The New Jersey Devils finished the NHL regular season with a record of 38-39-5. This was the 23rd best record in the league for the 2010-11 season, which originally placed them at 8th overall for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. As with all non-playoff teams, they were involved in a lottery to determine the first overall pick.
The winner of the lottery can only move up a maximum 4 spots in the first round; so only the bottom 5 teams in the league would be in contention for the first overall pick. The Devils had a 3.6% chance of winning the lottery; wherein they would move up to 4th overall. However, with the odds so low, few were expecting it to happen.
Well, 3.6% is greater than 0% and the highly improbable happened. The New Jersey Devils won the lottery and will pick fourth overall in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. It's the highest draft pick the Devils will have since
1992 1991, when they selected some kid named Scott Niedermayer. Winning the lottery is excellent news, and not just because the Devils won something that many would reasonably not expect to happen.
Picking at #4 in this draft is far more advantageous than #8 in general. But for this year, the fourth pick could yield an excellent prospect. TSN's show hyped their top three ranked players: center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, defenseman Adam Larsson, and winger Gabriel Landeskog. Those three have been highly touted all year round; though Tom thinks Landeskog should be 4th overall. (I certainly wouldn't mind!) Behind them is where it gets interesting. Just look at the North American skater rankings from CSS for a taste. Center Jonathan Huberdeau has been on a scoring rampage for St. John's in the Q this season, he moved up in the rankings. Center Ryan Strome has been getting some buzz with his shiftiness and his production with Niagara of the OHL. For defenseman Dougie Hamilton is big, moves the puck well, and plays in his own end with confidence. I'm sure Tom will have plenty to gush over all of these possibilities. For a breakdown in scoring numbers within the Canadian major junior leagues, check out this post by SumOil at Copper & Blue.
Then there's my early favorite: Sean Couturier. Originally touted as the #1 pick but he's slipped a bit for reasons unbeknown to me. He's got a big frame, he's got a scorer's touch, he moves real well, and he was the only undrafted player on a the usually-loaded Canadian WJC team in 2010. Derek Zona at Copper & Blue made a convincing case as to why the Oilers should pick him first overall (and why the criticism of him is lame) Now, the Devils have a legit shot at getting him.
So, no, the 2011 NHL Entry Draft doesn't have a once-in-a-generation talent at the top. But unless they do something dumb like trade the pick, the Devils will be able to obtain their most talented prospect in a long while. One final note to the Devils organization: whoever it is, don't play him right away - recent 4th overall picks have an average cap hit of about $2.39 million. Rushing prospects usually don't go too well and it's expensive, too. All the same, I'm really thrilled that the Devils get to pick fourth overall. (P.S. Tom Gulitti says Lou will not give this first rounder up as part of the Kovalchuk penalty, news which should surprise no one.)
Anyway, let the discussion commence! Couturier? Landeskog? Hamilton? Huberdeau? Strome? Who do you want?