ILWT Audition 2014: So...Who Do We Pick? A Look at Expert Draft Predictions for the New Jersey Devils

In 2014, the NHL Draft will be in Philly (and I guess Tampa Bay will be picking someone). Writer H has thoughts on what the NHL.com mock drafts have for the Devils in the first round. - Mike Stobe

The ILWT Audition process continues with Writer H thethinglonger. With the 2014 NHL Entry Draft coming up in little over a month from now, Writer H has a take on who the three NHL.com mock drafters chose for New Jersey at 30th overall.

At the end of April, I put out another call looking for new writers for In Lou We Trust to write about the New Jersey Devils. I've opened up the audition to the community at large in order to get some new perspectives and additional voices on the front page with regularity. Since then, I've received eighteen entries that met the submission criteria. Regardless of how they're received, I thank the writers of each and every one of them - you know who you are - for stepping up and submitting an entry.

(One more instruction for those who made submissions and received letters, by the way.  Please do not comment on your submission or any of the other audition posts. This will help allow others to freely judge the work and show that you can handle online reactions.  No drama is the best drama.)

Throughout the this week, I will post each one under an anonymous name so you can discuss and critique the post without regard to who actually wrote it. I can ensure you that I did not change any of the content outside of formatting it in to the SBN platform.  To that end, please note that I don't necessarily agree with what the posts actually say. I'm just letting them stand on their own. Please be constructive in any criticism and do offer your thoughts about whether you liked (or disliked) the post in addition to discussing it's content. Don't be mean, but be fair.

Now, I assigned a letter to each writer based on when I received it.  However, I decided to mix up the letters in terms of order of posting.  So this process continues with the submission of Writer H thethinglonger, who has opinions on who the three writers responsible for the mock drafts at NHL.com selected for New Jersey at thirtieth overall at the time of submission (first week of May).

***

June 27th, draft day, is a little more than a month away and is the most important thing for Devils fans to look forward to since not qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season. This year's first round pick will be especially interesting considering that, as of the beginning of the season, it didn't exist. However, with the league-penalty reduced, the Devils were awarded the 30th overall pick in the 2014 NHL entry draft. There are several mock drafts out there, but I decided to err on the side of consistency for this and look at 3 predictions by NHL.com "draft experts", Mike G. Morreale, Adam Kimelman, and Steven Hoffner.

Mike G. Morreale, NHL.com staff writer, predicts the Devils will select Nick Schmaltz, the 18 year old right-shooting Center from the USHL team, the Green Bay Gamblers. He is 6'0", 172 pounds, and committed to play for the University of North Dakota next year. Elite Prospects says that Schmaltz is "an attractive package," with "good vision, good quickness and a strong ability to read the play in the offensive end." Schmaltz has the potential to be a Top 6 Center with his raw offensive talent, ability to create space and make plays. He's an elusive skater with great acceleration, as well as phenomenal hands. While Schmaltz has very limited USNDP experience (which is a higher level of the USHL) he does have significant international experience, representing the United States for the U18 and U19 teams. This year, at the Hlinka Memorial tournament, he had 5 goals and 3 assists for 8 points in 5 games. His older brother, Jordan, was drafted 25th overall by the St. Louis Blues in 2012. Jordan will be a sophomore at the University of North Dakota next year, where he and Nick will play together. Schmaltz's development needs to include fine-tuning his offensive talent as well as addressing his inconsistent defensive play, which is a big part of the Devils' system. In his most recent USHL season, Schmaltz had 63 points in 55 games played.

My thoughts on Schmaltz: I don't think Schmaltz would fit into our current system- as he gets pushed around off the puck, and is a little undersized. He needs to add more muscle to his frame and work on his play along the boards. That doesn't mean that he won't be beneficial to the team, though. He reminds me a lot of Damien Brunner, with his elusiveness and offensive capabilities Like Brunner, while he does not really fit well into the down-low puck cycle play, he could still have a positive impact on the offense. If we draft Schmaltz, we won't see him in Albany (or NJ for that matter) for at least 2 years. Lou likes to give his college guys time to develop their game and mature as people, so Schmaltz will not have an immediate impact on the team until he is older. The other two draft experts predicted Schmaltz to go in the mid-20's selections, possibly to Chicago, as his style of play would fit in there. Overall, Schmaltz has outstanding offensive promise, but needs to work on his build, defensive responsibility, and puck play along the boards if he wants to fit in well with DeBoer's system.
Video from the U18 Tournament: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lc8dLd6VLww
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UE0Oh14thDo
(He's number 18)

Adam Kimelman, deputy managing editor of NHL.com, predicts the Devils will select Conner Bleackley, the 18 year old right-shooting Center from the WHL Red Deer Rebels. He's 6'1", 196 pounds, and already the team's captain in just his second year on the team. Bleackley is incredibly mature for his age, and will bring that maturity, leadership, and his team-first mentality to the Devils locker room, where he would fit right in. He models his 200-foot play after David Krejci, and has a good emphasis on cycling systems. He has good physical size, and plays a gritty game with a wicked wrist shot and a great set of hands. His play mainly involves driving hard to the net and working opponents out of position. Elite Prospects decribes Bleackley as "a nice blend of size, skill and speed...strong and balanced on his skates, uses his size to his advantage and has a very good shot with his quick release..." He does not have much international experience, just playing this year for the U18 team representing Canada. In just his second year playing for the WHL Red Deer Rebels, Bleackley scored 29 goals and 39 assists (68 points) in 71 games. If he can improve his scoring touch through development, he has the potential to be a Top-6 Center. However, if no significant improvements to scoring are made, then he will fit right in as a Bottom-6 Center.

