The NHL Draft will be held in New Jersey for the first time ever when the Prudential Center hosts the league's top prospects on June 30th.
After finishing 19-19-10 with 48 points this past season, the New Jersey Devils will hold the ninth overall pick in this year's draft. It will be the second time in three years that New Jersey holds a pick in the top 10.
The Devils took forward Stefan Matteau with the 29th overall pick last year and the rookie went on to appear in 17 games for New Jersey before being sent back to his junior team. The 19-year-old scored one goal and recorded two assists in his time at the NHL level.
With a lack of offensive prospects in the system, it is likely that the Devils will use their pick on a forward when they go on the board. There are a number of weapons available in this year's draft class, but three players stick out specifically that would make a great match for New Jersey.
Both Steven Hoffner and Mike Morreale of NHL.com have the Devils taking Hunter Shinkaruk with the ninth pick in their respective mock drafts.
At 5'11, 175 pounds, Shinkaruk does not present much size but has the offensive ability to make a name for himself at the NHL level. Morreale, via NHL.com, describes him as "a near clone of Zach Parise; deftly skilled, smart, deceptive and explosive."
Shinkaruk had 37 goals and 86 points in just 64 games in the WHL last season, and he showed off his ability to not only score goals but be a playmaker at moments as well. He also has terrific skating ability and can put the puck on net from nearly anywhere in the zone.
Christopher Ralph of The Hockey Writer's called him a "cerebral, relentless goal scorer with top notch hockey sense."
New Jersey ranked 28th in the NHL with 2.3 goals per game last season, so a cerebral goal scorer would be a nice fit to the organization. It is unlikely that Skinkaruk makes it to the NHL in his first year due to his size, but adding another scorer to the team's system would be beneficial.
Perhaps the best way to replace Zach Parise is to draft a guy who is almost exactly like him, and that may be what the Devils decide to do with the ninth pick.
Adam Kimelman of NHL.com has the Devils taking Elias Lindholm with the ninth pick in his latest mock draft.
According to Kimelman, Lindholm is a two-way center capable of playing as a top-six forward and may even be able to crack the roster next season.
Lindholm led Brynas with eight power-play goals and had an impressive ice time of 18:36. He was also one of the team's most disciplined players, only taking one penalty all season.
The Devils ranked 21st in power play percentage with a 15.9 percent success rate and were one of the league's most disciplined teams with only 519 PIM, so adding Lindholm would seem to be a good fit if he's available at No. 9.
In Lou We Trust explained that most available opinions on Lindholm "praise his intelligence and his ability to play well at both ends of the rinks." Being a two-way forward is something the Devils scheme relies on, and GM Lou Lamoriello is one person who looks for smart players for his team.
There are a number of teams looking for a forward like Lindholm, so there is a chance that he isn't available when the Devils are on the board. I don't see Lindholm as someone the Devils should trade up for, but my next option is someone New Jersey should seriously consider taking a look at.
This is the guy the Devils should be going after.
At 6'0", 205 pounds, Bo Horvat presents good size for a center and can play both sides of the puck extremely well. Here is what CBS analyst Chris Peters had to say about his ability:
Among the two-way forwards in the draft, Horvat has a lot to give offensively. One NHL scout said Horvat's stock is rising quickly because of that. He's a strong skater with a good shot and solid distribution skills, but his commitment to playing at both ends is garnering him extra attention.
Horvat had 61 points in 67 games for the Knights last season and was named playoff MVP after scoring the game-winning goal in Game 7 of the OHL Championship.
One of Horvat's key skills is his ability in the face-off circle. He is considered one of the more dominant guys in the circle in the OHL, and the Devils could use someone with that ability considering they finished 24th in faceoff percentage at 48.2 percent.
"You do whatever you can to win that draw. You know what you're up against and their tendencies, to see if they change it up," Horvat told Ryan Pyette of Slam Sports. "I take a lot of pride in my draws and you want to win every single one you can."
Horvat also has the ability to play quality defense, something the Devils always look for in their players. His ability to play both sides of the puck makes him one of the best options for New Jersey on draft day.
"I've been doing the shutdown role all year. It's something I like to do," Horvat said. "We do a really good trap that we work on. We sit back and wait for opportunities. Good defense leads to great offense."
If that quote doesn't sell Horvat for you, I don't know what will. He has the attitude and the means that would make a perfect fit for the Devils, and I think his size would make him a quality center right away.
Kimelman has Horvat going at 10, Hoffner has him at 15, and Morreale has him at 21. It is clear that the scouts and analysts have a different feel for Horvat, but I truly believe this guy can contribute right away in New Jersey.
It is clear that the Devils need offensive help, but one must also remember that New Jersey has two aging goaltenders with one year left in their deals.
Rumors about Bernier to the Devils have surfaced on and off for years now, but with Jonathan Quick signing a long extension and the Devils with an unclear future in the net, now would be the time to make a deal.
It doesn't seem like prospects Jeff Frazee and Scott Wedgewood will be NHL ready any time soon, and the goaltending market in this year's draft isn't worth using the ninth pick on. If New Jersey was willing to move the ninth pick to get Bernier, would it be worth it?
Los Angeles doesn't have a first round pick in this year's draft, so making a move to get into the top 10 wouldn't exactly be out of left field. While these offensive forwards seem to be NHL ready, Jonathan Bernier may be the best option to keep the Devils in contention for years to come.