With the 2017 NHL Entry-Level Draft officially complete, it’s time to take a look at the New Jersey Devils’ 2017 draft class. The Devils had 11 draft picks to start out with, then dropped to 10, and then ultimately finished the draft with 11 total picks after multiple trades with San Jose. They drafted three centers, four defensemen, two left wings, a right wing, and a goaltender. Just like last year’s draft class, they drafted someone from every position.
My initial thoughts: I really like what the Devils have done for the most part. Taking Nico at #1 overall was the way to go (even though I’d rather not see Nolan Patrick in a Flyers uniform). They still haven’t really addressed their giant, gaping hole at right wing but there’s room for a possible trade. I liked that they picked several defensive prospects to groom and hopefully bring up in a few years. I’m a little surprised that they didn’t pick too many North American players but I’m okay with it. I’m also a little surprised that they selected a goaltender but if they like him, why not?
The following is just a quick write-up on each draft pick; I’m going to try and do more in-depth write-ups throughout the summer, especially during rookie development camp in July, on each of them as I watch more footage. But here we go:
C Nico Hischier (Round 1 – 1st overall) – he doesn’t really need an introduction. Hischier (6′ 0″, 174 lbs) became the highest drafted Swiss player in NHL draft history on Friday night when the Devils took him first overall. I wrote a short draft profile a little while ago. He’s played just a year in the North American system, but averaged about 1.5 points per game. He looks poised to make the jump to the NHL level but unfortunately, there have been reports of Halifax wanting him back for another year (as well as SC Bern) and he may not be AHL-eligible for the upcoming year. Time will tell where he ends up but when he does play for New Jersey, he’s going to have a huge impact. He’s fast, he can make difficult plays, he scores goals and sets them up, and he plays a strong defensive game. He’s a decent size but still wants to put on some more muscle, as well as continue to round out his defensive skill set. If he does play another year in juniors, fine (but I would prefer him to play with the Devils). Birthday: January 4, Twitter handle: @nicohischier
C Jesper Boqvist (Round 2 – 36th overall) – this Swedish 17-year old is one of the most underrated prospects in this entire draft class. He’s been up and down quite a bit but when he’s on, he’s on. I really like this pick for the Devils even though they have an abundance of centers. If it makes you feel any better, Boqvist has also played some wing. He still needs some further development and his size isn’t a major issue (5′ 11″, 175 lbs.). He’s slated to play for Brynäs IF (SHL) this upcoming season; he had seven points in 26 games with them last year and just one in ten games the year prior but he had a really good season with their J20 team. Birthday: October 30, Twitter handle: @jesperboqvist
RW Fabian Zetterlund (Round 3 – 63rd overall) – Zetterlund is the second Swedish center that the Devils drafted and for good reason. His greatest asset is his shooting ability; he’s a dangerous sniper and a consistent offensive threat, which is great because the Devils need to learn how to shoot first and think later. He’s also still going to grow and progress in every other area; he’s a decent size as well. I’m looking forward to watching him play and develop. Birthday: August 25, Twitter handle: @FabianZetterlun
D Reilly Walsh (Round 3 – 81st overall) – the Devils’ first North American draft pick is from New Hampshire. He’s played in the U.S. developmental system his entire life and is slated to play for Harvard (NCAA) in the fall. He’s a phenomenal skater and an offensively-minded blue liner; he’s a bit undersized for a defenseman but building more muscle won’t be a problem playing college hockey. He averaged 1.48 points per game in four years in the USHL but Harvard is a great program and Walsh has a bright future. Birthday: April 21, Twitter handle: @reilly_walsh2
LW Nikita A. Popugayev (Round 4 – 98th overall) – ranked #20 among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting, I’m a little surprised that Popugayev fell to the Devils at #98. This Russian forward plays a decent all-around game and can put up the points; he’s compared his style to that of another famous Russian and three-time Stanley Cup champion, Evgeni Malkin. Popugayev has played the past two years in the WHL with the Moose Jaw Warriors and the Prince George Cougars, averaging 0.82 points per game. He’s a big forward at 6′ 5.5″ and 200 lbs. so his size isn’t a problem. I like this pick too because the Devils do need depth at wing and I believe he’s played both right and left wing. Birthday: November 20, Twitter handle: N/A
