The New Jersey Devils returned from the 2016 NHL Draft in Buffalo this past weekend with nine new prospects and the rights to 24-year-old winger Beau Bennett, acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins for a third round draft pick.
General manager Ray Shero traded the 11th overall pick in the draft to the Ottawa Senators for the 12th overall pick and the 80th overall pick in the third round. With the 12th pick, the Devils chose 6'2, 185 pound centerman Michael McLeod from the Mississauga Steelheads of the OHL, who has been called the fastest skater in this years draft.
Nate Bastian, a 6'3, 206 pound right winger who is McLeod's linemate in Mississauga, was selected in the second round followed by Joey Anderson from the US National Team Development Program, who is committed to play college hockey at Minnesota-Duluth, and Brandon Gignac from Shawinigan of the QMJHL, both smaller, but skilled forwards, in the third round. It was also in the third round that Shero traded one of his three picks in that round for Bennett, who he drafted 20th overall in the 2010 NHL Draft when he was GM of the Penguins.
Bennett is known for his speed and his puckhandling skills - especially in tight areas - as much as he's known for the injuries that have plagued him throughout his career. In four professional seasons, he's only played 171 games, collecting 74 points in the process. Shero thought a fresh start with a new team could be a win-win situation for all parties and that Bennet's offensive upside and ability to contribute right away was well worth the risk of a third round pick.
In the final rounds of the draft, the Devils selected Mikhail Maltsev, a 6'3, 200 pound left winger from Russia's U-18 team; Evan Cormier, a 6'2 goalie playing for Saginaw of the OHL; Yegor Rykov, a 6'1 defenseman from SKA St Petersburg's junior team; Jesper Bratt, a 5'9 winger from Sweden and Jeremy Davies, an offensive defenseman from Bloomington of the USHL who is committed to play college hockey at Merrimack.
All newly drafted prospect are expected to be at development camp starting July 11th at Barnabus Health Hockey House where the players will learn more about the Devils as an organization and the hockey operations staff will learn more about the players and how to help them reach their potential.
While Devils management has turned the page on the draft and look ahead towards development camp, next on Shero's off-season To Do List is free agency, where he will explore all options to continue to add depth to the bottom six and offense from the blueline. Teams are now able to talk to available free agents, but are not able to sign until Friday starting at 12 noon EST.