Inspired by the article posted a few days ago titled "Lack of 2000's Draft Success Means a Relatively Old New Jersey Devils Team", I decided to have some fun and look at the drafts dating back to 2003, the post Stanley Cup era, and see where the Devils went wrong (or right) and some of what could have been. Of course in hindsight it is easy to say, "why didn't the Devils pick this guy, he's an All-Star!" "Why did we get stuck with Nicklas Bergfors!" When you are drafting kids, yes kids, at the ages of 17 and 18, you never know who is going to develop into a super star (with the exception of top picks like Crosby, Stamkos, Toews, etc,) and who is going to become a bust. That is what is so exciting about the draft. So, starting from 2003, lets take a look at some notable successes and misfires the Devils had in the draft and what could have been.
2003: First Round: Can't complain about the first round. We landed our franchise player, Zach Parise. The first round of this draft was loaded with talent. My favorite part is that the Hated Rivals selected Hugh Jessiman (whoever that is), one pick before Dustin Brown, four picks before Parise, and ahead of other players like Getzlaf, Kesler, and Seabrook.
Second Round: Devils select Center Petr Vrana. Three picks later the Boston Bruins select center Patrice Bergeron. Same position, a few picks apart, I would guess Bergeron had to at least be an option if the Devils had their mind made up on drafting a center. I'd say this was a misfire.
2004: First Round: Devils again have a strong first round pick in Travis Zajac. Nothing to complain about here. Another side note. Those guys from New York swung and missed again, picking Al Montoya 6th overall.
Considering we didn't have another pick until the 5th round in this draft, there wasn't much to talk about. Devils hit on their first round pick for the second year in a row.
2005: First Round: This one hurts, especially after the Olympics. Devils selected Nicklas Bergfors 23rd overall. T.J. Oshie was selected 24th overall by the St. Louis Blues. At the time Bergfors was listed as a winger and Oshie a center so there is the argument that the Devils were set on drafting a winger and never looked at Oshie, but today Oshie is a first line winger on a top NHL team. Oh and by the way, the guy has 9 shootout goals in 12 attempts which by my calculations is about 8 trillion times better than what we have seen in our shootouts this year.
Second Round: We selected Goalie Jeff Frazee. Four picks later Ondrej Pavelic was selected. We could have had the better goalie but with Marty still enjoying his prime, I don't think any of us lost sleep over missing out on a back up goalie.
Rest of Draft: Devils selected 3 defenseman in this draft: Mark Fraser (3rd), Mark Fayne (5th), and Sean Zimmerman (6th). In round 4 the Coyotes drafted Keith Yandle. You can decide this one. We clearly wanted to land some defensive talent in this draft. Did the Coyotes get lucky with Yandle? Or should the Devils, planning on drafting defensemen, have had better scouting. It is hard for me to get upset over this one, 29 other teams missed him as well.
2006: First Round: Devils traded down from 25 to 30 in this draft with the St. Louis Blues. Blues drafted center Patrik Berglund with the Devils pick and we selected Matthew Corrente and Kirill Tulupov with the Blues picks. (Man, I am really starting to hope we stop associating ourselves with the Blues in the draft!) As far as the players we selected throughout the draft, none of them developed into NHL players but neither did many of the players selected around us in the draft. Aside from some strong first round picks, this was one of the worst drafts I have seen.
2007: Second Round: Devils had no first round pick in the 2007 draft. In the second round the Devils selected winger Mike Hoeffel. The next winger off the board was Wayne Simmonds, drafted by the L.A. Kings. This is another miss that hurts. Simmonds is a solid NHL player. Tough around the net and along the boards, but still carries a goal scorers touch. Sounds like the type of player the Devils are always looking for and we just missed (again) with Simmonds.
Rest of the Draft: Rags had the steal of the draft, snagging Carl Hagelin 8 picks before the Devils selected winger Vili Sopanen in the 6th round.
2008: First Round: A pick that often comes up when talking about Devils draft failures is this one, the selection of Mattias Tedenby 24th overall. A few names you may recognize that were selected after Tedenby include Tyler Ennis and New Jersey native, John Carlson. Tedenby still has some time to prove that he was worthy of the pick but I doubt he will be doing so in a Devils jersey.
Second Round: Devils had two picks in the second round, 52 and 54. Here are the four players that were selected between picks 51-54. Derek Stepan C (NYR), Brandon Burlon D (NJD) Travis Hamonic D (NYI) and Patrice Cormier C (NJD). Yikes! Yes, we did use Cormier to trade for "Mr. Retires at 30", but with a miss on Hamonic, and missing Stepan by one pick, this wasn't a bright spot for the Devils.
Third Round: This pick, for me at least, makes the 2008 draft acceptable for the Devils. With the 82nd pick in the draft Devils draft Adam Henrique. Not much to say here. Great find. Great pick. Great results. Enjoy this if you want:
Rest of the Draft: Devils missed out on some players like Gustav Nyqvist, selected 6 picks after us in the 4th round and Tommy Wingels, selected 4 picks after us in the 6th round. But again, these guys are all projects in these late rounds and only a few of them develop. Franchises don't get hurt by missing in late rounds. It can only help them.
2009: First Round: We are now entering the territory where it is almost too soon to be judging these players, so 2009 will be the last draft that I cover in depth. In the first round, the Devils chose Jacob Jossefson. The jury is still out on Jacob, and from what I can see the organization, fans, and even players (particularly Jagr) see that JJ has the talent but it hasn't been shown consistently. I personally like Jossefson and think that if he gets a full NHL season to prove himself with some veteran help around him (which we have plenty of) he can develop into a solid NHL player. Kreider was the pick before JJ and Marcus Johanssen and Kyle Palmieri are the only other forwards picked after JJ who stick out to me as players who might have worked out better. But I am not giving up on him and I hope the Devils don't either.
Also from this draft we have Eric Gelinas and Alex Urbom. Again, it's early to label Gelinas as a great pick but he has stepped up and played a role in this years Devils team and I honestly wouldn't be surprised if this draft class produced some solid players for our future.
2010-2013: It is too early in these players careers to judge whether or not they were worth the draft choice. The Devils main prospects from these drafts include Adam Larsson, Jon Merrill, Scott Wedgewood, Reid Boucher, and Stefan Matteau. And just for fun, some names the Devils passed up on in these drafts: Ryan Strome, Dougie Hamilton, Sean Couturier, Radko Gudas and John Gaudreau (NJ native).
In the end, this post was made for fun and to look back and see where the Devils went right and wrong, what they could have done, who could be on the team today, etc. In reality, it is impossible to judge these teams for missing out on certain players. You never know how they would have developed differently in a certain organization or how one pick in 2005 would have changed a teams picks for the future. In the draft you simply never know. Missing on consecutive first round picks can be detrimental to a franchise and since 2005 the Devils have not had a sure fire, first round star picked. From my standpoint, missing on the first round picks is unacceptable. However, we can't expect to find guys like Henrique in every draft either. It is rare to find players like Henrique, Yandle, and Hagelin late in the draft, so be happy we at least found one and maybe another coming with Boucher. Keep in mind the Devils did trade first round picks for Kovalchuk and Schnieder, along with signing undrafted players like Andy Greene and David Clarkson, so we have found ways to make up for our first round misses. However, right now the team is a victim of the 2005-2009 drafts.Only having one player, a 3rd round pick, as a main stay on our roster while a majority of the players in these drafts are becoming more and more dominate in the NHL each year is hurting the Devils.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article. Leave any comments you have about the Devils drafts below.