Riding home on the train after the draft, I had the good fortune to talk with Karen, who wrote several of the rather popular 2013 NHL Draft Prospect Profiles, about what the New Jersey Devils did at the 2013 NHL Draft. She told me that she was fine with it. I think the exact words were, "I feel content about the draft." Not thrilled. Not super-excited. Not disappointed. Not sad. Not mad. But satisfied with what the Devils did.
The New Jersey Devils had two months with a top-ten pick in the first round and when it came to use it, they chose to get a goaltender. There was all sort of speculation and rumor that the Devils would take a goalie at #9. When I heard it, I would adamantly tell whoever told me or wrote me about it that drafting a goalie in the first round would be a stupid idea. Because it usually is. When Gary Bettman came to the podium, he silenced the requisite and lusty boos from the crowd with "I have a trade to announce - and you're going to want to hear this." The Devils traded the ninth overall pick straight up to the Vancouver Canucks for Cory Schneider. The scuttlebutt turned out to be essentially right. The Devils did get a goaltender. An actual, proven, I-played-in-the-NHL-and-was-successful goaltender instead of an 18-year old kid.
The crowd was more surprised than upset. I was shocked, especially since I demanded the Devils to take Valeri Nichushkin, who fell all the way to #9. The Devils needed offensive forwards in the prospect pool and this was the place to take one. Plus, the cheapest way to get offensive talent is through the draft and with a high pick, you're more likely to get someone rather good than someone with risk. But after a few moments of thought and the Canucks taking Bo Horvat, the trade grew on me. More than just accepting it, I began to like it more and more. Schneider did play very well in a sticky situation in Vancouver. The Devils' goalies were not only old but not all that solid in save percentage; though the PK really undercut both last season. Both Devils goalies are in the final years of their current contracts, whereas Schneider is signed through 2015. The eventual need of a goaltender was coming and the Devils answered it with someone relatively young, someone who's proven, and someone that everyone already knows isn't Martin Brodeur. They got their "bridge" guy, so to speak, all for the cost of just a ninth overall pick. There will always be a sentiment, "The Devils could have drafted X, but they didn't," whenever X becomes a great player. But that sentiment applies if the Devils did draft someone instead of moving #9 - even if it was Nichushkin.
You can get the sense of growing agreement as I quickly wrote yesterday's post and based on most of the comments here and on Twitter, plenty of Devils fans liked the trade. I liked the other trade they made early on in the draft. They moved their second round pick at 39th overall to Phoenix for their 42nd overall pick and 73rd overall pick. The Devils moved down a few spots and picked up a third they didn't have at the start of the day. That was shrewd. The Devils used their 42nd pick to select defenseman Steve Santini, which I didn't like at first. It was very much a Best Player Available selection in my opinion. I felt the Devils really needed to take a forward then and there were plenty of offensive talent available, such as Artturi Lehkonen. Nevertheless, Santini truly does have some desirable tools, he did very well on the international stage against several top drafted players this year at the World U-18s, and since he's going to Boston College, the Devils can be very patient with the big and mobile defensive defenseman. When he's ready regardless of whether he's a dude, the Devils may not be absolutely loaded with defenders in the system. Then, I'll probably appreciate the selection a lot more than I initially did.
The Devils used their third rounder to get their first forward of the day with Kingston center Ryan Kujawinski. I didn't know much about him initially, but what I did find out was hopeful. He just had a really off season in Kingston after a good 2011-12 run. I get the sense he's going to be a boom or a bust since the knock on him is consistency. I'd love it if the OHL actually kept counts of shots on net for players so I can see whether he had awful puck luck to go with his other struggles last season. Still, the Devils took a chance in the third round on a forward. The Devils continued to go forward with the fourth and sixth round selections at 100th and 160th overall, respectively. At 100th overall, New Jersey went for distance by taking Miles Wood out of the Noble & Greenough prep school. He's one of the youngest drafted prospects in this year's draft and he will go to Brown University in the future. At 160th overall, New Jersey took a flyer on overage Kelowna forward Myles Bell. Bell converted from defenseman to left wing in 2012-13 and became the sixth leading scorer in the WHL. Wood has some time before he goes to college, whereas Bell will go to one of the minor pro teams in the fall.
Just as I was about to leave, one more trade was announced at the 208th overall pick. The Los Angeles Kings, who were lustily booed during roll call by the fans, gave that pick to New Jersey in exchange for their seventh rounder in 2015. The fans didn't boo that and became excited. When it was announced that Martin Brodeur would make the pick at the table (all picks from the second round on came from the floor), everyone knew who it would be. And so it was: Anthony Brodeur, Martin's son, was drafted by the New Jersey Devils in the seventh round. It was dreamed up by many a fan throughout the past year, something I just discounted because I didn't think much of his prospects. But I would be lying if I didn't say it was a sentimental moment. The fans loved it and surely, Martin and Anthony have a memory for a lifetime. How often does a parent get to name their kid to play for the team he's played his whole life for? It's rare.
