The 2010 Draft by the New Jersey Devils: A Premature Review

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 26: Jonathon Merrill, drafted in the second round by the New Jersey Devils, poses for a portrait during day two of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft at Staples Center on June 26, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Reviewing how a team did at the NHL Entry Draft just after it happened is desirable yet ultimately daft.  All of the prospects are 18 or will turn 18, very few of them will even go straight into the NHL, and nearly all of them have some sort of potential to develop towards.  At the same time, based on what a team picks, we can answer whether they addressed the needs in their system and whether a team's fanbase has anyone to look forward to.

Going to the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, the New Jersey Devils had 5 picks and did not make any moves to move up or move down.    Jared Ramsden's preview at Hockey's Future had noted that the Devils' main weakness in the organization was a lack of top-end talent after Mattias Tedenby and Jacob Josefson.   I can't disagree with assessment.  He also notes the severe lack of goaltending prospects in the system.  In my own draft preview, all I wanted was for the Devils to select someone who had a reasonable shot of making it into the NHL with the 38th overall pick and that player wasn't a goalie.  Goaltenders are generally so much more risky as a prospect and the Devils have had terrible lack of success drafting them. If a goalie should be drafted, they should be drafted late.

It appears that both needs were met despite the lack of picks New Jersey had in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.  Please continue after the jump for an overview of the New Jersey Devils picks at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.

The New Jersey Devils Picks in 2010 NHL Entry Draft

38th Overall - 2nd Round - Jonathon Merril, D, USNTDP

If there's any reason to feel good about the 2010 NHL Entry Draft as a Devils fan, it's that Jon Merrill fell all the way down to the New Jersey Devils at 38th overall.  I've come up with a quick profile on Merrill in the above link, and just reading it should give you a full understanding of who he is and what he may become. He's big, he's strong, he's very smart on the ice, he's very skilled with the puck, and he could get better.  He'll be going to Michigan next year and ultimately it'll be there where we can see what kind of defenseman Merrill will turn out be for the pro game.   According to Lou, from this Rich Chere post, Merrill could turn out to be an offensive defenseman.

I fully agree with the outside observers that he should have gone in the first round.  This pick was a no-brainer at 38th overall and I'm glad the Devils did it.  Therefore, I will say that this was the best pick of the Devils 2010 NHL Entry Draft.  Which is appropriate since it was their earliest one.  From here on out, the Devils started reaching.

84th Overall - 3rd Round - Scott Wedgewood, G, Plymouth (OHL)

Admittedly, by the time the draft gets to the 84th overall pick, a lot of the prospects available are reaches in some way or form.  Players with noticeable flaws to go with what makes them desirable as prospects.  That all said, I'm still struggling with this selection.  I am aware that the Devils scouted him quite a bit, and he was playing behind OHL workhouse Matt Hackett.   Yes, the Devils' system lacked goaltending prospects and this pick addresses that gap.  

Still, based on what we know now of prospects, I wonder why the Devils felt Wedgewood was more valuable to take in the third round over Stanislav Galiev, Tom Khunehackl, Bill Arnold and Ivan Telegin, for example?  Couldn't they have had him later? Or a different goaltender entirely, like Zach Zane Gothberg? I will say that Wedgewood could have a higher upside than expected as he won't turn 18 until mid-August.   Once he gets a full season of work in the OHL, it'll be clearer as to whether the Devils did a good job with this pick.  Yet, I can't help that he's the biggest reach by the Devils at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.   Hopefully, Wedgewood develops and proves me to be a fool.

114th Overall - 4th Round - Joe Faust, D, Bloomington Jefferson HS (USHS)

In the fourth round and onward, the picks aren't going to be as immediately exciting.  Faust comes out of a Minnesota high school, and as with all high school players, how he will do at the college level will largely determine whether he has proper talent or just was better than his high school peers.   According to this short interview Tom Gulitti had with Lou, Faust plans to go to college that's closer to Minnesota instead of Princeton.   While I'm not versed in college hockey, my understanding is that the WCHA is a stronger conference than the ECAC.  Moving there may not be such a bad thing for his development, but he will have to step it up either way.  If he does, then the Devils look better for taking him.  If not, well, it's a late pick in the fourth round, not exactly a large loss.

174th Overall - 6th Round - Maxime Clermont, G, Gatineau (QMJHL)

The selection of Clermont along with Wedgewood certainly adds to the Devils' goaltending depth in the system.  I think this was a smart pick because drafting goaltenders is often a shot-in-the-dark and by the sixth round, pretty much every selection is just that.  Plus, Clermont was the starter in Gatineau and was invited to the CHL Top Prospects game, he's not "just a guy."  He is just a butterfly goaltender, though, and he may need to work on his technical skills further to have a shot further; but I like this pick in the sixth round.   In conjunction with Wedgewood, well, I wonder if the Devils just decided to shore up a positional need in the system with so few picks in this draft.   The scouts liked both goaltenders per Lou i this post by Gulitti, at least, so hopefully both go on to meet their potential.

