The New Jersey Devils surprised everyone by winning the NHL Draft Lottery, earning the first overall pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft
The New Jersey Devils finished 27th in the NHL with 70 points and a 28-40-14 record. The Arizona Coyotes, Vancouver Canucks, and Colorado Avalanche cover the final three positions in the 2016-17 standings. With luck on their side, the Devils were able to land the first overall pick via the 2017 NHL Draft Lottery.
Going into the lottery, the odds dictated a very different picture. Here is a look at the final order for the first 15 picks in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft:
The Philadelphia Flyers walked away as the big winners from last night’s lottery. Finishing 19th in the NHL this season, the Flyers landed the second overall pick. Considering their current roster, and their ability to draft well, some teams must be scratching their heads.
This leads us to the Canucks. As luck continues to avoid them, the Canucks, who finished second last, have not drafted in the top three since 1999 when they selected Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin with back-to-back picks. They have some great young players in Jake Virtanen and Bo Horvat, but adding to that young crop of players would have been nice. The Canucks ended up with the fifth pick in the draft, the same position they selected Olli Juolevi last year.
The Avalanche are in a similar position, slipping all the way to fourth despite the highest probability of the first overall pick. They were by far the worst team last season, finishing with just 48 points and 22 wins. At the same time, over the last 10 years, the Avalanche have drafted three times inside the top three. They selected Matt Duchene third overall in 2009, Gabriel Landeskog second overall in 2011, and Nathan MacKinnon first overall in 2013. Needless to say, the Avalanche should have been better in 2016-17, but success continues to elude them as their try to find their identity.
The battle of the Southwest heats up with the Vegas Golden Knights and Coyotes dropping deeper into the draft. The Golden Knights were third in terms of probability heading into their inaugural NHL Entry Draft, but they fell to sixth, just ahead of the Coyotes in seventh, who went in with the fourth highest probability.
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Devils Will be Happy with Center Crop
The Devils have drafted inside the top five picks three times since 1989. They selected Bill Guerin fifth overall in 1989, Scott Niedermayer third overall in 1991, and Adam Larsson fourth overall in 2011. Funny enough, the Devils traded Larsson for the first overall pick from the previous year, Taylor Hall.
This year, NHL Central Scouting has ranked six centers as the top skaters in North America, with two in the top three for Europe. The Devils have little depth down the middle and have relied on Travis Zajac and Adam Henrique for quite some time. While both centers possess two-way abilities, the Devils have needed a highly-skilled center to take that top line role. They have plenty of talent on the wings with Hall, Kyle Palmieri, and Michael Cammalleri, but need to find consistent playmaking from their centers.
Pavel Zacha is a step in the right direction. He impressed with eight goals and 16 assists in 70 games and has the offensive instincts to be a top-six center in the future. However, his consistency still needs to be tested, and his second full season will give the Devils a much better idea of his potential.
Looking ahead, the Devils may trade their pick like they did for Cory Schneider, but chances are they will want to add to their youth. They have limited talent in the pipeline at the moment and will need to regain some of their depth up front in they want to succeed in the near future. Some of their players are in their prime or passing it, and they will need to capitalize now before a full rebuild is necessary.
The 2017 NHL Entry Draft should be an interesting one, given all the surprises we saw with the NHL Draft Lottery this weekend.