you’re about to undertake. So, to summarize, understand your position under Lou, keep the offensive system, put together realistic lines, and play the kids properly when you have them, and you should be just fine. Unless of course Lou wakes up one day on the wrong side of the bed.

Best of luck,
The Jersey Devil

Monday, June 15, 2009

Top Five Potential Draft Selections

First thing’s first, congratulations to the Pittsburgh Penguins! Once the Devils were eliminated they became my adopted team from the East, and while my adopted team from the West, Chicago, did not make it to the finals, Pittsburgh both made it and won. I’m also happy for a pair of former Devils—Bill Guerin’s only other Stanley Cup came here in Jersey back in his rookie year of 1995, and while Sykora was part of the winning team of 2000, he had to watch the celebration from the hospital after being injured during game 6. But obviously there’s a big difference between skating around with the Cup yourself and watching Larry Robinson on TV with your jersey on representing you doing so.

So with the NHL season now officially complete, and since I already covered the NHL awards, it’s time to turn our attention to the draft. Predicting what the Devils will do in the draft is nearly impossible because Lou Lamoriello and draft day guru David Conte have made a habit of going off the board and doing something unexpected. It has become a trend for the Devils to trade down from their original spot, still get the player they wanted because no one else saw in them what the Devils did, and use the extra draft picks to their advantage. It’s the reason that, save for a rough patch between 1999 and 2002, the Devils have become notorious as one of the best drafting teams in the NHL. Based on the current progress of the players chosen in last year’s draft, it would seem the Devils have struck gold. Mattias Tedenby is a flashy player, Brandon Burlon is a great standup defenseman, and Patrice Cormier has really made a case for himself between the World Juniors and the Memorial Cup.

But let’s turn our attention to the 2009 draft coming up in Montreal, and more specifically who the Devils will take first. Providing the Devils do not trade down, though they always seem to, they will make their first pick at 23rd overall. So taking into consideration team needs, as well as who will already be gone by the time the Devils hit the podium, here are the top five players I think the Devils should choose if they have the chance.

(Scouting information supplied by The Hockey News’ Future Watch 2009.)

5. Kyle Palmieri – C / 5’10" / Montvale, NJ / US NTDP / ISS #21
Described as a good skater who works hard, Palmieri presents many factors which make him an attractive pick. He’s a Jersey kid, his brother Nick is already in the Devils’ system, and the Devils have historically groomed kids of his description into solid NHL players (see Gionta, Brian & Parise, Zach). The two-way forward is headed for Notre Dame this fall, and seems to fit every category the Devils have historically loved about young forwards.

4. Louis Leblanc – C / 6’0" / Kirkland, QC / Omaha (USHL) / ISS #16
Another two-way center, Leblanc has what most teams want in a young forward; the ability to put up a lot of points without lacking ability on the defensive side of the puck. In his first year in the USHL, Leblanc went about a point a game in a league where most players simply don’t do that, and was named the USHL rookie of the year. This combination of skills makes him a worthwhile pick on draft day.

3. Mikko Koskinen – G / 6’7" / Vantaa, FIN / Espoo (Fin.) / ISS N/R
The last goaltender drafted by the Devils was Jeff Frazee back in 2005, and while he is currently projected as starting goaltender of the future, the Devils are in serious need of a backup plan in case he doesn’t pan out as expected. Koskinen has a huge frame and solid numbers to his credit (17-7-9, 1.91 GAA, .931 SV% last year with Espoo), but his late bloomer status means teams will be hard pressed to take him seriously after slipping through the past three drafts unselected. He’s a high risk/high reward pick, but a risk worth taking if both of the top two players on this list are unavailable.

2. Landon Ferraro – R / 6’0" / Burnaby, BC / Red Deer (WHL) / ISS #18
About a month ago, Ferraro’s biggest asset to the Devils was his spot on Red Deer’s roster and the connection to Brent Sutter. But the son of Ray Ferraro needs no such connections with the level of skill he has. The Rebels sniper’s only blemish is his defensive game, but consider how bad a team Red Deer is, and how well New Jersey teaches defense, and suddenly that isn’t enough to hurt his case. He is strong in every other area of his game, and his skating, work ethic, and strong mental game will go a long way on a team suddenly intent on drafting for offense.

1. David Rundblad – D / 6’2" / Lycksele, SWE / Skelleftea (SWE) / ISS #31
Despite his ranking, Rundblad has everything the Devils could want in a first round draft pick. He’s a full-on offensive defenseman who has great puck skills, the ability to quarterback a powerplay, and the potential to end up a top-pair NHL defenseman one day. His defensive game is questionable, but again, if there’s one thing the Devils can teach, it’s defense, especially when Larry Robinson works with your young defensemen. The big question is, will he still be available when New Jersey goes on the clock? If he is, the Devils should pounce on him or forever regret not doing so. With all of the focus on Hedman, Rundblad is the kind of under-the-radar player the Devils love, but still has more than enough skill to qualify a first round pick with. If Rundblad is still on the board at pick #23, or wherever the Devils may trade down to, not selecting him would be downright foolish, and a wasted opportunity at building on the promise of the 2008 draft.