The NHL Draft is just days away. The New Jersey Devils hold the Nos. 4 and 28 selections in the first round, which is being held Friday, July 23.
We welcome Craig Button, TSN Director of Scouting, to give his insights on the upcoming draft and his thoughts on how the New Jersey Devils core players are emerging in the National Hockey League.
Video: Craig Button Draft Predictions | 1-on-1
Amanda Stein: Craig, thank you so much for joining me as we get ready for the NHL Draft coming up/ How different is it this year with so many leagues having been either not playing or players playing in different leagues? What is the challenge this year for a scouting staff?
Craig Button: It's been challenging for everybody, it's been challenging for the players as well, because, you know, the players are so gifted, and they're so determined, and they've sacrificed so much at young ages, where it's not easy to sacrifice at young ages to pursue these dreams and these goals and worthwhile dreams and goals that are achievable. So, the opportunity that has been lost for them to be able to show what they want to show on a regular basis, you know, has been missed for them as well.
They've had different opportunities, as you point out, doing it in different ways with the stops and the starts and the pauses. And for the NHL teams, it's a very challenging time. And if there was any I guess, glass half full assessment, it would be that all the teams are on the same boat. And you know, probably learning from last year going into the playoffs, trying to understand how to use past data, and then try to use new techniques and new techniques and technology now, to try to do the job to the best of their abilities has been the challenges here.
AS: So, if we jump ahead to the draft coming up, the draft itself, the New Jersey Devils picking in that four spot, what do you see for them in that spot, and what is the potential that they can bring to the team?
CB: I would say an opportunity to get a real high-end player and understand when I say high-end, I'm talking about a first forward. I'm talking about a number one goalie if they choose that way, So, when you're in that spot, and you have that opportunity to add a player of that quality to your organization, and to a lineup into a prospect pool, not just as playing for the New Jersey Devils, but you know, in the minors and in junior hockey, college hockey, that's exciting. Because it's those players that can make such a big difference to your team. And when you have one, and then you have another one, then you have another one, then you had another one, right all of a sudden now you're building the foundation of excellence. And if we look back at the New Jersey Devils and you look back over the years and you know when they were winning those Stanley Cups, they had players from different parts, but the quality, whether it be Marty Brodeur or whether it be Scotty Niedermeyer, or whether it be Patrik Elias, he came from the second round, or it was Jason Arnott who got traded for Bill Guerin, who was the fifth overall pick to you know, Brendan Shanahan was the second overall pick and through his departure, they ended up with Scott Stevens. I mean, this is how top teams are formed. And when you have the opportunity to select players that can be of such high quality, it's exciting because it doesn't matter now what your team did in the previous season, and you didn't make the playoffs and everything with it, but you're looking to the future. The future opportunity, the future looks bright.
AS: And the future looks bright because of the drafting that of that has been taken place and particularly the last couple of years going back to 2017, with Nico Hischier going first overall, you and I have talked a lot about it throughout the year as we are watching this team, you from afar me up close watching players like Mackenzie (Blackwood) and Ty Smith and Jack (Hughes) and Nico, all really come together. What are you liking about this young team, this young core that are not only bonding but bonding on and off the ice?
CB: Well, you know, it takes that what I call the "Esprit de Coeur" (Spirit of the Heart), you know, it's not just how you play on the ice with your skills, it's what you just described, how you play together, how you work together when you're in practice, if you're challenging one another to be better, well, that becomes contagious for the rest of the group, right. And when you have such high, high-end players that are so determined to always push their game to a higher level than it is, it's something that's exciting. And the other players see that and, you know, you come to the rink with this great enthusiasm and, and then you start to see Oh, boy, we can be even better. And that makes you excited. And now you can't wait for Training Camp to start and now for Lindy Ruff, you know he's excited to be around these players, to help them continue to progress. And Tom Fitzgerald looking at, okay, what can I add here with some other players outside of our prospect pool or the draft that could really help these players move along? That's incredibly exciting.
I know how hard Jack Hughes works. I know how committed he is to being the best player. I know how hard Nico Hischier works and wants to be a top player and Ty Smith and Mackenzie Blackwood. So, these are such important aspects of building a championship-caliber team, is having the people and I'll use this term, that are ready to put in the work when nobody else is watching.