The annual NHL Draft presents an opportunity for teams to improve their organizational depth and find future franchise players. The New Jersey Devils have had varying degrees of success in the draft. Among its top draft selections of all-time are Patrik Elias, Scott Niedermayer, Martin Brodeur, and Ken Daneyko, all of whom won multiple Stanley Cups with the team.
Conversely, some of the team’s first and second round picks, including Mike Hoeffel (2007), Adrian Foster (2001), and Ari Ahonen (1999), failed to play a single game in the NHL.
Below is a look at New Jersey’s last six first-round picks, three of which were in the 2020 NHL Draft.
Alexander Holtz (2020)
New Jersey selected right winger Alexander Holtz with its first of three first-round picks in the 2020 NHL Draft. Selected seventh overall, Holtz is a 6-foot, 194-pound native of Saltsjö-Boo, Sweden, who has spent the past four seasons with Djurgårdens (SHL) and its junior teams. Holtz scored nine goals and added seven assists for 16 points through 35 games with Djurgårdens in his draft year. He also recorded nine points in three games with Djurgårdens IF J20.
Holtz stayed in Sweden in 2020-21 and registered 18 points in 40 regular season games with Djurgårdens as well as four points in three playoff games. He also represented Sweden at the World Junior Championships, where he had three points in five games. He was ranked as New Jersey’s top prospect by The Athletic in January 2021.
Dawson Mercer (2020)
Considered New Jersey’s third-best prospect in The Athletic rankings, Dawson Mercer is a 19-year-old right winger from the Canadian province of Newfoundland. Called “one of the best forechecking teenaged prospects in the world” by The Athletic‘s Scott Wheeler, Mercer displayed this skill at the 2021 World Junior Championships, where he showcased his ability at retrieving the puck from opposing players. He also had six points in seven games en route to winning a gold medal with Canada. He won a silver with the U20 national team at the 2020 World Junior Championships.
Mercer split the 2019-20 season with the Drummondville Voltigeurs and Chicoutimi Saguenéens of the QMJHL and recorded 60 points in 42 regular season games. He followed that up with 36 points in 23 games with Chicoutimi in 2020-21.
Shakir Mukhamadullin (2020)
Selected 20th overall, Shakir Mukhamadullin is a 19-year-old defenseman from Ufa, Russia, regarded for his skating ability and shot. The Devils-themed Fansided blog Pucks and Pitchforks gave the pick of Mukhamadullin an “F” grade, citing better available defensemen such as Braden Schnieder and William Wallinder. However, Mukhamadullin had an impressive season in 2020-21 with 10 points in 39 games for Salavat Yulaev Ufa of the KHL. He had just one point in 27 games with the team the year prior. He also represented Russia at the 2021 World Junior Championships.
Jack Hughes (2019)
Selected first overall in the 2019 NHL Draft, Jack Hughes recorded 48 points in 24 games with the US National Under-18 Team in the USHL during his draft year. The 19-year-old center from Orlando, Florida, recorded 21 points through 61 regular season games in his rookie season in the NHL and has established himself as a key player on the Devils in 2020-21. In another The Athletic article, Devils writer Corey Masisak called Hughes a “dominant possession player,” and commended his ability to effectively carry the puck into the zone and make more accurate passes.
Hughes is the middle child of three brothers ESPN dubbed “America’s future first family of hockey” in 2018. His older brother, Quinn, was selected seventh overall by the Vancouver Canucks in the 2018 NHL Draft, while his younger brother, Luke, is expected to be a first-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft. There has yet to have been three players from an American family drafted in the first round.
Ty Smith (2018)
A native of Lloydminster, Alberta, Canada, Ty Smith made his NHL debut this season and had 23 points through 48 regular season games. The 21-year-old ranked sixth in the March 15th Calder Trophy Tracker on NHL.com and was the top-ranked defenseman. Selected 17th overall in the 2018 NHL Draft, Smith had 73 points through 69 games with the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL in his draft year. He registered 69 points in 57 games the following season.
Nico Hischier (2017)
With its first-ever first overall pick in the NHL Draft, the Devils’ Swiss center Nico Hischier in the 2017 NHL Draft. Hischier recorded 86 points in 57 games with the Halifax Mooseheads in the QMJHL during his draft year and had an impressive 52 points in 82 games in his first year with the Devils in 2017-18. He had 47 and 36 points, respectively, in the following two seasons.
Hischier was named captain of the Devils in February 2021. The 22-year-old forward is the second-youngest captain in franchise history and the youngest captain in the NHL right now. He is also only the second player from Switzerland to captain an NHL team.
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