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FEATURE: Devils Will Add Another Quality Asset with Fourth Pick

Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald was excited about where he team landed in the NHL Lottery

by Sam Kasan @SamiKasan / NewJerseyDevils.com

The word of the night from Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald was "quality." 

That's how he assessed, on several occasions, the Devils officially receiving the No. 4-overall selection for the 2021 NHL Draft, which was determined by the NHL's Draft Lottery drawing Wednesday night in Secaucus, N.J. 

"With this pick we know we're going to get high quality," Fitzgerald said. "It's an exciting time for the organization because we know we're going to add quality at the No. 4 position."

Video: LOTTERY | Tom Fitzgerald 1-on-1

The Devils finished with the third-lowest point total in the NHL in 2020-21, but were positioned tied for third-best odds at 10.3 percent with expansion Seattle. Buffalo, which had the best odds, retained its top pick. Seattle won the second drawing and moved into the second spot, pushing Anaheim to third. 

The Devils may not have move up in their draft position, but they also didn't move down. New Jersey could have slipped as far as sixth in the drat order had two teams behind them won both drawings. Instead, the Devils position before the lottery was No. 4, and after the lottery remains No. 4. 

"There was some nervousness actually when the cards were being flipped, I'm not going to lie because it's an exciting time for this organization," Fitzgerald admitted. "We feel that we're going to get an impact player at No. 4. We feel fortunate for that. We're going to add to the riches of young talent that we already have. 

"Everybody in this organization, the fanbase should feel extremely excited about what kind of player we're going to get."

The Devils are well into the process of building out their draft board. Over the past several weeks the top scouting personnel have met, sometimes as much as twice a week, and also some regional scouts on occasion. 

The Devils will begin Zoom interviews with possible prospects starting Thursday that will last for a few weeks, though Fitzgerald hopes to be able to visit a prospect or two in person to get a better feel for their personality. 

Without a chance to see many of the prospects play this season due to COVID-19 restrictions and league cancelations (Ontario Hockey League), the forthcoming draft process will be like no other anyone in the NHL had previously experienced. 

"You've got to lean on past viewings. You've got to lean on years past," Fitzgerald said. "Where were they at 16? Where did they go to at 17? Did they grow their game by watching video in the past? What can they take for steps at 17-, 18-year-olds for this year? And then try to project that out, which is hard.
"It's a hard business to project a kid's skill level and talent, and what they can max out at. But you have to do it. You have to try to project out what these kids are going to be when they're 22, 23, 24 years old. It's a unique year for sure. We've done everything we possibly can do."

Fitzgerald himself is a veteran of the scouting process from his 14-plus years working in hockey operations. Scouting players will take him back to his roots. 

"I'm going to start digging in myself on video, especially of the top-10, 12 players on our list," he said. "We're going through the process right now. We'll continue to refine that list. Nothing has been settled right now."

The Devils will have two selections in the first round as they own the rights to the New York Islanders' pick from the Travis Zajac-Kyle Palmieri trade in April. With the Islanders advancing to the second round, the pick will fall between 25-32. But the extra pick does give the Devils options and flexibility to either select another player, or work a trade to move up or down in the draft. 

"We'll see where that pick goes and have talks around the league," Fitzgerald said. "Conversations I've had with other general managers has been really fluid. Not a lot of substance. Just tire kicking of where their teams are at, where our team is at, what they're thinking of adding or what they need. Those are the preliminary talks, but their constant."

Regardless of what the Devils ultimately decide, having that pick and the fourth-overall selection guarantees that they will be adding another quality player (or two) to the cast of growing talent in the future.

"Our goal is to play meaningful games next year. That's our goal," Fitzgerald said. "We want to add to this core of young players, and we want to add the right players, players that want to be here in New Jersey."

Video: LOTTERY RAW | Tom Fitzgerald

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