New Jersey Devils scouting director David Conte was asked if his goal for next month's draft is to find a player that could skate into the NHL next season.
"No," he told NHL.com. "It's a goal to find a guy who can play 20 seasons."
It's interesting Conte picked that number. The Devils have the fourth pick at the 2011 Entry Draft, the first time they've earned a spot so high since 1989. They had the fifth pick that year and selected forward Bill Guerin, who nearly played 20 seasons -- he retired in December 2010 after 18 NHL seasons.
(The Devils drafted third in 1991, but acquired that pick in a trade.)
Conte, going into his 18th year leading the Devils' drafts, said picking this early in the draft really doesn't change much about how he does his job.
"it's certainly easier in the sense that you don't have as many players to consider," he said. "It's also more important because the quality of the player, at least at this stage in time, seemingly is better, higher upside, and more critical to the team because you need to improve. How we go about it? No, I don't think we need to make too many adaptations to what we've done in the past."
Conte said he and his staff is considering a group of 8-12 players for the fourth pick, but isn't prepared to start narrowing that list yet. He's using this week's NHL Scouting Combine to continue compiling information, and said when he leaves Toronto, he likely won't have crossed any names off his list.
"We have the interviews, the testing -- the book's not complete, so what's the point of trying to figure it out?" he said. "I talk to people … why do you open your Christmas presents before Christmas? There's no need."
While it's possible New Jersey's first pick could be in the opening-day lineup, Devils fans shouldn't expect the Christmas present they see in June to be available to play with in October.
"In an ideal world you'd like to give them more seasoning," said Conte, who then added the choice wasn't really his to make.
"Players will pick the team. We won't."
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK