THANK YOU, HOCKEY GODS! THE NEW JERSEY DEVILS (YES, THE NEW JERSEY DEVILS) WIN THE DRAFT LOTTERY AND GET TO PICK FIRST OVERALL IN THE 2017 ENTRY-LEVEL DRAFT IN JUNE. CAN YOU HEAR ME YELLING?
Okay, so now that that’s out of the way… alright, I’m still crying, give me a moment.
For the first time in team history (and only the second time in franchise history when the Colorado Rockies selected defenseman Rob Ramage), the Devils get to pick first overall in this year’s entry-level draft. Their last highest pick was back in 2011, when they selected defenseman Adam Larsson fourth overall. The 2017 NHL Entry-Level Draft will take place at the United Center in Chicago on June 23-24 and I plan on somehow being there.
And the Devils are officially on the clock. The debate over who goes first overall this year has been highly contested and will come down to the very end and what the team wants. Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier will go 1 and 2, not necessarily in that order, and anyone after that could be picked whenever.
Here are how the Top 15 draft picks panned out:
1) New Jersey Devils
2) Philadelphia Flyers
3) Dallas Stars
4) Colorado Avalanche
5) Vancouver Canucks
6) Vegas Golden Knights
7) Arizona Coyotes
8) Buffalo Sabres
9) Detroit Red Wings
10) Florida Panthers
11) Los Angeles Kings
12) Carolina Hurricanes
13) Winnipeg Jets
14) Tampa Bay Lightning
15) New York Islanders
The Devils had just an 8.5% chance of picking first overall and I didn’t expect them to choose Top 3, let alone pick first. I was expecting Top 5 or even 6th but not 1st. My heart stopped when they announced that New Jersey had jumped to the Top 3 and I don’t think I could breathe until they announced that the Devils won the lottery. I still don’t think I’m breathing, to be quite honest.
No matter who the Devils decide to pick (I have a slight preference of one over the other), they’ll get an incredibly talented young hockey player. The draft might be “weaker” than other years because there’s no generational talent but there are still plenty of good prospects and whoever the Devils pick will help the team go a long way. And because the Flyers pick second, we’ll get to see both Patrick and Hischier face off in the Battle of the Turnpike.
We’ll have plenty of time to discuss who the Devils should choose and debate the pros and cons of both players, but for now, we should enjoy the moment. This doesn’t happen that often (unless you’re the Edmonton Oilers, of course). New Jersey will have plenty to celebrate in the upcoming years with whoever they decide to pick.
And whoever they choose will help in the rebuilding process. The Devils are closer to playoff contention now than they were before the draft lottery. And who knows? Maybe they’ll sign Kevin Shattenkirk or another puck-moving defenseman in the offseason, and maybe they’ll sign Ilya Kovalchuk, and maybe a few of their talented young prospects will make the opening roster next season. This team is a hell of a lot closer to where they want to be and where fans think they can be.
Buckle up and settle in, everyone. It’s going to be a fun summer.