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The New Jersey Devils are coming off their first non-playoff season since 1996, in what amounted to perhaps the most disappointing season in the team's history. After suffering through the Summer of Kovalchuk, the team seemed to suffer one distraction after another, until they had hit rock bottom and it was realistically too late to recover.
The one major positive from their disastrous season is the rare top 10 draft pick (originally No. 8), which was further enhanced by their winning the NHL Lottery, and gaining them the No. 4 spot. While the general consensus and house money would be on Gabriel Landeskog for this pick, I'm going to throw a bit of a curveball, and say the Devils will choose Dougie Hamilton, a defenseman from the Niagra Ice Dogs of the Ontario Hockey League.
Yes, it's a bit of a curveball, but the Devils, led by the likes of David Conte and Lou Lamoriello for the draft, sometimes come in a little off the radar and bring in a player they like, which doesn't always necessarily agree with the Central Scouting Rankings. In this case, Hamilton is ranked as the No. 4 North American skater, so it isn't a far drop from the expected. If Jonathan Huberdeau is there, I think the Devils take him, but if not, I think they go for the 6'4" 187 lb defenseman who just turned 18 earlier this week.
According to NHL Central Scouting's Chris Edwards, Hamilton "moves the puck well and makes good outlet passes, he does make good decisions with the puck, moves it very well out of his zone. He's a big guy, he'll take the body. He uses his size well. He can muscle people off the puck."
While he would likely be ticketed for another season in junior hockey for 2011-12, he sounds like a great potential long-term fit on the Devils backline, and could potentially be teamed with top prospect Jon Merrill to eventually form a very talented 1-2 combo the Devils haven't seen since Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer and Brian Rafalski all left the team in the last 6-8 years.
If it turns out to be correct, I'll look pretty smart, but I have the New Jersey Devils taking Dougie Hamilton with their fourth pick in the 2011 draft.