What is expected in Tom Fitzgerald’s second NHL Draft as the New Jersey Devils General Manager who is taking over from Ray Shero? He succeeded Shero and took over as interim in time for the 2020 NHL Draft having people like Gates Orlando, and Paul Castron as key pieces to his upper brass. Before he came over to the New Jersey Devils was responsible for the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2001 was a Director of Amateur Scouting and became a Director of Amateur Scouting again from 2006-2007 season through the 2014-2015 season before joining New Jersey in that role under Shero.
New Jersey Devils Management
Fitzgerald has long since made Castron Director of Amateur Scouting and Vice President of Amateur Scouting along from the 2019-20 season to the present day. Scott Harris is the New Jersey Devils Director of Amateur Scouting Operations and it appears that Paul Castron is grooming Scott to one day succeed that role as VP Director of Amateur Scouting.
When Paul Castron became Director of Amateur Scouting his scouts drafted Joey Anderson, who would one day get traded for Andreas Johnsson to the Toronto Maple Leafs which if all goes right is a big win for Fitzgerald as the GM now. Michael McLeod and Nathan Bastian have found chemistry as a bottom-six pairing line now with Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier from the USNTDP, and the QMJHL.
The New Jersey Devils missed on Yegor Rykov in the Michael Grabner deal but made up big time in getting Jesper Bratt from Sweden, Mikhail Maltsev from Russia where those two are bolstering the middle-six lines. Jeremy Davies as we all know was in the deal with Steven Santini to get P.K. Subban from the Nashville Predators.
Building the Nucleus
Nico Hischier has been named team captain this past shortened season and didn’t get to play much due to the injury bug this season but has been making up for it with Switzerland in the IIHF. Hischier has 146 points in 230 games played in four seasons, according to Elite Prospects. Jesper Boqvist the Swedish forward has looked rather natural at the center position where he tends to thrive and having him play top-nine and top-six minutes this past season allowed him to thrive in situations to contribute offensively. He might be hitting his stride now that Ruff is here as the coach again.
Fabian Zetterlund has been building up his game in the AHL and is on the verge of cracking the lineup out of camp. Slovak forward Marian Studenic had two points in eight games played and is doing rather well playing for Slovakia. Matthew Hellickson recently got signed out of Notre Dame as a left-handed defenseman and he is playing for Team USA in the IIHF.
Ty Smith took two more seasons in the WHL before he made the Devils lineup this past shortened season and was nothing short of phenomenal and one of the several bright spots on the team after marinading with Spokane and Hockey Canada during that span. Akira Schmid is joining the New Jersey Devils system and looks like he will be cooking his way up in Utica for the AHL affiliate this upcoming season. Unlike Gilles Senn who went back to HC Davos, Schmid is a young goalie who is very athletic and can fit in 3-4 seasons after the Devils fix their backup goalie situation.
Off to Belarus and the KHL the New Jersey Devils really found a hidden gem in Yegor Sharangovich the captain of team Belarus in the IIHF. He scored 30 points (16 goals) in 54 games played which would be a near 46 point pace per season for Sharangovich who could occasionally play 1st line minutes but also be a stable second and third-line forward. At his time in career in a span of ten seasons, he would shatter Mikhail Grabovski’s total points of 296 in a 534 game career.
In the 2019 NHL Draft, the New Jersey Devils selected Jack Hughes first overall scoring 52 points in 117 games over two seasons. He’s developing a lot under Lindy Ruff as his head coach and Mark Recchi for tapping into his offensive side of his game. Nikita Okhotyuk, Graeme Clarke, and Michael Vukojevic all were drafted out of the OHL so there you have two very physical stay-at-home defenders that can block shots, and disrupt play. Clarke in his draft year was injured but has a really good shot and can be lethal on the power play. Daniil Misyul has been a nice two-way defender for Russia internationally and is a few years off from likely coming to the Devils" farm system.
Tyce Thompson signed out of Providence College and got a taste of the NHL against the Buffalo Sabres and actually getting a point in his first game against his brother Tage Thompson. Arseni Gritsyuk achieved the ultimate prize in the KHL winning the Gagarin Cup with Avangard Omsk. He also blasted a personal favorite goal of mine from the world junior championships against Austria for Russia’s 7th goal in that game which was off the post and in on a slap shot.
Tom Fitzgerald’s First Draft As A GM
As for the 2020 class Alexander Holtz, the right shot is in the AHL for the New Jersey Devils now that he’s over from Sweden where his Djurgardens team wasn’t doing well enough to go further with their season. Dawson Mercer in the QMJHL has been on a hot streak the entire season and was a two-way wrecking ball playing a 200-foot playing a Selke Trophy style of hockey that will get him to New Jersey in a few seasons.
Like I mentioned in a recent post, Shakir Mukhamadullin has matured a lot for a defenseman at age 19 and still needs to bulk up on the muscle, however, everything will fall in place with him over the next few seasons. He has the speed and skill it’s just the ability to get his positioning technically sound at a high level at the KHL where I see him succeeding before the Devils signed him to an ELC.
Nicolas Daws like Schmid comes from Central Europe but is a native of Germany and a dual citizen of Canada. Daws has played internationally for Canada at the World Juniors especially with Ty Smith and Kevin Bahl where they seemed to have gelled at that time. Jaromir Pytlik who is a big-bodied forward from the Czech program played for the Soo Greyhounds in the OHL was also coached by Patrik Elias in the World Juniors. Pytlik is now playing in Finland professionally who provides a 6’3", 201-pound frame and he’s gonna be a treat to watch.
Ethan Edwards and Artem Shlaine, a defenseman and forward are both playing at the NCAA division-one level and taking their time at a more defensively sound league against older more seasoned players. Benjamin Baumgartner is an over-aged player who resembles a high danger scoring Michael Grabner with a big burst of speed and in a minimum of 37 games in the NL in Switzerland, he has scored 25 to 27 points easily because of his speed and creativity he could be a late-round steal.
As it seems going in the 2021 Draft I see the New Jersey Devils going with players that have size, speed, physicality, mobility, a lot of poise and play very well sounded fundamentals of hockey. But we will know a bit more after the Draft Lottery.
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