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New Jersey Devils 2024 NHL Draft Grades

The New Jersey Devils emphasized size in the 2024 NHL Draft. How did each pick suffice in it’s relative round? After getting a first-hand view of most of the prospects drafted at this summers development camp, here’s how NJHN grades each of the Devils’ seven draft picks in 2024.

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New Jersey Devils
The 2024 NHL Drafts first round selections at The Sphere in Las Vegas, Nevada. // Credit: NHL PR

The dust has finally settled as the proverbial tumbleweed rolls across what is the NHL in mid-July. Before all the free agency frenzy and the Devils pro-personnel acquisitions, there happened to be the NHL Draft.

The Devils ended up making seven selections over the two day draft at Sphere Las Vegas. On top of the 10th overall selection, they had a second-round pick, two third-round picks, two fifth-round picks, and one sixth-round pick.

Now that we’ve had the chance to see most of the picks at Devils development camp, it’s a great time to analyze and grade all seven picks that General Manager Tom Fitzgerald and his staff made.

Round 1, Pick 10: Anton Silayev, D, Torpedo (KHL)

The Devils were one of the luckiest teams from night one of the draft, after multiple consensus top 10 defensemen fell into their lap. They opted for the 6-foo-7 hulking Russian defenseman, Anton Silayev with the pick. What makes Silayev so enticing isn’t just his size; at such a young age, he knows how to use it well. He’s not afraid to throw a big hit or use his large frame to shield opponents from the puck. That, in addition to being a tremendous skater, will certainly translate well to the NHL.

Silayev will also have the benefit of staying in Russia for a couple more seasons to continue to build on his strengths, as well as improve on the warts of his game. The knock against him is a lack of projectable offense to his game. He doesn’t have the softest hands and as of right now lacks a cutting-edge breakout pass that most elite modern defensemen have. However, because of his mobility, there could be an avenue for him to be an effective puck carrier in transition.

There is so much riding on his development in Russia to determine if he is the second coming of Zdeno Chara or Jay Bouwmeester, or if he ends up settling in as a better-skating Nikita Zadorov. Because there’s risk in selecting players out of Russia right now, the Devils just miss an A with this pick.

Grade: B+

Round 2, Pick 49: Mikhail Yegorov, G, Omaha (USHL)

The Devils acquired this pick from the Utah Hockey Club in the John Marino trade and wound up taking NHL Central Scouting’s top-ranked North American goalie, Mikhail Yegorov. Yegorov was the only player from this draft class to not attend development camp. However, when watching tape of him online, it’s clear why the Devils took him so high. The 6-foot-5 goalie is an incredible athlete who moves very well post-to-post and seals the bottom of the ice.

Yegorov has been considered by many in the scouting community as an elite goalie prospect who had poor results on a bad Omaha team. The Boston University commit will have the chance to play on a much better team and not face 40 to 50 shots against a night. Even from limited viewings, Yegorov has a presence in the net that exudes confidence. Hopefully, Yegorov is the Devils Russian answer in goal from Igor Shesterkin and Ilya Sorokin.

Grade: A-

Round 3, Pick 85: Kasper Pikkarainen, RW, TPS (Liiga)

With the first of their two third-round picks the Devils selected Kasper Pikkarainen, son of former Devil, Ilkka Pikkarainen. From what we saw from him at development camp was deceptively good speed and crafty stick handling. In the 3-on-3 tournament, he made a handful of nifty plays with the puck, including a nice toe drag to set himself up for a good scoring chance.

He’ll have the chance to play full-time in Liiga next season or possibly in the WHL with Red Deer which should help with his development. The question is if there’s enough offensive upside to translate to the NHL. Some scouts see him max out as a complimentary bottom-six winger. Pikkarainen has the size, skating, and shot, but whether or not he has the other intangibles is the question. I like players like his countryman Lenni Hameenaho or even their second third-round pick more than Pikkarainen, but I could see him cracking the lineup after a few years in Liiga and in the AHL.