204th Overall - 7th Round - Mauro Jorg, RW, HC Lugano (Swiss)

The last pick of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft for the Devils was to get a little older. Jorg is actually 20 years old and has risen up the ranks at HC Lugano to play for their first team.  He even featured for the Swiss U-20 team at the 2010 World Junior Championships.   I admittedly know very little about the Swiss league, so I don't know how Jorg is factored in Lugano.  The only question I have is whether he's willing to come over to North America, learn the style of game on the smaller rink, and see if he can make a mark in the minor pro game.  Again, with a late pick, risks are taken; if Jorg can come over and show that he's got talent worth keeping an eye on, then the Devils will look good.

Overall

With only 5 picks, even getting one prospect where you can be excited for their future has to be seen as a success. Jon Merrill has to be seen as that prospect.  That's a reason to smile about the 2010 NHL Draft if you're a Devils fan.

Elsewhere, the Devils took some risks, and the only one that sticks out to me is the third round pick of Wedgewood. The others are defensible, though if Wedgewood gets more minutes and plays well, then that pick will be defensible.   Still, if you were concerned about the fact that the Devils have only one goalie prospect, then this draft answers said concerns with Wedgewood and Clermont.  Perhaps you wouldn't mind the third round pick of Wedgewood in that case?

Again, I'm aware that it's foolish and premature to grade a draft by a team right after it happens, as the players may not be in professional hockey at any level for 3-6 years. Who knows who develops to what is expected of them? Who knows who surpasses expectations and who doesn't come close to meeting them?  I will say that considering what we know now, the Devils may see one player out of this group (Merrill) and any more should be seen as fantastic.  Therefore, I can't complain too much about their selections right now.   I think they did very well with their 38th overall pick, and the selection of two goalie prospects at least addresses a positional need in the system, if nothing else.

That's my take on the Devils' picks 2010 NHL Entry Draft.  What do you think? Did you like the Devils picks? Did you want to see someone else taken in one of the rounds?  Do you have further information on any of these picks? Please leave all your answers and thoughts in the comments. Thanks for reading.

UPDATE: Commenter DetAvs, who isn't even a Devils fan, saw plenty of Wedgewood, Clermont, and Merill and felt the Devils did very well in picking all three.  This is his/her entire comment from the Wedgewood thread, posted here without commentary.  Take it as you will.

As someone who saw nearly every game Wedgewood played this season, I think I can offer a bit of insight here. Wedgewood didn’t really earn playing time in the playoffs, it just so happened that Matt Hackett flipped out a couple times and got ejected from games, and was suspended for Game 4 of the Whalers-Spits series. Hackett was widely regarded as the best goalie in the OHL (even Spits fans acknowledge this), which made Wedgewood’s starts few and far between. When he did play, he was every bit as good as (and often better than) Hackett. And then there was that Game 4 against Windsor, where he took the Whalers on his back and carried them to overtime, making 70 saves and putting up the best goaltending performance I had ever seen at any level of hockey. The degree to which the Whalers were outmatched by the Spits would be difficult to overstate, and he got the Whalers within a post of winning that game.

The Whalers drafted the #1 goalie prospect in the 2009 OHL Draft, Matt Mahalak, brother of current Whaler RJ Mahalak, thinking that having his brother on the team would help get him signed. Mahalak is an American who planned on going the NCAA route, but the Whalers were able to get him signed for this upcoming season.

That said, Wedgewood is definitely going to be the #1 this season, barring injury.

Wedgewood’s performance against Windsor was so incredible that the crowd of Spitfire fans (the Whalers’ arena holds about 4,000 people, and the sellout crowd had right around 3,000 Spitfire fans, so their presence was unavoidable) gave him a standing ovation. Spitfire fans make Flyer fans look like the epitome of class, so for them to give Wedgewood a standing ovation was nearly as remarkable as Wedgewood’s performance itself.

Wedgewood is a great locker room guy, works his tail off, and accepted a backup role for two seasons without making a fuss. The ultimate team guy.

Having personally seen most of the North American draft-eligible goalie prospects this past season, the only one I would have taken ahead of Wedgewood is Jack Campbell. My Avs drafted Calvin Pickard, and I’d much rather they spend that pick on someone else and take Wedgewood in the 3rd…before you guys, obviously.

Interestingly enough, having seen Clermont several times, I had him as the #3 best goalie prospect in the draft, and in a mock draft on another forum, I took Wedgewood in the 2nd round and Clermont in the 5th.

Finally, with the NTDP in my back yard, I attended quite a few of their games this past season, and I can tell you that you’re going to absolutely LOVE both Merrill and Johns. Merrill is a two-way guy in the Niedermayer mold, while Johns…well…I saw him lay the most devastating clean hit that I saw anyone lay the whole season. Knocked both of them out cold. Johns woke up and gimped off the ice, and returned later that same game. The kid is tough as nails, plays with a huge mean streak, and still has plenty of potential left. He’s going to make the CCHA miserable for everyone Notre Dame plays (especially if Tinordi ends up reporting there as well).

Incredible draft for you guys.

 

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