My thoughts on Bleackley: Bleackley would be a phenomenal fit in the Devils cycling and puck possession system. He brings with him an outstanding work ethic and good character to the locker room. He has an above-average top skating speed (which is all he needs to work well in NJ) and his ability to find lanes through physical play will be much welcomed. Overall, he's a very complete draft pick, with his offensive prowess, defensive zone responsibility, and other intangibles like off-ice character and the potential to be a real leader in the locker room. As with any draft pick, one can never be sure as to whether their scoring talent will carry over into a higher league. If Bleackley is drafted, expect to see him spend one more year in the WHL before coming over to Albany, and possibly even NJ. He reminds me a lot of Dainius Zubrus with his emphasis on scoring, but not being afraid to play physical to do whatever needs to be done. Bleackley could also be a long-term replacement for David Clarkson, in the sense of scoring and excelling through a physical, cycling system. Additionally, depending on how Stefan Matteau develops, I could see those two dominating on a line together in the future.
Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oRBhbCARSy8&list=PLLZp67wU6LdgCpfphMoCEd0pa6DPJ2N2o (I'm not too big on highlight reels, but some of these are quite good)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6nuNJGqBTx4&list=PLLZp67wU6LdgCpfphMoCEd0pa6DPJ2N2o (Because who doesn't like fancy goals?

Steven Hoffner, producer for the NHL, predicts the Devils to select Anton Karlsson, the 18 year old left-shooting winger from Sweden. He's 6'2", 194 pounds, and has been praised for his physicality in forechecking and playmaking ability. He certainly has the potential to be a Top-6 playmaking winger, and would work well with our system, as he does well on the forecheck and penalty-kill. Elite Prospects describes Karlsson as "a strong forward that is tough to handle at full speed...good complete level, solid checking ability, and the smarts to play both ends effectively...strong playmaker given his vision, timing, and soft hands, but can finish, too..." He has also been reported to have a good one-timer, and is versatile, in the sense that he can fulfill any role as a winger on any line. Karlsson describes his game as driving to the net to set up teammates, and by bringing energy to his team. Karlsson does have a phenomenal amount of international experience, representing Sweden in U16, U17, U18, and U20 tournaments. He also brings leadership with him, being the captain of two U17 teams for Sweden as well as being the captain for Team Sweden at the 2013 International Junior Championship and 2013 Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournaments. He has exceptional skill on the breakaway, and can keep his ability to score or make plays while at high speeds. While the Devils focus on a puck possession game, rather than focus on transitional offense, we have always been an opportunistic offense, where Karlsson would fit in well.

My thoughts on Karlsson: I think Karlsson is a very well-rounded prospect. He is vicious on the forecheck, which would come as a tremendous asset for the Devils. He is also very mature. One thing I noticed while looking at his career statistics is that he has not played more the 28 games for a team in a season. Last season, he played a total of 70 games with Frolunda J18, Mora (SHL minor league teams), and the various international tournament teams. I would love to see what he can do when playing 50 games+ for one team and system as I would assume that this adds to his versatile ability in any role. Last season, with Frolunda J20, he scored 22 points in 28 games, so he could pan out to be quite beneficial. My biggest question with Karlsson, though, is whether or not he is too much of a "crash and bang" style player for our system. But it can't hurt, right? The player on the Devils he reminds me most of is Ryan Clowe, a hard and physical player that focuses on getting opposing players off of their game, but has some scoring touch to him. If Karlsson is drafted, he will probably spend one more year in Sweden before coming over and trying to make the Albany roster.   Videos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g6Jk89lfhvM (he's #77, playing physically on the forecheck, and draws a penalty)  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8trdjv-HckM (a nice wrist shot on a shootout attempt)

All 3 players would be positive additions to the team in their own ways, and they each bring their own talents to the table. The team could potentially go in 3 different directions based upon who we end up drafting. It is not certain whether or not these players will be available by the time it gets to the 30th overall pick, but there is a good chance we will end up with one of these players. Then again, Lou is Lou, and he has a very specific way of getting things done, and who he wants in the locker room. There could always be a draft pick out of left-field, or out of the OHL.

Sources:
Some Youtube clips of gameplay
www.EliteProspects.com
www.Hockeysfuture.com
www.mynhldraft.com 
www.hockeydb.com

***

Now that you read Writer H thethinglonger's post, I want to know what you think about it.  What do you think of the subject matter? What did you think about how Writer H thethinglonger wrote this post? Based on how it was written and what was it about, is this the kind of post you would want to see regularly at In Lou We Trust? Please leave your answers and other comments about this post in the comments. Thanks go to Writer H thethinglonger for the submission and thank you for reading.

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