Grade: C

Round 3, Pick 91: Herman Traff, RW, HV71 (SHL)

Admittedly, I didn’t know much about Herman Traff when they selected him out of HV71. However, after watching some tape and seeing him live at development camp he’s begun to look like a steal late in the third round. What stands out about Traff is how well he moves for someone who’s 6-foot-3, 215 pounds. During the 3-on-3 tournament, he was flying around the ice despite the small space to work with. He picks up the puck and gains speed through his edges and is tough to handle because he has size.

His skating is what will earn him a shot in the NHL down the line. Similar to Pikkarainen, Traff will have time on his side. It looks like he’ll be taking the jump to the SHL full-time next season which should help his development move along. He can take as much time as he needs in the SHL and AHL to round out the rest of his game, but what we’ve seen so far from Traff is encouraging. The Devils did a great job adding two big right-shot right-wingers into the pipeline, with Traff just ahead of Pikkarainen.

Grade: B-

Round 5, Pick 139: Max Graham, C, Kelowna (WHL)

The Max Graham selection was a bit of a head scratcher considering there were more dynamic forwards available such as Mississauga’s Luke Misa and Baie Comeau’s Justin Poirier. Graham is a double over-ager, meaning he’s been passed over in the draft twice and is 20 years old. He posted a career-high 42 points in 67 games this year and did have a good playoff performance for Kelowna, scoring eight points in 11 games.

However, Graham didn’t stand out much at development camp and the numbers show he doesn’t boast much offense. He has good size at 6-foot-3, 205 pounds. What the Devils probably see in Graham is a big kid who added physicality to his game this season; jumping from 65 penalty minutes in 2022-23 to 135 penalty minutes in 2023-24. His chances at cracking the Devils NHL roster are slim, and he likely maxes out as a helpful hand in the AHL.

Grade: D

Round 5, Pick 146: Veeti Louhivaara, G, JYP (Liiga)

The Devils went back to the goalie well for Veeti Louhivaara with their second fifth-round selection. Louhivaara ended as NHL Central Scouting’s 11th International goalie, however, he reached as high as five in the midterm rankings. Playing primarily for JYP’s under-20 team, Louhivaara put up adequate numbers last season. He is slated to play for JYP in Liiga next season which should help him develop as he sees pro competition.

What I liked about Louhivaara from his live viewings is that he was unnoticeable. He didn’t let in any soft goals during the 3-on-3 and made the routine saves. What Louhivaara has going against him is the sudden logjam of goalie prospects the Devils now have. Nico Daws, Isaac Poulter, Jakub Malek, Tyler Brennan, and now Mikhail Yegorov are all ahead of him in the pipeline. Louhivaara may end up a solid goalie prospect, but there could end up being no room left for him.

Grade: C-

Round 6, Pick 171: Matyas Melovsky, C, Baie-Comeau (QMJHL)

With their final pick, the Devils took yet another over-ager, this time Matyas Melovsky of Baie-Comeau. Unlike Max Graham, Melovsky looks like a potential hidden gem. He tripled his goal production over the past year from six to 18 and put up 60 points in 53 games. What stands out on the counting stats is his 11 points in seven games for Team Czechia at the World Junior Championships.

Melovsky stood out at the 3-on-3 tournament for a different reason than most. Typically it’s the flashy stickhandling and finesse plays that get your attention, but Melovsky was hounding the puck carrier the entire time. From first view, Melovsky looks like a high-motor player, which goes a long way in getting a crack at an NHL spot. He’ll have to fight off a ton of competition, but with the lack of center prospects within the Devils system, Melovsky has a better shot than most sixth-round picks.

Grade: B-

Devils 2024 NHL Draft Grades

Overall, the Devils put a big emphasis on getting players with size. No one that they drafted is smaller than 6-foot-2. Silayev gives them another potential elite defenseman, and at worst a steady, mobile, defensive-defenseman. Yegorov offers them the best chance at hitting it big with a goalie prospect. Elite athleticism and a very good development path should help him become a high-end goalie prospect. Pikkarainen and Traff add some more size and speed on the wings, with Traff having the slight edge. Graham was the one real surprise pick considering the other higher potential forwards available. Louhivaara will be fun to follow in Liiga but has a tough path to professional North American hockey. Finally, Melovsky could be a high-energy player who wills himself to a 4C role sometime in the future. A bet worth taking in the sixth round.

Grade: B-

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