New Jersey Devils missed a huge opportunity in the first round

The New Jersey Devils had three first round selections in the 2020 NHL Draft.

The New Jersey Devils missed a huge opportunity to expedite their rebuild after failing to make a move for one of the top defensive prospects in the 2020 NHL Draft. American defenseman Jake Sanderson was such a great fit, he was worthy of trading up for.

Alas, the Devils played the long game with their seventh overall selection, which resulted in the superstar being selected fifth overall by the Ottawa Senators. While they didn’t get to draft a franchise defenseman, they did bring in some high-end prospects to an already promising locker room.

Let’s kick it off with the Swedish forward that every New Jersey fan has googled 1,000 times since being selected – Alexander Holtz. While the 6’0″, 190 pound right wing has an unbelievable skill-set, his best feature is his ability to find the back of the net, which is something the Devils lack.

He’s outfitted with an elite shot and is automatic from anywhere on the ice. Already with a plethora of playmakers, highlighted by developing superstars Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes, adding Holtz to their top-six will create an unstoppable attack on offense as early as the 2020-21 NHL season.

With the 18th overall selection in the 2020 NHL Draft, the Devils selected a center in Dawson Mercer. It may look as though the forward out of Canada’s QMJHL is not as much of a “skill” guy like Holtz, but that’s because it’s not really his play-style. Mercer is one of the best defensive-minded forwards in this draft class, as he is one of the best at playing the game without the puck on his stick.

The New Jersey Devils have always been a defense-first team. Thus, picking Mercer was a no-brainer given his projection to be within the No. 10-16 overall range. When the team’s GM calls you a “coach’s dream” player, you must be doing something right.

The Devils are in a great position right now where they can either convert Mercer to a wing and keep Hughes at center or vice versa. Whichever they choose to do moving forward, Mercer can develop into a lock in the top-six on offense and fans should be very excited for his future.

Having selected two forwards who can become serious game-changers for this team, the next priority is obviously defense. Unfortunately, after drafting Mercer, the team lost out on another top defenseman in Braden Schneider.

To add salt into the wound, he was drafted by the New York Rangers with the 19th pick and the Devils owned the 20th pick. However, the team felt that they needed to at least get somebody on defense, especially given their incredibly lackluster crew in the back-end.

Enter Shakir Mukhamadullin, a 6’4″, 180 lbs defenseman who plays for Salavat Yulaev Ufa of the KHL. If you were to say that you saw this coming, you’d be a liar. This draft selection was a reach by all means of the definition.

Could this mountain with an absolute bomb of a shot wind up playing a vital role for this team in the future? Without a doubt. Was he worth drafting No. 20 overall? No chance in France. In order for New Jersey to come out on top with this pick, Mukhamadullin needs to at least be a top-four defenseman in the NHL. Everyone knows the love that the Devils have for Russian-born players, but this is a tad much.

Overall, two of the Devils three picks in the 2020 NHL Draft could turn into absolute studs in the future, but their last pick may have hindered their accomplishments on Day 1. Apart from the drastic reach, New Jersey’s fan-base should be absolutely ecstatic about the potential of Alexander Holtz and Dawson Mercer.

Next: Top 5 Trade Candidates This Offseason

 

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The only knock against their draft is the lack of acquiring a left-handed franchise defenseman. The New Jersey Devils may not be contenders with this group alone, but when they do add the defenseman of their dreams, Stanley Cup champions and the Devils will be something fans should expect to have in the same conversation.