G Gilles Senn (Round 5 – 129th overall) – I have to admit that I’m a little surprised the Devils selected a goaltender but if they like him, I do too. His numbers over the past few years aren’t that bad. Cory Schneider and Keith Kinkaid aren’t getting any younger but the organization does have good, solid defensive prospects in the system. Senn is also Swiss, and has played in the Swiss system and the NLA his entire career, and was an NLA champ in 2014-15 with HC Davos. He’s slated to play another year with the club on an extension. Senn is also 21, not 18, and he’s a pretty decent size as well. He could also be someone that the Devils take a serious look at in the future. Birthday: March 1, Twitter handle: @GillesSenn
LW Marián Studenič (Round 5 – 143rd overall) – this winger from Slovakia is also a good choice for the Devils. He’s played both left and right wing in his career. He’s played just one year in the North American system with the Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL) but he adjusted well. He’s a good, fast skater and can handle the puck well but does need to add to his size and is just okay defensively. Birthday: October 28, Twitter handle: @Studa_19
C Aarne Talvitie (Round 6 – 160th overall) – I like him. I know he’s a center but I like him. This Finnish prospect is a Penn State (NCAA) commit for the 2018-19, which should be good for him; I never like saying anything good about Penn State (I’m a Rutgers student) but they have a great up-and-coming hockey program and it could do wonders for Talvitie’s development. His immediate future is a little unclear; he could decide to go back to Finland or play for Penn State a year early. He was ranked #58 among European skaters and plays an all-around game; he does have plenty of room to improve so Penn State, again, is a good option for him. Birthday: February 11, Twitter handle: @AarneTalvitie
D Jocktan Chainey (Round 7 – 191st overall) – I like his bow tie so he’s a good pick already. Another defenseman!! Chainey joins fellow Moosehead Hischier on the Devils and is just the second North American to be taken by the team. He’s played two years in the QMJHL, averaging about 0.42 points per game (for a blue liner). He’s a big, strong defenseman who should use his size to his advantage more often. He’s offensively-minded but could be a better skater; he could also use a bit more development. But if you’re going to watch Hischier highlights, watch Chainey too. Birthday: September 8, Twitter handle: N/A
D Yegor Zaitsev (Round 7 – 205th overall) – this is the second year in a row that the Devils have taken a defenseman named Yegor so if you’re placing any bets for next year’s draft, this would be a good one. He also has no relation to current Maple Leaf Nikita Zaitsev. Yegor was not ranked this year but was #34 among European skaters for last year’s draft. I haven’t heard too much about him but he’s a decent-sized defenseman who has the ability to chip in offensively. He’s played in the Russian system for the past few years; he was a VHL champion last year and is slated to play another year with the Dynamo Moskva in the KHL this upcoming season. Birthday May 3, Twitter handle: N/A
D Matthew Hellickson (Round 7 – 214th overall) – with the their third and final seventh round pick, the Devils picked their third straight and fourth overall defenseman in this year’s draft. He’s friends with current Devils prospect and 2016 draft pick Joey Anderson; they’ve played for the U.S. National Team together. Hellickson spent last year in the USHL with the Sioux City Musketeers, picking up 29 points in 65 games. He’s also NCAA-bound; he’ll play for the University of Notre Dame in the fall. Birthday: March 21, Twitter handle: @Helli_12
And there you have it! A draft-class round-up that’s only a day late. There will plenty more coverage this week, especially with impending free agency. Where will Ilya Kovalchuk end up? Will the Devils sign anyone soon? Who are they offering new contracts too? Rookie development camp also takes place mid-July. I’ll take a look at the upcoming season’s (potential) roster and games to look forward to, plus much more.