NHL Draft Preview: Can Shero Find a Gem at Pick 17?

As the Golden Knights have proven beyond all reasonable doubt, 2017-18 has been the inimitable anything-can-happen year.

Ironically, the Vegas Story has been so sensational that it tended to push a New Jersey miracle off to Stage Left.

That would be the Devils‘ unexpected — and very quick — development of their young players and, in particular, Nico Hischier.

Smarter than most veterans and a capable of being a first-line center for Taylor Hall, Hischier was one of the prime catalysts in the Devils’ stunning march into a playoff berth.

General Manager Ray Shero has been suitably lauded for that feat. So now the question is, what can he do for an encore at the upcoming Draft?

This will be quite a challenge since competition is extremely keen and players being sought by the Rangers and Islanders are in Shero’s sights as well.

Add to that the unfortunate fact that the Devils do not have a second or third-round pick.

Here’s how it might shape up.

1. WITH 17TH PICK: (3 possible choices:)

BODE WILDE: Defense, USA National Development Program – A solid two-way defenseman, Wilde could be the second coming of Scott Niedermayer for the Devils. He notched 41 points in 61 games for the US-NDTP which was tops among the program’s defensemen. The Quebec native could use some seasoning with his decision-making in the defensive zone and will benefit from playing at Michigan in the fall.

JESPERI KOTKANIEMI: Center, Assat, Finnish Elite League – A 6’2″, 190-pound forward that keen analyst Craig Button compared to Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Toews, the Finnish forward is credited with a dangerous shot. While he only had 10 goals and 29 points in 57 games with Assat, he had nine points in seven games for Finland at the 2017 World Junior Championship. He did see some time with the U20s as well and scored two goals in three games for the sixth-placed squad.

RYAN MCLEOD: Center Mississauga Steelheads, OHL – The brother of Devils prospect Michael McLeod, Ryan broke out in the 2017-18 season with the Steelheads. His third season in the OHL saw him almost triple his previous high in goals as he hit the back of the net 26 times in 68 games. With a 70-point season under his belt, the 6’2″ center needs to piece together his game a bit more – but when he does he’s expected to be a force on the ice.

MOST RECENT PAST PROSPECTS

JOHN QUENNEVILLE Drafted 30th overall in 2014. Quenneville got a quick cup of coffee before suffering a knee injury in only his second NHL game. The forward had a rough year as he piled up multiple injuries throughout the season – the majority in the AHL. When he was in the lineup, he did produce with the Binghamton Devils netting 14 goals and in 43 games. In April, it was announced the forward would not need knee surgery following another injury layoff late in the year. Hopefully healthy in September, the 22-year-old is expected to challenge for a roster spot.

MICHAEL MCLEOD — Drafted 12th overall in 2016. Another prospect for the Devils, another one who spent time on the injured list. McLeod had arthroscopic knee surgery after tearing his meniscus in September. But when he went back to Mississauga, he lit up the competition scoring 27 goals and 46 assists in 57 games. The 20-year-old center also played solid minutes for the gold medal-winning Team Canada at the 2017 World Junior Championships and saw six games with the Binghamton Devils before the season ended.

JOEY ANDERSON — Drafted 73rd overall in 2016. The captain of the bronze medal-winning Team USA at the 2017 World Junior Championship, the right winger’s leadership was evident. He had four goals and three assists in seven games for the US while also acquiring 27 points in 36 games for the NCAA Champion University of Minnesota-Duluth. Anderson signed an entry-level contract in April and could see time in Binghamton, if not with the big club.

BEST THREE DEVILS OF THE PAST DECADE

ADAM HENRIQUE — Drafted 82nd overall in 2008, the likable center always will be remembered for scoring the series-winning goal over the Rangers in Game 6, 2012, catapulting New Jersey into the Cup Final vs. Los Angeles.

DAMON SEVERSON — The gifted defenseman was drafted 60th overall in 2012. Perhaps his build-up was too strong in terms of development, but Severson has come into his own as a regular. His best is yet to come.

MILES WOOD — Here is The Maven’s favorite. I call him Mile-A-Minute Wood because his dash and daring magnetize the fans as much as any forwards short of Hall and Hischier. Woody has learned to temper his emotions and remains one of the club’s toughest all-around hitters. Mile was drafted 100th in 2013.

[Read More From Stan Fischler]

The Garden of Dreams Foundation helps kids facing obstacles in the Tri-State area, including Rangers fan Taylor Ryan who is battling a rare blood disorder called Langerhans cell histiocytosis.