NHL.com's Mike Morreale and The Draft Analyst's Steve Kournianos joined the Speak of the Devils podcast to discuss the upcoming 2021 NHL Draft being held July 23 and 24.
The Devils have two first-round picks, their own (4th overall) and the NY Islanders' (which will land between 28 and 31 depending on how the Isles finish the playoffs). New Jersey also has one pick in each round from second to seventh. Morreale and Kournianos gave their insights on whom the Devils will draft at No. 4, whom would make sense for New Jersey's second first-round pick and who might be on the radar on Day 2.
There seems to be a consensus among Morreale and Kournianos on which player the Devils will select once they are on the clock for the fourth-overall pick. And he has a familiar surname: Luke Hughes, brother of Devils' center and 2019 first-overall pick Jack. Both men have Luke as New Jersey's choice in their most recent mock drafts.
"Knowing what the Devils need, not only positionally but where that player might play at the point, with Luke Hughes, I think you have the best of both worlds," Morreale said. "My gut instinct, and the player I have the Devils taking right now, is Luke Hughes."
Though Kournianos has Hughes mocked to New Jersey, he thinks another player would be a better fit with the organizational needs.
"(The Devils) have a lot of defensemen on the left side from previous drafts," Kournianos said. "From a need standpoint, I would say they need a right defenseman more than a left.
"There's a right-handed defenseman named Brandt Clarke out of the OHL in Barrie. He actually played in Slovakia this year because of the OHL shutdown. He's a right shot. He's a power-play quarterback, instant breakout, incredibly high hockey IQ, good size, leadership qualities and I like his enthusiasm. He has a love for the game."
Though the Devils certainly need more youth and organizational depth on the blue line, that doesn't predetermine that they'll use the No. 4 pick on a blueliner. After all, they also have a need for some offensive finishers as well.
So, if the Devils go against the conventional thinking and select a forward, here are a few that Morreale and Kournianos think would make sense.
"William Eklund is absolutely dynamic," Kournianos said. "He's a lot of fun to watch. He's a tough, inside player in addition to being a dynamic skilled type. He's a pure wing. I don't think he can play center if they asked him to. He's so dangerous inside or out."
And Morreale believes the Devils may have a chance to select Eklund, the Swedish winger that played with Devils' top prospect Alexander Holtz (seventh-overall in 2020) in Djurgardens.
"I think there's a real good chance that William Eklund drops to No. 4," Morreale said. "If so, maybe the Devils might want to give it a shot."
If not, another player could by Edmonton's (Western Hockey League) Dylan Guenther.
"I like Guenther a lot. That's a good pick right there," Morreale said. "He's an elite goal scorer. No doubt about it."
Or, Michigan's Kent Johnson could be a wildcard pick.
"The ceiling might be the highest for Kent Johnson and what he can bring to the table," said Morreale, who compared Johnson's stride to Chicago's Patrick Kane. "This is a guy that'll go north-south, east-west, he'll do whatever it takes to take the puck, distribute it and get into the offensive zone and be that playmaker that you want to see. He also has a fantastic shot."
THE SECOND FIRST
The Devils will be selecting anywhere from 28 to 31 (Arizona forfeited its first-round pick due to a rules violation) with their second first-round pick from the NY Islanders in exchange for Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac (if the Islanders make the Stanley Cup Final, then the fourth-round pick that the Devils' acquired in the trade will move to a third-round pick).
Kournianos believes that's a pick that the team should use to fill a severe need.
"As you get later into the first round you can look at need," he said. "You take a homerun swing with your first pick (fourth overall). … I think goal scoring has been a problem for the organization forever. They're always ranking near the bottom in the league in offense. When you have such skilled playmakers, you want to compliment them."
Kournianos pinpointed a few players that could help in the finish department for the Devils. His comments…
Isak Rosen is a fast kid who can finish.
Simon Robertsson is a big fast who can finish. The really fast kid in Fabian Lysell.
Samu Tuomaala has one of the best one-timers in the draft.
Nikita Chibrikov is a fantastic, physical scorer.
A playmaking, dual-threat, excitable player in Aleksandr Kisakov
As for Morreale, he believes the Devils would also be wise to address the goaltending depth within the organization.
"If the Devils have an opportunity to draft a Sebastian Cosa, I think he would be a legitimate pick right there for the Devils," he said. "This way they would have a goalie in the bank."
DAY 2 WATCHES
The stars may get selected in Round 1, but the bulk of a team's roster is built on Day 2 of the draft. And this draft may provide a lot of possible studs compared to previous years due to the circumstances of how COVID-19 effected the scouting process - no in-person scouting and the Ontario Hockey League shutdown.
Morreale: "Maybe 5-7 years down the road, we'll look back at this draft and pinpoint 10-15 players taken beyond round one, beyond round two that turn out to be Bonafede NHL stars."
So, here are some of the players to watch on Day 2…
* Tyler Boucher, RW, NTDP, 25th North American Skater (Central Scouting)
"He's a right wing. He's in that Mathew Tkachuk, Brady Tkachuk mold. He's an instigator. He likes to get under the skin of players. He's got good vision. He's got that hockey sense that you would expect from a son that had a dad (Brian) in the NHL. He can fly with the puck. At the same time, he's thinking to make the right play."
* Josh Doan, RW, Chicago, USHL, 87th North American Skater (Centeral Scouting)
"He was past over in the 2020 draft. It was a bit of a surprise. … Has shown glimpses of playing a heavy game with some skill thrown in. Good skater, pursues the puck hard, is good in the tight spots, very strong with the puck, protects it well down low and is hungry."
* Brent Johnson, RD, Sioux Falls, USHL, 38th North American Skater (Central Scouting)
"He logged over 24 minutes a night. We all look for that big minute muncher when it comes to defensemen. Transitions well and has some offensive push in him."
* Scott Morrow, RD, Shattuck St. Mary's, 39th North American Skater (Central Scouting)
"He's described as a John Carlson-like skater, an offensive contributor. Really passionate about the game, about getting better."
* Logan Mailloux, RD, London, OHL, 23rd North American Skater (Central Scouting)
"He just took part in the Erie Showcase. He's a right shot, big, huge, mobile kid with a cannon of a shot. He's a project. He's big, 6-3, but he can move, he can shoot, he can be a playmaker. He's a pretty smart kid as well with the puck and puck management-wise."
* Jackson Blake, RW, Chicago, USHL, 52nd North American Skater (Central Scouting)
"He's as dynamic as his father (Jason) was. He scored the game-winning goal for his high school team in the Minnesota state tournament. He scored the game-winning goal for Chicago in the USHL in winning their title."