Ray Shero will be looking to add to Devils' prospect pool that includes 2015 picks Pavel Zacha, Mackenzie Blackwood and Blake Speers. (Photos: Getty Images)
New Jersey Devils general manager Ray Shero was succinct when he was asked about what he was looking for entering the 2016 NHL Draft.
"We need more talent. That's what we're looking for," he said.
The Devils have the No. 11 pick in the first round, six picks in the first four rounds and nine in all. The 2016 NHL Draft will be held at First Niagara Center in Buffalo on June 24-25. The first round is Friday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports); Rounds 2-7 are Saturday (10 a.m. ET; NHLN, SN).
The Devils were 30th in the NHL in scoring last season at 2.22 goals per game and have ranked 27th or lower in that category in four straight seasons. In that span the only player with at least 60 points was Jaromir Jagr in 2013-14, and two players reached 30 goals, Adam Henrique and Kyle Palmieri this season. They've missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs all four seasons.
Shero said he's open to taking the best player available at No. 11 and is confident whatever player the Devils select will have an impact.
"I think certainly you see at the top of the draft the forward group, but there's some strong defensemen as well," he said. "… I think the top of this group, no different than last year when you had [Connor] McDavid and [Jack] Eichel and then from three to 10 a strong group of players. Those teams might have had them in different orders.
"This might be the same situation after two or three, whatever the case may be. It's good. There's a lot of good players in this draft. Even at 11 where we are, I'm pretty sure we'll be happy with the guy we get."
Having so many picks, including two in the third and fourth rounds, the Devils could look to move up. There's also the chance they move back and acquire more picks, but that comes with risk.
"The idea of moving down and accumulating more assets makes lots of sense, but again it's the judgment call of what you're trading out of," Shero said. "In the 2003 draft Anaheim took Corey Perry at 28, but a team [Dallas Stars] had traded down. Anaheim had traded up and the other team got two second-round picks, but those players were not Corey Perry.
"So while in that day you're feeling good about the assets you accumulated, but what you don't know is they just got a franchise player. It really comes down to personal preference. But I'm sure the team that traded down five years later would love to have Corey Perry. That's the judgment at the draft."
At the 2015 draft, Shero's first with the Devils, forward Pavel Zacha was selected at No. 6. In eight drafts as GM of the Pittsburgh Penguins (2006-13), Shero took a number of defensemen early, including four of seven first-round picks. But Shero said that was more a reflection of which players were available when the Penguins were picking, not a strategy.
"We took [defensemen] or forwards," Shero said. "Whether it was that year, 2012, was real strong in defensemen (the Penguins drafted Derrick Pouliot and Olli Maatta in the first round). I think you're always looking for the best player. What we were able to do by having strength on defense the way it fell, we were able to trade a Ryan Whitney for Chris Kunitz, or trade [Alex] Goligoski for [Matt] Niskanen and [James] Neal. … Even last year, we were at six, everybody's saying Jersey needs forwards.
"Let's say [defenseman] Noah Hanifin was there. We really liked Noah Hanifin. He's a heck of a player for Carolina. I'm happy we got Zacha, I know Carolina is happy they got Hanifin. You have to make a decision not so much on we need this, we need that. You need to really take the best player."