I never would have guessed that the Devils' 2013 NHL Draft would have began with a goaltender and ended with a goaltender. Their results for the day were Schneider, Santini, Kujawinski, Wood, Bell, and Brodeur. I agree with Karen. I think this was a fine result. I would have preferred other players in the second and third round, but I think I'll grow to like Santini and Kujawinski may get it together. Wood, Bell, and Brodeur are long shots and anything from them will be appreciated. Bell will be the first of the three to get a chance at it since he is 20, so we'll see where he ends up this fall. The Devils did add some forwards and did address the looming goaltending issue on June 30. That said, their biggest need in the system and in the NHL team are offensive forwards and the Devils didn't fully address that need. For New Jersey, they'll have to go into free agency or make a deal or two to bolster the offense. With respect to prospects, they need to hope a couple of guys "break out" and continue to reload in future seasons. The Devils had a lot of defensemen in the system before adding Santini; it's not unreasonable to think they'll flip a one or two of them for a forward. But who really knows with the Devils and trades? Nobody predicted the Schneider acquisition by a long shot.
If all of that activity wasn't enough, Lou held a media session revealing quite a bit in his own way regarding the Schneider acquisition and the plan going forward. He did mention that the team would "push forward" and it's already happening. Today, Tom Gulitti confirmed at Fire & Ice that Dainius Zubrus will re-sign for 3 years at $3.1 million per year and reported that both Patrik Elias and Peter Harrold are close to re-signing. Free agency frenzy will begin in earnest on July 5 so there's little rest for the reporters this week.
I would like to highlight that I was at this draft with an actual NHL media credential. I have to thank Travis Hughes and SBNation for officially getting me into the event. I spent the majority of the day in the Rock's press box, which is very high up and accessible by two elevators. But I did get a great overall view of the whole draft floor, it was much more ventilated than Media Workroom B, and the company was far friendlier. I have to thank Joe Fortunato of Blueshirt Banter and Brian Marshall of Puck Buddys for the latter as they got to endure me for hours at the Draft. Of course, those down low were there to do work whereas I was really taking it all in. It was a tiring day (and the first round still took three hours!) so I do regret that I didn't do more in terms of rushing downstairs to get interviews (I didn't know Kujawinski was here, I only got to Santini late) or introduce myself to the many media people there (they were rather busy so I kept away - that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it). I did at least get to thank Corey Pronman in person for his amazing coverage of prospects. Were I to get another chance to go to a draft as a media member, I will take the many lessons learned yesterday and apply them. Or at least chat up more people.
I would also like to thank the wonderful staff at the Rock for continuing to provide food and refreshments, guiding lost people like myself to where I needed to go (I can now say I've been behind all of the scenes at the Rock), and controlling the elevators with a smile on their respective faces for hours on end. Lastly, I want to thank the fans. To use a wrestling term, it was a hot crowd at the Rock. They booed the Kings, Wild, Rangers, and Flyers out of the building during the draft roll call at 2:30. The boos returned anytime the Rangers, Flyers, or Gary Bettman was up. They were ecstatic anytime the Devils were up for a pick. They even cheered the welcoming address by Jeff Vanderbeek, which makes me surprised Josh Kosman didn't pull out another "exclusive" this morning since something positive happened to Vanderbeek. They weren't outright upset - some were, but it was more shock than unhappiness - with the first round. They applauded all of the Devils picks and prior to each, a big "Let's Go Devils" chant erupted. Even after many people left this all happened. Those who were there were vocal, be they Devils fans, visiting fans of other teams, or families of draft picks who just got picked, and it made the experience that much more worth it.
Lastly, I want to thank the fans who came to In Lou We Trust, whether you commented on our massive open thread, had a thought about either of the picks, or just checked out the site for a bit. I don't know how much of you care about traffic numbers, but SiteMeter had 20,731 visits and 32,156 page views for June 30. I don't think it was ever that high during the Stanley Cup run last year, Parise's Day of Minnesota Dependence, or any other prior day in the history of ILWT. That speaks a lot to the great work Karen, Mike, and Matt did with the draft profiles and I thank them for their hard work, since those profiles got out there. It also speaks a lot to how many of you there are. Just like Martin Brodeur making the NHL 14 cover, this is further proof of how large and passionate the Devils fanbase truly is among the even larger and just-as-passionate hockey fanbase. It helps keep driving me and the other writers to do what we do.
What's next? Well, I'm going to be recording a special Talking Red tonight with David Sarch so you all will have that look to forward to. More importantly than that, free agency is now the primary subject and the Devils still need to look for forwards. But let's keep things to the draft for one more post. Let me know what your initial impressions are of what the Devils did at the 2013 NHL Draft. What did you like from the Devils? What didn't you like from the Devils? Are you satified with what the Devils did? Are you really happy or really unhappy? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about the draft and what went on in the comments. I write it frequently, but I'm always sincere in typing it: thank you for reading.